Have you ever wondered how to give strong, confident answers to unexpected questions?
Speaking without preparation is called impromptu speaking. We do it in conversations, meetings and interviews. If you don’t know what to say, impromptu speaking can be scary, and an opportunity to embarrass yourself.
But don’t panic! Just use the BRACE method to help you create confident, skilful answers.
Take a slow breath in through your nose, exhale through your mouth. This calms you and gives you time to think.
R. Repeat the question, then comment on it
Repeating the 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 blankly and said “That’s not what I asked.”
After repeating the question, you can comment on it. 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.”
Repeating and commenting on the question gives you time to create an answer. Our brains work quickly, so an extra 10-20 seconds can make a huge difference in the quality of your answer.
A. Answer how you want to
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”).
You can steer to the answer you want to give. (“What’s my greatest weakness?” Well I used to be impatient. Here’s what I did to improve that….”)
Or you can deflect. (“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…”)
C. Conclude clearly
There are three easy ways to conclude your answer:
- Say “In conclusion…” before your last sentence.
- Repeat the question. (“And that’s my opinion on the merger.”)
- 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: “…In conclusion, my opinion is that we should talk to the engineers first. Does that answer your question?”
E. Provide evidence, in the form of stories and examples
Support your ideas and opinions with evidence. Give examples, describe experiences, add research results.
In conclusion, to sound confident and polished:
- Repeat question and comment on it
- Answer how you want to
- Conclude clearly
- Include examples and stories
Does that help?