Thinking on Your Feet

“So, what’s new?”

Thinking on Your Feet

As business leaders and entrepreneurs, one of our main responsibilities is to interact with the public, whether it is networking with peer businesses, participating in Chamber of Commerce events, or attending community social functions.  And invariably will be asked, “So, what’s new?”

Many times, our response will be “Nothing much,” “I’m swamped,” or “Same ol’ same ol.”  Of course, the wise guy will respond, “A large African antelope, also known as a Wildebeest” (interchanging new with gnu—don’t worry, most people don’t laugh).

Opportunity

Being asked, “What’s new?” is a golden opportunity for two reasons.

Inside Information

First, the person who is asking probably really wants to know what is new.  Although it is wide open for interpretation, chances are they are asking about your business and the market climate in your business world.  And they are solicitation your opinion to bolster their awareness of what is happening in their business world.

They are looking for market insights which they will use in their business strategies. By responding with a well thought out response, you have become part of their private council.  You have created a strategic alliance of which you can now call on for your bit of inside information.

Thinking on Your Feet

Secondly, you are given a great opportunity to practice thinking on your feet.

A person approaches you and asks “What’s new.”  You now need to quickly understand who this person is and what interest they represent.  Do they represent a competitor, a political faction, or a service industry?  What do you know that could be helpful to this person, and what could this person know that could be helpful to you?
All this consideration is necessary for determining the value of creating a strategic alliance as presented above.  But the benefit here is the practice component.  Of the many people you meet, only a few will develop into some sort of business relationship.  But you never know when that will happen.

So, in every instance of being asked, “What’s new?” is a chance to practice thinking on your feet and strengthening your skill, so when the ripe opportunity comes along, you will be ready.

Preparation

The long-term value of practicing thinking on your feet is you never know when and where you will be asked your opinion, and you always need to be ready.  It could be a meeting with C-suite executives, a community meeting where you volunteer your time, or several employees come into your office with a problem.

In all instances, you need to be ready, so here are some suggestions.

  1. Don’t just start talking. The person who asked the question knows they put you on the spot, so a few minutes to collect your thoughts and take deep breaths is expected.
  2. Proceed slowly. This will give you more time to finish assembling your response.
  3. To a certain extent, much of your answer should be pre-prepared. Most times, they are asking about something that is in, or close to, your area of expertise.  Always be ready for questions that are in your wheelhouse.
  4. Make eye contact as much as possible. This will reinforce the response you are giving.
  5. Saying that you are unprepared to provide a full answer is much better than making something up that you will have to retract later.
  6. If the question is openly broad, stick to answer one point well.

The Bible

One of the greatest lessons on how to think on your feet is found in Acts 17:16-34.  Here, the Apostle Paul is in Athens.  As he was going from place to place preaching and talking, he noticed the many idols that were scattered throughout the streets.

He was finally asked to come to Mars Hill, which was where the people of influence gathered to talk with them.  He knew this was going to be a tough crowd, so he modified his typical talking points by incorporating many of the things he had just noticed about Athens, namely the idols.

Through his quick thinking, he was able to overcome the hostility of the crowd and plant seeds of his witness about Christ.

We need to always be ready to talk about what is new.  Through practice, we should be able to convincingly discuss the topics for which we want to be considered an expert.  Just as Paul did in Athens, we need to be ready to modify that message so the people who have asked, will find our message more receptive and agreeable.