How to Think on Your Feet

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We all know the feeling. We step into the lift and no one else is in there. Except for the CEO. Andrea Clarke
We’re seated around the boardroom table and out of left field, we’re asked to address the entire room. We answer the phone and we’re met with an international conference call that we’re supposed to be hosting. And it’s not even 9am.

In a split second we need to be considered credible, in control and commanding.

There’s no ‘faking it til you make it’ in these moments. But don’t be paralysed. Be prepared. See if the following a simple framework helps you organise your thoughts so you can step into any situation with confidence and control.

‘Headline news’ the opening line

In one line, what is the REAL headline here -- Not the headline that is most relevant to YOU, but most important to your audience? Be firm, be bold. Declare an opinion. You’re the expert. Having an opinion I hope is what you’re getting paid for.

Back it up with two strong facts

Find your facts -- fall back on evidence that your work has produced. For example, if you’ve introduced a new initiative that has generated a 60% increase in sales this quarter, then say so. Use statistics and hard data to reinforce your point. Keep one idea to one sentence. If you have three different sets of data, then give them one line each.

What obstacles or opportunities does your info present?

What do you want the audience to do about this information right now? What challenges or opportunities does it reveal? Have you brought them a breakthrough in some form and if so, what do you need them to act on in the next 24 hours? What’s likely to happen in the market if you DON’T act? Be specific about what you need and give the audience a sense of urgency if you can. Wrap it up with a firm recommendation. No trailing off on a thought bubble and no tangents.

Even if you need to scramble for the facts, you’ll still sound like there is order to your thought process. Instead of 'faking it til you make it, I like to say 'wing it til you bring it'. You need to know yourself better in these situation, so you can bring more of yourself to the moment. My advice is to practice this framework in everyday exchanges, so when you do happen to be ambushed, you’ll respond without hesitation. You may even look forward to being put on the spot.


Andrea Clarke is a former US News Correspondent and International Aid Worker, now helping women 'Be the CEO of their Career'. 

This article was originally featured on LinkedIn Pulse

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