On average, an employee spends more than 6,000 hours in meetings throughout his entire career. That’s almost nine months! With all the employees involved and numbers of hours spent in meetings, it can be hard to stand out from the crowd and impress others. Here are some tricks that one can use during a meeting to make you look smart. You may even recognize some which are used by others.

1. “Will it scale?”

This has been voted one of the most asked during a meeting but it’s a question surprisingly few people can answer. Scalability usually refers to the growth of certain areas. It can be used in a technological, social or environmental context. Companies want to grow and innovate, so asking this question is like digging into the future of an organization. Someone has to answer this unmeasurable question, and the answer lies in the department heads.

2. “Let’s take a step back, what exactly are we trying to solve?”

Everyone is contributing ideas to the meeting, and you have gone blank for two minutes with no idea of what is going on. What should you do when it is your turn to speak up? Bring the crowd back to the original objective of the meeting by asking “Let’s take a step back, what exactly are we trying to solve?”. No one will realise that you just answered a question by asking another one.

3. “What do YOU think about this?”

This one is for when you finish a presentation and your colleagues go quiet and avoid eye contact. It’s a conversation starter, and while it can be scary to put someone on the spot, it is a surefire way to make sure that you squeeze additional insights out of attendees of the meeting who aren’t usually one to raise their voice. Do not pick the same person every time though, as it’s the quickest way to make an enemy. Vary the answers. Win-Win!

4. “How can I be of greater help on that?”

By asking this question, it shows that you think independently and are willing to carry more responsibilities. You are outstanding at your assigned duty and are capable of accomplishing more. Moreover, this reveals your leadership skills as you are putting yourself in the CEO’s shoes by asking “What can you do for your company?”. Every CEO wants his/her employees to be engaged and efficient.

5. “I think this is beneficial to our department, however, I want to be sure the same goes to the marketing team.  Do we have a strategy to [work with them]?”

Organizational silo is every CEO’s nightmare. HR managers spend hours trying to set up lunch events and happy hours to get every employee involved. Your boss or the CEO would be thrilled if each department asks this question. It shows that you value teamwork and are willing to cooperate.

6. “Whom else have we talked to about this?”

This question is highly appreciated by the managers since departments have their own meetings. There is little chance that different departments have meetings together. Having meetings with different departments helps increase productivity. Sometimes outsiders can spot the key solution for current challenge by bringing in fresh eyes and minds. In fact, studies show that 72% of award-winning projects are combinations of inputs by knowledgeable people and complete outsiders.

7. “Is this the correct direction we are taking?”

By asking is the company is heading in the right direction, it shows that you have thoroughly thought about the plan in discussion. It allows people to reflect on the issues. Also, it shows that leadership skills you have and you are guiding the crowd towards the goal.

8. “What are the milestones?”

Asking someone about milestones allows that person to rethink the sustainability of their plans. It is extremely important to set milestones throughout the process since almost no plan is achieved without adjustments. Therefore, setting up milestones gives employees achievable goals and room for adjustment.

9. “How can this benefit our company?”

Any talk or plan would be useless if the company cannot extract profit. It also shows that you think like the CEO and are concerned about the profitability of the company. After all, individual departments tend to focus on their own operations and may overlook the big picture.

10. “Why are we not doing that?”

The right questions to ask when deciding on a specific strategy would be “why are we doing this” and “why are we not doing that”. When confronted with these two questions, people are forced to think about the merits and demerits of choosing one over the other. It shows your ability to think ahead and guide the crowd as a leader.

11. “Would you mind clarifying that again”

When someone in a meeting uses a relatively technical term that you are having difficulty understanding, ask the person to explain again. Nobody expects you to be a genius. If you are struggling to keep up, ask them to clarify what they mean. You will most likely not be the only one in the room who does not understand. Even you have little knowledge about the term, by asking, you can get the explanation without admitting that you are lost.

12. Use abbreviation “What is our MRR next month? How this helps in reducing our CPU?”

Whenever someone uses abbreviated business terms in meetings, I personally admire them more. It shows their immense knowledge pool and sophisticated mind. Or…you just end up looking like a douche. You can at the same time show off and confuse people, they will be impressed even though they might not know what these terms mean.

13. “I’ll email the summary of what we have discussed”

To make you look extra caring during a meeting, tell them that you are going to send a short summary of the meeting. You can jot down the main points of the meeting as you go along, but also be sure to make an audio recording in case you miss something. It shows that you care about the meeting and value the content.

 14. “ Should we be doing this instead of that?”

This question shows that you have knowledge of all the available options for the project. By asking this question, you allow everyone to step back and consider the options and show how much you value the benefits to the company.

  15. “WHY is not the question but HOW?”

This question allows your colleagues to re-evaluate the feasibility of the project and focus on the procedures it takes to get it done. Your colleagues may not necessarily fully understand the actions needed to accomplish the projects. Therefore, it is important and smart to ask how to reach goals.

16. “What are the details of this plan?”

When someone puts out a plan that seems too good to be true, ask them this question. It shows whether the plan is merely conceptual or if the presenter has prepared details to substantiate it and show its feasibility. It is a good question to keep the conversation going and get everyone involved.

17. “How can we attract customers that are as influential as our existing ones?”

Ask questions using examples of big customers that ideally were brought in by you and your team. It presents people with excellent work that you and your team have worked hard to secure. Alternatively, you can use other examples to show others that you are knowledgeable about the company’s performance.

18. “Can we have a more detailed conversation after lunch?”

When people raise questions that you cannot answer or do not have the materials to support, use this sentence. It will buy you some time to prepare your response. Others will think that the content is too important or too long to be discussed over a meeting.

19. “It has been proven that our strategy has worked out, there was a 20 per cent increase in…..”

Providing evidence or data about the company’s current situation shows that you are aware of the company’s operations and you are not making up your statements. Your CEO will be delighted that an employee is keeping track of the company’s performance.

20. “I personally consider the other plan more interesting but this one is the most beneficial for the company for now…”

When you have a personal preference for a certain plan but also feel that another plan would be more suitable for the company, you can express the reasoning behind your choice. It shows that you have been thinking critically about the company’s interests and are able to justify your ideas.

21. “[Name] in the product department said that they are having….”

When mentioning or quoting your colleagues from another department, you show your respect and connection with your colleagues. It emphasizes that you have good relationships with other departments and are involved in ongoing communication with them.

22. “Are there any more questions regarding the presentation?”

Always use this question as the ending of a presentation. It gives the impression that you are well-prepared with relevant knowledge and are able to take on any questions regarding your presentation topic.

Conclusion

Meetings can get boring, and yes, it is very hard for us all to stay focused for the entire time. But with a few of these questions up your sleeve, you’ll not be left looking clueless.

Handling a meeting is quite the art, but it’ll be a breeze once you master the skill of asking the right questions and demonstrating your insights and abilities through your speech. Show your skills off at the next meeting you attend and sit back as you see the room listen and pay attention.

May the force be with you!

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Taylor has co-founded 5 startups. Currently, the CMO of a venture-backed AI company Valuer.ai, he's also published a few marketing e-books. He consulted on SEO/SEM for 3+ years in Washington, DC area. Taylor grew up in Washington, DC but have been living in Copenhagen, Denmark for the past 3 years.

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