Think fast , talk smart communication technique to chat with strangers

I’m very excited today to talk about effective speaking in spontaneous situations. I thank you all for joining us even though the title of my talk is grammatically incorrect. I thought that might scare a few of you away but I learned teaching here at the Business School catching people’s attention is hard.

So something as simple as that I thought might draw a few of you here so this is going to be a highly interactive and participative workshop today if you don’t feel comfortable participating that’s completely fine but do know I’m gonna ask you to talk to people next to you. there’ll be opportunities to stand up and practice some things because I believe the way we become effective communicators is by actually communicating so let’s get started right away.Β  I’d like to ask you all to read this sentence and as you read this sentence what’s most important to me is that, you count the number of F’s that you find in this sentence please count the number of F’s keep it quiet to yourself give you just another couple seconds here three two one raise your hand. please if you found three and only three F’s excellent great did anybody find four? okay anybody find only five F’s and anybody finds six? there’s six f’s, what two letter word ending an F did many of us miss?

Oh we’ll make sure to get this to you. so you can torment your friends and family at a later date when I first was exposed to this over 12 years ago. I only found three and I felt really stupid, so I like to start every workshop every class. I teach with this to pass that feeling. I want no that’s not that’s not why,Β  I do this because this is a perfect analogy. for what we’re going to be talking about today the vast majority of us in this room.

Very smart people in this room were not as effective as we could have been in this activity we didn’t get it right and the same is true when it comes to speakng in public particular when spontaneous speaking it’s little things that make a big difference in being effective. So today we’re going to talk about little things in terms of your approach your attitude your practice that can change how you feel when you speak in public and we’re gonna be talking primarily about one type of public speaking not the type that you plan for in advance the type that you. actually spend time thinking about you might even create slides for, these are the keynotes the conference presentation the formal toasts that’s not what.

we’re talking about today we’re talking about spontaneous speaking, when you’re in a situation that you’re asked to speak off the cuff and in the moment what we’re going through, today is actually the result of a workshop. I created here for the business school several years ago. a survey was taken among the students and they said what’s one of the what are things we could do to help make you more successful here, and at the top of that list was this notion of responding to cold calls,Β  cold call is- it’s where the mean professor like me looks at some student says what do you think and there was a lot of panic and a lot of silence. so as a result of that this workshop was created in a vast majority of first-year students. here at the GSB go through this workshop, so I’m gonna walk you through sort of a hybrid version of what they do, the reality is that spontaneous speaking is actually more prevalent than planned speaking perhaps.

it’s giving introductions you’re at a dinner and somebody says you know so-and-so would you mind introducing them maybe it’s giving feedback in the moment. your boss turns you and says would you tell me what you think it could be a surprise toast or finally. it could be during the Q&A session and by the way we will leave plenty of time at the end of our day today, for QA I’d love to hear the questions you have about this topic or other topics related to communicating, so our agenda is simple in order to be an effective communicator regardless of.

if it’s planned or spontaneous you need to have your anxiety under control so we’ll start there second what we’re going to talk about is some ground rules for the interact. we’ll have today and then finally we’re going to get into the heart of what we will be covering again as I said, lots of activity and I invite you to participate, so let’s get started with anxiety management 85% of people tell us that they’re nervous when speaking in public and I think the other 15% are lying, we could create a situation where we could make them nervous too, in fact just this past week a study from Chapman University asked Americans, what are the things you fear most and among being caught in a surprise terrorist attack having identity? your identity stolen was public speaking among the top five was speaking in front of others this is a ubiquitous fear and one that I believe we can learn to manage and I use that word managed very carefully, because I don’t think we ever want to overcome it anxiety actually helps us, it gives us energy, helps us focus, tells us what we’re doing is important but we want to learn to manage it.

so I’d like to introduce you to a few techniques that can work and all of these techniques are based on academic research but before we get there, I’d love to ask you what does it feel like when you’re sitting in the audience watching a nervous speaker present. how do you feel just shout out a few things how do you feel uncomfortable? I heard many of you going yes uncomfortable, it feels very awkward doesn’t it, so what do we do now a couple of you probably like watching somebody suffer. okay, but most of us don’t so what do we do, we sit there and we nod and we smile or we disengage into the nervous speaker looking out at his or her audience seeing a bunch of people nodding or disengaged that does not help. okay, so we need to learn to manage our anxiety because fundamentally your job as a communicator rather regardless of if it’s planned or spontaneous is to make your audience comfortable because, if they’re comfortable, they can receive your message and when I say comfortable, I am NOT referring to the fact that that your message has to be sugar-coated and nice and for them to hear, it can be a harsh message but they have to be in a place where they can receive it so it’s incumbent on you as a communicator to help your audience feel comfortable and we do by managing our anxiety.

so let me introduce you to a few techniques that I think you can use right away to help you feel more comfortable.

the first has to do with when you begin to feel those anxiety symptoms for most people, this happens then the initial minutes prior to speaking in this situation, what happens as many of us begin to feel, whatever it is that happens to you maybe your stomach gets a little gurgly, maybe your legs begin to shake, maybe you begin to perspire and then we start to say to ourselves, oh my goodness! I’m nervous, they’re gonna tell, I’m nervous this is not going to go well and we start spiraling out of control, so research ion mindful attention tells us that, if when we begin to feel those anxiety symptoms, we simply greet our anxiety and say hey this is me feeling nervous, I’m about to do something of consequence in simply by greeting your anxiety and acknowledging. it that it’s normal and natural heck 85% of people tell us they have it, you actually can stem the tide of that anxiety spiraling out of control it’s not necessarily going to reduce the anxiety but it will stop it from spinning up so the next time you begin to feel those exhibit anxiety signs take a deep breath and say, this is me feeling anxious. I notice a few of you taking some notes there’s a handout that will come at the end that has everything. that I’m supposed to say, okay can’t guarantee, I’m gonna say it but I you’ll have it. there in addition to this approach a technique that works very well and this is a technique that I help do some research on way back.

when I was in graduate school has to do with reframing, how you see the speaking situation most of us when we are up presenting planned or spontaneous, we feel that we have to do it right and we feel like we are performing how many of you have ever acted done singing or dancing. I’m not gonna ask for performances no. okay many of you have, we should note that we could do next year maybe a talent show of alums, it looks like we got the talent. so when you perform you know that there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it, if you don’t hit your the right note or your right line at the right time at the right place you’ve made a mistake it messes up the audience it messes up the people on stage but when you present there is no right way, there certainly better in worse ways but there is no one right way, so we need to look at presenting as something other than performance and what I’d like to suggest is what we need to see this as is a conversation right now. I’m having a conversation with a hundred plus people rather than saying, I’m performing for you but it’s not enough just to say, this is a conversation I want to give you some concrete things, you can do first start with questions. questions by their very nature are dialogic they’re two-way, what was one of the very first things, I did here for you, I had you count the number of F’s and raise your hands. asked you a question that gets your audience involved it makes it feel to me as the presenter as if we are in conversation. so use questions they can be rhetorical, they can be polling, perhaps I actually want to hear information from you. in fact I use questions when I create an outline for my presentations rather than writing bullet points, I list questions that I’m going to answer and that puts me in that conversational mode, if you were to look at my notes for today’s talk, you’ll see it’s just a series of questions right now. I’m answering the question how do we manage our anxiety beyond questions. another very useful technique for making us conversational is to use conversational language, many nervous speakers distance themselves physically, if you’ve ever seen a nervous speaker present he or she will say something like this, welcome I am really excited to be here with you. they pull as far away from you as possible because you threaten us speakers you make us nervous.

