6 minutes was all I had. 6 minutes and twenty auto-advancing slides that distilled a fortnight of research and analysis in to a tale of the changes affecting their markets, why they weren’t ready and how all was not yet lost. The board sat quietly as I set out my stall and then came the lively debate.

It was one of the most enjoyable board meetings I’ve attended. Challenges were hard, defences robust and it was conducted in a spirit of mutual respect and appreciation for the role everyone brought to the table. Finally agreement was reached; decisions were made; actions were put in motion. Fifteen minutes of a board working effectively together to consolidate what they already knew into a project they could get behind.

As the conversation wound down a junior executive spoke. To that point he’d been silent, a smile on his lips and the occasional nod of the head his only contribution. I expected some deep insight that would move us forward.

After a moment of collective head scratching we realised the witty remark was directed at a point last heard over a quarter of an hour before.

One of the investors turned to him and in a clear, calm voice said, “Were you listening to this or just waiting to tell a crap joke?”

It was a harsh lesson, but one that needed to be learned: Listen to understand and to contribute; not for the gap where you can start talking.

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Who is Ross A Hall?

I'm a freelance designer and writer. My clients have included Fintech startups, publishers and digital agencies. You can read more about my work here.

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