FAQ : Meeting with Clients in a Public Space

Photography

Yesterday was one of those days when I looked at my calendar, took a deep breath, and closed my eyes, almost like I was going to dive underwater. I scheduled two meetings (and lunch with my best friend) in Los Angeles and a meeting in Orange County later that night. I intentionally scheduled the day knowing I’d be on the road for most of it, but planning meetings with clients outside of a studio brought me back to my roots. Oh, did I fail to mention the lease ended for the last studio in December? And that I wandered Orange County looking for a new space like a crazed maniac lost duckling? The good news is that I’m incredibly excited for the new studio, but until the new floors, paint, and furniture are in, I’m meeting with clients in a myriad of locations (their wedding venue, their wedding coordinator’s office, Starbucks, etc).

I explained to JD last night that one of the biggest challenges when it came to meeting clients outside of a formal studio is making it feel like home turf, a space I carved as my own. So, do you think it negatively impacts the chance of the clients to book your services, he asked. No, I didn’t think it did, but I worked harder at making things intentional. He asked me to explain, so I decided to share my thoughts here in case it’ll help someone meeting clients outside of a studio.

Speaking of JD, here’s a photo of him at last Saturday’s wedding adjusting the bouquet…talk about ATTENTION TO DETAIL…I just wish he didn’t apply such scrutiny when we reviewed my credit card bill.

If you’re meeting with prospective clients in a public space, here are a few things I discovered helped me feel like I’m playing on home turf. I like that word. Turf. Makes me feel all athletic and stuff.
1. Arrive Early
I try to get to a meeting no later than 20 minutes early if I need to find a table and chairs (say, at a coffee shop) and a location that is away from noise and traffic. Of course, you’ll always battle the ambient sounds of your environment (yesterday I had to talk over a crying child who just spilled his chocolate milk…can you say AWESOME?!), but the key is to take things in stride. If a child is crying or if a barista is yelling for Margaret to pick up her soy latte, I need to carry on and remained focused on what I’m there to do: get to know the clients.
2. Offer a Drink
After making small talk with the prospective clients, I offer to buy them a drink (this works well at a coffee shop, hotel lobby, or a wine lounge), which allows the opportunity for me to step away from the meeting space. Sure, the space is technically a table and three chairs, but it’s a space I carved nevertheless. Leaving them alone with 3-4 sample albums is a good way for them to view my work away from me staring at them as they do so. Let’s be real…if I stared at a couple as they flipped through my albums, I’d feel creepy, almost like I was expecting them to applaud or something once they got to the last page.
3. Understand Client Dynamic
If I’m meeting at a place the clients haven’t seen, I need to allow them the time to take in their surroundings. Once I met clients at a wine lounge because I discovered the prospective groom was really into the art of wine making. Knowing this, I had to give the clients room to breathe before I dove into having a meeting. Allowing people to relax and just be is sometimes hard because I want to act professional and streamlined and use big words, but–sometimes–a quiet conversation away from wedding photography is juuuust right.
4. Showcase Professionalism.
My grandmother’s legacy is imprinted all over my soul. She imparted such priceless wisdom, and one of things she taught me was to act the way you want to be treated. If one desires respect, be respectful. If one desires to be heard, she must listen. I’m making her sound like Yoda…but she was way cooler. And spoke with a Puerto Rican accent, which means she usually had to repeat things a few times before I fully understood what she said, but the point is the same: if you want clients to think you’re a professional, act like one. Show up on time, dress appropriately, showcase kindness, and listen. Some of the greatest professionals are the best listeners…they hear what their client is saying (sometimes between the lines) and serves them with honesty and respect.

Hope this helps at least one person…if not, I’m still glad I wrote it out because I’m thankful for my clients…and their willingness to see me–the real me–in any environment.