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The First Minute: How to Start Conversations that Get Results

By Chris Fenning

Framing = Content + Intent + Key Message


  • Name the project or issue
  • Name the process, system, or tool you’re going to talk about
  • Give the name of the customer you are working with
  • Name the task or objective you want to talk about


  • Need help or input?
  • Requesting action
  • Wanting a decision
  • Letting someone know something is about to happen, so they are not surprised
  • Providing information/input the other person asked for previously

Key Message:

  • The question you need to ask or the outcome you want

Keep topics separate. Lay out the three things you want to talk about and keep on track as you reach key message.


  • Goal
  • Problem
  • Solution

Work conversations are really one of three things:

  • You have a problem and you need to find a solution.
  • You have a problem and you have a solution.
  • You had a problem, resolved it, and are reporting that you did.

No problem is too complicated to be summarized in less than a minute.

Framing + Summary = Conversation

Add validation checkpoints after framing and summary to check to make sure people are with you.

When initiating a conversation:

  • Say, hey, I want to talk to you. Ask for a specific amount of time, not “got a minute.”
  • Go through framing and then summary.