8 tips to lead an effective & engaging client meeting

By Anna-Louise Parry
7th April 2022

As we head into Q2 (where has that time gone?!), no doubt client services team members across agencies are beginning to prepare quarterly business reviews (QBRs) to analyse client performance vs. objectives during Q1, mapping out next steps to ensure continued growth. But how can you ensure an effective QBR, with key information at the forefront and all parties aligned on the strategic direction moving forward, without it just being a meeting for formality’s sake?

Below, I’ve highlighted 8 of my top tips for preparing for effective QBRs and similar client update meetings, ensuring everyone gets the best out of the time put aside.

1. Start with a brainstorming session before pulling together the skeleton deck

Do you ever find yourself wondering where to start when it comes to producing a skeleton presentation? Are you guilty of falling into the pattern of replicating the same structure each quarter?

Prior to starting any slides, it’s worth creating a Google Jamboard.  Jamboard acts as a brainstorming tool, allowing you to create post-it notes of ideas and link them together under various themes.

Here, you can:

  • List your current client objectives
  • Map out progress against these at a top level
  • Highlight why this is the case – what has worked well? Have you faced any challenges? If any of these challenges sit client-side, what do you need from the client to resolve these?
  • Identify any additional opportunities that could be explored in order to achieve your client’s goals. For example, could you benefit from an additional service offering or are there any trends in the market you should look to capitalise on?
  • Map out immediate next steps and longer-term plans

You may find that when you create your Jamboard, one specific thread or theme becomes dominant, this can help shape the overarching message of your QBR – the key point your narrative should be structured around.

2. Don’t forget the importance of a narrative

This brings us nicely onto my second point. We remember facts better when we are told a story, therefore it’s important that your QBRs look to do this, ensure that your presentation has a narrative that:

1. Connects the services with the client’s business objectives.

2. Defines a consistent anchor point for your client to create reassurance.

3. Connects the present with the future.

4. Allows the narrative to be repeated and develop over time.

In order to construct a narrative, you should:

  • Draw the audience in at the beginning: Start with the reality of the current landscape and a taste of what could be
  • Establish the challenge: Display recent results and the headline – where are you in relation to KPIs and what needs to happen to achieve these?
  • Establish what specific action is required
  • Show what the future means: If these actions are taken, what results can be expected?
  • What’s next? Provide clear next steps and a reiteration of the core message.

Take a look here for some more advice on constructing a narrative.

3. Include confident introductions and endings

Often, it’s easier to construct your opening and closing messages once you’ve completed the body of the presentation. This will give you a clearer idea of what your data shows and allow you to tie your introduction and summary back to this.

The first 30 seconds of your presentation are the most important, so before you present your agenda, it’s worth starting with either a question for the audience or a ‘what’s in it for the client’ style of statement. For example, ‘Today, we’re going to speak to you about X, because it could lead to Y’. These thought-provoking introductions help to set the tone of the meeting and get the client thinking.

When it comes to your summary, you ideally want to end by reiterating your core message, as this is what the client will ultimately take away from the meeting.

Research shows that audiences struggle to concentrate fully for more than 5 minutes at a time, and after 30 minutes, they are unlikely to be listening more than 50% of the time. This is entirely natural but supports the idea that any core messages should be repeated in the introduction, main body and summary of the QBR to ensure they’re retained following the meeting.

4. Use data to tell the story, but don’t make this exhaustive

It’s easy to feel you need to present a whole load of data in a QBR, however it’s worth remembering that large quantities of data are unlikely to be retained by the client.

Consider the metrics that the client is particularly interested in and your core KPIs – what are the key highlights and how do these relate to your activity? Does more need to be done in order to achieve these? Any additional information can be contained within an appendix and be referred back to as required.

5. Keep core messaging on the slides

It’s important to keep core messaging on the slides, with anything additional being contained in the notes section or appendix in order to keep the client engaged.

We all know it’s tricky to read slides whilst also paying full attention to the person presenting, therefore having key stats, charts and figures on slides with a short section of accompanying text is preferable to having larger sections of text that the client may be unable to follow during the meeting.

A general rule of thumb is, if you’re struggling to remember what to say when doing your presentation run-throughs, you may need more information on the slides.

Try to pick out the things you are struggling with, if it is a key figure that you’re finding difficult to retain, ensure this is present on the slide.

6. Don’t be afraid to be honest

Whilst this may seem daunting at first, a client and agency relationship should be seen as a partnership. If you’re struggling to make progress due to client side sign-off or development queues, a QBR is a great time to reiterate what needs to happen in order to achieve your KPIs.

It’s worth prioritising actions to support the client in making progress on these, whilst also ensuring you reiterate that the team are on hand to support however possible.

Similarly, if you feel you need to develop your approach as the current strategy is unable to meet objectives (perhaps due to market conditions), it’s also worth including this too. Transparency is key to the success of client/agency relationships.

7. Surprise and delight

It’s easy to fall into the trap of taking a similar approach to each QBR, and whilst standard performance slides are important, it’s worth considering if there is anything additional outside of this that you can bring to the table.

Perhaps you could take a short look at industry news or trends and include a discussion slide around this at the beginning of the presentation. Are there changes in the industry you could capitalise on or that may be impacting results? Including this can encourage client and agency communication and ensure everyone is fully engaged from the off.

8. Take some time to overcome your nerves

Presentation anxiety affects around 73% of the population – so how can you look to manage this ahead of a big client meeting or QBR?

Often, many of us are guilty of negative ‘self-talk’, telling ourselves that we ‘dislike presentations’ or ‘they’re not our strong point’, however this can be self-prophesising.

Try telling yourself that actually; you are the expert, you are dedicated and have put in lots of great work to prepare. Although it may feel unnatural at first, it’s even worth telling yourself that you actually enjoy presenting. The more positive ‘self-talk’ you do, the more your subconscious brain will come to believe this is the case.

Other top tips for overcoming nerves are:

  • Ensure you’re prepared: Keep back-ups of any presentations, have spare notepads and pens and even consider bringing spare connecting leads to the meeting – this way you’re well prepared for any technological issues that could exacerbate nerves.
  • Chat to the client before starting the presentation: It’s easy to feel intimidated when heading into a big meeting, but chatting to the client about their weekend or upcoming plans can help alleviate nerves and remind you they’re just a normal person and nothing to be afraid of!
  • Have a team run-through of the presentation before the meeting: Practice can help you feel more confident in what you need to communicate.

In summary then, an effective QBR presentation should look to tell a story, using data to support this, and leave the client with a clear idea of their current position and strategic next steps required in order to achieve their goals.

These tips form part of our standard Client Services training, if you’re looking for a new opportunity – take a look at our current Client Services vacancies on the site here.

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