If you’ve spent more than a week in A/E/C marketing, chances are you’ve been involved in a “highly interactive meeting.” You know the type. Eight people around a conference table. A loose agenda. Everyone has an opinion and expresses it loudly. Sidebar conversations taking place. Folks on their smartphones. It’s chaotic!
And for a marketing professional in the early stages of their career, it can be intimidating!
But these can be career-defining moments, so it’s important to perform well. With a few simple strategies, you can come out on top in these workplace mud-wrestling matches.
Have a Simple, Structured Message
When it’s your turn to address an agenda item or provide a report-out, the biggest challenge is to get your message across quickly and simply before the “wolves” pounce.
To do so, use a mental template that allows you to structure your thoughts simply and concisely. At Speechworks, we suggest “BL+3Q.”
“BL” is the Bottom Line. It’s a simple orienting thought that charts the course for the rest of your message.
If the issue is “How’s that proposal going?” the BL could be as simple as “It’s going really well.” Or it might be “It’s going pretty well, but we’re having some challenges.” Or it might even be “It’s not going well at all.”
The BL doesn’t provide any substance other than orienting the listener to the direction of the rest of your message.
The “3Q” are the three questions you would anticipate your listener(s) wanting the answers to. For pursuit or project updates the most common “3Qs” tend to be “What have we done so far?”, “What challenges have we encountered?” and “What will our next steps be?”
Once you’ve established the “BL”, you preview and then answer the “3Qs” for your listeners.
So, if you’re addressing “How’s the XYZ proposal going?”, your simple, concise message may sound like this:
“The XYZ proposal is going pretty well, but we’ve had a few challenges. Let me share what we’ve done so far, the challenges we’ve encountered, and what our next steps will be. So far, we’ve got all resumes and project pages formatted and proofed. The biggest challenge though has been getting the letter of recommendation from our other client. So our next step is to have the principal contact their CEO directly to see if they can get it to us by tomorrow so that we can meet our printing deadline.”
That takes 30 seconds to convey. You’ve provided a structured message, just enough detail (but not too much!), and come across as prepared, confident, and in control.
Answer Questions in a Way That Inspires Confidence
Inevitably, you’ll get follow-up questions (which is a good thing!). The key to maintaining the confidence you’ve established is to give nice, tight answers. That means answering the question in the first one to two sentences.
Most people don’t do this. They just start talking, and eventually (maybe) get to the answer. But by then, most listeners have tuned out (probably assuming they have no idea what they’re talking about).
The key to being able to answer questions with confidence is to prepare ahead of time by thinking of the types of questions you’re likely to be asked, and then practicing answering them.
Maintain an “Executive Presence”
There was an old deodorant commercial that told people to “never let them see you sweat.” That’s actually good advice. No matter how much pressure you’re under, you have to remain composed.
The best ways to maintain an “executive presence” in one of these situations include:
- Making sure your chair is high enough (your belly button should be aligned with the tabletop).
- Sitting upright with a nice straight posture, arms and hands on the table in front of you.
- Making great eye contact with anyone you’re speaking with.
- Projecting a strong voice and intense energy when you’re speaking.
- Being particularly aware of what you’re doing with your face. Making sure it’s sending the right message (Are you furrowing your eyebrows? Rolling your eyes? Scowling?).
By having a mental template for delivering simple, concise messages; practicing answering questions with confidence; and exuding an executive presence, you’ll emerge from these matches clean as a whistle!
As a seasoned communications coach and trainer, Matt’s passion lies in helping professionals who deal with complex subject matter to communicate their messages in a way that is simple, persuasive and inspires confidence from their listeners. His varied training experience includes serving as an advanced pilot ground instructor, graduate teaching assistant, corporate sales trainer, and executive coach. Prior to Speechworks, Matt spent nearly a decade leading the marketing and sales training efforts for a top-100 design firm.