Leader Volume 9, Number 1
On Making Points
Booher is CEO of Booher Consultants, a Dallas-based communications
The question is
not "to meet or not to meet."
The question is how to make the most of those meetings that
you do attend. Meetings need not be the boring, repetitive, and
work-generating events that professionals have learned to
tolerate. They can be
an excellent vehicle for airing grievances, debating policies, and
proposing new ideas while key staffers and decision-makers are
assembled and attentive. To
the attendee who has something to say and can communicate it
effectively, there is no more opportune time to make a point-and
Take the stage;
don't just drift in. When
you intend to present an idea, take stage just as a performer
does. None of this
"Just a minute, before we continue.
I've been thinking about something for a while." Or
"I'm not saying I disagree with what has already been said,
but here's just another thought about how we could approach the
was right, all the world is a stage.
Those actors who wait for the opportune time or fearfully
cower in the wings never get noticed.
Those who confidently and competently play out their roles
get the attention their ideas deserve.
conversational; don't move into "meeting mode."
Regardless of the importance of the issue or the formality of the
setting, use your conversational voice, not your lecture tone.
Not: "It is imperative that I inform you..."
all need to know that ..." Not: "The research and development group of which I have
been appointed chair, effective May 1, has asked that you be
notified that the team is receptive to any and all proposals
"On May 1, R&D asked me to chair a team to come up with a
solution. So, I'll
need your input on ..."
in a multiple-person conversation rather than "addressing a
group." In most
situations, that means you'll pause to let others speak or ask
questions if necessary for clarification as you move through your
ideas. You'll use the
"we" and "us" approach rather than
"you" and "I."
You'll use terms everyone understands instead of lapsing
into jargon. You'll make eye contact with everyone around the table and
not read from notes or stare at the floor.
a Strong Case
proposal only one way and be specific.
It's natural to think that the more general you can make
your idea, the more "hooks" you're creating for people
to latch onto. However,
a broad, generally expressed idea usually has the opposite effect:
Everybody hears something they disagree with or can think
of reasons why your suggestion won't work.
your idea succinctly, in only one specific way, and let it stand
there in all its glory until people ask you to add details by
their comments and questions.
Your proposals are far too important to leave to the
guesswork of others. And
others are too busy to wade through generalities.
Give your ideas the best shot at being considered by being
clear and concise. Vague,
undeveloped ideas will be quickly buried and unappreciated.
Listen to the
counters to your proposal. Don't
get so carried away in preparing to defend your ideas, when a
person raises an objection, that you miss what he or she says.
If you do, you may find yourself focusing on an issue that
the other person has just conceded or failing to respond at all to
the new issues raised.
is not only polite, it is the most effective way of discovering
the strengths and weaknesses of your ideas.
Listening provides key insights about the receptivity of
others so you can provide appropriate responses.
End with impact.
When you present an idea, don't limp away with a sputter,
drop your eyes, tune out with body language, or let others grab
the floor and run away with your insights.
Instead, summarize your idea, mentioning the pros and cons
discussed and any decisions made, and suggest the next follow-up
step. The climactic car chase at the end of the movie, the
compelling cross-examination by the prosecuting attorney to wrap
up the case, and the last-second touchdown catch to secure a
victory is what is most remembered. Avoid a routine, anti-climatic ramble. End with a wallop.
Your next meeting
can be an opportunity to assert your views, display your
expertise, and communicate your passion in front of the right
people at the right time. When
it's your turn to take the stage, make it count.