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  • You Can Not Over Prepare

    So few people make the extra effort; if you do, that’s really the reason you’ll get noticed.

    In an age of instant response, slow down and think things through. It’s nice to be fast, but instant responses can prove to be disastrous. Consider others’ questions and interests, then plan a response. Yes, I know you have limited time and limited resources to do this, but if you don’t slow down, pause, and prepare, you will be unable to present yourself, statements, or points clearly. If you seem unprepared, you show that a lack of care toward the other party or the outcome of the discussion. Make sure to:

    -slow down

    -get in the moment

    -consider your audience

    -construct a message


    To do that:

    Seek info in advance, not last minute. Download history surrounding the topic. Consider the current environment. Study the tendencies of people involved. Focus on the person at the other end of the line – your audience of one or one hundred. Think about what they want to know and why it’s important to them.

    Overly prepare. Do homework to the nth degree. Think, mull over, ruminate, and weigh anything you should consider about the facts, the project, the different angles, the perspective of people involved. Write down and analyze options.

    Understand the other persons’ fears, dreams, and desires. Figure out the big drivers. It’s all about them; where they are coming from, their fears, and their nightmares. See life from their P.O.V so they think “this person gets me.”

    Facts and figures are important but feelings count. More decisions are made for emotional reasons than factual.

    Role play in your mind, even on paper: what will the other party or parties ask, what will they say, what will they bring up that is important to them?

    Answer, to yourself, every question you might get asked before it is posed. Supervisors or executives will grill you with questions so you might as well ask yourself ahead of time and think through the answer. When the real question comes, it may not be friendly or nice, but your pre-thinking will have reduced your stress.

    Every time you communicate, practice being smooth. You might think you can stumble all around with a friend and it doesn’t make a difference. Wrong. Everything you do is training your brain, so even with friends try for improved conversing.

    Do not dismiss serious preparation as overkill for a simple phone call and just assume you can wing it. Take a deep breath before you start talking. It helps when your lungs are full of air. And as one CEO told me, “Put on your power shoes and really pay attention.”

    Stop pondering after you’ve absorbed what you can. Decide on the point where no additional information, no cramming, no more thinking is going to help. 

    Preparation increases confidence and optimism and makes you more interesting to whomever you are speaking. People respond well to someone who is sure of what he wants and goes for it. Before you communicate, ask yourself, “What do I want to accomplish in this exchange? What is the reason to do this – both implicit and explicit. Why should she give a darn? What is the likely outcome of this exchange?” And then, after it’s done ask, “Did I accomplish what I set out to?”

    The higher you go in your career, the more preparation is required, so you might as well get in the habit early.

    D.A. (Debra) Benton has been helping great individuals and organizations get even better for over 20 years. Just as exceptional athletes rely on excellent coaching to hone their skills, Debra's clients rely on her advice to advance their careers. She focuses on what is truly important to convert what you and your organization want to be from a vision into a reality. TopCEOCoaches.com ranks her in the World's Top 10 CEO Coaches noting she is the top female. And as conference keynote speaker she is routinely rated in the top 2%. Her client list reads like a “Who's Who” of executives in companies ranging from Microsoft, McDonald's, Kraft, American Express, Merrill Lynch, United Airlines, and PricewaterhouseCoopers to the Washington Beltway and U.S.Border Patrol. *She is the author of ten award-winning and best-selling business books including The Virtual Executive and CEO Material. She has written for the Harvard Business Review, Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg Businessweek, and Fast Company. She has been featured in USA Today, Fortune, The New York Times, and Time; she has appeared on Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, and CBS with Diane Sawyer. To learn more Debra advising leaders, coaching, facilitating a workshop, or speaking: www.debrabenton.com

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