so we want to get away from you we do the same thing linguistically, we use language that distances ourselves. it’s not unusual to hear a nervous speaker say something like one must consider the ramifications or today we’re going to cover step 1, step 2, step 3. that’s very distancing language to be more conversational use conversational language instead of one must consider say, this is important to you we all need to be concerned with do you hear. that inclusive conversational language has to do with the pronouns instead of step 1, step 2, step 3. first what we need to do is this the second thing you should consider is, here use conversational language. so being conversational can also help you manage your anxiety the third technique. I’d like to share is research that I actually started when I was an undergraduate. here I was very fortunate to study with Phil Zimbardo of the Stanford Prison Experiment Fame many. people don’t know that Zim actually was instrumental in starting one of the very first shyness Institute’s in the world and especially in the country and I did some research with him that looked at how your orientation to time influences ?how you react and what we learned? if you can bring yourself into the present moment rather than being worried about the future consequences, you can actually be less nervous most of us when we present are worried about the future consequences my students are worried they’re not going to get the right grade. some of you are worried you might not get the funding, you might not get the support, you might not get the laughs that you want. all of those are future states.

so if we can bring ourselves into the present moment we’re not going to be as concerned about those future states and therefore

it’ll be less nervous there are lots of ways to become present oriented. I know a professional speaker he’s paid $10,000 an hour to speak. it’s a good gig he gets very nervous he’s up in front of crowds of thousands. behind the stage what he does is a hundred push-ups, right before he comes out. you can’t be that physically active and not be in the present moment. now I’m not recommending all of us go to that level of exertion because, he starts out of breath and sweaty right but a walk around the building before you speak that can do it there are other ways, if you’ve ever watched athletes perform and get ready to do their event they listen to music they focus on a song or a playlist, that helps get them in the moment. you can do things as simple as counting backwards from a hundred by tough numbers. like seventeen, I’m gonna pause because people in the room are trying yeah gets hard after that third or fourth one. I know my favorite way to get present-oriented is to say tongue twisters saying a tongue twister forces you to be in the moment, otherwise you’ll say it wrong and it has the added benefit of warming up your voice. most nervous speakers don’t warm up their voice they retreat inside themselves and start saying all these bad things to themselves.

