A few weeks ago, I was invited to participate on a “Meet the Expert” podcast. Even though I had been given a list of potential questions that would be asked, the interviewer requested that I not write out my answers, as she wanted the interview to sound natural and not scripted. Often in the case of a live interview, there were questions I was asked that were not on the list!
How do you successfully deal with a situation where you have to speak and have had little or no advanced preparation? Here are some strategies to help you sound prepared and polished:
1. Pause and breathe. Give yourself a few seconds before you speak. It shows that you are carefully considering the question.
2. Organize your thoughts before speaking. Is there a pattern that you immediately recognize that would best suit the answer to the question? Could the question be answered in a chronological manner? A problem-solution or cause-effect, or pros-con arrangement? Be ready to enlist an organizational pattern before speaking.
3. Rephrase the question. This buys you a little more time. It also helps to clarify the question you have just been asked to answer.
4. Be attentive and write down a few key words that you might include in your presentation.
5. Have an all-purpose phrase or quote in your back pocket. It might be a tagline, a song lyric, a quote from a famous person or favorite book that can fit any occasion. Memorize an all-purpose quote to use in your response to an “off the cuff” question. It will buy you a little extra time and make you look smart!
Think of “off the cuff” speaking as a one-point presentation. In many instances, speaking briefly, yet concisely on one point may have more impact than a lengthier speech.
What strategies have you used to successfully speak “off the cuff”?