PLANO, TX—While speaking up at a business strategy meeting earlier today, sources confirmed that Ceres Network Analytics assistant sales manager Jeffrey Horton, 49, offered a suggestion for the future of the company that steadily decreased in volume and intensity until he wrapped up his dwindling remarks with a squeaked "I don't know."

"The fact is, if we're going to stay competitive in the network solutions game, we need to expand into profitable, value-oriented markets sooner rather than later," said Horton, beginning his idea with an assurance and poise that reportedly gradually evaporated with each passing second as he continued speaking to the packed conference room. "Right now, our rivals are figuring out how to reach the same customers we rely on to draw consistent business, and we've got to outpace them or we'll be left behind."

"I feel like we can't afford to delay on this one," Horton added, his words already diminishing in volume and manifesting a slight trembling quality. "Right?"

Though Horton initially appeared to have full command of the situation as he conveyed his informed, well-stated opinion to Ceres' top executives and decision-makers, according to onlookers, it was only a matter of moments before the mid-level manager began to waver, evidently losing confidence in the merit of his proposal and, moreover, in his ability to convey an opinion at all.

Specifically, sources confirmed that Horton's speech rapidly adopted a lilting, tentative quality, helped along by his growing self-consciousness, the stark, airless quality of the near-silent conference room, and the lack of any discernible interest or acknowledgement on the part of the meeting's other 12 attendees.

"I mean, if we're not growing, then, you know, it's really not as good," Horton said, his voice at approximately half the volume it was when he first began speaking, as several Ceres managers began absentmindedly doodling on their printouts. "It's just like Chris was saying earlier. Growth is really important. I mean, we need growth, for sure."

"At least, that's— that's my way of thinking," he continued, after his department director averted her gaze when Horton attempted to make eye contact.

As Horton brought his increasingly muted remarks to their stuttering conclusion, sources confirmed that his tone adopted a plaintive quality as he struggled to personally address those colleagues of his who had long since ceased paying attention and were now patiently waiting for their coworker to stop talking.

"If I can just— we j-just have to be sure to take advantage of … these places … " Horton said, a mere 20 seconds after beginning talking, his voice now scarcely rising above the overhead air conditioner vent. "They're really important."

"I guess— I mean, I don't know," Horton at last concluded, with an audible squeak, his voice a pale, dissipating shadow of its original form. "I'm sorry."

At press time, Ceres CEO Carson Lambert had thanked Horton for his input.