Practice better listening in client meetings with these 6 tips

When you’re taking lots of client meetings, it can be difficult to stay focused and listen well. If you’re having trouble, try keeping these six tips in mind next time.

Image credit

1. Take notes

Don’t rely on your memory—human memories are notoriously unreliable for storing and recalling information when we need them to. Take notes to make sure you remember and understand the most important points from your meeting.

Use colors or pictures if they help (I’m a big fan of visual note-taking). But remember that the more clear and simple your notes are, the better.

Focus on the most important points of your meeting, and the most simple notes that will help you to remember them. This will make it easier to understand your notes later, as well as taking you less time to write.

2. Use your whole body

Engaging your body and all of your senses is a neat trick to create more solid memories or enhance your understanding. Muscle memory comes into play more than we realize when we try to remember things, and this can work in your favor during a meeting if you’re aware of it.

Ensure that you’re in a comfortable position when your meeting begins, so you’re not distracted by having to adjust due to pain or discomfort.

Once your meeting starts, pay attention to the body language of your client and listen carefully to their tone and inflection. Being especially focused on using these senses will give you a deeper experience of the meeting, making it easier to recall later.

If appropriate, try moving around as well, especially if it’s a long meeting. Taking up different physical positions can enhance your understanding and memory—using that muscle memory I mentioned earlier. Try switching chairs, standing as well as sitting, or moving to a different angle.

3. Clarify everything

The better you understand something, the more easily you’ll be able to remember it later and integrate it where appropriate.

Ask questions about any concept or idea you’re struggling to understand or define, so that you can make it clear in your own mind. When you can, repeat abstract or new concepts back to your client to ensure that you understood correctly.

Using examples or analogies is a great way to assimilate information; if you’re clarifying that you understand something, try explaining it with an analogy to ensure you got the basic concept right.

4. Make connections

If you’re working with abstract concepts or vague ideas, try connecting them to the project in some way, so both you and your client can see how they fit in. Connections between ideas and elements make the separate pieces stronger in our minds.

As your meeting progresses, making connections to previous points made or topics covered can really improve the flow of the meeting.

If you’ve had previous projects or clients that were similar, you can use those to make connections and share examples of how an idea or concept might work. These will help solidify what’s discussed in your own mind so you can implement it faster on the project itself.

5. Focus

Perhaps one of the most important ways to listen better is to simply cut out distractions and focus on your client.

Be aware of your own area of focus and recognize when it’s drifting. Pay attention to your client and their needs, and practice pulling yourself back into the present moment when your thoughts wander off without you.

Make sure your client understands that they are important and that you are focused on their ideas. You need to show that you are present in the meeting, so your client will trust you with the work.

If you’re taking notes, be careful not to let yourself fidget. Moving around constantly, looking away or fiddling with your pen can be distracting and come across as disinterest or boredom.

6. Prepare

Make sure you’ve done your homework before you enter the meeting. If you need to research ideas or put together concepts, do it early so that you’re fully prepared when your client arrives.

Ensure that you have what you need for the meeting. Prepare your tools, your notebook if needed or concept sketches to show your client. Prepare the space if you’re meeting on your own turf, and ensure drinks or snacks are organized in advance.

When you enter the meeting room—and this may be a hard one—leave everything else outside. All of your problems and your unfinished work will be there when you’re done, so there’s no point taking it into the meeting with you. You’ll be able to listen much better if your brain isn’t busy juggling everything else you have going on at the same time.

What other tips do you have for better listening? Let us know in the comments.