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                                                                                 - Roberta Prescott


 

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NEWSLETTERS


"Unflappable Answers"
By Roberta Prescott

Does your mind go blank as you fumble through an answer to a tough question? Have you ever been caught off-guard by a question you didn’t expect? Did you ever wake up at 3 A.M. thinking “I should have said … “ ?

In high-level meetings, how you handle yourself when answering questions is as important as your presentation.  The highest compliment you can receive is that you were unflappable, even during a question blitz in which you did not know the answer to every question.
 
Preparation is the key to confidence, credibility and thinking quickly and clearly on your feet,  You need to demonstrate that you’ve not only mastered important details, but have also thought about the big picture.  Following are some tips to help you shine:
 
DO YOUR HOMEWORK

  • Become strategic in your thinking.  Know the hot buttons of key players, and the kind of challenging questions they usually ask.  Brainstorm questions with colleagues and check your sources such as chief of staff, executive assistants and the people involved in a decision.  Some examples of questions include:

THE “WHY” QUESTIONS    
         Why aren’t we going to meet the deadline?
         Why should we believe you this time?
         Why are we pricing it so high?
         Why should we do this now?
 
FINANCIAL QUESTIONS
         How can you continue to grow margins?
         How will you measure results?
         What’s our liability if …
 
STRATEGIC QUESTIONS
         What’s Plan B if we don’t approve this?
         What’s the impact of … ?”
         How do you assess the risk?
         What’s the competition doing?
 
PEOPLE QUESTIONS
         Who else is on board?
         What do the other divisions say?
         How will this effect morale?
         Who will implement / administer this?
 
TELL ME MORE QUESTIONS
         I need more details.
         You’ve lost me.
         What are you asking me to approve today

  • Plan succinct answers with examples.
    • Yes.  That would work.  For example …
  • Talk your answers into a tape recorder.  Check to see whether they are too long / too detailed / too defensive.
  • Know your outline so you can segue back to your point if you are interrupted. (Note that with senior executives you go where they take you with their questions.  In that case you may not be able to return to your outline.)

TAKE THE QUESTION 

  • Look at the questioner. 
  • Listen to the whole question without interrupting.
  • Evaluate the question for agenda, relevance, the issue / the point.
  • Pause and breathe.
    • Let’s you engage your brain before your mouth.
    • Allows you to formulate a rephrase or bridge for your answer if you need to.
    • Makes a planned answer sound spontaneous.

ANSWER THE QUESTION

  • Stay focused.  Stick with your objective and don’t go off on tangents or overexplain.
  • Be direct, not defensive, evasive or antagonistic.
  • Get your headline or key point up front, at the top of your answer.
  • Get in step with their  position / point of view.
    • I understand your priority is …
    • Don’t fake it.  If you are obviously unprepared, it’s okay to say:
      • I don’t have all the information you need at this time.  I’ll get back to you.
  • Be brief.

END WITH A RECAP

  • Whether you are able to go back to your outline, or need  to go where you are taken, use social skills phrases and a 30-second recap so that you end strongly.
    • Thanks for your questions and interest.  I want to leave you with one thought …
  • Summarize your key / strongest points.
    • The key to this strategy is …

No more fumbling or late night brilliant responses.  Answering questions is a presentation within your presentation, and preparation will ensure your success. 

© The Prescott Group

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© The Prescott Group
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www.theprescottgroup.com