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Quit burying the lead

Posted by Meg Bear on July 23, 2009


64736179_bc2e815946_mHere we go, another rant.  Those who are not interested I recommend you bail out now.

I’m just beyond tired of sitting in meetings and presentations for 45 minutes before you get to your point.  I know that is terrible to admit, but there you have it.  If you are presenting something you have a point, please make it right away.

I’m not suggesting I don’t want to hear you talk for an hour, I do.  I just want to use that hour productively to get on board with your idea/suggestion/topic and waiting until I’ve quit paying attention, puts me at risk of missing it.

Conventional wisdom

Most people think that they should give you a lot of background on a topic and then give you their opinion.  I get a sense that people see that as more respectful to the audience.  I’m pretty sure the thinking is that they want to take you on the journey with them and get your buy in before putting themselves out there with an opinion. 

Here’s the problem

You’ve probably already put your opinion in writing as the last slide or two — you can’t take that back even if your audience is going to disagree.  All you are doing is putting additional risk in place that your intended audience might get to a different conclusion than you.  Now you’ve bored them and they still have an option to voice their disagreement and make you both look stupid mid-meeting — ouch!

 Suggestion

Instead take the leap and jump right in with the first slide or two expressing an opinion.  Then use the next part of the meeting to support your conclusion and get the group on board with the thinking. 

Yes, this strategy feels more risky but I believe it doesn’t actually have more risk.  It does, however, have upsides

  • It shows you as having done the hard work of coming to a conclusion and giving a suggestion (+1 for you — you are decisive and helpful)
  • It makes it clear you are confident in your views
  • It makes sure your point is heard (this is two fold — if people have to leave early they can’t miss the main point and for those who start to get distracted after 20 minutes, you have still gotten through)

One senior leader here at ORCL avoids this problem by making people send him their slides before the meeting.  I’m starting to think that person is even smarter than I thought [which is saying a lot].

hat tip to Amy who gave me the feedback to include an Executive Summary on enough presentations that I got the hint.

3 Responses to “Quit burying the lead”

  1. Hilarious – I love the line about now they don’t agree with you AND you’ve bored them. Or, maybe they don’t agree with you BECAUSE you bored them. (I don’t mean you, Meg, you’re not boring, I mean in general.) Listen to Meg, people!!! Just because it’s called ‘work’ doesn’t mean everyone has to ramble in meetings. Or does it? I know plenty of people who prefer the gradual buy in approach because they dislike making snap decisions and need time to get used to ideas. Yawning now. Sorry, what were we talking about?

  2. Louise Barnfield said

    Terrific advice, Meg! I too have felt that pain! I’ll definitely try to bear this in mind for future meetings…particularly when you are present!😉

  3. […] to give you tips on how to do presentations to executives.  I heard some key themes included: being on message,  brief,  in control, prepared, […]

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