In addition to a great look and a caffeinated beverage, the best thing you can bring to a meeting is your A-game. Asking questions is how we validate information, seek out better understanding, and dive deeper into important issues. As an intelligent and respected resource within your organization, asking insightful questions is how you add value. Here are five things you can do to condition your questioning strategy, giving you confidence to raise your hand and voice.
Kind of obvious, right? Review a copy of the presentation prior to the meeting so you can familiarize yourself with the content and identify areas where you would like more information. The person calling the meeting should provide an agenda beforehand. If not, request one. Use your resources to pull related information (trending reports, briefs, anecdotal feedback, etc.). If you are representing a team, float a few topics by your colleagues. They could have questions for you to relay to the group, too.
2. Know your meeting presenter or host
What does their reputation say about what’s important to them? What are their goals and objectives for the year? What are their areas of opportunity? Use this information. Weave it into your dialogue to demonstrate that you get the big picture.
3. Uncover more with open-ended questions
Instead of, “Has this strategy been successful before?” say, “I’d like to hear more about the last time this strategy was implemented effectively.” Other good ones include, Help me understand…, What’s the risk of… or, How does this align with…. Always be thinking about next steps, how your team and the workload of others could be affected, and how the take aways from the meeting are going to impact the overall goal of the larger group and key stakeholders.
4. Take notes by hand
Ditch your laptop for your favorite pen and paper to help you think more quickly on your feet. In a 2014 study conducted at Princeton and UCLA, researchers found that, “Taking notes by hand forces the brain to engage in some heavy “mental lifting,” and these efforts foster comprehension and retention.” (Scientific American)
5. Never apologize for asking a question
Prefacing your question with an, “I’m sorry but…” is weak language that can ruin your chance of being taken seriously. There is nothing to be sorry for, unless of course you are rudely interrupting someone. (Don’t.) You were invited to the meeting for a reason. Be sure of yourself or no one else will be.
We’ve all been a part of lackluster meetings, where the conversation is as mundane as the muffin selection. Step up and stand out by setting a new trend for meeting culture; one that encourages active participation and brilliant contributions. How have you been successful at asking smart questions in your career?
Written by CGD’s newest contributor Rachel Curran!