so saying a tongue twister can help you be both present-oriented and warm up your voice remember. I said today we’re gonna have a lot of participation, I’m gonna ask you to repeat after me my favorite tongue twister and I like this tongue twister because if you say it wrong. you say a naughty word and I’m gonna be listening to see, if I hear any naughty words this morning, okay repeat after me it’s only three phrases, I slit a sheet a sheet, slit and on that slitted sheet. now in that moment in that moment you weren’t worried about I’m in front of all these people this is weird this guy’s having me do that you were so focused on saying it right and trying to figure out what the naughty word was that you were in the present moment that’s how easy it is so it’s very possible for us to manage our anxiety we can do it initially by greeting the anxiety when we begin to feel those signs we can do it when we reframe the situation as a conversation and we do it when we become present-oriented those are three of many tools that exist to help you manage your anxiety if you have questions about other ways I’m happy to chat with you and at the end I’m going to point you to some resources that you can refer to to help you find additional sources for you so let’s get started on the core part of what we’re doing today which is how to feel more comfortable speaking in spontaneous situations some very simple ground rules for you first I’m going to identify four steps that I believe are critical to becoming effective its speaking in a spontaneous situation with each of those steps I’m going to ask you to participate in an activity none of them are more painful than saying the tongue twister out loud they may require you to stand up they might require you to talk to the person next to you but none of them are painful and then finally I’m going to conclude with a phrase or saying that comes from the wonderful world of improvisation through the continuing Studies program here at Stanford for the past five years I have Co taught a class with Adam Tobin he is a lecturer in the creative arts department he teaches film and new media and he’s an expert at improv and we’ve partnered together to help people learn how to speak more spontaneously we call it improvisational e speaking and adam has taught me wonderful phrases and ideas from improv that I want to impart to you they’re really stick that’s why I’m sharing them with you to help you remember these techniques and again at the end of all this you’ll get a handout that has this listing so let’s get started the very first thing that gets in people’s way when it comes to spontaneous speaking is themselves we get in our own way we want to be perfect we want to give the right answer we want our toasts to be incredibly memorable these things are burdened by our effort by our trying the best thing we can do the first step in our process is to get ourselves out of the way easier said than done most of us in this room are in this room because we are type-a personalities we work hard we think fast we make sure that we get things right but that can actually serve as a disservice as we try to speak in the moment I’d like to demonstrate a little of this for you and I need your help to do that so we’re going to do our first activity we are going to do an activity that’s called shout the wrong name in a moment if you are able and willing I’m going to ask you to stand and I’m going to ask you for about 30 seconds to look all around you in this environment and you are going to point at different things and I know it’s rude to point but for this exercise please point I want you to point to things and you are going to call the things you are pointing to out anything but what they really are so I might point to this and say refrigerator I might be point to this and say cat I am pointing to anything in your environment around you can be the person sitting next to you standing next to you you will just shout and shouting is important the wrong name so in a moment I’m gonna ask you to stand and do that please raise your hand if you already have the first five or six things you’re going to call out yeah that’s what I’m talking about we stock pile you all are excellent game players I told you the game shout the wrong name and you have already begun figuring out how you’re going to master the game that’s your brain trying to help you get it right I’d like to suggest the only way you can get this activity wrong is by doing what you’ve just done there is no way to get this wrong okay even if I call this a chair no penalty will be bestowed upon you okay because I won’t know what you are pointing at you could have been pointing at the floor under the chair and you called the floor the chair and you were fine the point is we are planning and working to get it right and there is no way to get it right just doing it gets it right okay so let’s try this now we’re gonna play this game twice again it’s for thirty seconds if you are willing and able will you please stand up you can do this seated by the way but if you’re willing and able let’s stand up okay in a moment I am about to say go and I would like for you to point at anything around here including me it’s okay to point at me I hope it’s not a bad thing you say when you point at me but point at different things and loudly and proudly call them different than what they are ready begin porcupine California saltshaker car library tennis racket purple orange putrid hello time time lets you can stay standing cuz in the mere moments we’re going to do it again so if you’re comfortable standing we’re about to do it again first thank you that was wonderful I heard great words being called out it was it was fun and some of you in the back we’re doing it in sync so it looked like you were doing some 70s disco dance it was awesome okay this this was great now let me ask you just a few questions did you notice anything about the words that you were saying did we find patterns perhaps maybe some of you are going through fruits and vegetables a few of you were going through things that started with the letter A right that’s your brain saying okay you told me not to stockpile so I’m gonna try to be a little more devious and I’m gonna give you patterns okay same problem when we teach that class I told you about that improvisational speaking class we’d like to say your brain is there to help you these things it’s doing have helped you be successful but like a windshield wiper we just want to wipe those suggestions away and see what happens okay so we’re going to do this activity again this time try the best you can to thank your brain if it provides you with patterns or stockpiles and just say thank you brain and disregard them okay so let’s see what happens when we’re not stockpiling and we’re not playing off patterns will do this for only 15 seconds see how this feels baby steps ready begin Kodak bicycle chain skateboard bananas purple [Applause] putrid time please have a seat thank you again did you notice a difference between the second time in the first time yes was it a little easier that second time no that’s okay we’re just starting these skills are not like a light switch it’s not like you learn these skills skills and then all of a sudden you can execute on them this is a wonderful game this is a wonderful game to train your brain to get out of its own way you can play this game anywhere anytime I like to play this game when I’m sitting in traffic makes me feel better than I shout things out they’re not the naughty things that I want to be shouting out but I shout out things and it helps you’re training yourself to get out of your own way you’re working against the muscle memory that you’ve developed over the course of your life with a brain that acts very fast to help you solve problems but in essence in spontaneous speaking situations you put too much pressure on yourself trying to figure out how to get it right so a game like this teaches us to get out of our own way it teaches us to see the things that we do that prevent us from acting spontaneously in essence we are reacting rather than responding to react means to act again you’ve thought it and now you’re acting on it that takes too long and it’s too thoughtful we want to respond in a way that’s genuine and authentic so the maxim I would like for you to take from this and again these Maxim’s come from improvisation is one of my favorite dare to be dull in a room like this telling you dare to be dull is offensive and I apologize but this will help rather than street striving for greatness dare to be dull and if you dare to be dull and allow yourself that you will reach that greatness it’s when us set greatness as your target that it gets in the way of you ever getting there because you over evaluate you over analyze you freeze up so the first step in our process today is to get out of our own way dare to be dull easier said than done but once you practice in a game just as simple as the one we practiced is a great way to do it but that’s not enough getting out of our own way is important but the second step of our process has us change how we see the situation we find ourselves in we need to see the speaking opportunity that we are a part of as an opportunity rather than a challenge and a threat when I coach executives on QA skills when they go in front of the media or whatever investors they see it as an adversarial experience me versus them and one of the first things I work on is changed the way you approach it a QA session for example is an opportunity for you it’s an opportunity to clarify it’s an opportunity to understand what people are thinking so if we look at it as an opportunity it feels very different we see it differently and therefore we have more freedom to respond when I feel that you are challenging me I am going to do the bare minimum to respond and protect myself if I see this as an opportunity where I have a chance to explain and expand I’m going to interact differently with you so spontaneous speaking situations are ones that afford you opportunities so when you’re at a corporate dinner and your boss turns to you and says oh you know him better than the rest would you mind introducing him you say great thank you for the opportunity rather than right I better get this right so see things as an opportunity I have a game to play to help us with this this is a fun one the holidays are approaching we all in this room are going to give and receive gifts here’s how this game will work it works best if you have a partner so I’m hoping you can work with somebody sitting next to you if there’s nobody sitting next to you you turn around introduce yourself great way to connect if not you can play this game by yourself it’s just a little harder and you can’t do the second part of the game so after I explain the game give this gives you a chance to get to know somebody here’s how it works if you have a partner you and your partner are going to exchange imaginary gifts okay pretend you have a gift can be a big gift can be a small gift and you will give your gift to your partner your partner will take the gift and open it up and will tell you what you gave them because you have no you just gave them a gift so you are going to open up the box and you’re going to look inside and you are going to say the first thing that comes to your mind in the moment not the thing you have all just thought of or the thing after that remember what we talked about before that still plays that’s still in play okay you’re stockpiling look in there my favorite that I said somebody gave me this a gift during playing this game I looked inside and I saw a frog leg I don’t know why I saw a frog leg but that’s what I said that’s the first part of the activity now the opportunity is to fold in this game the opportunity is for you the gift receiver to name a gift that’s kind of fun that’s an opportunity it’s not a threat but the real opportunity is for the gift giver because the gift giver then has to say so you look and you say thank you for giving me a frog’s leg and the person will will look at you to say I knew you wanted a frog’s leg because so whatever you find the person who has received it is going to say absolutely I’m so glad you’re happy I got it for you because so you have to respond to whatever they say right what a great opportunity now some of you are sitting you go oh that’s hard I don’t do it myself others of you or if you’re following this advice are saying what a great opportunity right so the game again is played like this you and your partner will exchange each will exchange a gift one will start then the other will follow the first person will give a gift to the second person second person opens the box however big the box is and if the box is big and you find a penny in it perfect doesn’t matter the box is heavy and you find a feather in it fine it doesn’t there’s no way to get it wrong okay whatever’s in the box is in the Box you can return it and get what you wanted later okay the person then you will name it you’ll say thank you for the whatever you saw in the box the person who gave it to you will say I’m so glad you’re excited I got it for you because and you will give a reason that you got them whatever they decided you gave them make sense all right so very quickly just in five seconds find a partner if you’re willing to do this with a partner everybody have a partner okay all right in your partnerships in your partnerships pick an a person in a B person you may stand or sit it’s totally up to you pick an A and pick a B okay B goes first hahaha all right B give a a gift B give a a gift a thank them and then B will name and give the reason they gave it to them .

