I ran a poll recently on the biggest speaking challenge that people face.
And the winner was – structuring their thoughts.
When it comes to impromptu speaking, this can be the biggest challenge.
And an impromptu situation can be anything – a colleague asking for your opinion on the new policy changes or a someone asking you to give a toast to best friend at his party.
And of course, there can be the off the cuff – do you want to say anything? – at the end of mundane meetings.
I believe that each one of these opportunities is critical in building your image as a communicator. And rambling aimlessly in any of these situations is only doing disservice to yourself.
Most situations play out the same way – someone asked you something and…your time starts now!
What do you say?
So many thoughts!
WHY IS STRUCTURING YOUR THOUGHTS HARD?
Some of the reasons why structuring is a problem are:
1. We tend to generalise rather than specify. We try to cover as much as we can in the time we have
2. We’ve not been trained to put things together in a structured manner
3. Nervousness when talking before people can jumble up your thoughts
4. Not valuing other people’s time is an unconscious reason. When someone says – would you like to share a few thoughts – we tend to run away with it.
Can you think of more reasons?
In this live session, I have shared some simple tips to handle impromptu speaking situations:
STEP 1: PICK A LANE
Decide what you think of the topic. Focus on which way you lean? Agree? disagree?
It also depends on who asked you. If you don’t want to commit to a new policy at the end of a work meeting, you should be prepared for an evasive/diplomatic response too.
The first few seconds is a great time to tell your audience where you are going with this. Even if you want to say – I need time to think – it clearly says that your opinion is not formed yet.
Or something like – I can think of 2 reasons why I think this idea might work.
Check out more videos on impromptu speaking on my YouTube channel here
STEP 2: PICK YOUR SUPPORTING POINTS
There might be a lot of thoughts in your mind. But think of a couple which make the most sense given the time available and the audience you are speaking to.
Even if it a toast for a friend, be mindful of the examples and qualities you choose to talk about. You can think of tons of great times but choose what can be safely revealed in public with family present 🙂
Whenever possible, reinforce your structure for the audience. Say – the first thing I want to cover is…
This ensures that your listeners are with you as you move on to the second or even the third point because they can clearly see the structure in your talk.
STEP 3: WHEN IN DOUBT, ADD A STORY
Examples, case studies, stories, stats always liven up your talk. Even if it is a 2-minute speech – especially if you have only 2 minutes – add a story. Give an example. Say something memorable.
READ MORE: Here is a post on speaking tools you can use to wow your audience
1. Use voice modulation for maximum impact
In fact, between content and presentation, it’s the latter that really makes all the difference.
Whether you are for or against, whether you decide to tell a story or ask a question, whether you move between many points – each one will be made clear only through voice modulation.
You tone will signal if you are excited about something or are dreading it. The upswing in your voice will indicate to people that you just asked a question.
And I can’t emphasise enough how important voice modulation is when you transition from one point to the other.
Here’s a video on how to develop voice modulation
2. Specify, don’t generalise
We actually end up doing the opposite. Instead narrow down on a couple of things you want to say. Pin down the worthy thoughts and let the others go. Stick to the thoughts you finalise.
It’s perfectly alright to pause before you start. Gather your thoughts. Take a deep breathe. Start with confidence.
Pause between points. It helps reinforce the structure.
Watch this video on how pauses can make a difference
What are some of the things that you find challenging when it comes to public speaking? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.
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