Power Players

AOC uses these smart tactics to organize and focus for Congressional hearings—and you can steal them

WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 24: Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), is seen as U.S. Postal Service Postmaster General Louis DeJoy testifies during a hearing before the House Oversight and Reform Committee on August 24, 2020 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. (Photo by Tom Williams-Pool/Getty Images)
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New York. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez shared some of her secrets to staying organized and prepared during congressional hearings in an Instagram story Monday — and they are techniques anyone can use.

Ocasio-Cortez, who was prepping to question Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, who testified Monday on the sweeping changes made to the Post Office, said she uses methods she came up with on her own after observing how her colleagues approached hearings.

"I think everyone's mind works in a unique way," Ocasio-Cortez said. "And this system is something that I've discovered works for me, you know, this complements how I tend to think and what's happening in my mind."

Here's how she organizes her thoughts and prepares for the five minutes of questioning she gets during (sometimes intense) House Oversight Committee hearings (which is the main investigative committee in the House of Representatives).

Whether you're preparing for a big meeting or having trouble with colleagues, her tips can apply to lots of work situations in which communication and organization are key.

Plan with Post-Its

To brainstorm a line of questioning, Ocasio-Cortez said she starts by writing every single question she has about a topic on a Post-It note or scrap of paper.

"I need to get it all out," she said. Then "I put it in front of me so that I can try to look at the connections between all these different things."

From there she often has to edit out questions that may not fit within the five-minute timeframe.

"One of the reasons why I think Post-It notes are helpful is because sometimes I switch up the order of my questions," she said. "I have to produce a linear product from a nonlinear investigation."

From there, Ocasio-Cortez organizes her questions into common groups or "modules" based on their content. That way, she can listen to the witness and adapt on-the-fly, sometimes removing whole chunks of questions if she's running out of time.

Stay flexible

"No matter how much preparation you have, you also need to be willing to throw everything out the window," Ocasio-Cortez said.

For example, when Ocasio-Cortez questioned Mark Zuckerberg about Facebook's policies involving false information in political advertisements in October, she said she decided to switch her planned questions at the last minute.

"I threw all of it out," Ocasio-Cortez said. "It just didn't sit right with me, and I drafted an entirely new line of questioning with information that I had gotten the night before, and I largely planned out my questions while I was sitting there in the hearing."

(Ocasio-Cortez ended up asking Zuckerberg questions about the Cambridge Analytica data scandal and "the bounds" of Facebook policies on fact-checking political advertisements. She also questioned why Facebook named The Daily Caller, "a publication well-documented with ties to white supremacists," as an official fact-checker for Facebook. Zuckerberg said Facebook does not set fact-checking standards, The International Fact-Checking Network does.)

'Study the psychology' of the person

When AOC worked as a bartender in New York City, she said that she learned how to read people. Studying the psychology of a witness is a very important part of her process now as a Congresswoman, she said.

"I study their disposition; I study their attitudes," Ocasio-Cortez said. "Are they frustrated, are they arrogant, are they calm?" Understanding their personality and helps influence her approach to the way she asks her questions, she said.

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