if you have not switched switched please if you have not switched switched please let’s wrap it up in 30 seconds please let’s wrap it up all right if we can all have our seats if we can all take our seats please I know I’m telling a room of many MBA alums to stop talking and that’s hard all right ladies and gentlemen did you get what you wanted pretty neat huh you always get what you want now for some of you this was really hard because you you were really taking the challenge and not seeing what was in the box until you looked in there okay was anybody surprised by what you found in the box what did you find sir what was in the box but Wow nice nice if you’ve got a Ferrari you need a transmission I like it who else found something that was surprising what did you find a live unicorn that’s a great gift right how was it as the gift giver were you surprised at what your partner found in the box isn’t it interesting that when we give an imaginary gift knowing that the person is gonna name it we already have in mind what they’re gonna find and when they say live unicorn we go well that’s interesting right so the point of this game is to one remind ourselves we have to get out of our own way like we talked about before but to see this as an opportunity and to have fun I love watching people play this game the number of smiles that I saw amongst you and I have to admit when I first started some of you looked a little dour a little doubting okay but in that last game you were all smiling and looked like you were having fun so when you reframe the spontaneous speaking opportunity as as an opportunity as something that you can co-create and share all the sudden you are less nervous less defensive and you can accomplish something pretty darn good in this case a fun outcome this reminds us of perhaps the most famous of all proposition sayings yes and a lot of us live our communication live saying no but yes and opens up a tremendous amount of opportunities and this doesn’t mean you have to say yes and to a question somebody asks this just means the approach you take to the situation so you’re going to ask me questions that’s an opportunity yes and I will follow through versus no and being defensive so we’ve accomplished the first two steps of our process first we get out of our own way and SEP can we reframe the situation as an opportunity the next phase is also hard but very rewarding and that is to slow down and listen you need to understand the demands of the requirement you find yourself in in order to respond appropriately but often we jump ahead we listen just enough to think we got it and then we go ahead starting on our to think about what we’re gonna respond and then we respond we really need to listen because fundamentally as a communicator your job is to be in service of your audience and if you don’t understand what your audience is asking or needs you can’t fulfill that obligation so we need to slow down and listen I have a fun game to play in this game you are going to SP ll e ve ry th ing y OU u sa y t o y ou you are PA r TN ER I will translate you are going to get with the same partner you just worked with and you are going to have a very brief conversation about something fun that you plan to do today I know this is the most fun you’re going to have all day but the next fun thing you’re going to do today you are going to tell your partner what you are going to do that will be fun today but you are going to do so by SPE ll ing IT ok so you’re going to spell it it’s okay if you are not a good speller okay the eye you’ll see the benefit of doing this so with the partner you just worked with person a is going to go first this time you are simply going to tell your partner actually you’re going to spell to your partner what it is of fun something of fun that you’re going to do today okay do what you were really going to do for fun and not do things like f EE D th e CA T right just because you don’t want to spell right so you can use big words all right 30 seconds each spelled to your partner something fun that you’re going to do today would you like to play yep exc EE L le NT IH ope tha t th ey WI n thank you that was very good thank you if you have not switched switch takes 30 more seconds with the new partner spelling grea t exclamation point tha NK y ou u PL EA se ta ke y OU u r SE a t so what did we learn what did we learn besides that we’re not so good at spelling you have to pause between the words how did this change your interaction with the person you were interacting with what did you have to do focus and listen and you can’t be thinking ahead you have to be in the moment when you listen and truly understand what the person is trying to say then you can respond in a better way a more targeted response we often don’t listen so we start by getting out of our own way we then reframe the situation as an opportunity those are things we do inside our head but in the moment of interacting we have to listen first before we can respond to the spontaneous request perhaps my most favorite maxim comes from this activity don’t just do something stand there listen listen and then respond now how do we respond that brings us to the fourth part of our process and that is we have to tell a story we respond in a way that has a structure all stories have structure we have to respond in a structured way the key to successful spontaneous speaking and by the way plan speaking is having a structure I would like to introduce you to two of the most prevalent and popular and useful structures you can use to communicate a message in a spontaneous situation but before we get there we have to talk about the value of structure it increases what is called processing fluency the effectiveness of which or through which we information we actually process structured information roughly 40% more effectively and efficiently than information that’s not structured I love looking out in this audience because you will remember as I remember phone numbers when you had to remember them if you wanted to call somebody okay young folks today don’t need to remember phone numbers they just need to look at a picture push a button and then the voice starts talking on the other end ten digit phone numbers it’s actually hard to remember ten digit phone numbers how did you do it you chunked it into a structure three three and four structure helps us remember the same is true when speaking spontaneously or in a planned situation so let me introduce you to two useful structures the first useful structure you have probably heard or used in some incarnation it is the problem solution benefit structure you start by talking about what the issue is the problem you then talk about a way of solving it and then you talk about the benefits of following through on it very persuasive very effective helps you as the speaker remember it helps your audience know where you’re going with it when I was a tour guide on this campus many many many years ago what do you think the single most important thing they drilled into our heads it took a full quarter by the way to train to be a tour guide here they used to line us up at one end of the quad and have us walk backwards straight and if you failed you had to start over to this day I can walk backwards in a straight line because of that as part of that training what do you think the most important thing they taught us was never lose your tour group I’m not sure never that’s never lose your tour River the same is true as a presenter never lose your audience the way you keep your audience on track is by providing structure none of you would go on a tour with me if I said hi my name is Matt let’s go you want to know where you’re going why you’re going there how long it’s going to take you need to set expectations and structure does that problem solution benefit is a wonderful structure to have in your back pocket it’s something that you can use quickly when you’re in the moment it can be reframed so it’s not always a problem you’re talking about maybe it’s an OP opportunity maybe there’s a market opportunity you want to go out and capture it’s not a problem that we’re not doing it but maybe we’d be better off if we did so it becomes opportunity solution which are the steps to achieve it and then the benefit another structure which works equally equally well is the what so what now what structure you start by talking about what it is then you talk about why it’s important and then what the next steps are this is a wonderful formula for answering questions for introducing people so if I’m in the moment somebody asked me to introduce somebody I changed the what to who I say who they are why they’re important and what we’re gonna do next maybe listen to them maybe drink our wine whatever right what so what now it the reality is this when you are in a spontaneous speaking situation you have to do two things simultaneously you have to figure out what to say and how to say it these structures help you by telling you how to say it if you can become comfortable with these structures you can be in a situation where you can respond very Abele to spontaneous speaking situations we’re gonna practice because that’s what we do here’s the situation is everybody familiar with this child’s toy it’s a slinky okay you are going to sell this slinky to your partner using either a problem-solution benefit or opportunity solution benefit what does this slinky provide you or you could use what so what now what what is it why is it important and the next steps might be to buy it okay so by using that structure see how already it helps you it helps you focus get with your partner and we’re only going to have one partner sell to the other partner okay so get with your partner one of you will volunteer to sell to the other okay sell a slinky using problem solution benefit or what so what now what please begin the Mikey so when I debrief this you can go ahead and pass him out does that make sense no no after this activity thirty more seconds please excellent let’s all close the deal seal the deal I have never seen more people in one place doing this at the same time I love it I teach people to gesture in gesture big it’s great I love it so if you were the recipient of the the sales pitch thumbs up did they do a good job did they use the structure awesome I’m recruiting you all for my next business as my salespeople please try to ignore this but as we’re speaking the handout I told you about is coming around on the back of that handout you are going to see a list of structures the two we talked about and several others that can help you in spontaneous speaking situations these structures help because they help you understand how you’re going to say what you say structure sets you free and I know that’s kind of ironic but it’s true if you have that structure then you’re free to think about what it is you’re going to say it reduces the cognitive load of figuring out what you’re saying and how you’re going to say it all of this is on that handout okay so what does this all mean it means that we have within our ability the tools and the approaches to help us in spontaneous speaking situations the very first thing we have to do is manage our anxiety because you can’t be an effective speaker if you