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Crafting an impromptu response


Published: Jul 19, 2013

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Okay, so you're in an important meeting with your company's regional manager and five other district managers. Your boss catches you off guard by asking your opinion of a recently implemented procedure. You have a definite opinion, but you want to give a clear, concise answer minus the rambling that you often hear when people are put on the spot. How do you think clearly and answer the question while supporting your position with no time to prepare?

You may be a little nervous; of course you want to make a good impression. When we get nervous, we tend to hold our breath, which not only prevents us from thinking clearly, but causes our voice to sound strained and absent of confidence.

So, the first thing you need to do is breathe deeply. It will help you to relax, get the blood flowing to your brain and give support to your voice.

Don’t feel the need to blurt out the answer. Sometimes in an effort to seem as if we know what we are talking about, we tend to want to answer quickly. However, a slight pause to gather your thoughts comes across as controlled and insightful.

Shift your thoughts away from, “Is he trying to test me?” to “The reason he asked me is because he knows I have something of value to offer.” This will help you to feel more confident as you answer.

Now, before you answer, break the question into three components – past, present and future. Start by making a statement about what things were like before. For example:

Past: "Before the new procedure we had no way of tracking......."

Present: "Now we have a definitive way to track and this has been very helpful with....."

Future: "I am sure once everyone has gotten acclimated to the new procedure we will benefit greatly from..........."

Or you can state the situation; discuss the causes and the eventual consequences, like this: "Though valuable, the procedure is not as effective as it needs to be. We will continue to lose profits until we find a way to address..."

Another method that is even easier and could work for just about any situation including beauty pageants is (S.S.S.): State your position, support with an example and state your position again to conclude.

Say what you need to say and nothing more. End with a statement that has impact. Sum up your response with a summary sentence. It could be the same as your first sentence or slightly enhanced, for example, "The new procedure has effectively corrected a system flaw."

Then stop talking. Don’t start rambling, be as succinct as possible. Lastly, don't kill the impact by ending with words like "I think”, “I guess” or “maybe”. Finish strong!

 • Kim Welcome is CEO of Influential Voice, a communication trainer and coach; she assists businesses and individuals to achieve their goals through helping them to develop deliberate, skillful, polished communication skills. For more information, visit www.influentialvoice.com.




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