The Direct Network

Four Ways to Talk to Super-busy People

Posted by Dean Asher on Sep 22, 2016 5:00:00 AM
Topics: Higher Ed, K-12

We've all been there. We need to get in front of the President of the college, or our department head, or another busy administrator who never seems to have the time to meet. It takes forever to even get ahold of them, you might have to reschedule countless times before you finally get in their office, and when you're finally there, giving your presentation or making your case to someone so busy can be difficult or downright intimidating.

It may always be a challenge to get that person's attention for more than a few seconds, but these four tips will make it easier.

Four Ways to Talk to Super-busy People

1. Let them know how much time you need right away

Fast Company puts this bluntly:

If you start talking and don't immediately request a specific amount of time, people are already impatient.

Your administrators' schedules are likely constantly full and constrained. At any given point in time, they've got where they need to be in the next 10 minutes on the front of their mind. By acknowledging that they're busy and asking for a specific amount of time — "I'm sure your schedule is hectic right now, can I borrow you for just two minutes?" — you're already off to a good start. Otherwise, people are more likely to be impatient with the request, as it could risk running long and interrupting an important meeting or appointment.

Of course, they've got places to be, so you're going to need to:

2. Get to the point, and stay there

According to, you usually only have 30 seconds in an in-person meeting before people start evaluating whether they should end the conversation and do something else. This is even shorter for phone interviews: just 11 seconds. We're usually tempted to try and beat around the bush or break the ice, as we're both used to doing it in polite conversation. Plus, let's be honest, super busy people like administrators and executives can be a little intimidating. However, it's best to jump right into it. It's respectful of their time, keeps them engaged and will set you apart as someone who they can trust to not go longer than expected in meetings — which means getting some time with them in the future will be that much easier.

3. Keep it interesting also advises you keep an eye out for signs of boredom, and be ready to counteract them.

We know the signs, right? Checking the watch, looking over your shoulder, fidgeting, glassy eyes. On the phone, it’s the prolonged pause, the “email launch” sound in the background, the vague “uh-huh, uh-huh ...” That's your "uh-oh" moment.

Really effective sales people respond to those moments. They interrupt the conversation with an honest interjection. It might be, “The bottom line is ...” or “The thing we need to decide right now is ...” The pattern interruption brings the conversation back to point and gets engagement.

4. Make it about them

We're going to let you in on a little marketing secret: if you're making an argument for your point of view, don't present it as your perspective — cater it to theirs. In other words, show what it does for them, not for you.

For instance, if you're pitching a 1:1 Chromebook plan for your school to an administrator, you might be most interested in the computers' potentials for aiding in homework, improving collaboration and simplifying editing and grading of assignments. However, your school's administrative team might be more interested to learn that by adopting the plan, you may see a significant decrease in failing grades, meaning better enrollment retention each term. Be sure to consider your presentation from their perspective, to make sure you're being as appealing as possible in the little time you have.

What other ways have you found that are effective in getting that busy administrator's attention for a few moments? Let us know in the comments!

About Dean Asher

Dean Asher is a former copywriter with MBS. Though he no longer writes for us, he is still proud of having helped this blog continue to evolve as an industry-leading resource of news and original content.

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