“How can I learn to think on my feet?”
That’s one of the most frequently asked questions I get about public speaking.
It’s usually followed by, “I’m OK if I have time to prepare a presentation, but my mind just goes blank if I’m called on with little notice.”
When I hear that, my first response is usually a question back to the questioner. “Could you have anticipated being called on? Was this an issue or project where your knowledge would been useful or interesting for the people you were meeting with? If so, thinking ahead and preparing for the possibility that you might be called on, would have prevented being surprised.”
But even if you try to anticipate situations, you are bound to miss some. In those cases, there is a solution.
Here’s a 4-step formula to help you think on your feet (or sitting on your seat) when you’ve been asked unexpectedly to speak. It provides instant organization and allows you to look and feel confident.
Think of 3 questions you are frequently asked about the topic. (Or think of 3 issues you can talk about and turn them into questions.)
Open with, “Here are the 3 questions I’m being asked about [topic].
Ask yourself the first question and then answer it. Repeat for questions 2 and 3.
Conclude with a call for action (“What I need from you is…”); a summary of your objective (“The bottom line of all of this is …”); or a forward-looking statement (“So here is what we will be focusing on in the next [quarter]“).
There you have it. A way to organize your thoughts. Quick. Easy. Powerful.
And it lets you succeed where most speakers fail–when thinking on your feet.