I remember zoning out during a meeting, and the presenter called on me. I gave a quick response but then thought nothing of it. Two weeks later, my boss came up to me and said, “I’ve been meaning to tell you that I was really impressed by your answer in that meeting.” To think on your feet in the moment to a question seems like a hidden talent. It’s not. It all comes down to preparation. Prepare well for your next meeting and you will be able to handle any question that comes your way.
Here are 5 tips for when you need to think on your feet at your next meeting:
1. Know your enemy
Each manager has one issue that she cares about more than others. Know this ahead of time and think of questions she likes to ask.
Jot down 2-3 things that you know will be the focus of the meeting. You might not use the notes during the meeting, but the technique “warms up” your brain so you can be prepared for the meeting’s topics. Have more time? Find information from previous emails and memos and reference it during the meeting. Who else will remember the relevant email chain discussion from two weeks ago?
3. Structure your response
For any answer, use a clear structure. Too often, answers are unintelligible rambles. One simple trick is to divide your answer into 3 parts and say, “my first point is…my second point…etc.”
4. Take notes on what others said:
Expand on what others said during the meeting and add your own thoughts.
5. Buy more time with asking for clarification on the question
A general response to the question, such as, “Can you be more specific?” will come off as stalling. To fix this, make your clarification question more specific, such as, “Do you mean the sales forecast for one-month from now or six?”
Your boss will remember your 30-second response more than your 15-minute-bullet-point-filled presentation.
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