Meetings are tough, especially if you're a little shy like I am. Let's face it,this industry (and western business culture at large) seems to gravitate to the confident, eloquent charismatic type, no matter how inadequate their logic or ideas might be.
As always, it's not about the best ideas, it's about people wanting to buy them from you.
There is a way to cut through these situations though. It's the killer question, quietly asked when there is an eventual pause.
One of the best is simply 'What is this brand actually for'. Used to maximum effect in brand babbler meetings, where you've got folks prattling esoteric theory and four page manifestos. The dual nature of this question allows you expose the fact that most brand babblers don't really know how people USE a product, what it means to them or anything like that. Of course, brands having a wider cultural enthusiasm or emotional role is important, but it's got to be linked to the bloody real world. Even if there is real need to define the emotional, cultural territory, it's amazing how many people can't get that down a sentence. I don't mean brand onions, I mean a compression of lots of brand potential, purpose, possibility and genuine human need. For example, all the lovely old Spice Work came from 'Old Spice Gets You Experience'.
An alternative to this, if you've the ugly twin the emotional 'brand babbler' is the rational product benefit peddler. Ask them, 'What business are we really in?'. It's a bit common, but still useful to open the conversation.
Another one that's common, but amazingly not common enough, which is a killer in all agency meetings where there is some squabbling over comms strategy is simply, 'What is the objective?'. This works really well also, when you have creative folks and ad tweaking planners who have crafted a strategy that's really about ground breaking advertising, but won't deal with any fundamental issues that are stopping people buying. Works well when people are trying to fix a brand rather than a business.
Another version is 'What problem are solving here?' This works really well when a strategy type has been exposed too late to a project and a mountain of brilliant work has been done that you can see straight away is all wrong. Works amazingly well when you're in a meeting where the lead agency is a digital agency, a PR agency or, dare Is say it, a media agency. Respectively, clicks, column inches or CPM are not objectives, they're hygiene factors. That goes for creative agencies too - recall, persuasion scores, cut-through etc are things you just do.
This question can also save you from yourself. Instead of blundering into a projecting you haven't thought about enough yet, or falling for your own preconceptions of what the answer should be, this gives you time to think and other the best possible chance of explaining.
What's the budget? Should be the first question that gets asked, but rarely us.
A real killer when it comes to reviewing content (stuff you choose to watch rather than ads you have to watch or block to get media cheaper,) ideas to spark co-creation, or amazingly high effort tasks to enter promotional competitions, fantastical experiential stuff, is simply, "Would you do it? Would you be interested". Because 90% of the time you couldn't be bothered and nor would anyone else. People in advertising like to think they work in art, cinema or Apple. We don't, we work in advertising. It's really hard to 'not do advertising' and make people care.
These are the killer ones for me. There are others, many are variations of the above, and a score or more tactical ones for a variety of situations.
Another reason to ask questions by the way, rather than telling folks what you think, is that you might the one who is totally in the wrong.
Put more sneakily, when you may on the side of correctness, it's far easier to drill holes in the logic of someone who speaks first, rather than sticking your neck out.
This where some questions that are not questions can help.
Unfairly compress what they said,"So is what your saying that...."
Pick out one flaw in mostly sound point to overturn the whole thing, "Could you help understand the one thing unclear on.."
Or even go all out and go head on,"Could help me understand why is is that (insert you're thinking and compare it to theirs, then ask why it's different).
of course I'm not wholly recommending the cunning routes. I still think the best way to success is to be nice and honest where you can. But sometimes you simply can't bring a knife to a gun fight.