My Favorite Communication Tool: The Set-up


by Laura Camacho

Working remotely and communicating almost exclusively by video has raised awareness of how important it is to make your point in a way that sticks in people’s brains. In talking to my clients, there are two common problems with what you would think would be a simple thing to do: answer a question in a meeting. 

For those more on the introverted side of things, they sometimes experience brain freeze and muddle through some murky answer. Then they spend the rest of the day thinking of all the brilliant answers they could have given. Then there are the verbal processors, the people who usually “think out loud”. They don’t suffer from brain freeze but rather jump into the explanation, giving background, side thoughts, possible alternatives, the historical background and their process for solving the problem. Only by now, no one can remember what the original question was.

Here’s a structure anyone can use to give an articulate answer to any question.

The Answer Setup

Communication researchers know that setting up a message means preparing the audience to receive it. It works much the way a movie preview lets you know the tone and genre of the film, as well as the main action points therein. 

Here’s how to set up your answer so people understand and remember it:

  1. Pause for 2-3 seconds.

  2. Acknowledge the value of the question. Typically, one says, “That’s a great question, NAME.” Variations of this include “I am so glad you asked that” or “I appreciate this question, NAME” or “Thank you for asking that, NAME.”

  3. Point out why this question is so important. Even if you think it’s obvious, point it out: “That is actually something we think about every single day” or “This topic really relates to our long-term success model” or “Our team has been obsessed with this issue for some time now.”

  4. Answer the question. Get to the point.

You can wrap it up and tie it with a bow by asking if there are any questions.

Laura Mixon Camacho.jpg

Laura Camacho, MBA, PhD, PMP, is an executive coach, trainer and speaker who opened Mixonian Institute in 2009 to rid the world of boring business communication. She has created innovative training programs for local and international companies, related to leadership effectiveness, excellent feedback, growth mindset and emotional intelligence. Multilingual, Dr. Camacho’s career highlights include facilitating The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (in Spanish,) being editor of the leading management newsletter in Venezuela. For 10 years she taught communication classes at ECU and College of Charleston.


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