Once upon a time there was a young man (and that young man was me) who was about to introduce a rather radical idea to a potential partner, who in this case was a slightly older man.
Me and my colleague were attempting to pitch and sell our amazing project to the company in question, and we hence needed to get this particular man onboard.
He was very busy, highly sought after and senior to us in a variety of ways, but after some effort we were able to arrange a short meeting.
When we were finally let into his office, after having been kept waiting for an hour past our agreed meeting time, we sat down facing him at the gigantic oak desk and unpacked our presentation-material.
The words “Thank you for taking the time to see us. Allow me to tell you the background to why we are here and who we are…” barely left my lips when he interrupted me with: “Stop! Tell me what you want to do. If I like what you have to say, we can deal with the rest later.”
For a moment I was perplexed, but got myself together quickly, presented our idea, succeeded in making him enthusiastic about it as well, and with that, the project had a partner.
…and get straight to the point
There is an informal expression used in the US Marines to describe this attitude: BLUF – Bottom Line Up Front. This refers to that when intending to present something to a superior officer, be brief and get to the point. If all goes well, there will be plenty of time for details later.
My meeting with the senior entrepreneur occurred five years ago, but I have thought of the occasion many times since. I have been especially inspired by how he succeeded in taking a stand to so many different suggestions, making numerous decisions and get so much done, by having the BLUF-approach to business.
So, you should get straight to the point as well. Or if you are not the one speaking, ask whoever is to get to the point instead.
I am certain that you can recall a meeting which took forever and a day to get going. Background information, presentations, reasoning and discussions were drawn out and went around in circles, and you didn’t get to the core of the matter until much time and energy had been wasted. Or perhaps you were the one who initially was too vague and indirect. Believe me, I have been guilty of this more than once as well.
You can recognize the BLUF-approach in an executive summary in a business plan, a prospect or something similar. Read the briefing and if it is interesting enough, make the decision to involve yourself deeper.
In the next week, try to get away with presenting as little background as you possibly can when in a meeting. Try to get straight to the point and discover that you will be able to finish off the meeting a few minutes prior to the set finish-time.
Experiment and play around with the BLUF-approach when you are writing e‑mails. Try keeping it short and simple.
Shorter, more concise and faster
Your meetings will become shorter, enabling you to have time for more of these without having to work more.
You will also spend less time composing e‑mails and due to this have more time for other things (or have more time to send more e‑mails).
If you can live with that the material you base your decisions on in the future will be more concise than it presently is, you will make decisions faster, which will propel you faster towards where you want your business to go.
More concise meetings, more concise e‑mails and a smoother and faster decision-making process will result in that you accomplish more, if this is what you aspire to achieve.
Don’t overdo it
Finally: No, I am not saying that you always should exclude “background information”. We often need to know more than the information a first impression provides and allows us to understand about each other, in order to establish a strong enough trust and confidence in what we intend to do.
What is your suggestion?
When was the last time you took part in a truly effective meeting, and what made it so effective and successful? Let me and others know by leaving a comment.