Today we’re looking at how to conduct your interior design meetings so that you look professional in front of your clients. So many designers are terrified of holding interior design meetings as they don’t know what to say and don’t want to feel as though they don’t know what they’re doing.
The steps below will help you feel confident while holding interior design meetings. If you use the provided templates and examples, you’ll look professional even if you’ve never attended a formal interior design meeting.
In the design and construction world, one of the primary forms of decision making happens during your meetings. That is because, it’s where formal decisions are agreed upon, important problems are solved and most importantly, a record is kept of all conversations.
Throughout your interior design or architecture project, you’ll hold meetings during all stages of the process (such as during the concept, detail design, construction or install stages), and for all types of reasons (to present your designs to the client or to get input from other professionals).As an overview, here is a list of the typical types of interior design meetings you will hold regularly:
The most often asked questions about how to hold interior design meetings refer to the first interior design meeting with a client and the progress meeting with a client. So that is where I will focus this post, but please remember that this process is relevant for each stage of the project and all interior design meetings.
To conduct your interior design meetings professionally, you’ll need to start by preparing for the meeting the day before. As a busy interior designer, I know what it’s like to rush this process, but every time I didn’t prepare for my meeting earlier, I always regretted it afterwards. I wished I had just taken fifteen minutes the day before to get organised. I genuinely believe this is so important, so I have also included a workflow and meeting schedule for you to use to make this process easier for you.
PREP STEP 1 | Confirm The Aim Or Goal Of The Interior Design Meetings
This might seem obvious, but taking a moment to get clear about the intended result of the meeting is one of the simplest but most effective things you can do when preparing for your client meeting. For example, the goal of the meeting might be to; present the initial concepts to the client, or to confirm the brief, to find out more about the project, get feedback on a design, get feedback from other professionals such as engineer’s or even to pitch for the project in the first place.
Never underestimate how important it is to set your intention before the meeting. I also use this tip before a phone call with a client. I take a moment to write out what I expect to find out and then what I hope the result will be. Setting this small intention helps me focus on staying positive throughout the meeting or conversation and helps me stay on track to achieve my end goal.
PREP STEP 2 | Create An Agenda For Your Interior Design Meetings
Thinking about this beforehand helps to double-check that you are prepared for the meeting and that you look professional when you show up! Having the agenda is also super helpful if you’re starting out and you aren’t confident about what to say. You might also provide an estimate next to the points (for yourself) so that you can estimate the time the meeting should take. Here is an example interior design meeting agenda for you:
Download Examples & Templates From This Blog
Once you’ve written your agenda, make sure you have enough printed out for everyone in the meeting. For larger meetings on commercial projects or if I’m project managing a residential project, I’ll often email the agenda the day before to everyone I expect to be at the meeting.
PREP STEP 3 | Prepare Your Documents
That might require undertaking research about the property if it’s your first visit, or it might mean going through the presentation the day before and thinking about what questions your client might ask you. When I do this, in 99% of cases, I end up adding something I hadn’t done – so this is one of the most important steps! For example, do you think your client will ask about the sizes of the rooms, and if so, have you included dimensions or a way to quickly access these during your meeting?
PREP STEP 4 | Pack Your Bag And Prepare Your Clothes For Your Interior Design Meetings
You can’t imagine how many people try to prepare for their meeting in the morning on the day of the meeting! If you’re more of a morning person, I’d suggest packing your back and preparing the morning before your meeting (rather than the day of)! Preparing the day before is also relevant if you’re holding a virtual meeting. Ensure your meeting links are working, your computer software is all updated, and your headphones are charged. While I’m preparing things, I also check the address of where I’m travelling and how long it takes to get there.
As a general rule, I also find an alternative route if something goes wrong! I know this seems like overkill, but I once missed a meeting with a BIG client because my car’s clutch burned out on the way. For some reason, the navigation took me the hilliest route and driving up this huge hill, my car concked out. I had taken the day off work to meet this client because I was so desperate to leave my job and start my own business. This one client would have helped me hand in my notice and start months earlier than I did. If only I’d had another route prepared, I could have confidently overridden the directions and driven downhill rather than up!
What do you pack? Well, it really depends on the meeting that you’re having. If you would like to know what I typically pack for my consultations, you might want to refer to this post: What To Take To An Interior Design Consultation.
PREP STEP 5 | Get A Good Night's Rest
I often held meetings when I was tired. I’d stay up all night finishing off the designs or adding new things. Don’t do it! Prioritise a good night’s rest so that you can be calm and think straight the next day. Imagine meeting a designer who is wired on caffeine and waffles on unnecessarily because they are nervous and not thinking straight (oh yes, that was me!)
So you’ve been preparing for your interior design client meeting, and the day has arrived! If you’re anything like me, you still get nervous before meetings no matter how many years of experience you have. That’s why I always make sure I’m super prepared! On the day of the meeting, you will be organised so everything should be effortless, and if little hiccups happen, it’s unlikely you’ll lose the client like I did that day! So what now?
STEP 1 | Aim To Arrive 5 Minutes Early (Or Precisely On Time!)
Keeping everyone waiting is rude and disrespectful. Yes, of course, trains are delayed (oh so London), traffic is real, and babies vomit on your ironed shirt, but if you give yourself more time than you need, you’ll arrive on time or early enough to have a zen moment.
