One of the pieces of feedback that has followed me through my career is this concept of being ‘good in the room’. This idea that I can be trusted in pressured, semi-confrontational circumstances where you need to be able to stand up to questions (often in a pretty unstructured format), be seen as knowledgeable to build confidence but also honest about the extent of that knowledge to build trust. It is a tricky balance to strike (you also need to avoid agreeing to things that you don’t really want to – that is a sure fire way to get burned and for your delivery team to grow to hate you!).
As I mentioned recently I did something similar last week at a Programme Board for one of our Gov Dept clients and then at the weekend I unexpectedly (I mean I genuinely am not sure what came over me) did an informal Q&A at ProductCamp with no preparation at all to a room full of people. Both seemed to go over pretty well (though both spiked and then drained my adrenalin hard!).
When I am in self-depreciating mode I’ll make some joke about being a natural blagger or some such but actually there is more to it than that (though it is definitely a factor!). I think my perceived ability to think on my feet and reel out seemingly coherent responses to sometimes tough and loaded questions is a by-product of all this blogging I do. All the writing – and the reading that leads to the writing – means I have this library of arguments, anecdotes, data, quotes and case studies rattling around in my head. Already translated at source in to my own voice and given the gestation period for my posts in my head is much longer than it takes for me to actually write them they are often pretty well rehearsed by the voice in my head.
It is also clear that put in a situation where I don’t have that library to fall back on and I’m a stumbling, mumbling wreck. That includes – but is not limited to – any kind of social situation where you are getting to know someone new. That amount of people who initially thought I was ignorant, just plain rude or mute on meeting me far outnumbers those who do not (it is a bit different in work related contexts as so many people _know_ me from Twitter or these blog posts).
So score another one for blogging without restraint. It fuels you for those awkward Q&As in those stuffy rooms (including – you know – job interviews!).