Your Route to the Top: Thinking on your feet

Know your stuff. Prepare for tricky questions with a pre-emptive strike. Grab a pen and paper and write a counter-argument to every problem that you come across. When you're put on the spot, you'll have all the answers.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Be decisive. Taking action will give you a sense of progress, stop you from worrying and help you stay in control. When it comes to the crunch, weigh up your options and pick one. Whatever route you take, it's your decision, so stick to it.

Trust yourself. You're the expert. You were asked because you're the one in the know. Have faith in the answer you give.

Switch off the inner critic. Keep your focus on what you're doing, not what the negative voices say. Absorb yourself in the moment by concentrating on the pitch you're giving, not whether you've won it or not.

Use criticism constructively. When you're in the line of fire, see it as a way of igniting your ideas, not putting them out. Follow their point with 'yes and... ' and see where it takes you.

Stay in control. If something comes up in a client meeting that you haven't prepared for, steer the questions around to what you can answer. Make it clear what you do know and demonstrate that you're on top of what you don't.

Don't be afraid to ask. If your colleague springs a question on you, find out exactly what they want to know. This will also buy you time to prepare what you're going to do.

Stop and think. Instead of scrambling around wildly until you hit on what your potential client wants to hear, pause for a breath, think through what you're going to say and then say it. Nothing strengthens authority so much as silence.

Be honest. If a client asks you something that you don't know the answer to, don't be tempted to blag. Impress them instead with how quickly you can find out.

'The Mind Gym: Give me time' is published by Time Warner Books (£12.99). Contact the firm at

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