don’t have your anxiety under control and we talked about how you can do that by greeting your anxiety reframing as a conversation and being in the present moment once you do that you need to practice a series of four steps that will help you speak spontaneously first you get out of your own way I would love it if all of you on your way from here to the football game point at things and call them the wrong name it’ll be fun if most of us do it then it won’t be weird if only one and two of us do it’ll be weird right second give gifts by that I mean see your interactions as ones of opportunity not challenges third take the time to list and listen and then finally use structures and you have to practice these structures I practice these structures on my kids I have two kids when they ask me questions I usually answer them in what so what now what they don’t know it but when they go over to their friends houses and they see their friends ask their dads questions they don’t get what so what now what so you know you have to practice the more you practice the more comfortable you will become ultimately you have the opportunity before you to become more compelling more confident more connected as a speaker if you leverage these techniques if you’re interested in learning more this is where I do a little plug ok I’ve written a book many of the MBA students who take the strategic communication classes here that I and others teach read it it’s called speaking up without freaking out more importantly there’s a website here that I curate called no freaking speaking and it has lots of information that I’ve written and others have written about how to become more effective at speaking so that’s that’s the end of my plug what I’d really like to do is enter into a spontaneous speaking situation with you and I would love to entertain any questions that you have there are two people who are running around with microphones so some of us who remember the Phil Donahue show we’re gonna do a little bit of that if you have a question the microphone will come and I’m happy to answer it I think if you drawing if you talk about hostile situations hostile situations yes so when you find yourself in a challenging situation first it should not become a surprise to you it should not be a surprise before you ever speak you should think about what is the environment going to be like so it shouldn’t surprise you that there might be some challenges in the room when there are hostile situations that arise you have to acknowledge it so if somebody says that’s a ridiculous idea why did you come up with that to simply say so the idea I came up with was right acknowledge the emotion I recommend not naming the emotion okay so you sound really angry person I’m not angry I’m frustrated now we’re arguing over their mental state right emotional state so so I say something like I hear you have a lot of passion on this issue or I hear there’s great concern from you so you acknowledge the emotion cuz otherwise it sits in the room and then reframe it respond the way that makes sense so if somebody raises their hand and says your product is ridiculously priced why do you charge so much I might say I hear great concern and what you’re really asking about is the value of our product and I would give my value proposition and then I would come back and say and because of the value we provide we believe it’s priced fairly so you answer the question about price but you’ve reframe it in a way that you feel more comfortable answering it so the way to do this is to practice all the skills we just talked about the only skill that I’m adding to this is the awareness in advance that you might be in that situation first I have to truly listen to what I’m hearing right it’s very easy for me when I hear a challenging question to get all defensive and not hear what the person’s asking I see it as an opportunity to reframe and explain ok so again you have to practice but that’s how I think you address it are there other questions I see a question back here yes please yes first of all thank you very much great great presentation thank God for a lot of the the speaking I do I have remote audiences distributed all over the country with telecom any tips for those kinds of audiences so when you are speaking in a situation where not everybody is co-located ok in fact right at this very moment there are people watching this presentation remotely what you need to do is be mindful of it second try to include engagement techniques where the audience actually has to do something so physical participation is what we did here through the games you can ask your audience to imagine something imagine what it would be like if when we try to achieve a goal rather and say here’s the goal we’re trying to achieve say imagine what it would be like if see what that does to you it pulls you in I can take polling questions most of the technology that you’re referring to has some kind of polling feature you can open up some kind of wiki or Google Doc or some collaborative tool where people can be doing things and you can be monitoring that while you’re presenting so I might take some breaks I talk for 10-15 minutes and say ok let’s apply this and let’s go into this Google Doc I’ve created and I see what people are so it’s about variety and it’s about engagement those are the ways that you really connect to people who are remote from you okay other questions you’re pointing oh I’ve got to look for where the mic is yes but this may be a similar to the first question but I do a lot of expert witness testimony what’s your recommendation for handling cross-examination specifically so in any speaking situation that you go into that has some planned element to it I recommend identifying certain themes that you think are important or believe need to come out and then with each one of those themes have some examples and concrete evidence that you can use to support it you don’t go in with memorized terms or ways of saying it you just have ideas and themes and then you put them together as necessary so when I’m in a situation where people are interrogating me I have certain themes that I want to get across and make sure that I can do that in a way that fits the needs in the moment if it’s hostile again you the the single best tool you have to buy yourself time and to help you answer a question efficiently is paraphrasing the paraphrase is like the Swiss Army knife of communication if you remember the show MacGyver it’s your MacGyver tool right so when a question comes in the way you paraphrase it allows you the opportunity to reframe it to think about your answer and to pause and make sure you got it right so when you’re under those situations if you have the opportunity to paraphrase a so what you’re really asking about is x y&z that gives you the opportunity to employ one of these techniques now I’ve never been an expert witness because I’m not an expert on anything but those tools I believe could be helpful the microphone is back there thank you thank you so much this has been so helpful and enjoyable this morning thank you would you please show the last screen so we can get down the name of the book the children and the information absolutely thank you I think they actually you might even have an opportunity but you know it’s on the sheet to everything I said is on the back of that sheet but I’m happy to have this behind me while I well I thought other questions yes please I work with groups that from that represent many different cultural backgrounds yes so are there any caveats or is this a universal strategy so in terms of from your perspective as the speaker I believe this applies but when you whenever you communicate part of the listening aspect is also thinking about is who is my audience and what are their expectations so what are the cultural expectations of the audience that I’m presenting to so there might be certain norms and rules that are expected so when I travel and do talks I have to take into account where I’m doing the presentation so I I’m I help present in the Ignite program and if you have not heard about the Ignite program and here at the GSB it’s fantastic and I just did a presentation standing in one of these awesome classrooms that have all these cameras and I just taught 35 people in Santiago Chile okay and I needed to understand the cultural expectations of that area and what they expect and what they’re willing to do when I asked them to participate so it’s a part of that listening step where you reflect on what are the expectations of the audience I think we have time for two more questions and then I’m gonna hang around afterwards if anybody has individual questions but some of these folks really want me to keep on schedule I wanted to ask a question now one of the things that you’ve done effectively and you’re talking and I’ve seen other effective speakers do is interject humor in their talk how what are the risks and rewards of trying to do that well first thank you and I appreciate all of you laughing those are that’s not the sum total of all my jokes you’ve heard them I am not funny beyond those jokes so humor is wonderfully connecting it’s wonderfully connecting it’s a great tool for connection it is very very risky cultural reasons get in the way sometimes what you think is funny isn’t funny to other people what research tells us is that if you’re going to try to be funny self-deprecating humor is your best bet okay because it is the least risky there is nothing worse than putting out a joke and having no response it actually sets you back farther than if you would have gotten where you would have gotten if the joke would have hit so basic gentles you need to think about with humor 1 is it funny how do I know I ask other people first second what happens if it doesn’t work to have a back-up plan right and then third if you’re worried about the answers to those first two don’t do it right one last question please the microphone is right here and then like I said I will hang around afterwards yes please I am sort of on the opposite side of this since I am a journalist and I frequently have to ask spontaneous questions of people who have been through media training yes so so any tips for chinks in the armor way to ask ask a question without being antagonistic but get a facsimile of a straight answer well so let me give you two answers one is I have young boys and the power of the Y is great just ask why a couple times and and you can get through that first two layers of training you know why do you say that well how do you feel about that the the second bit is to what I have found successful in getting people to I do this to get people to answer in a more authentic way what I’ll do is I’ll ask them to give advice so what advice would you give somebody who’s challenged with this or what advice would you give to somebody in this situation and by asking for the advice it changes the relationship they have to me as the question asker and I often get much more rich detailed information so the power of the Y and then put them in a position of providing guidance and that can really work with that I am going to thank you very much I welcome you to ask questions later and enjoy the rest of your reunion weekend… thank you

