How often do you get into the really key meetings in your organisation? Getting there is the first hurdle. But once there we also need to be effective.
by Will Mapplebeck
Can I be in the room?
If you work in political communications you’ve probably asked this question a few times and had varying degrees of success. You’ve probably said it in a slightly ironic, Thick of It context as well.
You may have been told there’s no room in the room, that it might not be appropriate for you to be in the room or that the meeting, and therefore the room, may be cancelled after all.
I love being In the Room and I like to think I’m good at getting in there. In my job, it’s my chance to see political big beasts in the wild up close. The other week I was lucky enough to attend a meeting that featured not just one, but two, Secretaries of State plus the Mayor of London and the boss of NHS England.
That’s quite a cast list. In these days of Brexit distraction, attracting a Cabinet minister to an event outside either Westminster or their own constituency on a weekend is an event of asteroid strike levels of improbability.
I wasn’t at the table. I got the usual officer posting of a chair at the side of the room. You may be able to spot me in in the accompanying photo, I’m to the right of the pot plant trying to blend in behind the Secretary of State for Health.
However, if you’re a political nerd like me, being at a meeting like this is heady stuff and generates levels of excitement that Little Mix would if they turned up at your average pre-teen sleepover.
Now, I had of course been told days before that there was no space and it probably wasn’t worth showing up and if I did I could always wait outside and have a coffee. No thanks.
Through a combination of turning up ridiculously early, introducing myself to the organiser and generally assuming an air of entitlement – I am a white, middle class man after all – I got to witness and learn from an important discussion between city leaders and their national equivalents.
So my advice is, get in the room if at all possible and try not to take no for an answer. There’s always room in the room – what’s an extra chair after all?
And what’s the worst that could happen? You’ll be asked to leave. And if that happens, at least you tried and hey, you’ll demonstrate a bit of ambition.
And the rules of In the Room follow if you don’t work in politics. There’s no better way of getting a better grip to the issues at hand than seeing senior people – elected or not – talking about the great issues of the day. Soak it up and learn.
Comms people are privileged to see the big decisions being made up close and, on a good day, are able to influence them. So be cheeky, grab that chair and try to look like you belong in the room.
Will Mapplebeck is strategic communications and public affairs manager at Core Cities UK. You can connect with him on Twitter at @wimapp
image via Will