Quit burying the lead
Posted by Meg Bear on July 23, 2009
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.
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!
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.