I’ve spent too much of my life in meetings, but I recognize that in today’s business meetings, however inefficient, are part of life and an important place to encourage others to support your business ideas.
I realize that meetings are where we offer up our best ideas, put our support behind key people and projects, and voice our objections when we disagree.
For much of my career, I believed that just the sheer brilliance of my ideas would have my colleagues supporting them. I was sadly dismayed, and learnt through many mistakes that, like all human interactions, meetings have their own rules, and that I had to work within these to get my (fantastic) ideas adopted and supported.
When you have a winning idea to share, avoid the errors that I made on many occasions. And as I negotiated my way through these meetings, I found my credibility increased, ideas were more readily accepted, and I became known as a commercial innovator.
1. Your Idea gets stuck in the middle.
When my ideas were discussed in the middle of a meeting they tended to be ignored!
Research out of Tennessee State University shows that the order of what you say in a meeting has a bearing on the outcome. According to the Recency Effect, we register and recall the last items on a list the best, followed by the first few items (the Primacy Effect). Those items positioned in the middle of the list are hardest to recall.
What I learnt was that my most compelling messages were delivered in introducing and even more so in concluding the meeting, if I was able to make this happen. Since your colleagues will give a higher importance to an opening or conclusion, prepackage your ideas so that they can be introduced at the beginning and end of the meeting. Don’t let your ideas get sandwiched in the middle and forgotten. And if you aren’t able to get your ideas into the front or end of the meetings, call a new one if you are able.
2. You don’t tap into others needs.
I really just thought about what I wanted from an idea, and how I could achieve this goal in the meetings. Big mistake, that I learnt from quickly. I learnt that before and during a meeting to consider what are the needs ( Goals, Passions and Problems) of my colleagues (they may disagree with me but I tried). Is there a way to hook your idea onto someone’s goal that needs to be met, a passion of a decision-maker in the room, or in a way that alleviates a known problem?
For example, if in a meeting, your idea involves enhancing recycling as part of Corporate Social responsibility, why not link it to the fact that your boss is responsible within their departmental goals for making the company more efficient? While you’re at it, gain an ally from the Corporate Communications team who need support for their Annual CSR report.
3. You introduce your ideas the wrong way.
I was passionate about the ideas I presented, and this often reduced the credibility of those ideas. Don’t begin presenting your idea with “I believe…,” “I feel…,” or “I think….” Each of these approaches is easy to refute and can be waived away as casual hearsay- somebody states that they believe the opposite and it devolves into a he-says-she-says argument.
Introduce your proposals in more fact-based way that are hard to poke holes in. Try more tangible terms such as, “The data in this new industry report says…”, “Our history as a firm has shown…” or “The trends in our industry are moving in X direction and that means…” Approach the discussion on your ideas on the basis of verifiable data and statistical methods, rather than assumptions and personality.
4. You’re not ready for obvious objections.
I would always try to phrase my ideas in a positive way and avoid any of the potential problems. I am an optimist at heart. Experience has taught me that almost every idea has some more obvious flaws, or potential challenges. I learnt to introduce these and then answer them myself, to avoid the impression of immediate problems. For example, ‘You might be wondering whether X could happen . . . ’ Show your colleagues that you’ve looked at the idea from multiple angles and that you expect some challenges and thought how to overcome them, and that you are prepared for a mature discussion. Bring those more obvious objections to light first. Before your colleagues do. And they will see you as being careful, considered, and out for more than just your own gain.
5. You didn’t create a bright-enough future.
A critical preparation step is to take your winning idea and turn it into a compelling and commercial story to move the people you are engaging. People love stories, think in stories and are wowed by good story telling as I’ve outlined in a recent post on presentations. Structure your presentation to start with a challenge in the beginning, data to support in the middle and positive end to your story, creating a vivid picture of how your idea will look once implemented- concise, credible, compelling and commercial. Concise because there is never enough time in a meetings, so keep it brief. Credible because its supported by facts data and reports. Compelling because it solves problems or addresses others needs and desires. Commercial because in the end we are in business and your idea clearly addresses the most urgent commercial issues your business is facing and that the end result is positive bottom line.
If you are able to avoid these common pitfalls, as I did, your ideas will become recognized as innovative and you’ll become a critical member of the business.
Have you experience of selling ideas to others, please share your thoughts with our readers in the comments below.