Extractive summaries and key takeaways from the articles curated from TOP TEN BUSINESS MAGAZINES to promote informed business decision-making | Since September 2017 | Week 317 | September October 6-12 , 2023
How to Shine When You’re Put on the Spot
By Matt Abrahams | Harvard Business Review Magazine | September–October 2023 Issue
Extractive Summary of the Article | Listen
Research shows that the fear of public speaking is common. However, although most of us work hard to shine at the presentations and speeches we can prepare for, we pay less attention to the equally daunting—and more common—challenge of spontaneous communication, which can have an even bigger impact on career success.
Anyone can become good at spontaneous speaking. You just need to learn specific skills, tactics, and behaviors. Here are five pointers.
- Avoid the Default Response. One surefire way to do poorly with your audience—or to make no impression at all—is to fall back on conventional responses when speaking off the cuff. A better approach is to invoke analogies or shared references that can help you engage your listeners.
- But Know That Less Is More. As you work to keep from being brief and sterile in your spontaneous speaking, take care not to swing too far in the opposite direction. For many people, the desire to sound intelligent and avoid awkward silences often leads to verbosity. They forget that, as Shakespeare put it, “brevity is the soul of wit.” To find the right balance, begin by quickly identifying a communication goal and then consider what your listeners already know about your topic. Next challenge yourself to deliver your message as concisely but effectively as possible.
- Dare to Be Dull. A big part of why impromptu speaking feels so challenging is the desire to always say the right thing in the right way at the right time. But that just leads to excessive self-evaluation and criticism, consuming precious mental energy, adding stress, and preventing you from dynamically, fluidly, and authentically engaging in the moment. Instead recognize that there is no single “correct” way to answer a question, give feedback, welcome a colleague, or raise a toast—only better or worse approaches. Don’t worry about wowing others, because demonstrations of competence and authenticity are impressive in themselves. The author often advise people to follow an improv comedy maxim: “Dare to be dull.” That is, don’t feel you need to give a standout performance. Just as the best comedy comes from truth, the best communication comes from being real.
- Listen as Well as You Talk. Most people obsess over what to say during impromptu encounters. You should do the opposite: focus on listening so that you can better understand the in-the-moment needs and interests of your conversation partners and respond more effectively. Consider “space, pace, and grace. First, allow yourself space to process the information. Second, slow down and focus on being present. Third, be aware of and sensitive to how others are presenting themselves and in what context.
- Organize Your Thoughts. When making formal presentations, most people give them a nice, logical structure that audience members can easily follow. But few of us adequately organize our thoughts in impromptu situations. We may presume that it’s impossible to do so on the fly. Or perhaps we think that too much structure will make us seem stilted—the opposite of spontaneous. The best speakers maintain audience interest by demonstrating connections among specific points, ideas, or examples. Adhering to a structure enhances comprehension, emotional engagement, and retention. It can sharpen your thinking by forcing you to stay focused on essential points only. Consider crafting a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end in which ideas are logically and naturally linked.
3 key takeaways from the article
- Research shows that the fear of public speaking is common. However, although most of us work hard to shine at the presentations and speeches we can prepare for, we pay less attention to the equally daunting—and more common—challenge of spontaneous communication, which can have an even bigger impact on career success.
- Anyone can become good at spontaneous speaking. You just need to learn specific skills, tactics, and behaviors.
- The real problem we face when speaking spontaneously isn’t an inherent inability to communicate. It’s being so nervous that we strive for perfection or use default responses, talk too much without listening or observing, and fail to create structure around what we’re saying. As you learn to think faster and talk smarter, your authentic personality can fully emerge. The result will be a more enjoyable, enriching, and memorable experience—for you as well as for your audience.
(Copyright lies with the publisher)
Topics: Personal Development, Communication