How AOC Preps for a Hearing: Post-Its and Bartender’s Intuition

Indrani Sen
Published in
2 min readAug 25, 2020

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez listens during a hearing.
Photo: Mandel Ngan/FP/Getty Images

Freshman Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is known for her sharp, astute questions in hearings, whether she’s grilling Michael Cohen or Mark Zuckerberg.

In her Instagram story yesterday, the wildly popular Democrat from the Bronx shared her preparation process, describing an efficient approach that borrows elements from academic research and bartending. She also credits the late Rep. Elijah Cummings for his guidance.

Few of us could pull off the charisma and incisiveness of AOC’s hearing performances, but there is plenty to learn from her process, whether you’re preparing for a congressional hearing, a team meeting, or a sales presentation. Among her habits:

  • She challenges her staff to “pitch” ideas and coaches them on how to “refine and direct” questions.
  • She writes down all her possible questions on Post-it notes. That way she can move them around as she considers their order.
  • She brutally edits: “There’s a LOT of work left on the cutting room floor! ✂️,” she writes.
  • She’s willing to throw out all her questions and start afresh if they feel wrong in the moment (as she did, she says, with Zuckerberg, writing up new questions as she listened in the hearing).
  • She studies the “psychology and disposition” of the witness, a trick she credits to her years bartending: “I adapt my words and vibe to complement the situation. The goal is not to yell or make a point. It’s to get your desired result.”

Here is some of AOC’s Instagram story:

Indrani Sen
Writer for

Editorial director at Medium, mom, gardener, cook. Formerly at Quartz.