How to Always Appear Smart when You Run a Business and Have ADHD

Index cardsDo you ever wonder how people in the public eye—politicians, executives, media personalities—manage to sound so intelligent in interviews, and even when caught seemingly off-guard? (Most of the time, anyway.)

Many of them are no smarter than you and me, and some of them may even have ADHD. So how come they can pull off sounding smart when it counts, and you can’t?

Does any of this sound familiar?

1.) The telephone rings and it’s a client you really want to impress. You’ve been working hard on his project, but your brain picks that moment to freeze up and you can’t remember what the heck you’re supposed to talk with him about, or how to say it.

2.) You go to a business networking event and someone asks you what you do. Oh my god, you can’t bring the information to your speaking function. What is it you do again? And how do you talk about it so it makes sense?

3.) You’re making a point in a business conversation and someone asks a question. You do know the answer, so you spend 5 minutes going off on a tangent and lose the attention of everyone else about the main point you really wanted to make. And of course, you can’t remember the main point now, anyway. Darn!

Enter talking points

Remember the smart politicians and media personalities we talked about earlier? They can have the same problem. The difference is that they’ve had media training to stay on track, and they have talking points. No matter what the interviewer asks them, or how crazy the question, or what situation they’re in when they’re stopped and a microphone is put in their face, they know what to say.

Talking points are three or four main points you want to get across and stick to, no matter what. You prepare them ahead of time, and you keep circling back to them, regardless of what is happening around you.

How talking points can help you

1.) Project status points: For each project with an important client where you know there will be interaction between you, keep an updated list of 3 or 4 talking points clipped to the folder to remind you of the status of the project, the main deliverables, next steps, etc. This will help you stay focused even if your client doesn’t call—and you’ll be so prepared (and sound so smart!) if he does. No remembering needed.

2.) Talking about your business: Right now, make a list of 3 or 4 talking points that describe how your business helps people, what kind of clients you work with or who your customers are, and the kind of projects you work on. Write them on an index card and carry it with you. Memorize them.

When I figured this one out, it was such a relief. I owned a marketing communications firm and we were really good at what we did, and I could talk about it till the cows came home—nevertheless, I would routinely draw a blank when asked about it. With my talking points, I got so that I could picture my index card in my mind and just “read” from it, always knowing what to say and sounding smart :)

3.) Important conversations: Before going into an important conversation of any kind (you can even use this with your spouse or significant other, if emotionally charged conversations throw you off track), make a list of the 3 or 4 most important points you want to make, and take it in with you. Most people won’t care if you glance at your notes, but maybe you’ll want to tuck it discretely somewhere. Then, if someone asks a question, or the conversation seems to be going out of control, just go back to your index card and your talking points. These are the main things you want to get across, remember, so keep coming back to them. You don’t need to let anyone or anything throw you off course.

The more you use talking points, the more they help

The more you use talking points, the more you build new neuro pathways in your brain to help you with the information you need, and the “smarter” you’ll appear. (Except we know you’re quite smart already, right?) Talking points will just help you through the rough spots when your brain isn’t cooperating.


  1. Thank you, this is empowering!

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