In today’s high-stress, high-speed corporate world, ensuring you get the most out of face-to-face meetings between your company and its clients is more important than ever. A wasted meeting doesn’t only waste your time and that of the other attendees, it can also be a costly experience, both economically and from a relationship standpoint.

With the right level of preparation and appropriate expectations, however, client meetings can hold enormous value.

“For me, the planning starts as soon as the meeting is arranged,” says creative strategist, broadcaster and entrepreneur Andile Masuku. “How would I like to be perceived? What’s my role in this meeting? Who might I meet there unexpectedly?”

Masuku says he’s been in meetings that were billed as briefings on creative components of a campaign, only to find himself roped into strategic and executive decision-making. Because of this, he’s learnt to be over-prepared.

“How you’re dressed can send off all sorts of cues,” he says. “It often pays to dress in the manner you’d like to be perceived, or like those in the meeting. Which is not to say you ought to dress like an executive, but erring on the side of formality with a touch of creative flair can help those you’re meeting take you more seriously.”

According to Masuku, while it pays to try to limit meetings to absolute essentials and ensure you know exactly who will be attending, “you can’t completely mitigate unknowns”.

“I’ve attended a lot of meetings over the years that I probably didn’t need to,” he says. “Time can be better spent actually working, or using tools like Slack that allow you to get the information you need from people and be more productive without actually having to meet.”

Masuku says that all too often, the first 20 minutes of a meeting are spent “catching up”, but that this is a waste of everyone’s time and something those with the “millennial mindset” are better at avoiding. Small talk isn’t a good use of anyone’s time and if you do your research beforehand, any chatter that does take place can be focused on the interests or agendas of those with whom you’re meeting.