Even Snoop Started as a Hype Man
Often, I attend meetings where there is one or more people involved who do the majority of the talking. Sometimes it is because they are the most expert in the subject matter being discussed. Other times it is because they just like to hear the sound of their own voice. Or, it could be some combination of the two.
Many times, I attend meetings with one of my favorite colleagues from Prosek Partners. Whether we are out meeting a prospective client, speaking with an existing client, or just out to lunch with mutual friends, she (I won’t use her name in this blog post, but upon reading this she will immediately know who I am referring to…and will smile when she does, as she knows just how true this is!) can sometimes dominate the discussion. So, with two people: one who loves to talk, and one (me) who is more reserved and not quite as verbose, how can I make a meaningful contribution to the discussion? And, this colleague of mine is an incredibly gifted speaker and presenter. So, why mess up a good thing?
I think I've stumbled upon an interesting approach—especially for those early on in their careers—I decided to be the best ‘hype man’ I could be.
What is a hype man, you ask? A hype man in the world of rap music is not the headliner or lead rapper. Instead, he (or she) plays a central but supporting role within a rap group, making his own comments and interjections while the lead rapper does his thing on stage. The hype man generally “hypes up” the crowd while also drawing attention to the words of the headliner. The quintessential hype man in the rap industry was Public Enemy's Flavor Flav. Jay-Z was once a hype man. So was Tupac Shakur. It is not unusual for a hype man to go on to have a successful solo career (see where I'm going here?)
The hype man serves a critical role in amplifying the good points the lead rapper makes in a meeting and interjecting with additional information that will make his or her points stronger and more impactful. The hype man doesn’t try to steal the spotlight; rather, he does his best to add value by bringing ideas and insights to the conversation that support the words of his colleagues.
I like to think it works quite well. This colleague I have been discussing and I are like Batman and Robin (me being Robin, though without the tights and yellow cape). So, next time you find yourself in a meeting with a colleague that likes to talk and talk, try being a hype man (or woman) on for size. Make sure you add value and don’t let the lead speaker own too much air time. And remember that the world’s greatest hype men and women for the most part became lead rappers as they progressed in their careers.
These days I am not always the hype man. I am frequently in meetings with other colleagues where it is me that does most of the talking (generally because I am the subject matter expert). In those situations, when my colleagues ask me how they can best get themselves involved in the conversation and add value, I tell them my hype man story. I had one colleague tell me he does not like rap music – that he likes oldies mostly. So, I told him to let me be Frankie Valli and suggested he be one of the Four Seasons. That worked out quite well, and we made beautiful music together in that meeting.