What was the message?

Imagine planning a message for two months and then forgetting to deliver it.  Sound impossible?The following story really happened.

The real estate group had been planning their presentation to the Minister of Industry for about two months.  They had prepared slides and organized who would speak first and who would address the series of itemized issues.  The Minister was next to impossible to book and so this meeting was considered quite a coup within the organization. The presentation went like clockwork.  The Minister and his staff had sat with rapt attention through the slides. The assistant had made occasional notes and the Minister had asked questions.  It was, therefore, something of a shock to the group when the Minister at the close of the meeting turned to his assistant while the group was packing up and quietly said, “Why did they want to meet?”

It was no less surprising when the assistant shrugged her shoulders and said, “I don’t know; I assumed they wanted to address the pending legislation but they never mentioned it.”

Since the real estate group was under the impression that everything they said was related to the legislation, though they never actually made the link, they were somewhat dismayed.


  • Assume nothing before a meeting. Always clearly state why you are meeting and what you would like from the meeting.
  • Decide on a facilitator, someone who will lead the meeting and keep things on track.
  • Be clear on what you specifically would like the person you are meeting with to do next.
  • Make sure that you are always linking your information back to your objectives.
  • Avoid jargon, it is difficult to follow and may disengage or confuse listeners.
  • Ask if there are any questions before you conclude the meeting.
  • Follow up in writing restating your request and the highlights of your message.

Although the story relates to a failed government relations venture the same lessons can be learned by anyone trying to communicate. Essentially don’t get so preoccupied with how your message is going to be delivered that you don’t spend enough time ensuring that your audience actually gets the message. Imagine taking out a full page ad in a paper your audience doesn’t read or posting an important family message on Facebook and assuming all your relatives will read it.



6 responses to “What was the message?

  • The role of the facilitator is vital, especially to focus on, and stay on topic. You need someone who is flexible, but also can constrain the topic of the meeting. Nothing is worse, going into a meeting about one topic, and having scope creep taking it into a direction you did not want it to go to. Or in the case above, never get to the topic in the first place.
    Thanks for sharing.

    • Debra Yearwood says:
      October 11, 2017 @ 03:47 pm

      Very good point William. A designated facilitator sits, outside the conversations and can step in to redirect when things derail.

  • Catarina says:
    October 3, 2017 @ 01:32 pm

    Honestly, Debra I will never cease to be amazed at how people simply don’t realize what they need to do to make something happen. Assuming the other part, in this case, the minister, would understand is a fundamental mistake. You have to know what you want and suggest it. Not demand and what Leslie writes is correct. If you don’t have a follow up strategy, above all with heads of states and ministers, you will never see them again. It’s easier for women to get such follow up meetings so men would benefit from involving an attractive and intelligent woman. A train wreck will not work no matter how intelligent she is. It’s wrong but that’s how the world works. Men in power make time for seeing attractive and intelligent women.

    • Debra Yearwood says:
      October 4, 2017 @ 09:57 am

      Like you, Catarina, I am amazed at the assumptions people make when they walk into a meeting. As to your observation about the benefits of an attractive woman, I think attractive people are generally more persuasive, the halo effect at work. Interestingly, while they may be more persuasive they are not more successful. Earlier this year a study released in the Journal of Business and Psychology found that unattractive people make more income. The study actually found that the more unattractive the person, the higher their income. I suppose that’s not a bad consolation prize if you can’t be as influential.

  • Leslie Turcotte says:
    January 8, 2013 @ 07:13 pm

    This is great. I would add – close the deal – by asksing for the followup. ie. When can we expect to see this change? Can you get back to me in the next XX weeks/days with an update until X has happened.

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