How To Be Good In A Room

HOW TO BE GOOD IN A ROOM | Stephanie Palmer
HOW TO BE GOOD IN A ROOM | Stephanie Palmer
What Is “Good In A Room?”!
Good in a Room is a phrase commonly used in Hollywood. It refers to people who pitch
their ideas confidently and effectively. When you’re good in a room, you have an easier
time selling your work, growing your business, and persuading other people.
To be good in a room, there are five elements that need to work together:
1. Your work (your idea, material, product, or service)
2. Your persona (how you present yourself, dress, and speak)
3. Your pitch (your verbal pitch and sales/marketing materials)
4. Your first impression (how you network and meet new people)
5. Your meeting tactics (how you perform “in the room”)
In this guide, I’m going to focus on #5 and share some tactics you can use in meetings
to help you perform better. You’re probably aware of many of these tactics and so it’s
possible I won’t be telling you anything you don’t already know. My goal, in the words of
business author Tom Peters, is to give you a “blinding flash of the obvious.” This guide
will remind you of some basic techniques which you know are important, but which can
get lost when you’re in a high-stakes situation.
Give Your Idea The Best Possible Chance!
There are good ideas, products, and services that aren't being pitched well enough to get
the attention and financing they deserve. Instead, other people's mediocre work gets
traction and resources. Why does this happen?
When anyone is making a decision about what to buy or with whom to work, they typically
consider many options so they can make an informed decision. However, their decision is
often based on the pitch for the work—not on the work itself.
This is why learning to pitch is so important: when ideas, products, or services initially
compete, something mediocre pitched well often beats something excellent pitched
Incorporate the following meeting tactics into your next pitch to give yourself and your
idea, project, product, or service, the best possible chance to succeed.
HOW TO BE GOOD IN A ROOM | Stephanie Palmer
1. Accept the water.!
If you’re asked at the beginning of the meeting, “Can I get you a glass of water?” say, “Yes.
Thank you.” Accept any gestures of hospitality—it warms up the room and gets things
off to a good start.
2. Don’t talk business too soon.!
Most of the time, before you and the decision-maker “get down to business,” there’s the
chance to make some small talk. Don’t miss this opportunity.
Remember: business is personal.!
If you want the other person to listen to what you have to say and to contemplate working
with you, it is essential that they like you and enjoy being with you. Therefore, take the time
at the beginning of every meeting to build rapport.
3. Ask open-ended questions.!
Think about what non-business interests you might have in common with the decisionmaker you’re meeting (you can research this before the meeting). Then, when you’re first
getting to know each other, ask a few open-ended questions which will encourage the
decision-maker to speak about these interests in a positive light.
Invite the decision-maker to reveal thoughts, feelings, and personal history by asking
simple questions like these:
• What are your thoughts on ____?
• How do you feel about ____?
• What’s been your experience with ____?
4. Demonstrate your expertise.!
In the initial small-talk phase, not only will you be asking questions, but you should expect
to answer some questions as well. Be ready to share one or more brief, personal
stories which demonstrate relevant expertise, professional skills, or life experience.
5. Start with silence.!
Starting with silence cues the decision-maker to focus his or her attention and allows your
first line to land with maximum impact.
HOW TO BE GOOD IN A ROOM | Stephanie Palmer
If there have been a lot of people popping in, phone calls or other interruptions, ask the
other person if he or she is ready for you to begin. Pause for just a second of silence,
then deliver your first line.
6. Pace yourself.!
You know the details of your project, product, or service extremely well. However, the
other person will likely be hearing everything for the first time. Take that into
consideration and adjust the pace of your pitch. You may need to slow down just a little.
7. Be brief.!
The more you say, the less they hear.!
8. Be careful with visual aids.!
Images can be powerful sales and marketing tools. However, in the idea selection stage,
pictures of your vision (e.g., photos, drawings, puppets) can work against you because
they constrain the decision-maker’s imagination.
For example, in a film pitch, if a writer says, “a handsome man steering a boat down a
river,” the listeners supply the details that work best for them. If the writer shows a picture
of Adrien Brody canoeing down the Amazon... better hope that they love Adrien Brody and
the notion of filming in South America.
No matter what industry you are in, when you use a visual aid, you’re telling the decisionmakers that your vision is exactly that. If you use words, listeners will imagine your pitch
in the way that works best for them.
9. Embrace the Q & A.!
Many people would rather do a comprehensive pitch that answers questions in advance.
This is a big mistake. An extended pitch prevents the natural give-and-take characteristic
of successful meetings. Worse, it indicates that you may be scared of answering the
decision-maker’s questions.
When you’re getting peppered with questions, even tough questions, that’s a good thing.
It means they’re interested enough to spend more time with you. If they weren’t interested,
they’d just say, “Thanks for coming in.”
The Q&A is where the sale is made.!
HOW TO BE GOOD IN A ROOM | Stephanie Palmer
10. Address the comparables.!
Be prepared to answer questions that compare what you offer to similar things that have
been successful or unsuccessful:
• “What does [YOUR WORK/PRODUCT/SERVICE] have in common with
• "What does your [YOUR WORK/PRODUCT/SERVICE] have in common with
[SIMILAR UNSUCCESSFUL WORK], and what makes yours better?"
11. Make only one request.!
At the end of a meeting that is going well, often you’ll have the chance to ask for
something. Make it easy for the other person to say “Yes” by making only one request that
you know they can grant.
• Maintain a warm, conversational tone: If you sound the least bit impatient,
aggressive, or condescending, you can break the deal right there.
• State your request simply and directly: Anything complicated or wobbly
implies a lack of confidence or experience and can be a deal-breaker.
• Make it easy to complete the transaction: In other words, have the
documents and a pen and whatever else you need ready.
12. End the meeting on a warm note.!
When the buyer begins getting ready to end the meeting, your job is to notice this and
begin preparing for the end of the meeting as well (casually gathering your things, etc.).
Then, there is usually an opportunity to talk just a little more and end on a good note.
• If you do start talking about something personal: this is not the time to
relax. While you chat a little more, continue finalizing your preparation to
leave and be ready to exit smoothly.
• If it’s appropriate to use a wrap-up statement: give a summary of the next
steps: “I’ll do [A, B, C] and give you an update [AT A GIVEN TIME].”
• If you use an exit line, keep it short and sweet: e.g.: “This has been a
pleasure. Thanks so much for your time.” or “I would love to work on this with
you. I’ll be in touch soon.”
HOW TO BE GOOD IN A ROOM | Stephanie Palmer
13. Stay focused.!
At the time you walk out the door, the meeting is not over. Don’t pump your fist in
triumph or hang your head in despair. Don’t use your phone. Don’t talk to anyone about
what has just happened. Do not do anything that would reveal your thoughts or feelings
about what has transpired until you’re well out of sight.
A meeting can be a heady experience. You may be full of adrenaline. You may feel
compelled to start taking the next steps immediately. However, it is a good idea to avoid
making decisions in this state. Even if you are in a time sensitive situation, you would be
well-served to collect your thoughts and focus before taking action.
About Stephanie!
Stephanie Palmer helps people to sell their work, start and grow their businesses, and get
financing for their ideas. She is the author of the book Good in a Room: How To Sell
Yourself And Your Ideas And Win Over Any Audience. She has been featured on The
Today Show, Los Angeles Times, National Public Radio and in Inc., Variety, Script, and
Speaker magazines. Previously, Stephanie was the Director of Creative Affairs for MGM
where she heard over 3000 pitches.