The First Minute by Chris Fenning
⭐ Rating: 9/10 - Recommended For: Leaders
3 Big Ideas from The First Minute 💡
Shorter, clearer conversations get results. It is easier than you might expect, and it all starts with the first minute. Creating the most effective first minute of any work conversation is a two-step process. Step 1: Frame the conversation in fifteen seconds or less. Step 2: Create a structured summary of the entire message you need to deliver.
The techniques described in this book are based on the following core principles. You must prepare your audience to receive your message before you deliver it. People are busy, so you need to get to the point quickly. The most effective work conversations focus on actions and solutions, not on problems.
It's common to think “My topics are far too complex to be summarized in less than a minute.” but using the GPS method (Goal, Problem, Solution) you can do just that.
2 Best Quotes from The First Minute 💬
If you cannot deliver information in an organized way, you will have a hard time being respected professionally.
“Make sure your audience is ready to receive your message.”
Top Takeaway ✅
Everyone is busy.
When you ramble, you lose attention.
In fact, it only takes seconds.
If you do not grab attention in the first 60 seconds, you will struggle to get back on track.
Here is how to speak so people listen: ✅ Step 1 - Frame the conversation in seconds. Provide: Context - Why are we speaking, and why now. “I’ve been testing the latest software release and I need you to review a critical bug.” ✅ Step 2 - Summarise your entire message in just a few words. Provide: The desired outcome, the blocker, and a possible solution. “I need your agreement to delay the software release (outcome). The team is unable to resolve the bug in time (the blocker). We have a solution but it will take the weekend to resolve. (solution).” ✅ Step 3 - Ask an open question. Provide: Invite the other person to speak. “To make a decision, what do you need?” In summary: - Frame - Summarise - Ask Make it easier for people to listen.
Big Ideas Expanded
The techniques described in this book are based on the following core principles.
You must prepare your audience to receive your message before you deliver it.
People are busy, so you need to get to the point quickly.
The most effective work conversations focus on actions and solutions, not on problems.
By focusing on the first minute, you can position every work conversation for success.
Creating the most effective first minute of any work conversation is a two-step process.
Frame the conversation in fifteen seconds or less. Framing provides context, makes your intentions clear, and gives a clear headline.
Create a structured summary of the entire message you need to deliver. State the goal and define the problem that stands between you and achieving that goal. Then focus the conversation on the solution.
Throughout this book you’ll discover how to:
Have shorter, better work conversations and meetings
Get to the point faster without rambling or going off on tangents
Reduce the risk of mistakes caused by people incorrectly assuming they understand your message
Lead your audience toward the solution you need
The three components required for a structured summary:
The goal you are trying to achieve
The problem stopping you from reaching that goal
The solution to the problem. These three things will enable you to summarize any topic, no matter how complex.
Shorter, clearer conversations that get results. It is easier than you might expect, and it all starts with the first minute.
If you cannot deliver information in an organized way, you will have a hard time being respected professionally. Research shows that poor first impressions can be reversed by a consistent strong performance. It takes eight good impressions to overturn a bad one.
Many work conversations start with the following issues.
Failing to provide context for the message. This happens when the audience doesn’t know what the topic is about.
Not having a clear purpose for the message. This happens when the audience doesn’t know why they are receiving the information.
Not getting to the point fast enough. The speaker shares a lot of information and takes too long to get to the critical part of his or her message.
Mixing up two or more topics in the same conversation. The speaker has two or more topics to discuss, but it isn’t clear what they are.
Each of these mistakes can be avoided by starting the conversation with three short statements.
Context: This is the topic you want to talk about. Of all the topics in the world, this is the one you will talk about now.
Intent: What you want the audience to do with the information you are about to share.
Key message: The most important part of the overall message you are about to deliver (the headline).
Framing should take no more than three sentences and be delivered in less than fifteen seconds.
“Without context, a piece of information is just a dot. It floats in your brain with a lot of other dots and doesn’t mean a thing.”
– Michael Ventura
Never assume the other person knows what you are talking about.
Most work-related intentions fall into one of five categories. For each category, it is possible to describe the intent of the message in one line. The table below shows the categories and some examples of how to show intent in a short sentence.
“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”
There are a few core and unfortunately quite common causes of overly complex descriptions at work.
Cause #1: We assume the audience thinks like us.
Cause #2: We believe the audience needs to know all the details to be able to understand the problem.
Cause #3: We focus on variables and dependencies instead of the problem.
Cause #4: We summarize more than one problem at once.
You might be reading this and thinking, “My topics are far too complex to be summarized in less than a minute.” If you are, I completely understand. I used to think the same thing until I saw the GPS method used for some truly complex topics.
Goal: Wouldn’t it be great if we could start conversations about large and complex topics in a way that was always clear and easy to understand?
Problem: Communication courses tell us to be concise, to start with a summary of the topic, but they rarely show us exactly how to create a summary. It’s one thing to know you should be doing something. It’s quite another to know how to do it.
Solution: The solution to this problem is to create a structured summary using what I call the “goal, problem, solution” method.
It is possible to summarize even the most complex topics quickly and clearly.
Priming Your Audience
“Make sure your audience is ready to receive your message.”
There are two key steps to take in the first minute to ensure you start the conversation well.
Step #1: Time check: This sets expectations for how much time you need.
Step #2: Validation checkpoint: This step clarifies if your audience can talk now.
Once we have someone’s attention, we tend to launch into our topic and don’t keep track of the time we are taking.
It is easy to start a conversation with the false assumption that you are speaking to the right person.
When this happens, you become stuck in a conversation that isn’t valuable for you or the person asking you for help.
If you are on the receiving end of this type of conversation, you have limited options for how to respond. You can interrupt and let the person know you can’t help. This is presumptuous because you may have misinterpreted their intentions, which would have been clearer had they got to the end of their long description. It may also be seen as impolite. You can wait for them to complete their description and then tell them you aren’t the right person to answer the question. This is more polite, but it costs you and your colleague time that could be better spent finding the right person to help solve their problem.
Here are some examples of validation checkpoint questions you can ask after giving the structured summary:
Are you the right person to help with this?
Do you have time to talk about this now?
Do you have any questions about what I just described?
“If you send me a blank invitation, expect a blank response”