Be At Your Best: Pitch Well and Answer Tough Questions!

Tom Marcoux address Stanford University PhDs and PhD-candidates. After his speech, Tom answered a question about "how to deal with tough questions."
Tom Marcoux address Stanford University PhDs and PhD-candidates. After his speech, Tom answered a question about “how to deal with tough questions.”

“How did the top filmmakers fail to engage the Silicon Valley investors, Tom?” my friend Jill asked.

“Many of them crashed and burned when they reacted to questions,” I replied, noting what I observed at a private investors’ meeting in Palo Alto, California.

Here I’m going to share briefly some vital ways to respond (not react) to tough questions.

I have three steps: a) Catch the question, b) Answer the question and c) Shine light on the Diamond.

1. Catch the Question

As I work with clients, I’ve seen many of them recoil and step backwards when they’re asked a tough question. Wrong move. Stepping backwards shows that you’re unsure of the value you bring.

Instead, over the years, I have conditioned myself to step two steps forward when someone asks a question.

I invite to step toward the person and say something like this (to “catch the question”):

  • Susan, I’m glad you brought that up. I was going to address that in the next segment. Let’s do this now.
  • George, I can see that’s important to you.

When you answer a question in that above manner, you show that you are not uneasy about the question. You also give yourself time to think. I call it “thinkspace.”

2. Answer the Question and Shine Light on the Diamond

When you answer a question, you do NOT have to accept the premise.

Picture this:

George (potential investor) asks, with an edge: “Anita, how do you have the gall to ask us for money when your first company went belly up?”

Anita replies: “George, I can see that means a lot to you. I learned a lot from the experience with the previous company. Recently, while working as vice president of XYZ Company, I’ve learned of a market segment that no one was aware of three years ago. I have the focus and the data to back up that this is a prime opportunity for investors like you to take advantage of some new data and new technology.”

The above answer covers something that is implied by George’s tough question: The possibility that Anita is incompetent.

Anita does not reply in any way in which she could hurt her own cause. She will NOT provide some self-conscious, self-denigrating comment that could be recorded as a terrible soundbite that issued from her own mouth.

Instead, she expresses “the Diamond” – also known as talking points – that she is competent (working as vice president at XYZ Company) and that she sees new opportunities (backed up by new data and new technology).

The truth is: With great coaching and proper rehearsal, you can prepare for the 10 Worst Questions You Don’t Want to Answer.

When you do that, you’ll be so prepared, that you will know, even in your subconscious mind, that you have real value to convey to potential investors.

That’s when you’re strong and ready … and you will succeed.



* See my new book Year of Awesome! How You Can Use 12 Success Principles including 10 Seconds to Wealth  (CLICK HERE to look inside the book)

Tom Marcoux
CEO (leading teams in United Kingdom, India and USA)

Speaker-author of 40 books (with free chapters on )
Executive Coach – Pitch Coach
Spoken Word Strategist
Author of Time Management Secrets the Rich Won’t Tell You (See more when you CLICK HERE )
1.8 min. video (on YouTube): Tom Marcoux pulls back the curtain about how his directing a feature film that went to Cannes Film market helps with “Building Your Brand”:
Author of Connect: High Trust Communication for Your Success in Business and Life (See more when you CLICK HERE )

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