How to Be Prepared to Give Your Opinion

Use strategic skimming for quick and easy prep for decision-making meetings.

Stever Robbins
4-minute read
Episode #118

Skim to Identify the Choices

Start with a blank piece of paper and a blue Pilot G-2 .038mm pen. (My favorite!!) Label the top of the paper “Choices.” Grab your prep material and prepare to skim. This first time through, all you’re looking for are the alternatives that will be discussed at the meeting. In our prep materials for the show title meeting, we were considering The Power of Ewe, Lancelot and Ethyl: a Good Knight’s Sheep, and What is Wool Worth? Write down the alternatives, numbered, with enough detail that you know what each one is. With play titles, it’s easy—just write down the title. If the alternatives are technical or specialized, you might need more descriptive text. For example, when choosing paper, “Ivory Sku 323” may not mean much, so you would also write, “smooth, cream-colored, rag-based paper. Made from T-shirts left in college dorms. Smells like teen spirit.” Just enough to jog your memory.

Skim to Identify the Pros and Cons of Each Choice

Get out a second sheet of paper. For each alternative, re-skim the prep materials and pull out the pros and cons. Alternative 1, The Power of Ewe. Pro: short and memorable. Con: Could be imply that sheep are a source of green energy. Alternative 2, Lancelot and Ethyl: a Good Knight’s Sheep. Pro: puts the King Arthur connection front and center. Con: Requires space for a subtitle on the marquee.

With the pros and cons listed in one place, as soon as the alternative comes up for discussion, you’ll be ready. You know both sides of the argument, so you can empathize with whoever’s talking. If you like the choice, you can emphasize the pros while countering the cons. If the choice is sucky, you can suggest alternatives that preserve the pros while not having the same cons. For example, Bernice could have suggested Goldi-Flocks. It’s short, memorable, and doesn’t imply sheep are an energy source. (It does suggest sheep lay golden eggs, but that’s a different problem.)

Skim for Underlying Logic

For things that really matter, skim one more time. This time, read for the underlying logic behind the pros and cons. If The Power of Ewe is a good title because it’s memorable, ask why that matters. Your answer might be that memorable titles make for easy word of mouth (like the phrase Work Less and Do More in my forthcoming book The Get-it-Done Guy’s 9 Steps to Work Less and Do More). Knowing that word of mouth is the underlying logic, you can use that in the meeting. If Bernice had done this step and didn’t like The Power of Ewe, she could have asked the group to brainstorm other easy-word-of-mouth titles.

You’ll find this is a quick and easy way to prepare to give your opinion with less work than reading all the background material in detail. Skim to identify choices, skim for pros and cons, and lastly skim for logic. Arrange it all in bullet points so the moment the conversations goes there, you can follow. Or lead. Like Bernice tried to do. Only in your case, we’ll be too busy worshipping your logic to dwell on whether or not you have hips.

Work Less, Do More, and have a Great Life!

Man with Tablet image courtesy of Shutterstock


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.