At The Latimer Group, we frequently speak with our friends, partners, and clients in search of those “real world” communications challenges that affect us. We ask our colleagues and clients what they’d like to be better at, what communication problems are on your mind this week, and so on. We then use those discussions as a springboard for a blog post, podcast, or newsletter, in which we can address — and hopefully solve — those problems.
One colleague I spoke with recently talked about one such challenge, which essentially boiled down to: How can members of our organization sound less defensive, and more confident when we discuss big issues? This is a common issue in many organizations, and occurs frequently in meetings or presentations — especially if there’s a designated “Q and A” session at the end, when a presenter might have to defend or respond to a particular decision or course of action he or she is discussing.
And it got me thinking, because at The Latimer Group, preparation is a big part of what we help our clients work on with regard to presentation skills and communication. And the fact of the matter is, with any Q and A session, one never knows exactly what “Q’s” will come up. So here are five steps you can take to be better prepared for those “unscripted” moments in your presentation to sound more confident, and less defensive.
1) Anticipate the questions that might arise. You may not know the exact question(s) people will ask, but before your meeting, give some thought to those topics that others might question. It will be easier to speak to those questions if you have some idea that they might be coming.
2) Acknowledge the validity of the questions asked. If we can tell a person, “Hey, that’s a good question. I’m glad you asked,” then we immediately put ourselves in a mindset that won’t seem as defensive. When we meet someone on their ground, defensiveness is automatically diminished.
3) Focus on logic, not emotion. It’s easy to become (or appear) defensive about a decision if emotion leads the way in the discussion. Instead, focus on the logic you used when you initially made the decision someone may question. Present the facts, the reasoning, and the logic, and leave the emotion out, and you’ll sound more confident and less defensive every time.
4) Agree to disagree. It’s OK if everyone doesn’t agree with you. In a strong organization, it’s not only inevitable, it should be welcomed. Disagreement will happen, and we’ll appear less defensive if we acknowledge those disagreements, and not try so hard to sway every member of the organization to our side.
5) Remind yourself to be confident. It may sound simple, but it’s important to remind yourself that you put a lot of thought into this decision, you looked at all sides, and you can be confident that you made the best decision with the information you had at your disposal.
If you adequately prepare for the “scripted” portion of your meeting or presentation, you can then use these steps to help with the “unscripted” portion. Guaranteed, you’ll then sound more confident and less defensive when questions arise.