How to think faster on your feet,
One of the biggest challenges of being a motivational speaker is when the program is established to allow questions from the audience at the end of your presentation.
Up to that point, you are basically in control of your situation. You have been able to craft your message carefully and deliver it professionally.
Then, suddenly, you are thrust into unchartered waters.
The skill you need to develop at that point is how to think faster on your feet.
Here are four pointers that help me through this phase and allow me now to enjoy it, rather than dread it.
First: Be prepared
Whether you have any background in the scouting program doesn’t matter. Steal their motto and prepare yourself thoroughly for question periods.
Do this by knowing all the ins and outs of your subject matter. Be aware of what might be controversial and the likely debate on both sides of your issue.
Another part of being prepared is to take the time to ask the person who hired you what kinds of questions you might get. They may not know, but in many cases, they will advise you confidentially that an opponent or a supporter is in the crowd, and they are likely to come forward with a specific question.
That gives you time to craft your response.
Second: Relax, even if you have to force yourself.
When you feel panic or stress, your body responds just as surely as your brain does. One of the obvious signs is that your voice gets higher pitched and less steady.
If the questioner is trying to unnerve you, this sends a clear signal that their tactics are working.
To counter that, force yourself to relax before you open your mouth to speak. A calm demeanor and a steady, well-modulated tone let all the rest of the audience know that you are definitely in control of the situation.
This calmness will also help your brain to think. Breathe deeply and form your answer and then present it with authority.
Sometimes I find it helps me to steady myself by clenching and unclenching my feet, abdomen or thighs. You can do this without anyone noticing, and it is much more effective than nervously clenching or unclenching your hands.
Third: Be sure to listen fully to the words and tone of the question.
Never, never just open your mouth with a knee-jerk response, so matter how innocent the question is.
Instead, listen fully to your questioner. Do not interrupt them or edit them. If they go on too long, that is the moderator’s job, not yours.
What you are listening for is to ensure that you totally understand their question. Listen to their words, the premise they may use as an introduction to their question, and the tone of their voice.
Are they puzzled, respectful, or challenging or even threatening?
Watch their body language as they speak. Are they using notes or cards because they are nervous, or are they going full-speed ahead with fire in their words?
In the split seconds before you must answer, weigh whether or not the person seeks information or if they have another agenda.
You still have to answer the question, but you can be better prepared if you see the whole picture clearly.
If they just want information, be calm and respectful and answer their question. Go the extra step and advise them of other resources that might be helpful to them. You can tell them to leave their name with the moderator and you will email them some helpful links.
If they are just trying to put you on the spot, one way to appear very well prepared and authoritative with your audience is to slowly repeat the question and say you are glad to have a chance to address it because people are interpreting the situation in one of two ways.
Then talk about your point of view, as well as the opposing point of view, and by doing that, you can pre-empt some of the rebuttal from the questioner. Otherwise, when you end your answer, the questioner is ready to launch into the opposing point of view.
In this way you shorten the encounter and control the message better.
Fourth: End your question with a question to your audience
When you have finished your answer, one way to steer the conversation back to your key message is to end your answer with a question to your audience.
Ask simply: “can anyone tell me why….?”
That way, you are using an improv theater trick to move the conversation forward and keep it from settling onto a question you don’t want to dominate your time with the audience.
Paula Morand, CSP is a leadership building, revenue boosting, strategy expanding keynote speaker, author and visionary. This dreaming big and being bold leadership expert and brand strategist brings her vibrant energy, humor and wisdom to ignite individuals, organizations and communities to lead change, growth and bold impact. 23 years, 25,000 clients, 19 countries, 11 books, former radio personality, 10x award winning entrepreneur and humorous emcee.
To check out Paula’s newest book, “Bold Courage: How Owning Your Awesome Changes Everything” go to Amazon http://ow.ly/i8yW307ix67
Speaking inquires email firstname.lastname@example.org or call toll-free 1-888-502-6317.