For small businesses and those who have recently started up, presenting to potential customers and partners is essential. But having a dedicated meeting room is an infeasible expense for most fledgling companies.
In an age where cost-saving cloud-based communication platforms like Skype are readily available, are potentially costly face to face meetings really still necessary? Statistics suggest that they could be more beneficial for your company than you think, so can you afford not to have them?
Whether you’re keen to retain a regular physical presence or not, there are ways to have productive meetings that won’t threaten your finances too much.
Don’t have one? Use your client’s
If the client you’re meeting isn’t far away, you can always consider offering to visit them at their own premises. In some cases, it may speak in favour of your dedication to working together and show how prepared you are to go out of your way to accommodate the client.
Providing that you know they’re not a small outfit, it is likely that they will have a dedicated meeting room with all the space and equipment you’ll need. If you enquire about details regarding whether they have everything you’ll need for the meeting, the gesture could be very much appreciated.
Meetings without the meeting rooms
In a survey conducted by Meetings Professionals International, 84% of respondents believed that cost considerations had resulted in fewer meetings and an increase on the reliance of phone and videoconferencing. A further 11% of meetings professionals agreed that this number would continue to rise.
The advantages of the video conference are numerous and obvious. With each passing day there are more and more providers of state of the art video conferencing equipment who offer bespoke rental services and installations. This electronic equipment can seriously save the inevitable drain on company productivity that comes with business meetings. You get to save the money spent on expensive commuting and possibly accommodation too.
It should be noted that there are drawbacks to dispensing with face to face meetings altogether. Firstly, you could easily spend too much on video conferencing equipment, as Ryan from technical event production specialists Perception warns: “Investing in unfamiliar hardware without proper consultation is a costly endeavour that can backfire with more time and money going down the drain as you try to set it up correctly,”.
Another pitfall could include your budget Skype sessions failing to provide the kind of conditions you need for a stimulating discussion.
Perhaps more importantly, according to a thought provoking study carried out by the Hilton international marketing research team, 50% of 600 European executives believe there is no substitute for real life meetings. Putting this down to the importance of forming personal relationships, 83% said that it was impossible to do this without actually meeting.
Of course, not all meetings are entirely formal and therefore don’t require a traditional boardroom style environment. You should exercise some caution when choosing places though, as this doesn’t mean that you should consider a cafe to be a good alternative. Remember that you are still trying to promote an idea of professionalism, and there is a strong possibility for this idea to be strained in a coffee shop with background music, hubbub or coffee grinders.
More suitable meeting points include hushed hotel lounges (just make sure that confidential matters don’t come up) and business clubs if your financial situation can make the stretch (they’re good for networking too).
Adam Street Private Member’s Club (on the Strand) is a well-established venue that was inspired by the dotcom bubble. It has secured its reputation as a leading business club by providing a relaxed setting for businesses to eat, drink, talk, work and play since 2001.
You can also consider investing in business lounge memberships that offer you similar services in various locations that span the country. Business centre providers i2 Office in particular will provide free copying, scanning, courier and mail services as well as discounts on their meeting rooms and day offices with a business lounge membership.
Renting meeting rooms
For new businesses, the prospect of booking a meeting room can seem like a financially daunting one. If you haven’t considered this possibility, you could be surprised by the flexibility and quality of the meeting rooms on offer from business centre providers.
Many business centre providers have easily located meeting rooms available around the country which you can view on their website before making any payments. This is a huge advantage for ensuring an appropriate environment for your meeting, even when you’re miles from home.
Be sure that you only pay for what you need though. Some companies allow you to book rooms by the hour, half or full day and will provide complimentary staff service, offering tea, coffee and water. For other meeting room providers, this may incur additional charges.