Five Tips For Turning “I Can’t” Into “I Can”

By Carrie O’Connor
As a meeting planner, you undoubtedly possess a rare blend of creativity, strategic thinking
and persistence. Like Olivia Pope, the fictional crisis manager in the television series Scandal, you are a gladiator who will stop at nothing to produce amazing, memorable events. But in today’s competitive marketplace, there is immense pressure to produce bigger, better, over-the-top meetings each year. So what do you do when you pick up the phone to book Polynesian fire dancers or the Goodyear Blimp only to be told, “Open flames are against the fire code…” or “There’s a worldwide helium shortage…?”(That really happened in 2013.)Turning "No" into "Yes"
Of course, petitioning the city to change its fire code restrictions may be a bit cumbersome, as would conducting a drilling expedition to extract helium from natural gas reserves (I looked this process up on Wikipedia…). In cases such as these, the “No” may, in fact, be firm. This is where your creativity and resourcefulness kicks in. You’ll simply move the fire dancers outside by the pool (even better) and hire a skywriter in lieu of the blimp (way cooler). Problems solved.
However, in many situations, you may sense that the “No” is flimsy and the decision maker is simply making things more difficult than they should be. This is where your reaction to negativity becomes critical and careful influencing skills come into play. As you attempt to sell individuals on your ideas (especially unique or risky ones), keep these five tips in mind. They may mean the difference between a bland, cookie-cutter event and one that sets a new industry standard.
1. A “No” is a “Yes” in the making.
Most people won’t say “Yes” to an idea without saying “No” first. In fact, studies show that the average customer says “No” an average of five times before saying “Yes.” And when it comes to selling your ideas to other people, a decision maker who can make or break your event is definitely playing the role of customer!
The reason people respond with a “No” the majority of the time is because decision making is an emotional process, not an intellectual one. Most people will do more to avoid pain than achieve pleasure, so the first impulse most people have when asked to make a decision is to find reasons not to make that decision. This usually takes the form of a “No” when what’s actually meant is “Maybe.”
2. There are three key reasons people say “No.”
Assuming you’re asking the right person (that is, someone who is actually authorized to
make the decision), a “No” is usually the result of one of the following:
 – Misunderstanding. You didn’t explain well enough why “Yes” is a good decision for the other person. Therefore, you must now do a better job of explaining the benefits. In other words, get the other person vested in what you’re proposing, in particular, how it might make him or her look good in the eyes of their supervisor.
 – Wrong timing. The other person needs some time to ponder your idea and is merely stalling by saying “No.” If you sense this is the case, simply step back from the situation temporarily and ask for the “Yes” later.
 – Outside factors. There may be some element of your request that the person hasno control over which is blocking him or her from saying “Yes.” Therefore, you must identify the issue and work directly with the third party to help remove the block and pave the way for your “Yes.”
3. Be curious rather than persistent.
The old adage “Never take ‘no’ for an answer” is usually misinterpreted to mean “Keep
pestering someone until they say ‘yes.’” This doesn’t work. In fact, it only hardens the “No.” Upon receiving a “No,” instead of arguing or continuing to plead your case, try asking questions in order to better understand the basis for the answer. By listening carefully, showing empathy (instead of anger or frustration) and trying to understand why the other person fears saying “Yes,” you will be much more likely to keep your idea in play.
4. Move the conversation in a new direction.
Depending upon what you learn (as the result of being empathetic and curious), move the
conversation forward until it gradually opens up the possibility of a “Yes.”
 – If you sense a misunderstanding, simply roll back to that part of the conversation and clarify. Remember to present the information in a way that benefits the other person as well.
 – If you feel your timing is off, refocus the conversation on committing to meet again at a later date to discuss the matter.
 – When an outside factor is involved, suggest a creative approach that will help overcome the obstacle.
5. Meet in groups. If all else fails and you seem to be losing ground, plan a separate meeting in a group setting. Being in the presence of others may bring out a more positive side in the negative person. No one wants to be the naysayer in the room, so when boosted by the optimism of others, you may find that your Debbie Downer has suddenly become Positive Polly.
A GALLUP® Certified Strengths Coach, Carrie O’Connor helps people identify and maximize their natural talents and strengths. She works with individuals, businesses and teams to enhance productivity, performance and personal satisfaction. More information about her consulting activities, workshops and retreats is available online at

Leave a comment


Sign-up for your account with Convention South.
Please check the box below to confirm you would like to be added to Kenilworth Media’s various e-mail communications (includes e-newsletters, a survey now and then, and offers to the Convention South industry*).

Leave this empty:

*We do not sell your e-mail address to 3rd parties, we simply forward their offers to you. Of course, you always have the right to unsubscribe from any communications you receive from us, should you change your mind in the future.