Monday, August 03, 2015

Do You Talk Too Much?

One of the biggest blunders I have seen ad agency people make - again and again, over the years - is to spend 55 minutes of a one-hour presentation, talking.

The result of course is that the most crucial part of the meeting, the back-and-forth, is severely curtailed.

We do it because we think we're selling something, rather than working collaboratively with the Client to solve their marketing problems. We do it because we train people to 'present' not to listen. We do it because we hire extroverts, performers, and egotists. 

(Please note I'm not excluding myself from these criticisms. Been guilty many times).

There's an interesting article in the latest Harvard Business Review titled 'Create a conversation, not a presentation'.

Many of its recommendations are totally impractical in our industry, such as, for example, circulating a presentation to the meeting's participants several days in advance. Consulting may be different, but in advertising that would often mean we didn't have any time to do the actual work.

But the main thrust of the piece - that a good meeting is a conversation, not a presentation - is well-observed.

Obviously, the key is to ask questions. And I'm talking about genuine questions, not the fake kind whose real intention is to display how smart the question-asker is, or how much knowledge they have.

I think too often we're concerned to fill the time. Whereas some of the best meetings I've ever had occurred when we finished early by mistake, and it then devolved into just a really productive chat.

We're also too often concerned to appear 'right'.

But usually the person who has the right questions is more useful than the person who has, or thinks they have, all the answers.



Unknown said...

Excellent point! I'm studying advertising at University, and while I'd love to implement this the next time we have to do a mock presentation I feel as though we would suffer within the formal guidelines of a good presentation on which we are marked.

Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree more. One of my favourite aphorisms is "Better to remain silent and risk being thought a fool than to open one's mouth, and remove all doubt." Something it would do well for many ad people to remember.

groucho said...

Many years ago a colleague and I would get prospects in for a credentials presentation. After settling them in we would sit and smile at them. Most people hate silence so they would start to talk. Usually the first thing they said was "we're not here because we are unhappy with our agency" - we stayed silent, and then they told us why they were unhappy with their agency. When they finished we told them how unlike their agency we were. It was like shooting fish in a barrel.

Anonymous said...

The 80's have gone, logic and reason are what clients put money on now, not bullshit.

So many MD's and CD's try to bull their way through and it never works long-term. A bit of showmanship and theater, sure.

Listening is such an underrated skill. If you ask a client for feedback, listen and try to understand their point, don't go on the defense straight away.

Anonymous said...

Advertising people are congenitally unable to say "I don't know" when they don't know something.

Anonymous said...

Another thing about it… ideas always end up over-sold these days, I've often felt a bit uncomfortable about it. So much stock is put on getting projects over the line, that we raise expectations ridiculously. We set ourselves up for failure.

Anonymous said...

Great post Scamp.