The First Minute – Chris Fenning Book Summary

The First Minute – Chris Fenning | Free Book Summary

The First Minute – Chris Fenning

The First Minute by Chris Fenning is a book about clear and concise communication at work. It was published on November 5, 2020. The book covers topics such as fundamental communication skills, creating a summary, understanding different communication styles, and more.

It also provides advice on how to start conversations that get results

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The Message

You must prepare your audience to receive your message before you deliver it. 

  • People are busy, so you need to get to the point quickly. 
  • The most effective work conversations focus on actions and solutions, not on problems.
  • By focusing on the first minute, you can position every work conversation for success.
  • Frame the conversation in fifteen seconds or less. Framing provides context, makes your intentions clear, and gives a clear headline. 
  • Create a structured summary of the entire message you need to deliver.
  • State the goal and define the problem that stands between you and achieving that goal. Then focus the conversation on the solution.

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How to communicate effectively

  • Have shorter, better work conversations and meetings 
  • Get to the point faster without rambling or going off on tangents 
  • Reduce the risk of mistakes caused by people incorrectly assuming they understand your message 
  • Lead your audience toward the solution you need

A structured summary

The three components required for a structured summary: 

  • The goal you are trying to achieve
  • The problem stopping you from reaching that goal
  • The solution to the problem. These three things will enable you to summarize any topic, no matter how complex.

Shorter, clearer conversations that get results. It is easier than you might expect, and it all starts with the first minute.

If you cannot deliver information in an organized way, you will have a hard time being respected professionally. Research shows that poor first impressions can be reversed by a consistent strong performance. It takes eight good impressions to overturn a bad one.


Many work conversations start with the following issues. 

  • Failing to provide context for the message. This happens when the audience doesn’t know what the topic is about. 
  • Not having a clear purpose for the message. This happens when the audience doesn’t know why they are receiving the information. 
  • Not getting to the point fast enough. The speaker shares a lot of information and takes too long to get to the critical part of his or her message. 

Framing Contd.

Each of these issues can be avoided by starting the conversation with three short statements.

  • Context: This is the topic you want to talk about. Of all the topics in the world, this is the one you will talk about now. 
  • Intent: What you want the audience to do with the information you are about to share. 
  • Key message: The most important part of the overall message you are about to deliver (the headline).

Framing should take no more than three sentences and be delivered in less than fifteen seconds.

Without context, a piece of information is just a dot. It floats in your brain with a lot of other dots and doesn’t mean a thing.

Never assume the other person knows what you are talking about

Most work-related intentions fall into one of five categories. For each category, it is possible to describe the intent of the message in one line. The table below shows the categories and some examples of how to show intent in a short sentence.

There are a few core and unfortunately quite common causes of overly complex descriptions at work. 

  • Cause #1: We assume the audience thinks like us. 
  • Cause #2: We believe the audience needs to know all the details to be able to understand the problem. 
  • Cause #3: We focus on variables and dependencies instead of the problem. 
  • Cause #4: We summarize more than one problem at once.

GPS Method

  • Goal: Wouldn’t it be great if we could start conversations about large and complex topics in a way that was always clear and easy to understand? 
  • Problem: Communication courses tell us to be concise, to start with a summary of the topic, but they rarely show us exactly how to create a summary. It’s one thing to know you should be doing something. It’s quite another thing to know how to do it. 
  • Solution: The solution to this problem is to create a structured summary using what I call the “goal, problem, solution” method.

Priming Your Audience

Make sure your audience is ready to receive your message.

There are two key steps to take in the first minute to ensure you start the conversation well.

  • Step #1: Time check: This sets expectations for how much time you need. 
  • Step #2: Validation checkpoint: This step clarifies if your audience can talk now.

Once we have someone’s attention, we tend to launch into our topic and don’t keep track of the time we are taking.

It is easy to start a conversation with the false assumption that you are speaking to the right person.

When this happens, you become stuck in a conversation that isn’t valuable for you or the person asking you for help.

Validation checkpoints

Here are some examples of validation checkpoint questions you can ask after giving the structured summary: 

  • Are you the right person to help with this? 
  • Do you have time to talk about this now?
  • Do you have any questions about what I just described?

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