"Answer First" means that in any communications setting you should give the answer first (your point of view, recommendation, conclusion, finding, etc.) and then follow with details. This is applicable when you come into your manager’s office to propose an idea, or when you’re presenting a proposal to a group, or if you’re in a 1x1 with a peer talking about a new direction.
Many people do it the other way around – build up the background, details of decision criteria, lay out all the options, and eventually they get to the recommendation or decision is. When you load someone up with a bunch of words before you get to the point, you’ve diluted your point.
Presenting answer first is also the right way to write press releases and typically how newspaper stories are written. The gist of the story is usually found in the first two paragraphs, and the rest of the article is details.
Why "answer first"?
- Executives communicate that way, and they want to be communicated to that way (in 1x1s or in a presentation). Why would an executive promote someone who rambles or seems indecisive?
- Answer first forces you to communicate your point or decision early in a conversation, and that portrays authority and confidence.
- Giving the punch line in the beginning causes people to pay attention to the details, if they are needed. And if they aren't needed, and the executive or audience approves of your 'answer' or decision, then shut up!
- Because ‘less is more’ the points and decisions you are trying to make will stand out, rather than the details.
- If you spend more time communicating directions and point of views, you will get more done.
Most people were taught to present with an introduction, then put the meat in the middle and conclude. Instead, present like an open-faced sandwich – meat first, and then bread (i.e. the details, if needed).