It took me a while to figure that out.
I used to always start at the beginning.
I always thought that I needed to explain things completely in order to get someone to understand an issue. So, I’d fill them in on the background, explain the fundamentals, and bring them up to speed on every step I’d taken so far.
Then, and only then, I thought, could we get into the meat and potatoes of whatever it was that needed to be discussed and decided.
Not effective. Not efficient.
The whole time I’m babbling, the other person is wondering what this is all about. They don’t have a good way to discern important details from unimportant details. They are accumulating questions, losing focus, and probably just trying to figure a graceful way out of the conversation.
I had much better luck once I figured out that the best way to start was often at the end.
If I got to the point quickly, whoever I was speaking to was much better prepared to engage.
Because I’ve given them an anchor.
They now had an important reference point to help them focus more directly on the most important details of the background information. They would listen more carefully and, more often than not, start asking questions.
By giving them the bottom line up front, I didn’t lose my big punch line — I gained their attention.
The conversation would more naturally flow back and forth. Questions would arise that uncovered the most important background information. Details would get discussed that are most relevant to go-forward planning and strategy.
Very effective. Very efficient.
Think about an upcoming discussion you need to have. One where you need to brief somebody on a situation and then solicit their input.
Plan to tell them the point first and then fill in the details.
When you speak with them, start with the end. For example…
I think we’re going to need to fire Pat, let me tell you why…
We have a great opportunity to land better clients by raising our fees, let me show you…
The new system isn’t working well, we have three choices on what to do next, here they are…
Don’t those seem a little more attention-getting and conversation inducing?