STEP 2 | Have A Zen Moment
If you’re like me, no matter how many times you hold a meeting, you still feel anxious or nervous beforehand. So, I find a moment before my interior design meetings (in the car, on the train, in the foyer or even in the loo…) where I take a few breaths and say to myself; “I can handle this meeting, I am prepared for my meeting, I am grateful for my kind and happy clients, I am calm, I am open to solutions, I am an excellent designer, and I love my job”.
I do this before every meeting or presentation. You can skip it if you like, but I find this grounds me before my meeting and helps me to feel calm and confident.
STEP 3 | Be Yourself And Introduce Yourself
I want to make sure you’re super prepared and give you every single thing you might need because these were the baby steps and hand-holding I wish I had when I was first starting out! I’m one of those people who turns BRIGHT RED when I’m nervous or embarrassed, so just knowing a few things like this would have avoided awkward silences and bright red face moments when I felt super awkward and didn’t know what to say.
I often tell my mentees to prepare answers to certain questions people are likely to ask them, such as; “how long have you been an interior designer?”, “how did you get into the industry?” or “what’s your speciality?” This helps them to feel confident and prepared, and most importantly, take control and feel brave enough to approach people and say, “Hi, I’m Jo, the interior designer”.
STEP 4 | Take Control And Suggest We Start The Meeting On Time
I’ve tested this enough times with my reluctance to be assertive to know that someone needs to take control of the meeting, and if it’s your meeting, then it needs to be you! Don’t worry, my voice broke a few times when I screamed “let’s start” a little too loud because I was super nervous, but you can break the ice with a laugh and change the topic quickly! Taking control helps you look prepared and organised and gives you authority and respect when you speak.
You can hand out your agendas to everyone at the meeting, and this helps everyone start to calm and settle or you can prepare your presentation on the screen if it’s a virtual meeting.
STEP 5 | Guide The Interior Design Meeting
You don’t have to be rigid with this, but taking control is the most efficient way to conduct the meeting and ensure it ends on time (and doesn’t waste hours and hours of your time!) During the meeting, you might not follow the agenda exactly, but it helps to have it there if things don’t go according to plan, and it’s also a great way to get the meeting moving.
STEP 6 | During The Meeting, Make Sure You Take Notes
If you’re writing things down, make sure you get specific dates and highlight the main points, take away items or actions or deliverables. It’s ok to ask people to wait while you note something down. I do this all the time!
When I first started, I recorded all of my meetings, so it meant that I didn’t have to write everything down, and I could focus on my clients and come back to the recordings without being distracted by taking notes. Later on, I had an assistant who would take my notes for me, although I have to admit, I always felt more confident holding my own notebook and pen for some reason, so I still take my own notes to this day.
STEP 7 | Wrap Up The Meeting
I found this the most difficult part of my interior design meetings mainly because I am genuinely social and enjoy meeting people. For this reason, I always made sure that I made it clear to my clients when I “got the information that I was aiming for from that meeting”. This was typically me saying out loud, “This is perfect, I have what I need to move forward with this now” then I could progress to the next item on my agenda or say, “should we wrap this up now?
I also allow an extra few minutes at the end to ask if there are any questions or to speak to a consultant before I leave.
STEP 8 | Write Up Your Interior Design Meetings Minutes Or Points
I always leave an hour after my meeting to do this straight away after I get back to the office. If I leave it to the next day, I always regret it, so try to get it quickly sorted on the day so that there is nothing lagging behind.
If you’re the contract administrator or the project manager running the project, you should be the one who conducts the meetings and distributes the meeting minutes after the meeting. In the meeting notes/minutes, you should also include the action steps for yourself or any outstanding items that haven’t been resolved. If you don’t know how to write up your meeting notes/minutes professionally, here is an example and template for you to use:
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STEP 9 | Email The Meeting Notes Or Minutes To Everyone Who Attended The Meeting
I know you’ll be tempted to leave this to another day. In my experience, the sooner you write up your meeting minutes or notes, the less painless this annoying admin task is! It’s essential to do this quickly because these are contract documents and everyone who was in attendance has an opportunity to spot a mistake or add something that you might have missed. It also means that you aren’t delaying anyone, which once again is critical because delays cost someone money, and you don’t want the excuse to be “well, Jo sent the minutes two weeks later, and we didn’t have the information we needed to get going!” People are quick to blame a building project, so you don’t want to be in the firing line.
So as soon as you’ve had a bit to eat after your meeting, try to type out those minutes asap and at the very latest, send the notes the next day.
STEP 10 | Take Action On Your Meeting Minutes
After I’ve written the minutes or notes of my meeting, I feel relieved! That’s because once you have completed your meeting notes, you should have a step-by-step list of items that need completing before your next interior design meetings, which should help you relax and feel confident that you know what to do next.
I always try to be thorough with the information I provide, mainly because I genuinely know what it’s like always to have questions when someone explains something. I find that most people never seem to explain everything well enough for me! So, this should have covered almost everything you will ever need to know about conducting or holding your interior design meetings, whether they are your first meetings with your client or your weekly site meetings with the builder once the project is underway.
Of course, if you have any questions, please note them below, and I’ll do my best to answer them for you. If you’re an architect or interior designer starting a design business, take a look at my mentorship program, where I help you to get set up and working with your first client in 90 days (no matter whether you’re a complete beginner or experienced professional): Online Mentorship Interior Design Program
Download the resource bundle from this post above (includes step-by-step workflow, meeting agenda example and blank template, as well as meeting minutes example and template).