Any meeting. Any presentation. There are always two killer questions that must be answered. Especially in a world filled with so much spin and blah blah blah: Your job is to find a way to ask them, and keep asking them, until you get answers.
1. So what?
Now, of course, you’re not going to asking it exactly that way, but if the info is not provided, ask you must.
The So What? question is about you making a personal connection to whatever’s being shared. Put bluntly, it’s: “Why should I care?” But that’s a self-centered, lazy way to think about it. That’s like telling the presenter: “It’s your job to make me care.” No. It’s your job to find a reason to care!
As humans, one of the reasons we do things is because we passionately care about whatever needs to get done. In business that could be making customers happy, doing innovative and creative work, doing challenging work, making a difference, etc. Your job is — before taking on new or additional work — to keep searching for YOUR personal connection…Why you will care.
A great way to get at this is to ask: “Help me understand…” (completed by whatever you care about)… “how this helps our customers?” … “how this helps us compete with innovative ideas?” etc.
Keep asking that same question until you find a reason to care (or not to care) and then act accordingly. (Yes, that includes — while still being a great professional — DISengaging if you simply cannot find a reason to care about the latest corporate flavor of the month.)
2. Now what?
This question is the What, specifically, should we do? question. So many meetings end with no call to action or another meeting or, or, or…Just lots of wastes of time! Your job is — if the presenter doesn’t do it — to quickly get clarity on who needs to do what by when.
Ideally, the details will look like the SMART model: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timebound. But if you can’t get that outta the presenter, at the very least seek how success will be defined. Without that, don’t budge! Don’t do anything! Really. Employ the Smile and Nod strategy (while being disengaged) until you get more specifics.
IF DONE WELL: So what? Now what? is not a whiner’s lazy-ass-avoid-work strategy. It’s respecting your own time and energy and attention. You deserve more from the people presenting to you or handing out work assignments.