Today in business we are expected to react quickly to problems, and to come up with prompt accurate solutions.
When responding to tough questions during a presentation speed can kill.
Tough questions have always a part of business and, given today’s tough economy, the questions are tougher than ever. People are always in search of answers to their problems, and so their questions are loaded with emotion and deep meaning for them. When a presenter answers too rapidly and with equal emotion, in a defensive or contentious manner, the battle line is drawn and the exchange heads rapidly downhill—a lose-lose communication begins.
Prepare for tough questions, often a results-driven mindset which I call “tough so what,” in which a list of anticipated challenging questions is drawn up and then matched with list of appropriate answers. There is a large flaw in this approach: people don’t ask questions as you have written them; they usually ask them in a long rambling or emotionally loaded manner. This causes the presenter to scramble for the right answer at best, or the wrong answer, they then are at risk.
The solution is to take a deep breath put on the brakes and try not to come up with answer while the question is being asked! Listen carefully to the question even ask for clarification – let the questioner let the ‘steam’ out of the question.
If needed ask for a rephrase of the question, this will allow you time to think and my reveal any hidden agendas.
What an outrageous idea: listen! Listen for the spoken and hidden messages. Listening has become a lost art in our culture. For those people who still listen politely, it is waiting for one’s turn to speak; for those who no longer bother, it has become irritant to listen at all, so they talk past the next person.
For many people listening will feel counter intuitive to the results-driven businessperson and be difficult to do. It is absolutely vital. Observe this simple rule or the result will be the failure of the answer, the crash of the presentation, of the meeting, and the loss of the entire business proposition. Listen first, breath then respond – for speed kills.