A few weeks ago, I was preparing for a meeting with one of my customers and had spent hours on it. I had polished my PowerPoint deck and ensured that I had all the facts ready. I thought I knew exactly what the customer was looking for as I had previous qualification meetings with them. I was confident that I was on their agenda.
When I arrived for the meeting, I had the normal friendly greeting and I started my presentation. However, I noticed after a few minutes in that I didn't have the normal attention that I was expecting. There was no engagement and the look on their faces was as if they would prefer not to be there.
Have you ever had a similar situation to this? How do you react? Would you push ahead with your presentation and hope that it finishes quickly and you can be out of there?
A Moment of Truth
This situation calls for a Moment of Truth. This takes a lot of courage and tact but you need to stop the meeting and be brave enough to tackle the difficult question that is on your mind. It takes the following three steps:
- Pause the meeting - this in itself take courage and it may appear easy to just pretend there is not a problem and carry on. You need to pause the meeting deliberately but sensitively. In my scenario above, I could say something like. "Sorry, I just want to take a pause for a moment and check something with you."
- Say how you feel - it is important to say how you feel as you thought you were on the right agenda and something has obviously changed. No one has had the courage to say anything but you must. In my scenario above, I could say something like. "I thought that I understood your requirements well but I have noticed that none of you seem very engaged with the content. It feels that what I am presenting is not quite what you were expecting."
- Ask for their advice - now that you have called out your concerns you must ask them how they feel you should proceed. If you are not on their agenda or there is an unknown problem, you have pushed it to them to respond and give you the guidance of how to proceed. In my scenario above, I could say something like. "Can you confirm what you were expecting from today's meeting?"
In my scenario, it turned out that they had had new priority requirements set by their CEO. They were still interested in what I was presenting but with higher priorities, it wasn't likely to happen any time soon. The direction I got from point 3 allowed the meeting to move on to discuss their new requirements and it turned out that my company could help them with those too. If I hadn't had the moment of truth, I would have blindly finished my presentation with no real benefit and also missed out on the real opportunity.
When to use a Moment of Truth
The above situation refers to a client meeting but it could be any meeting. It could even by a one-to-one meeting. Have you ever noticed that someone is always looking at their watch? Or that they aren't really paying attention in a meeting because they have their laptop open and you expect that they are answering emails. Prime opportunity for a Moment of Truth. Pause. Say how you feel about them concentrating on their open laptop and ask for their advice on how to proceed.
The three steps above can be used in any situation where a Moment of Truth is required. Sometimes, you still won't get to the root of the problem with step 3. Be courageous, you can always repeat the process and go back to step 1. Make sure that you have really teased out what the underlying issue or concern is.
Moments of Truth in your meetings do take courage but will save you lots of wasted time and often result in finding out really insightful information that the other party was shy to speak about.