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Off-the-cuff speaking

Preparing for those unexpected curveballs!

At some point in our lives, we are all faced with the prospect of speaking with little or no time to prepare. For example, you might be at a dinner party and all of a sudden get asked to raise a toast.

You could find yourself in a team meeting when suddenly, somebody throws a random question out to you (worse still, you're in one of those boring meetings which drags on and puts your brain to sleep!).

Off the cuff speaking moments can strike at any time!

Within seconds everybody's attention turns to you, putting you under pressure, catching you off guard and expecting you to say something appropriate. For some people it’s the stuff of nightmares especially if you’re not equipped with the basic techniques to deal with these sorts of situations. What do you do? What do you say? How do you respond? How do you vanquish that fight or flight feeling? It’s happened to us so many times that we have picked out our top 3 – for lack of a better term - coping mechanisms.

1. Repeat the question

In these situations, the more time you have to respond means you have more time you have to think about what you want to say. People are often so caught up with the pressure that they feel to need to respond immediately and usually, that exposes you to a risk of blurting something out where you could end regretting what you say. A great way to buy yourself some time is by repeating the question, even if you heard it clearly the first time around. Those precious extra few seconds are very handy and provide you with extra time to formulate your response.

2. Pause and think about the response

This almost ties into the first point. Once you repeat the question, take a few seconds to pause and think about what you want to say. There is no rule book with a set of defined time frames in which you need to respond (and that’s not to say you take too long!), but pausing for a few seconds buys you even more time and lets to collect your thoughts around what you want to say. It’s also a very good way of composing yourself so you feel more relaxed when you respond.

3. Keep it Super Simple (K.I.S.S.)

We have all heard of the K.I.S.S. theory! It’s an effective way of thinking about your response. Keep it short, concise and to the point. That can be difficult if you have a million things running through your mind and especially difficult if you know there is more than one point in response to the question. Pick out 1 or 2 key points, talk about them briefly and most importantly – answer the question. Too often people get so distracted they get sidetracked and muddle their response with irrelevant jargon.

With these 3 handy tips make sure you don’t wait to be asked. Instead, why don’t you volunteer yourself to respond and take the lead? It will set you apart from your friends and colleagues and elevates your speaking confidence instantly!

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