Work to your agenda
Make sure the negotiation/meeting, is running to your agenda. We do not work to the agenda of our target; we work to the agenda of the people.
The team writes two agendas together. One is scripted and one is plain. The plain version is sent to the person/group you are meeting with, at least one week in advance. The second agenda is for the team to practice with and bring to the meeting for support. While your agenda is scripted, we need plenty of eye contact and a nice clear voice when talking to decision makers. Shy looking, robot sounding people are not going to change a room, let alone the world. Use the agenda as a guide; it is not there to be read line by line in the meeting.
Who goes into the meeting is key
Think about who is representing the room in this meeting. If it is a 1-to-1 then who is the best person, if it is a team effort, who best represents the group? Who can demonstrate the most relationships in the room, who has authority and who is centre of the issue?
What is on the agenda
The plain agenda has the necessary logistical details, attendees names and an outline of the meeting. We give enough detail to minimise the response “I have just been told X so I need to speak to my people/check my diary and get back to you” and not too much so they respond to all our requests via email, and not meet with us at all. Out of respect, we also allow the person time to prepare.
The scripted agenda has a similar structure just with the added detail of what we are going to say in the meeting. Your logistics include the time and location of the pre-meet and twenty minute evaluation. You should meet one hour before the negotiation to go over the agenda and twenty minutes after to evaluate.
Scripted agenda suggestions
Aims and non-negotiable’s
At the top of the agenda in clear bullet points state the aims of the negotiation: what have you come here to do and what are your non-negotiables. It goes at the top of our agenda to ensure we keep our focus in the meeting: we are here for a purpose. It should also have a list of predicted questions/responses from our target and our response in return.
A rounds question is a question structured to encourage people in the room to open up about an issue or idea. By setting a rounds question at the beginning of your action, you are giving everyone an opportunity to speak. It can also be used to increase the tension.
For example: you are in a meeting with the head of the council. The aim of the meeting is for the councillor to agree to some specific asks around improving housing in the area. Your rounds question could be, “describe how poor housing in the area personally affects you or someone you know”. This example forces the politician to acknowledge there is a problem, and to speak from their heart rather than head. This will set your negotiation off on the right foot.
Examples of rounds questions
- Tell us about time you stood up for something/someone and why?
- If you could put a message on a billboard for the world to see, what would it say?
- How is ‘fill-in-the-blank’ affecting you or someone you know right now?
- When was the last time you experienced injustice; what did you do about it and why?
- If you could change one thing in this neighbourhood/city, what would it be and why?
- On this cold/early, morning/evening why did you give your time to be here?
- What is something that you believe in, that lots of people don’t?
- What do you think is a big issue that not enough people care/are doing anything about?
What are you doing about issue X?
In the meeting discuss what you are doing about the issue. It is not just about the people opposite you. That is what makes you organised. You show up for change and are willing to make stuff happen. Demonstrate this in the room.
In the meeting you may ask for something. Make sure it is specific and something the person/group opposite can do.
For example: you are meeting the council about building affordable housing. An ask could be,
“you must ensure the new development on X road is 50 percent affordable. Affordable means X amount which is worked out by Y equation”. This ask is specific to a development under the control of the group opposite, to a set target and price, that has been calculated using expert research. The council can do this if willing.
It would be no good asking for ten thousand new homes across the city. This council does not have that power. It would be a waste of an ask and make you look uninformed.
It is also important to also ask, what can we do to help you achieve this aim? Is there anything else housing related that you need support with that also would meet our values? What are your biggest barriers in bringing affordable housing to the area? This is a relationship we are building.
At the end of the meeting read out the next steps and send them to the person/group by the end of the week. Thank them for their time and re-confirm when you will meet again.
At the end of the meeting evaluate with the team how the meeting went:
- How are we feeling?
- Did we achieve what we set out to do?
- Who do we want to recognise?
- One highlight/low light
- What are the next steps
Watch out for…
Make sure you leave enough time for people to respond to your asks, and politely interrupt when people are not answering the question. The time-keeper is crucial. Ensure that the time-keeper sits next to the chair (the individual leading the agenda of the meeting) or if not possible, that they can see each other clearly. If you are on your own, wear a watch or sit opposite a clock, to keep an eye on your time. You will get caught up in the debate and will lose focus. It is a waste of a meeting if you run out of time before you have pinned down the asks and next steps.