10 tips to meet with a CEO
How do you talk to the CEO? It can be intimidating or nerve-wracking, but they are human too! Here are 10 tips to keep in mind when booking your next meeting with a CEO to make the most out of everyone’s time:
- Start with relevant small talk
- Prepare thoughtful questions
- Read on the CEO’s work
- Send an agenda in advance
- Bring up data and insights
- Don’t be afraid to ask for advice
- Talk about their favorite resources / books
- Ask about the company vision and strategy
- Don’t be afraid of disagreeing with the CEO
- Respect your CEO’s schedule
1 Start with relevant small talk
Sometimes small talk can be difficult but it can be a great way to build rapport and kick off your meetings. Starting with small talk warms both parties up and gives you and the CEO the opportunity to build a professional relationship while learning a little bit more about each other.
If you aren’t sure where to start, it can be as simple as asking about the CEO’s weekend plans, or talking about something you may be passionate about. Maybe you share a common interest? That’s always a great place to start!
2 Prepare thoughtful questions
Nothing is worse than running through a meeting super quickly because you haven’t prepared and may not have planned what questions you’re going to ask. Meetings are meant to spark conversation and provide clarity and that can be nearly impossible if you don’t come prepared with the right questions.
Preparing thoughtful questions is imperative because it helps you gain valuable insights that you may not have otherwise had access to. It also shows the CEO that you’re genuinely interested in learning from them and you really value the time they’ve given you. If you don’t want to waste their time, preparing thoughtful questions that spark meaningful conversations is a great way to ensure the CEO feels valued and respected.
Add talking points to your agenda.
Make the most out of everyone’s time by having talking points clearly assigned on the agenda to stay on track and on time with the meeting.
3 Read on the CEO’s work
Showing up to a meeting prepared is extremely important and even more so when you’re meeting with chief executives, senior executives, or even a key decision-maker. If you don’t show up to the meeting with some foundational knowledge, it can be hard to find common ground which may hinder the quality of the conversation.
Reading articles, listening to interviews or podcasts, or even reading up on their LinkedIn profile is a great way to gain foundational knowledge that can be used throughout the course of the meeting. Meeting with the CEO of any organization can be intimidating, doing your research and gaining as much information as possible before the meeting is a great way to prepare and build confidence.
According to best-selling author and communication advisor Carmine Gallo, reading the CEO’s work can do wonders for your career. In a recent Forbes article, Gallo states that “Reading the CEO’s book, essays, or published papers will give you an edge in your career- whether you’re interviewing for a job or meeting the new chief executive for the first time. Yes it’s “basic stuff” but it could do wonders for your career and for your working relationship with your new boss.”
4 Send an agenda in advance
No agenda, no attenda! Gone are the days of hosting an effective meeting without an agenda. When you’re meeting with a CEO or senior executives, it’s important to remember that their time is extremely valuable. Sending out a meeting agenda in advance will ensure both parties show up to the meeting prepared, and fully aware of what is to come.
In addition, creating a thorough meeting agenda will also ensure the meeting runs smoothly from start to finish. Hosting a poorly run meeting with a senior executive may reflect badly on your professional abilities and it may also mean that you don’t get what you want or need out of the meeting.
Failing to use a meeting agenda is a major mistake when it comes to hosting a meeting, whether it be with senior executives, or even just your team. Without an agenda, attendees may not understand the purpose or objective of the meeting, the conversation may fail to flow or cover important topics, and attendees may end up leaving without any clear action items or clarity in terms of next steps.
5 Bring up data and insights
Opinions or theories are great conversation starters and can be even better starting points for new projects but nothing speaks quite as loudly as data or insights. When sharing data or insights, it’s important to do so sparingly. When meeting with a CEO or senior executive, some people have a tendency to over-prepare and as a result, they overwhelm the attendee with too much data.
According to LinkedIn author Paul Petrone, it’s important to pick one or two data points that are easy to remember. In this LinkedIn article, Petrone concludes that “the value of the conversation is not what we put in; it’s what they take out. It’s all about that pull-through. And so, if you overdo it on data points, there’s just no way that they’re going to remember it all.”
6 Don’t be afraid to ask for advice
Meeting with the CEO is a great opportunity to gain valuable information and insights. Asking for advice is nothing to be ashamed of, especially when meeting with someone much more senior than yourself. Expressing curiosity, and gaining insights from mentors or executives you look up to is a great way to gain new knowledge that may lead to an exciting opportunity or career advancement. And most people want to help and offer any advice they have.
7 Talk about their favorite resources / books
Every great leader has a list of books, podcasts, or resources that helped them get where they are today and more often than not, they can’t wait to share them with anyone that asks! Not only will touching on this subject help you identify common or shared interests, but it’s also a great opportunity to demonstrate how genuinely interested you are in learning and absorbing valuable information. This is a great opportunity to gain valuable insights that end up being transformational.
8 Ask about the company vision and strategy
Showing genuine interest in the company’s vision and strategy is a great way to gain respect and an even better way to learn about the organization. Learning about a company’s vision and strategy directly from the CEO is an extremely valuable experience that may only occur a handful of times in your career. This is an opportunity that shouldn’t be taken for granted and it should be milked for all its worth.
Learning directly from the visionary behind the company is a great opportunity so you should come prepared with a list of relevant questions that will ensure you learn as much as possible during your meeting.
9 Don’t be afraid of disagreeing with the CEO
It’s undeniable that there’s a lot you can learn by meeting with a CEO but that doesn’t mean you have to agree with absolutely everything. If you’re meeting with the CEO of your respective organization, chances are you’re much closer to a certain element of the business than they are.
If you’re an individual contributor or even a manager within a certain department, you’re most likely an expert in your niche. It’s important to take feedback or opinions that differ from your own in stride but it doesn’t mean you have to agree with everything. Chances are, your CEO may be able to learn just as much from you, as you will from them.
10 Respect your CEO’s schedule
When meeting with chief executives, senior executives, or the CEO, it’s extremely important to be conscious of their time by respecting their schedule and ensuring the meeting starts and ends on time. Prior to the meeting, you can respect their schedule by choosing a free space within their calendar or having them choose a time slot within your calendar that works best for their schedule.
Additionally, it’s imperative that you start and end the meeting on time. Not only is starting the meeting late disrespectful, but you also run the risk of running out of time and not covering all action items. If you end the meeting late, it may mean the CEO is late for their next meeting, and it shows that you don’t respect the time they have given you.
Meeting with the CEO shouldn’t be scary
When meeting with a CEO, it’s important that you don’t overthink the interaction. Showing up to the meeting prepared with foundational knowledge and ready to ask meaningful questions are two main factors that you must keep in mind. If you show up with an open mind and a willingness to learn, the meeting will run smoothly.
Use this time to build rapport, and learn as much as you can. It’s not every day that you have the opportunity to meet with a CEO and it’s important that you respect their time and stay curious. These tips and tricks will ensure your next meeting with a senior executive runs according to plan.