There we sat, comfortably private in adjoining massive hotel foyer arm chairs, participants in a business conference. My companion: A client senior executive, someone I see one or two times a year at similar meetings or in her home city. I’d invited her to sit for a few minutes to share some perspective of her priorities and our performance for her organization.
As we settled into our chairs, we made some small talk about how pretty the day was, how glad we were to be out of the cold (winter still being ‘on’ on in New England), and how well the conference was going.
Then, she (being the extraordinarily capable executive she is) beat me to the opening question, like a baseball pitcher making a great pick-off move to first base. She sharply turned her gaze from the outside sunshine to me and asked with all of a Major Leaguer’s disarming charm and focus, “So, what’s new?”
She caught me “learning the wrong way off the bag” as baseball people say, not ready for her sudden move toward me.
There was naught to do but “dive for the bag”, no time for more than a very few words to be “safe” – to catch her attention and continue our conversation.
A friend who writes TV shows and movies in Los Angeles once told me:
“Pitching ideas in Hollywood is murder. We walk into a room and we have 15 seconds to tell a story to a bunch of grown-ups who listen to stories all day long. While we talk, the grown-ups check their e-mail, their stocks, and their makeup. And, when it’s over, we can only hope that they will hand us a suitcase full of money and send us home to write it.”
“So what do you do in the 15 seconds?” I asked.
“Rather than giving them all the plot twists and turns, you have to give away the good part at the beginning,” he said, “even if the good part doesn’t happen until the end.”
So, instead of telling the plot twists and turns at the beginning – “We’ve finished some research and we’ve developed a new process to blah,blah blah,” I told her the good part first: “We’ve increased new account penetration by 45% in 90 days.”
We can tell all the plot details later, when we’re asked.
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