In business, meeting tactics and strategy have been raised to an art form. However, while volumes have been written on meeting best practices, we can forget that the success or failure of a meeting starts before the first attendee even arrives.

1. Find The Right Meeting Room Ever held a meeting at Starbucks? I don’t know about you, but Wi-Fi access doesn’t nearly make up for spikey-haired baristas yelling drink orders over the cappuccino machine. Where you meet creates the essential first impression of your business…and it doesn’t actually need to be your office.  Look past Starbucks or restaurants and check out meeting rooms for rent. These meeting rooms should be in Class A facilities, have a receptionist to greet your guests, offer meeting equipment as well as faxes and networked copy machines, and even a decent cup of coffee. (See below) Typical costs for this type of setup runs between $20 to $40 an hour … a small price to pay for closing that deal.

2. Send Out An Agenda I’m sure sending out an agenda seems like a no-brainer. However, it is surprising how many meetings are scheduled without an agenda. Meetings are not only about producing the desired outcome, but also about productivity – don’t forget this step.

3. Arrange For Beverages & Snacks Many see beverages and snacks as a “nicety”, however they can change the dynamic of a meeting. Even a cup of coffee adds a social element that can affect the tempo and attitudes in the meeting. Forget the pens and other swag and offer a cup of coffee or tea.

4. Arrive Early & Set Up Ahead It happens without fail … we cram our schedules and end up frantically trying to get an LCD projector to sync with our laptops. At some point we have all been guilty of this sin, but do we learn from it? Book your meeting room about 30 min earlier then your meeting is scheduled to begin and get set up. When your guests arrive, instead of you fretting over technology, you can chat and build rapport.

4. Have Someone Act As Traffic Director Lets face it, we all know (or think) that the company with a receptionist is a bigger, more professional company. Just as with a Class A office building, a receptionist gives a certain impression of your company. In addition, while you are setting up your LCD projector, the receptionist can take care of giving directions to lost meeting attendees or guiding them to your meeting room when they arrive. Best of all, for top notch facilities, the receptionist comes with the room!

After enough meetings, we can all become negotiation ninjas … but what will set you apart is the polish that comes from the right groundwork before Round One.