How to avoid ‘Meeting Burps’

Have you ever heard the phrase ‘Meeting Burp’ before? No? Well, there is a good reason for that – it’s a phrase only about three people in the world currently use. I am one of those people, and rather than keep it to myself, I thought it would be beneficial to share it with the wider world. More importantly, I want to share with you the avoidable business mistakes that can unwittingly lead to this undesirable ‘burp’ effect.

What is a ‘meeting burp’?

Okay, let’s start by explaining what a ‘meeting burp’ is. In order to do so, I need to remind you of the physiology of a normal burp.

Wikipedia says:

Burping (also known as belching) is the release of gas from the digestive tract, through the mouth. It is usually accompanied by a typical sound.

It then goes on to explain that ‘burping’ is generally caused by swallowing air when eating or drinking.

So, what does a ‘burp’ in a meeting have to do with business, and why am I blogging about it? A ‘meeting burp’ is an almost involuntary sound that comes from a prospective client’s mouth, caused by swallowing too much air. This sound is typically the voicing of an idea that is either impossible to deliver or not in any way commercially viable. This creates a very uncomfortable situation for the person proposing their solution, as they now need to politely diffuse the situation.

It is important that you do not confuse this with the process of genuine innovation and product development. You will know the difference as genuine innovation comes from being well informed and understanding the end user. The ‘meeting burp’, however, does not have any research to support the sound it makes.

What causes the ‘Meeting Burp’:

Before I explain how to prevent ‘meeting burps’ from happening in the first place, let me explain their root causes. Remember that a normal burp is caused by taking in too much air. You will also know that adding, say, a fizzy drink to the equation is bound to exacerbate the problem and make the burp larger and louder. Well, the ‘meeting burp’ is no different. Think of the ‘air’ as your sales pitch. There is no doubt that air is a good thing – it keeps us all alive! However, too much of it is… too much. Now think of the fizzy drink as the many ingredients in your pitch. Too much air and too many fizzy drinks create burps!

Precautionary Measures

The reality is that nobody wants to make a ‘meeting burp’, or be on the receiving end of one. So here are five simple steps as a sales person that will help to avoid them all together.

  • Limit the amount of ‘air’ in the meeting. How? By being very clear on your proposed product or solution. Be concise and avoid ambiguity when answering direct questions. The biggest killer for this is when being questioned on If you respond with ‘I will come onto that later’… expect a very large meeting burp!
  • Remove unhealthy ingredients: This is essentially the waffle and conjecture in your sales presentation. Making bold, unsubstantiated claims like ‘We will double your turnover in 6 months’, will only lead to the prospective clients digesting bad ingredients. Also be aware that you too will be ingesting these bad ingredients, and therefore everyone present at the meeting could be heading towards a tricky and undesirable‘burp’ situation.
  • Explain and substantiate your logic: If you have done a good job of building your product or service based on the genuine needs of end users, then explain this to the room. If a product is well designed and tested, it will be considerably less likely to be challenged.
  • Provide healthy ingredients: If you want to avoid ‘burps’ then why not introduce some healthy and easy to digest ingredients to your meeting? Don’t over complicate things, and make sure you genuinely understand your product or service. Give real life and real-time examples of user benefits.
  • Dedicate part of your presentation to exploring ‘innovation’: Providing a space to discuss innovation will mean that everyone is in ‘ideas mode’. People are far more likely to express positive and constructive suggestions if there is an open forum to do so.

Remember that the ‘meeting burp’ is symptomatic of an issue that YOU have brought to the meeting. If you have been invited to pitch, then you are being viewed as an authority on your product. This is your opportunity to rise to these high expectations by being well prepared and willing to share your experience and expertise with the room while deftly managing the flow of new ideas.

Go forth and sell – and here’s to a future with fewer ‘meeting burps’!

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