The role of preparation in a negotiation is underestimated. You would not skydive for the first time without being prepared. Negotiation is much the same and inadequate preparation could cost you thousands of dollars. Being prepared means taking the time to research your opponent's position, as well as understanding your limit and estimating theirs. Keep in mind that you are not expected to know everything; ask open-ended questions before the negotiation begins to help you in your preparation.
When preparing for negotiations, you should be able to identify your "best alternative to a negotiated agreement," also known as BATNA. Your BATNA is your bottom line of how far you will concede and how much you are willing to allow your counterpart to walk away with. Your goal is to have the other side come back with an offer better than your BATNA. By preparing and knowing what your comfort level is, you will likely not walk away from the table unsatisfied with the outcome of the negotiation.
Going into a negotiation without understanding the background of the conflict could leave you blindsided. Once you are in a negotiation, you will need to think quickly on your feet. If you have studied the background information in advance, such as the personalities of the people involved, culture, laws and any other facts which may have an impact on a decision, you can reason with knowledge because you have factual information to support your statements.
Identify the Issues
For a negotiation to be effective, it is important to try to identify any issues that may surface from the opposite side so that you can prepare yourself to address them and are not caught off-guard. By identifying any issues pertinent to your opponent's perspective prior to the negotiation, you will be better prepared to address them in the negotiation and may even have on hand possible resolutions.
Find Common Ground
Before going into a negotiation, establish what the common ground is between both parties. Write down in detail what you want and what you don't want from the outcome as precisely as you can. Then try to understand the perspective and wants of your counterpart and what he is hoping to avoid. Finding common ground and focusing on your shared interests is critical to shaping and framing the negotiation to a mutual resolution.