Stanford GSB Offers Three Tips To Make You A Better Impromptu Speaker

Stanford public speaking

When it comes to off-the-cuff speaking situations like “being called upon to introduce someone to others, having your boss ask you for feedback on a new idea, or handling questions at the end of a meeting,” dread can overcome even the most seasoned pro.

The Stanford Graduate School of Business recently looked at three communication fundamentals every MBA needs to “think faster, talk smarter, and become a more compelling, confident, and connected spontaneous speaker.”

Step 1: Get out of Your Own Way

“Before speaking, you likely judge what you intend to say and weigh it against your internal criteria. Simply put: Setting greatness as your goal gets in the way of you ever getting there. Quiet your busy mind and really listen to what is needed in the moment. Focus on what people are saying and how they are saying it. In so doing, you get out of your own way and can respond authentically.”

Step 2: See the Opportunities Over the Challenges

“When you feel challenged, you will likely do the bare minimum to respond because you are protecting yourself. If you see the interaction as an opportunity where you have a chance to explain and expand, you are going to interact in a more connected, collaborative way with your audience. Rather than a challenge or threat, see the spontaneous speaking situation as an opportunity to clarify, to understand; for dialogue and engagement.”

Step 3: Leverage Structure

Spontaneous speaking situations force us to simultaneously figure out what to say and how to say it. When you develop comfort with these two reliable structures, you will be able to think on your feet with more aplomb:

Problem-Solution-Benefit: Address the issue or the problem, then talk about a way of solving it, and finally, speak to the benefits of following through on your plan.

What? So what? Now what? Talk about what “it” is (e.g., your feedback or your answer), then discuss why it is important to the recipient(s), and finally, explain what the next steps are (i.e., how the recipient can apply the feedback or answer).

You can read more about Stanford GSB’s suggested speaking techniques here.


About the Author

Jonathan Pfeffer

Jonathan Pfeffer joined the Clear Admit and MetroMBA teams in 2015 after spending several years as an arts/culture writer, editor, and radio producer. In addition to his role as contributing writer at MetroMBA and contributing editor at Clear Admit, he is co-founder and lead producer of the Clear Admit MBA Admissions Podcast. He holds a BA in Film/Video, Ethnomusicology, and Media Studies from Oberlin College.

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