I’m very excited today to talk about effective speaking in spontaneous situations. I thank you all for joining us even though the title of my talk is grammatically incorrect. I thought that might scare a few of you away but I learned teaching here at the Business School catching people’s attention is hard.

So something as simple as that I thought might draw a few of you here so this is going to be a highly interactive and participative workshop today if you don’t feel comfortable participating that’s completely fine but do know I’m gonna ask you to talk to people next to you. there’ll be opportunities to stand up and practice some things because I believe the way we become effective communicators is by actually communicating so let’s get started right away.Β  I’d like to ask you all to read this sentence and as you read this sentence what’s most important to me is that, you count the number of F’s that you find in this sentence please count the number of F’s keep it quiet to yourself give you just another couple seconds here three two one raise your hand. please if you found three and only three F’s excellent great did anybody find four? okay anybody find only five F’s and anybody finds six? there’s six f’s, what two letter word ending an F did many of us miss?

Oh we’ll make sure to get this to you. so you can torment your friends and family at a later date when I first was exposed to this over 12 years ago. I only found three and I felt really stupid, so I like to start every workshop every class. I teach with this to pass that feeling. I want no that’s not that’s not why,Β  I do this because this is a perfect analogy. for what we’re going to be talking about today the vast majority of us in this room.

Very smart people in this room were not as effective as we could have been in this activity we didn’t get it right and the same is true when it comes to speakng in public particular when spontaneous speaking it’s little things that make a big difference in being effective. So today we’re going to talk about little things in terms of your approach your attitude your practice that can change how you feel when you speak in public and we’re gonna be talking primarily about one type of public speaking not the type that you plan for in advance the type that you. actually spend time thinking about you might even create slides for, these are the keynotes the conference presentation the formal toasts that’s not what.

we’re talking about today we’re talking about spontaneous speaking, when you’re in a situation that you’re asked to speak off the cuff and in the moment what we’re going through, today is actually the result of a workshop. I created here for the business school several years ago. a survey was taken among the students and they said what’s one of the what are things we could do to help make you more successful here, and at the top of that list was this notion of responding to cold calls,Β  cold call is- it’s where the mean professor like me looks at some student says what do you think and there was a lot of panic and a lot of silence. so as a result of that this workshop was created in a vast majority of first-year students. here at the GSB go through this workshop, so I’m gonna walk you through sort of a hybrid version of what they do, the reality is that spontaneous speaking is actually more prevalent than planned speaking perhaps.

it’s giving introductions you’re at a dinner and somebody says you know so-and-so would you mind introducing them maybe it’s giving feedback in the moment. your boss turns you and says would you tell me what you think it could be a surprise toast or finally. it could be during the Q&A session and by the way we will leave plenty of time at the end of our day today, for QA I’d love to hear the questions you have about this topic or other topics related to communicating, so our agenda is simple in order to be an effective communicator regardless of.

if it’s planned or spontaneous you need to have your anxiety under control so we’ll start there second what we’re going to talk about is some ground rules for the interact. we’ll have today and then finally we’re going to get into the heart of what we will be covering again as I said, lots of activity and I invite you to participate, so let’s get started with anxiety management 85% of people tell us that they’re nervous when speaking in public and I think the other 15% are lying, we could create a situation where we could make them nervous too, in fact just this past week a study from Chapman University asked Americans, what are the things you fear most and among being caught in a surprise terrorist attack having identity? your identity stolen was public speaking among the top five was speaking in front of others this is a ubiquitous fear and one that I believe we can learn to manage and I use that word managed very carefully, because I don’t think we ever want to overcome it anxiety actually helps us, it gives us energy, helps us focus, tells us what we’re doing is important but we want to learn to manage it.

so I’d like to introduce you to a few techniques that can work and all of these techniques are based on academic research but before we get there, I’d love to ask you what does it feel like when you’re sitting in the audience watching a nervous speaker present. how do you feel just shout out a few things how do you feel uncomfortable? I heard many of you going yes uncomfortable, it feels very awkward doesn’t it, so what do we do now a couple of you probably like watching somebody suffer. okay, but most of us don’t so what do we do, we sit there and we nod and we smile or we disengage into the nervous speaker looking out at his or her audience seeing a bunch of people nodding or disengaged that does not help. okay, so we need to learn to manage our anxiety because fundamentally your job as a communicator rather regardless of if it’s planned or spontaneous is to make your audience comfortable because, if they’re comfortable, they can receive your message and when I say comfortable, I am NOT referring to the fact that that your message has to be sugar-coated and nice and for them to hear, it can be a harsh message but they have to be in a place where they can receive it so it’s incumbent on you as a communicator to help your audience feel comfortable and we do by managing our anxiety.

so let me introduce you to a few techniques that I think you can use right away to help you feel more comfortable.

the first has to do with when you begin to feel those anxiety symptoms for most people, this happens then the initial minutes prior to speaking in this situation, what happens as many of us begin to feel, whatever it is that happens to you maybe your stomach gets a little gurgly, maybe your legs begin to shake, maybe you begin to perspire and then we start to say to ourselves, oh my goodness! I’m nervous, they’re gonna tell, I’m nervous this is not going to go well and we start spiraling out of control, so research ion mindful attention tells us that, if when we begin to feel those anxiety symptoms, we simply greet our anxiety and say hey this is me feeling nervous, I’m about to do something of consequence in simply by greeting your anxiety and acknowledging. it that it’s normal and natural heck 85% of people tell us they have it, you actually can stem the tide of that anxiety spiraling out of control it’s not necessarily going to reduce the anxiety but it will stop it from spinning up so the next time you begin to feel those exhibit anxiety signs take a deep breath and say, this is me feeling anxious. I notice a few of you taking some notes there’s a handout that will come at the end that has everything. that I’m supposed to say, okay can’t guarantee, I’m gonna say it but I you’ll have it. there in addition to this approach a technique that works very well and this is a technique that I help do some research on way back.

