Advertising How To... Part 3
How to shine in a meeting when you have no idea what’s going on. By Sensitive Writer.
There are only two reasons I get asked to go to meetings:
1) They need to even out the guy/gal ratio.
2) They need color commentary.
As a result, I end up in a lot of meetings where my sole purpose is to either “bond” with the marketing girls or to “bring up the energy level” because someone invited too many suits. So in nearly every meeting not only do I have absolutely no idea what the meeting’s about, I usually have no clue what the client does or what I could possibly contribute. So I’ve learned to fake my way through just about any meeting. You can, too.
1) Wear something unusual.
This is easier if you’re a guy than if you’re a girl, but it can still be accomplished. And I know it seems inane and petty, but when people comment on your unique jacket/necklace/pair of boots you get to respond with something clever and smart on a topic you know you can nail. Unlike having to comment on Existential Marxism or zero point energy.
2) Ask a lot of questions.
I’ve always maintained that stupid people pretend to know things, while smart ones ask questions. (Also related is the corollary, there are no stupid questions, just stupid people). But if you’re not comfortable asking “So what is it exactly you guys sell?” go with the subtler “Can you tell me more about your business, Jim?” You’ll seem both engaged and interested.
3) Tell a fascinating and vaguely semi-related story.
Begin by prefacing it with “This is kind of a different scenario, but once we blah-blah-blahed…” and then recount the best idea you were ever vaguely semi-involved with. It shows that you’re a thinker without revealing you also have no freakin’ clue what’s happened in the meeting thus far.
Simple right? As in so simple it’s stupid? Not so. Clients looove nodders. It says “Not only do I find what you’re saying fascinating, I also wholeheartedly agree with it.” You can also throw in some excited non verbal body language, like leaning forward and/or smiling. Enthusiasm makes up for a wide variety of inadequacies. All of which also has a related tactic:
4b) Second the opinions of others.
This one needs a little finesse, so you don’t just seem like a kiss-ass. It’s best used when a bunch of ideas are tossed out, and you can actually pick the best one, rather than agreeing with whatever the boss said. It also has the added bonus of making you look like you actually believe good ideas can come from anywhere. Clients eat that shit up.
5) Restate what’s already been said.
An oldie, yes, but a goodie none-the-less. Summarizing what someone else came up with may be the oldest faker trick in the book, but used judiciously it can give you a good 2-3 minutes of floor time while guaranteeing you’re not making an ass of yourself.
With a little practice and some quick thinking you can walk into any meeting totally cold and come out with the ultimate words of praise. “Wow! You were great in there!” Now all that’s left is the hard part: you just have to be great out of there.