Warming Up The Audience Before Delivering Your Message

As a consultant I have walked into rooms where the temperature was so cold I debated getting gloves, but whether I’m lobbying or speaking at an event, I always warm up my audience before delivering my message. When they’re warm, I’m hot.

A Story from the Field

The CEO of the large pharmaceutical company was anxious to meet with an Assistant Deputy Minister (ADM).  His company had considerable concerns around a regulatory process and he wanted to share their proposals towards addressing that challenge.  He knew that in the weeks prior to his meeting there had been quite a bit of bad press about the program the ADM was responsible for. What’s more, the bad press had resulted from many unfortunate and accusatory comments leveled directly at the ADM by another pharmaceutical company.  It was of little surprise to the CEO when he was only granted 30 minutes for the meeting, and even less of a surprise when 30 minutes was reduced to 15 minutes once he arrived.

Rather than launching into his proposal, he started the meeting by explaining that he understood the challenges the department faced.  He explained that he thought the press coverage unfortunate since it did nothing to contribute to an open dialogue between his industry and the department.  The ADM who had started the meeting with her hands folded across her chest and her lips so tightly pursed she might have produced diamonds from coal, slowly began to relax.  When her assistant came into the meeting to get her after 15 minutes, the ADM shook her head and the meeting proceeded. By the time the CEO explained that his company funded a group of independent scientists who would be available for an exchange program with the department due to their specialized knowledge, 45 minutes had elapsed. The ADM was leaning forward attentively and asking about how the scientists were chosen and how the exchange might work. The meeting ended after an hour and there were smiles all round.

As government relations exercises go, I have rarely been so impressed with a client for turning what could have been a disaster into a triumph. When we were told we had 15 minutes I wasn’t sure if he would stay or walk out, but he was a total trooper.  It’s a lesson that has stayed with me.

Four tips for managing first meetings:

  • Do your homework. Understand what challenges and opportunities face your audience.
  • Assume nothing about your audience’s knowledge of you; make sure your position/attitude is clearly stated at the beginning of the meeting.
  • Read the body language of the person you are meeting with and respond to it.
  • Establish rapport before trying to deliver your pitch.

0 responses to “Warming Up The Audience Before Delivering Your Message

  • I thought I had left a comment but it doesn’t show… Sigh! Here is is again.

    It really takes skill to do something like right. Most would have folded or failed. It’s obvious there was experience along with confidence in his subject matter at work here. Just my thoughts. 🙂

    • He was a very smart man and understood that if he was to ever reach his objectives he’d have to get past the anger. It was funny to watch the meeting continue to unfold.

  • ballnchainz says:
    April 26, 2014 @ 07:20 pm

    This is Jay,

    I have witnessed some one turn a hostile room around before and it is a very impressing thing. I. Have also had customers (managers) apologize to me for believing the lies that their workers spread against my team and I. That one felt good after I just had to stand there and take the blame for what was going wrong.

  • Makes a lot of sense to warm up your audience! I will have to keep this in mind when I do my next blog talk in the summer. I do try to read my audience – I have learned that what I think as obvious is not so in the minds of my listeners.

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