when I was in graduate school has to do with reframing, how you see the speaking situation most of us when we are up presenting planned or spontaneous, we feel that we have to do it right and we feel like we are performing how many of you have ever acted done singing or dancing. I’m not gonna ask for performances no. okay many of you have, we should note that we could do next year maybe a talent show of alums, it looks like we got the talent. so when you perform you know that there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it, if you don’t hit your the right note or your right line at the right time at the right place you’ve made a mistake it messes up the audience it messes up the people on stage but when you present there is no right way, there certainly better in worse ways but there is no one right way, so we need to look at presenting as something other than performance and what I’d like to suggest is what we need to see this as is a conversation right now. I’m having a conversation with a hundred plus people rather than saying, I’m performing for you but it’s not enough just to say, this is a conversation I want to give you some concrete things, you can do first start with questions. questions by their very nature are dialogic they’re two-way, what was one of the very first things, I did here for you, I had you count the number of F’s and raise your hands. asked you a question that gets your audience involved it makes it feel to me as the presenter as if we are in conversation. so use questions they can be rhetorical, they can be polling, perhaps I actually want to hear information from you. in fact I use questions when I create an outline for my presentations rather than writing bullet points, I list questions that I’m going to answer and that puts me in that conversational mode, if you were to look at my notes for today’s talk, you’ll see it’s just a series of questions right now. I’m answering the question how do we manage our anxiety beyond questions. another very useful technique for making us conversational is to use conversational language, many nervous speakers distance themselves physically, if you’ve ever seen a nervous speaker present he or she will say something like this, welcome I am really excited to be here with you. they pull as far away from you as possible because you threaten us speakers you make us nervous.

so we want to get away from you we do the same thing linguistically, we use language that distances ourselves. it’s not unusual to hear a nervous speaker say something like one must consider the ramifications or today we’re going to cover step 1, step 2, step 3. that’s very distancing language to be more conversational use conversational language instead of one must consider say, this is important to you we all need to be concerned with do you hear. that inclusive conversational language has to do with the pronouns instead of step 1, step 2, step 3. first what we need to do is this the second thing you should consider is, here use conversational language. so being conversational can also help you manage your anxiety the third technique. I’d like to share is research that I actually started when I was an undergraduate. here I was very fortunate to study with Phil Zimbardo of the Stanford Prison Experiment Fame many. people don’t know that Zim actually was instrumental in starting one of the very first shyness Institute’s in the world and especially in the country and I did some research with him that looked at how your orientation to time influences ?how you react and what we learned? if you can bring yourself into the present moment rather than being worried about the future consequences, you can actually be less nervous most of us when we present are worried about the future consequences my students are worried they’re not going to get the right grade. some of you are worried you might not get the funding, you might not get the support, you might not get the laughs that you want. all of those are future states.

so if we can bring ourselves into the present moment we’re not going to be as concerned about those future states and therefore

it’ll be less nervous there are lots of ways to become present oriented. I know a professional speaker he’s paid $10,000 an hour to speak. it’s a good gig he gets very nervous he’s up in front of crowds of thousands. behind the stage what he does is a hundred push-ups, right before he comes out. you can’t be that physically active and not be in the present moment. now I’m not recommending all of us go to that level of exertion because, he starts out of breath and sweaty right but a walk around the building before you speak that can do it there are other ways, if you’ve ever watched athletes perform and get ready to do their event they listen to music they focus on a song or a playlist, that helps get them in the moment. you can do things as simple as counting backwards from a hundred by tough numbers. like seventeen, I’m gonna pause because people in the room are trying yeah gets hard after that third or fourth one. I know my favorite way to get present-oriented is to say tongue twisters saying a tongue twister forces you to be in the moment, otherwise you’ll say it wrong and it has the added benefit of warming up your voice. most nervous speakers don’t warm up their voice they retreat inside themselves and start saying all these bad things to themselves.

