Impromptu Speaking: How to sound smart and confident

Impromptu Speaking: How to sound smart and confident

Have you ever wondered how to give strong, confident answers in interviews, classes and meetings?

Speaking without preparation is called impromptu speaking. We do it in conversations, meetings and interviews. Sometimes it’s easy and relaxing but if you don’t know what to say, impromptu speaking can be scary, and an opportunity to truly embarrass yourself.

But don’t panic! There are strategies to help you create confident, skillful answers. These four steps are easy and adapt well to most situations:

1. Repeat the prompt or question.

Repeating the prompt or question allows you to confirm that you understood it properly.

I once gave a heartstoppingly beautiful answer to an interview question. It was amazing, possibly the best answer ever given in the history of answers. Unfortunately, when I finished the interviewer looked at me stonefaced and said “That’s not what I asked. What I asked was…”

I was embarrassed and lost confidence. The rest of the interview is a blur. A brief blur.

Another reason to repeat the prompt or question is that it gives you time to create an answer.

Our brains work incredibly quickly, so even an extra 10 to 20 seconds can make a huge difference in the quality of your answer. It’s enough time to decide what to say and how to say it; enough time to create an appropriate, confident answer.

2. Comment on the prompt or question.

Say something about the prompt or question. You can also complement the question (but don’t complement every question or you’ll sound insincere).

For example: “What’s my opinion? That’s a great question, thanks for asking. I think it’s important to get lots of input on this project, so I appreciate that you’re asking everyone.”

Commenting on the prompt or question buys you another 10 to 20 seconds of time to craft your answer.

3. Give the answer you want to give.

Unless you’re in court, you don’t have to answer every question. If you don’t want to answer a question, you may be able to say so directly (“I’m not comfortable talking about that”).

Or you can steer to the answer you want to give. (“What’s my opinion? That’s a great question, thanks for asking. I think it’s important to get lots of input on this project, so I appreciate that you’re asking everyone. However, my opinion isn’t important here; I recommend that we talk to the engineers, because…”)

4. Wrap it up with a bow.

There are three easy ways to conclude your answer.

  1. Say “In conclusion…” then say your last sentence.
  2. Repeat the prompt or question.
  3. Ask if you answered the question (“Does that answer your question?”; “Is that the information you’re looking for?”; “Does that help?”)

You can use the three conclusions individually, or put them all together, like this: “What’s my opinion? That’s a great question, thanks for asking. I think it’s important to get lots of input on this project, so I appreciate that you’re asking everyone. However, my opinion isn’t important here; I recommend that we talk to the engineers, because… …And so, in conclusion, my opinion is that we should talk to the engineers first. Does that answer your question?”

In conclusion, to sound confident and polished in interviews, classes and meetings: Repeat the prompt or question, comment on it, give the answer you want to give, and wrap it up with a bow by repeating the prompt or question. Does that help?

 

Lucinda

Lucinda Atwood is a master teacher and coach with over twenty years of experience. She works with emerging and established leaders to develop their strengths, skills and the confidence to lead in alignment with their values. Through inspiration, coaching and practical exercises, Lucinda teaches her clients how to contribute fully and effectively while living their best lives.
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