How can we influence decision makers in our meeting?
Help the decision maker capture the meaning of the issue – not just the logical argument. The meaning of the issue taps into our emotion and imagination, and makes us care enough to work for change. Below are some key strategies to reach the hearts and minds of decision makers.
- The story is at the heart of it: Research shows that stories beat data. We will remember an interesting story while the numbers slip away. If you are using statistics, then remember to include a story showing the impact and the meaning of the data. Start your meeting with a powerful digital or spoken story to draw in your audience to the topic, or use a story as the “clincher,” which brings together the data into a human shape.
- Show more than tell: Capture attention through dynamic photos and short video clips to illustrate, while limiting text and stats. The MOVE map can visually demonstrate the distribution of services to promote physical activity across King County, for example, more than the statement “there is a disparity in access for these services and systems.”
- Less is more: Heaping on more stories, more statistics, and more requests of the decision maker will not necessarily help the decision maker understand more or commit more readily to help make a change. Choose the most powerful digital story, the most telling statistic or two related to the story, and let these sink in during the presentation while resisting the urge to pile on more information.
How can we plan our meeting or presentation?
Check out our planning worksheet and download our sample agendas here.
Powerful meetings with decision makers require careful and effective planning and team work. You have decisions to make and tasks to complete before, during, and after the meeting:
Before the meeting:
- Research the decision makers: What do these decision makers care about? What is their record on the issue you’re presenting? Does anyone in the group have any connections or previous experiences with these decision makers?
- What is your desired outcome for the meeting with them? What do you want them to do at the end of the meeting?
- What’s the story that will engage their hearts as well as their minds with the subject and change you’d like to make in the community?
- What questions can you ask the decision makers to build your relationship with them? What can you ask to have them build commitment toward the change you want?
- What materials or resources do you want them to take away and examine after the meeting? Have them ready, but remember that “less is more."
- Plan the agenda for the meeting carefully so that all participants who will be speaking or sharing in the group know their roles and know the timing of their parts.
- Big or small? Will this be a big presentation (15+ people) or a smaller meeting (4-15)? If you are planning a meeting rather than a presentation, you can personalize the experience more by having participants introduce themselves and briefly say why the issue is important to them, and take the time to build your relationship with the decision makers by asking them questions about how the issue relates to their lives and experiences. In the sample agenda below, the asterix (*) marks the optional parts that would be effective in a smaller meeting, but might not work in a big presentation. The double asterix (**) marks the options to enhance a big presentation.
During the meeting or presentation:
- State the agenda at the beginning of the meeting: This helps the policy makers know what will be expected of them, and gives them space to listen properly rather than wondering what will happen next.
- Connect: If it is a more informal presentation, save room in the agenda for some relaxed conversation to connect. The ultimate goal of any meeting is to build your relationship with the decision makers, and to continue the conversation beyond just this meeting.
- Intake and Reflection: Give the decision makers some space to think about the story, understand it, and personalize it. Don’t overload them with info.
- Ask questions, answer questions: Give the decision makers a chance to bring up questions, and remember the questions you planned to ask them.
- Have a clear “ask”: What would you like these decision makers to do in response to your presentation? Ask of them a meaningful, manageable commitment toward change (and blog about their response).
- Plan next steps: At the end of the meeting, consider with them what your next steps can be. Make sure to take photos with the decision makers that can be shared!
After the meeting or presentation:
- Reflect as a group on the meeting: What did you learn about the decision makers and their positions? What did the group do well? How did the map/stories enhance communication? How did the participants develop their own capacity and leadership?
- Remember your homework: What is the follow-up work that you need to do with these decision makers to keep the issue alive for them? This may include research to share with them on a lingering question that came up in the meeting, mailing them additional info, or connecting with another policy maker who they recommended. Always remember to send a thank-you note and set up the next meeting with them or someone they recommend!
How can we make sure the technology works in our meeting?
- Try all links and map filters before you meet or present.
- Test out the same computer you will be using in the room to make sure you can access the web.
- Consider playing the digital story from your computer rather than playing directly from the web.
- Adjust the sound and the screen beforehand.
- Be ready to share additional info to avoid uncomfortable silences while computer catches up.
- Have the computer driver be different from the person leading the discussion or speaking. You might have a tech-savvy back-up person to call in case of trouble when you are setting up.
- Have take-away materials that help the decision-maker access the web info afterward.