What if you had an opportunity to speak directly to one of the most influential people in technology in the last 25 years?
If you had one minute to ask a question, or make a comment, what would you say?
I had such an opportunity to sit around a small conference table with Michael Dell, founder of Dell Computers last evening.
As part of their 25th anniversary celebration, Dell Canada invited a dozen educational sector IT leaders from colleges, universities, and school boards. For reasons known only to higher powers, they invited me, opinions and all.
We had one hour set aside to hear a bit from Michael, but more importantly to bring our "thoughts and feedback" (as was mentioned in the invitation) to share.
What a gold mine opportunity for someone like me who has no shortage of opinions.
Once I did the math - dividing the time of the meeting by the number of participants, and allowing for the usual preamble, I figured I would get a chance to ask one good question and make one good statement - which in my best estimate would work out to about 60 seconds.
I spent the previous evening and much of the morning going over the three hours of things I would like to say, and then tried to distill them down to one minute. (Hint: For the importance of a CIO having this skill set, please read my previous post: Before You Pitch Your Proposal, Take a Ride on Your Nearest Elevator)
In retrospect I'm happy with what I was able to share in my slot, but that's not what I'm really writing about is the missed opportunities I saw.
Most of the IT leaders around the table had questions or comments which kept the dialogue going but there were at least three of the twelve who said.... nothing.
Here they were in an invite only meeting with a key leader in the technology industry looking for feedback, and they said... nothing.
You know the situation where you tell a witty (at least to you) joke, then several moments later someone in the group starts laughing because they finally get it? It didn't really hit me until the next morning that one quarter of the people in the room missed their opportunity to be influencers.
How about you? What if you stepped into an elevator and came face to face with Michael Dell, or Tim Cook, or Bill Gates, or Richard Branson or another person who has a significant influence? And what if they asked what you did, and what's important to you? Could you give a response?
What if it wasn't Michael, Tim, Bill or Richard, but your CEO or President? What would you say if you had one minute of his or her undivided attention?
I can assure you that "nothing" is not the right answer.