Kevin Fong - Organizational Design
Mastering the Two-Minute Challenge

When I was working in the corporate world, I had a boss who was famous for saying, “I’ll give you two minutes and not a second more.”  And no matter how much I prepared, I always seemed to fumble my words and I was never able to pass his two-minute test.  Fast forward to my community work and I recall testifying before policymakers on some complex issue like welfare reform or the need for translated HIV clinical trials protocols, and they would give me, you guessed it, two minutes to state my case. 
At a time when our lives have become a series of sound bytes and tweets, two minutes might seem an eternity.  We are also engaged in the complex world of PowerPoint presentations and webinars where two minutes is not nearly enough time to get our equipment warmed up.  Yet many of my clients and colleagues still find themselves in situations with bosses and policymakers saying, “I’ll give you two minutes and not a second more.”  How do we master the two-minute challenge?
I often open my meetings with an exercise called Triads.  Working in groups of three, each person has two minutes to talk about a topic that I present.  The topics start out easy (“Talk about a recent success story you had at work.”), and get more difficult with each round (“When was the last time you witnessed an act of discrimination and what did you do or not do about it?”).  The task of the speaker is to fill up the two-minutes, even if she can answer the question in much less time.  
The listeners are asked to listen fully with their body, heart and mind.  I ask them not to ask questions or engage in dialogue with the speaker, but just be present and supportive, which is not an easy thing to do for some.  We then switch so everyone has a chance to speak and listen.  Typically by the second round, laughter filters through the room and by the fourth round tears are often shed.  This exercise helps people master the two-minute challenge in two ways.

1.   As listeners, we need to be completely present and engaged.  If you are one of those people saying, “I’ll give you two minutes…” you better be ready to turn off your phone, step away from your computer and be there for that person.  There is no greater gift than to give someone your full attention.  By giving this much you may find that your generosity is both honored and returned.

2.    As speakers, we can cover a lot of ground in two minutes.  But first you need to ask for your listeners full and complete presence.  Then prepare yourself by focusing on the right question that will allow you to bring forth information that is both very specific and framed from a personal experience.  That allows you to speak succinctly with true and heartfelt knowledge.

The triads exercise succeeds in setting a positive tone for my gatherings.  People realize that prioritizing the face-to-face time over text messages, emails and other virtual communication will net in increased efficiencies in their lives.  And those who typically have a lot to say will find that they can say it all in just two minutes. 
If you would like more help in mastering the two-minute challenge for yourself or your team, drop me a line and I’ll be happy to share more tips with you.

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