Continuing on my series of posts on lessons learnt in the corporate world, here is the latest one:
Yesterday was arguably the most critical day of my professional life. We had our mid-year sales review meeting with the Executive VP , Senior VP, Sales Director, a few other managers and my team. The reason this meeting was critical because 2009 was not a particularly good year for our team in terms of numbers. Long story short, lets just say that some important internal policy changes have severely affected our revenue lines. And this meeting was scheduled to discuss the same.
And as expected, the meeting room was very heated up. Each project dissected and discussed at length. Every activity in the account questioned. Every action scrutinized. Tempers flaring all around. I was fourth in line to present. And it was three and a half hours before my turn came! My boss started the presentation before handing it over to us. My first colleague, who is doing reasonably well this year, was not really in the firing line. Her presentation lasted 8-10 mins. The second one lasted around 20 mins. Mind you, all we had to do was talk about our top 5 projects on 1 slide. Normally that would take less than 5 minutes. So you can imagine the barrage of questions from the panel. The 3rd presenter broke all records. His slide lasted 55 minutes!!! He was crucified to say the least. And with that behind me, I stood up.
I was asked to pick my best project and speak about it. That’s actually not a good thing, rather very dangerous. Coz then there is no scope for error. If I don’t get the facts right, I don’t have any other chances or deals to fall back upon. My whole year’s work was down to this one project. And so I started speaking. And barely three minutes into the presentation, they told me to sit down! And I thought, “uh oh!”
I was shocked. Didn’t move an inch. My mouth was open. I didn’t know what to do. After what looked like an eternity, my boss snapped me out of it. “C’mon, sit down” she said. Hesitantly, I walked back to my chair. My face was white! Someone noticed and finally said, “Masood, you did good. Now relax and sit down!”
And that’s when I started breathing again!
Finally the Exec VP spoke up. “Why did I ask him to sit down?”. And he answered his own question. “Because he did not leave me with any questions. He had everything. All the information, all the facts in place. He knew everything about this project and much more. That’s how its gotta be done”.
And that’s when I started smiling again!
Before the meeting started, I sat down in front of my laptop and did some research. Not about the project. That’s my baby so I know everything about it. But about the country, the economy, the industry, industry numbers, the company, went through latest annual report of the company, profit margins, expected annual and quarterly growth rates, planned investments etc etc etc. And I spoke about all this before getting into the project details.
Moral of the story: Do your homework. In front of a c-level panel, talking non-stop about the project may not help. Know the whole picture – not just from a micro but from a macro point of view as well. Do the research. And remember it. Be confident. And go for it.