Being a Toastmaster, you have the chance to meet really cool people in different fields. But also, some of them, are trainers or speakers who are doing this professionaly and share their knowledge inside the club, but also make a living outside of it.
Recently I had the chance to take a tiny wokshop with Pascal Heymann, fellow Toastmaster, and one of the Founders of SpeechMentors, a company who helps people to become good speakers or prepare for a very specific event.
Most of us -if not all of us- have experienced some random question or situation where we did not know what to say, therefore our mouth was quicker than our brain, and we made the worst:
- job interview
- media appearance
- first impression
Pascal gave us simple ideas and then invited us to keep on training them, because the more we practice, the more we can become better at impromptu speaking.
Your first words
After being challenged with a question you do not expect, you have several options to be cool, answer and also keep your image intact.
This will help you to get some extra time and also be sure that what you say, is not a complete mess.
- Repeat the question
- Stay quiet for a few seconds
- Say 2 tiny sentences about the subject
- Answer yes, no or I don’t know
Easier writen than said, right? Well, let us see a bit more.
If you repeat the question, you confirm that you have understood what is happening. You actually are able to do something in case you got it wrong. So it’s good to confirm and think about it a little more.
Silence is really powerful, yet we are always afraid of it. We should not. It is ok to think quietly before giving any response.
Speaking for a short time is better that giving a whole lecture about something, therefore, if you have the answer, then be consise and only say a couple of things about it.
If its a yes or no question, you can express the opinion. If you don’t have one because you do not have information, it is better to say I don’t know, that doing what some Misses have done in beauty contests:
You won some time using the four options mentioned above; now it is time to talk a bit more. Also try to structure the answer, that way the speech will be clear and everyone can follow.
Break your speech in diferent parts, you can use these ideas:
- Rule of three (3 reasons, 3 stories; past, present or furure)
- Use time (compare past versus present, or present and how future will be)
- Opinions (some say this, others say that)
As you see, you can use things that are already on your cultural, anecdotal or professional knowledge.
Message and CTA
After expressing these ideas, your message should come. Why is it important? What is the point of saying all you have said before? Say it in a message, and try to make it clear, do not rumble anymore or give a million sentences.
After that, invite the audience to do what you want. The Call to Action is the best way to finish the answer, because you will be able to leave a good impresion and people would feel the need to do something after your speech.
Communicating properly is a must
In every business interaction or personal encounter, we should find ways to make our interlocutor enjoy, understand and be interested in what we have to say.
There are different ways to learn these soft skills, but when you have the right mentors, it becomes fun, easier and with the right feedback, you see the development.
If you want to know more about SpeechMentors, visit Pascal’s and Claude’s website and subscribe to the newsletter to be invited to their next event.
Also feel free to visit us at Center Berlin, our Toastmaster Club, where you can get a good feel of what it means to be in front of an audience (using these techniques in our impromptu speaking section).
Pascal also shared this example with us, hope you enjoy it too:
Do you like Pascal’s advice for answering inadverted questions?
What other tips can you give for improvising a speech?
Thank you for your incise article. It summarises much of what we teach in our extended workshops.
I am happy that you (and others in the audience) could take away some of the techniques often used by speakers, trainers, politicians, teachers, and pretty much any one called upon to respond spontaneously to questions.
Two of the most important aspects to answering any question are:
A) being fully present
B) truly listening
Keep the articles coming!
Claude, thanks for elaborating-completing the article with these 2 “extra” features to make an outstanding performance (even when we don’t have a lot of time to prepare the speech). My pleasure to write about you and learning from you both.