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Need your idea heard? Never spend more than 7 minutes to say it

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Want your idea heard — and acted on? Can you get just a few minutes with decision-makers? Need to make an impact fast?

Whatever you have to say at work, you shouldn’t have to spend more than seven minutes to cover it.

Now it’s true popular TED Talks allow 18 minutes. But really, only people who’ve made a career out of speaking need that much time.

For the rest of us, seven minutes is enough to share meaningful information effectively, says John Brandon, author of The Seven Minute Productivity Solution. And he should know: More than 50 million people have read his advice after 50 publications and/or websites published an article-sized version of the book once it went viral.

Idea heard quickly, decision made faster

Imagine if your ideas or requests were expressed quickly and effectively. Decisions would likely come faster, too.

And that’s important because more than half of managers think decisions aren’t made in a timely way at their companies, according to McKinsey research. And 61% feel that at least half the time spent making those decisions is ineffective.

So if you get the ball rolling with seven minute requests, information shares and lessons, the decisions or actions should speed up, too.

Start with preparation

Seven-minute requests, presentations and offers start with preparation. Think about what you want from what you have to say. Almost always it’ll be to:

  • get support and/or approval, or
  • build knowledge and/or skills.

For example, you might need the go-ahead on a DEI initiative or financial support for new technology. Do you want your team to master new software? Or does a manager need help getting her department to accept and navigate a process change? 

Use your one clearly defined goal to plan each minute of your presentation or request precisely.

Use this guide to get the right words in the right minutes.

Minute 1: Get their attention

Help the audience adjust to the meeting environment and get focused on you.

Don’t jump to the main point, but start with a “bang” that’s tied to the topic.

For instance, you might use a brief clip from a relevant movie. Or tell a story on how a well-known leader overcame early rejection to become a success. (Find failure-to-success stories here).

Minute 2: Summarize

Explain exactly what you want to accomplish and how you plan on doing it.

For instance, “We need to update software so we can process open enrollment faster. I will explain our current system, the issues we face with it, our options to either upgrade or replace, and my final recommendation.”

Minute 3: Get to the meat

Minutes three, four, five and six don’t have to follow an exact guideline every time you present. But you do need to include the meat of your presentation in these minutes.

Give background in the third minute if you need to get the audience up to equal speed. Explain what’s been done and why it needs to change.

Example: “We bought the current software in 2016, and updated it twice, opting out of the last three updates. My staff is proficient and gritty, but the system has these limitations …”

Minute 4: Give the stats

Share hard numbers or stats that are easy-to-understand for the audience and back up your point.

Example: “We process 96 enrollments a day during peak season. An update will help us increase that by 50% and get to a shared goal — being paperless. This is how it can happen …”

Minute 5: Bring it to life

Support what you’ve covered so far with an example that the audience can relate to.

For instance, “When our colleagues at Ajax switched to this software, they had their open enrollment system streamlined in two months and were able to cut HR’s overtime by 15% because …”

Minute 6: Paint the picture

Explain what the future looks like if they accept your ideas or retain the information.

Example: “When we purchase new software and go paperless, we’ll reduce OT, plus cut the errors and costs associated with paper and supporting aging systems.”

Minute 7: Summarize

Give them the take home idea again – what you want, the skill or knowledge they must retain and why. That’s what they’ll remember.

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