Meeting Strangers: How to Prepare for an Effective Cold Meeting

Meeting Strangers

Ever been nervous meeting a stranger? Nerve no more!

Impressing a stranger on first encounter can literally change your life. Interviews are a good example. Others include sales pitches, freelance consultations, partnerships, supplier agreements and even dates.

They’re a necessity in life. So why not get good?

Here are some tips to get you started.


If you know who you’re meeting, take 10-20 min to Google, Facebook, LinkedIn & Twitter them. Ideally you’re looking for information related to the topic of your meeting. But you’re also looking for personal information such as achievements and common interests.

Look for media interviews & charity support. Do you both rock climb?  Have they recently been promoted? Have they achieved one of your goals?

Also do company searches on the web, Google News, Twitter and in your CRM if you have one.


To Agenda or not to agenda?

An agenda is contextual. You wouldn’t do it in an interview, but you’ll never have a consultant from McKinsey or KPMG book a meeting without sending you one. My general method is for every meeting ask these questions:

  • If I set an agenda, what would be in it?
  • Will I remember to do all of the above without writing it down?
  • Will it benefit my prospect if I send them a copy? – If it will, send one. Consider adding a photo so they know who you are.

Basically the agenda should add value to your stranger. Usually, more complex meetings have agendas. This gives your stranger time to prepare.

On Arrival

Once you arrive at the meeting location – 10 minutes early – wait around the corner for 5 min then head to reception or the cafe to be seated. Arriving more than 5 minutes early can look disrespectful as opposed to eager.

But most importantly DON’T BE LATE! If you think there is a 50%+ chance you’ll be late by even a few minutes, call and notify someone. It looks way better to call and say you may be 5 min late, and arrive on time, then if you arrive 5 min late without calling.

The Lobby

After reception calls my stranger, I will stay standing until they arrive. Warning – if you take this road, be prepared for some long stands. But I feel it looks better than kicking your feet up on lobby couches.

Sweaty palms? I hold my folder with my left hand and keep my right hand in my pocket –dodges the slimy handshake. Remember eye contact and a smile on greeting. Stand tall, chest out, firm handshake.

If you’re in a busy lobby and you don’t know your strangers face, finding them can be awkward at times. Try and make the first approach, (it may take you a couple of times to get it right). Your stranger will be thankful for the awkwardness removal. Look for people looking for people.

Exchange some short pleasantries then ask where they would like to go (unless there is already a plan).

The walk

During the walk from the point of meeting to room or cafe, aim to walk side by side, and ask a few standard open ended questions like:

“Thanks for taking the time to see me. How has your day been?”

Don’t worry what they say – you’re just trying to keep them engaged until you arrive at the sitting location.

Try to find an anecdote (maybe something that happened on the way in or earlier that day) or common topic (the offices, building, location, current event or last resort – the weather) to keep them chatting until the sitting location.

Just try and avoid a long walk of silence.

Also, avoid discussing any important topics during the walk, interruptions are common and will kill your flow.

Personal Note: I like to treat all my strangers like a first date. I open doors, hold elevators and offer them the first seat. Don’t take this to the extreme but if the opportunity is there, unleash the chivalry (that goes for you too ladies!). This shows you’re attentive and will put in the extra effort if they partner with you.

Sitting Down

Once you arrive at the meeting table, wait for the person you’re meeting to sit down first (unless they offer you a seat – then just take it). If you’re already in a cafe waiting for them, stand and shake their hand when they arrive. Again, watch the sweaty palms, smile, eye contact etc. I usually like to sit at a 90 degree angle avoiding the formal face to face arrangement. This is not always possible but it makes it easier to look over documents together or to describe while writing on paper or using your laptop.

Once seated, give a business card to each person so they know who you are, how to spell your name (useful if you have a weird name like mine) and how to contact you after.

Then you’re off.

Do you do things differently?

9 responses to “Meeting Strangers: How to Prepare for an Effective Cold Meeting”

  1. This is a savvy approach in meeting strangers. I have always been awkward with it comes to this. Thank you for providing some tips here. Next time I know what to do. 🙂

  2. Thanks for the comment Walter.

    This post is an afterthought of many, many meetings and interviews. I used to get very nervous, but after picking the brains of the experienced and breaking down the process I became more comfortable. I find having a plan removed a good portion of the nerves.

    What kind of meetings make you nervous the most?

  3. It would definetely feel weird shaking that guy’s hand. He only has 3 fingers. I hate interviews. I even more hate it when you walk into a meeting room and there’s 4 people looking at you. This is about the time that I say something stupid like “Good Luck” instead of “Good Afternoon” lol

  4. Haha I didnt even notice that!

    Ive had plenty of tongue twisted moments. I find having scripted things to say can help you in those circumstances.

    Try “Thanks for meeting me” – that line can be used as an opening line in EVERY meeting EVER.

    You dont need to be clever and remember if its before or after 12pm

  5. An interesting post I think the most important aspect of any meeting to make a great impression is to be in the moment, this is done by being mentally prepared for the situation. I find that mentally rehearsing potential responses to generic questions builds confidence. 93% of communication is non-verbal (body language and tonality) so paying attention to these details can make a big difference.

  6. Thanks for putting together this blog/post/article. I have to say that you have a lot of good information here. Most valuable in doing something that many people feel very awkward doing.

    I think one of the best pieces of information is doing research ahead of time on the person you are going to meet (and/or the company). People love it when you know something about them (as long as you don’t come across as a stalker “So, your Ms. Sara J. Roberts of 1234 Main St? I have been wanting to meet you!”)
    Thanks for an informative article.

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