so saying a tongue twister can help you be both present-oriented and warm up your voice remember. I said today we’re gonna have a lot of participation, I’m gonna ask you to repeat after me my favorite tongue twister and I like this tongue twister because if you say it wrong. you say a naughty word and I’m gonna be listening to see, if I hear any naughty words this morning, okay repeat after me it’s only three phrases, I slit a sheet a sheet, slit and on that slitted sheet. now in that moment in that moment you weren’t worried about I’m in front of all these people this is weird this guy’s having me do that you were so focused on saying it right and trying to figure out what the naughty word was that you were in the present moment that’s how easy it is so it’s very possible for us to manage our anxiety we can do it initially by greeting the anxiety when we begin to feel those signs we can do it when we reframe the situation as a conversation and we do it when we become present-oriented those are three of many tools that exist to help you manage your anxiety if you have questions about other ways I’m happy to chat with you and at the end I’m going to point you to some resources that you can refer to to help you find additional sources for you so let’s get started on the core part of what we’re doing today which is how to feel more comfortable speaking in spontaneous situations some very simple ground rules for you first I’m going to identify four steps that I believe are critical to becoming effective its speaking in a spontaneous situation with each of those steps I’m going to ask you to participate in an activity none of them are more painful than saying the tongue twister out loud they may require you to stand up they might require you to talk to the person next to you but none of them are painful and then finally I’m going to conclude with a phrase or saying that comes from the wonderful world of improvisation through the continuing Studies program here at Stanford for the past five years I have Co taught a class with Adam Tobin he is a lecturer in the creative arts department he teaches film and new media and he’s an expert at improv and we’ve partnered together to help people learn how to speak more spontaneously we call it improvisational e speaking and adam has taught me wonderful phrases and ideas from improv that I want to impart to you they’re really stick that’s why I’m sharing them with you to help you remember these techniques and again at the end of all this you’ll get a handout that has this listing so let’s get started the very first thing that gets in people’s way when it comes to spontaneous speaking is themselves we get in our own way we want to be perfect we want to give the right answer we want our toasts to be incredibly memorable these things are burdened by our effort by our trying the best thing we can do the first step in our process is to get ourselves out of the way easier said than done most of us in this room are in this room because we are type-a personalities we work hard we think fast we make sure that we get things right but that can actually serve as a disservice as we try to speak in the moment I’d like to demonstrate a little of this for you and I need your help to do that so we’re going to do our first activity we are going to do an activity that’s called shout the wrong name in a moment if you are able and willing I’m going to ask you to stand and I’m going to ask you for about 30 seconds to look all around you in this environment and you are going to point at different things and I know it’s rude to point but for this exercise please point I want you to point to things and you are going to call the things you are pointing to out anything but what they really are so I might point to this and say refrigerator I might be point to this and say cat I am pointing to anything in your environment around you can be the person sitting next to you standing next to you you will just shout and shouting is important the wrong name so in a moment I’m gonna ask you to stand and do that please raise your hand if you already have the first five or six things you’re going to call out yeah that’s what I’m talking about we stock pile you all are excellent game players I told you the game shout the wrong name and you have already begun figuring out how you’re going to master the game that’s your brain trying to help you get it right I’d like to suggest the only way you can get this activity wrong is by doing what you’ve just done there is no way to get this wrong okay even if I call this a chair no penalty will be bestowed upon you okay because I won’t know what you are pointing at you could have been pointing at the floor under the chair and you called the floor the chair and you were fine the point is we are planning and working to get it right and there is no way to get it right just doing it gets it right okay so let’s try this now we’re gonna play this game twice again it’s for thirty seconds if you are willing and able will you please stand up you can do this seated by the way but if you’re willing and able let’s stand up okay in a moment I am about to say go and I would like for you to point at anything around here including me it’s okay to point at me I hope it’s not a bad thing you say when you point at me but point at different things and loudly and proudly call them different than what they are ready begin porcupine California saltshaker car library tennis racket purple orange putrid hello time time lets you can stay standing cuz in the mere moments we’re going to do it again so if you’re comfortable standing we’re about to do it again first thank you that was wonderful I heard great words being called out it was it was fun and some of you in the back we’re doing it in sync so it looked like you were doing some 70s disco dance it was awesome okay this this was great now let me ask you just a few questions did you notice anything about the words that you were saying did we find patterns perhaps maybe some of you are going through fruits and vegetables a few of you were going through things that started with the letter A right that’s your brain saying okay you told me not to stockpile so I’m gonna try to be a little more devious and I’m gonna give you patterns okay same problem when we teach that class I told you about that improvisational speaking class we’d like to say your brain is there to help you these things it’s doing have helped you be successful but like a windshield wiper we just want to wipe those suggestions away and see what happens okay so we’re going to do this activity again this time try the best you can to thank your brain if it provides you with patterns or stockpiles and just say thank you brain and disregard them okay so let’s see what happens when we’re not stockpiling and we’re not playing off patterns will do this for only 15 seconds see how this feels baby steps ready begin Kodak bicycle chain skateboard bananas purple [Applause] putrid time please have a seat thank you again did you notice a difference between the second time in the first time yes was it a little easier that second time no that’s okay we’re just starting these skills are not like a light switch it’s not like you learn these skills skills and then all of a sudden you can execute on them this is a wonderful game this is a wonderful game to train your brain to get out of its own way you can play this game anywhere anytime I like to play this game when I’m sitting in traffic makes me feel better than I shout things out they’re not the naughty things that I want to be shouting out but I shout out things and it helps you’re training yourself to get out of your own way you’re working against the muscle memory that you’ve developed over the course of your life with a brain that acts very fast to help you solve problems but in essence in spontaneous speaking situations you put too much pressure on yourself trying to figure out how to get it right so a game like this teaches us to get out of our own way it teaches us to see the things that we do that prevent us from acting spontaneously in essence we are reacting rather than responding to react means to act again you’ve thought it and now you’re acting on it that takes too long and it’s too thoughtful we want to respond in a way that’s genuine and authentic so the maxim I would like for you to take from this and again these Maxim’s come from improvisation is one of my favorite dare to be dull in a room like this telling you dare to be dull is offensive and I apologize but this will help rather than street striving for greatness dare to be dull and if you dare to be dull and allow yourself that you will reach that greatness it’s when us set greatness as your target that it gets in the way of you ever getting there because you over evaluate you over analyze you freeze up so the first step in our process today is to get out of our own way dare to be dull easier said than done but once you practice in a game just as simple as the one we practiced is a great way to do it but that’s not enough getting out of our own way is important but the second step of our process has us change how we see the situation we find ourselves in we need to see the speaking opportunity that we are a part of as an opportunity rather than a challenge and a threat when I coach executives on QA skills when they go in front of the media or whatever investors they see it as an adversarial experience me versus them and one of the first things I work on is changed the way you approach it a QA session for example is an opportunity for you it’s an opportunity to clarify it’s an opportunity to understand what people are thinking so if we look at it as an opportunity it feels very different we see it differently and therefore we have more freedom to respond when I feel that you are challenging me I am going to do the bare minimum to respond and protect myself if I see this as an opportunity where I have a chance to explain and expand I’m going to interact differently with you so spontaneous speaking situations are ones that afford you opportunities so when you’re at a corporate dinner and your boss turns to you and says oh you know him better than the rest would you mind introducing him you say great thank you for the opportunity rather than right I better get this right so see things as an opportunity I have a game to play to help us with this this is a fun one the holidays are approaching we all in this room are going to give and receive gifts here’s how this game will work it works best if you have a partner so I’m hoping you can work with somebody sitting next to you if there’s nobody sitting next to you you turn around introduce yourself great way to connect if not you can play this game by yourself it’s just a little harder and you can’t do the second part of the game so after I explain the game give this gives you a chance to get to know somebody here’s how it works if you have a partner you and your partner are going to exchange imaginary gifts okay pretend you have a gift can be a big gift can be a small gift and you will give your gift to your partner your partner will take the gift and open it up and will tell you what you gave them because you have no you just gave them a gift so you are going to open up the box and you’re going to look inside and you are going to say the first thing that comes to your mind in the moment not the thing you have all just thought of or the thing after that remember what we talked about before that still plays that’s still in play okay you’re stockpiling look in there my favorite that I said somebody gave me this a gift during playing this game I looked inside and I saw a frog leg I don’t know why I saw a frog leg but that’s what I said that’s the first part of the activity now the opportunity is to fold in this game the opportunity is for you the gift receiver to name a gift that’s kind of fun that’s an opportunity it’s not a threat but the real opportunity is for the gift giver because the gift giver then has to say so you look and you say thank you for giving me a frog’s leg and the person will will look at you to say I knew you wanted a frog’s leg because so whatever you find the person who has received it is going to say absolutely I’m so glad you’re happy I got it for you because so you have to respond to whatever they say right what a great opportunity now some of you are sitting you go oh that’s hard I don’t do it myself others of you or if you’re following this advice are saying what a great opportunity right so the game again is played like this you and your partner will exchange each will exchange a gift one will start then the other will follow the first person will give a gift to the second person second person opens the box however big the box is and if the box is big and you find a penny in it perfect doesn’t matter the box is heavy and you find a feather in it fine it doesn’t there’s no way to get it wrong okay whatever’s in the box is in the Box you can return it and get what you wanted later okay the person then you will name it you’ll say thank you for the whatever you saw in the box the person who gave it to you will say I’m so glad you’re excited I got it for you because and you will give a reason that you got them whatever they decided you gave them make sense all right so very quickly just in five seconds find a partner if you’re willing to do this with a partner everybody have a partner okay all right in your partnerships in your partnerships pick an a person in a B person you may stand or sit it’s totally up to you pick an A and pick a B okay B goes first hahaha all right B give a a gift B give a a gift a thank them and then B will name and give the reason they gave it to them .

if you have not switched switched please if you have not switched switched please let’s wrap it up in 30 seconds please let’s wrap it up all right if we can all have our seats if we can all take our seats please I know I’m telling a room of many MBA alums to stop talking and that’s hard all right ladies and gentlemen did you get what you wanted pretty neat huh you always get what you want now for some of you this was really hard because you you were really taking the challenge and not seeing what was in the box until you looked in there okay was anybody surprised by what you found in the box what did you find sir what was in the box but Wow nice nice if you’ve got a Ferrari you need a transmission I like it who else found something that was surprising what did you find a live unicorn that’s a great gift right how was it as the gift giver were you surprised at what your partner found in the box isn’t it interesting that when we give an imaginary gift knowing that the person is gonna name it we already have in mind what they’re gonna find and when they say live unicorn we go well that’s interesting right so the point of this game is to one remind ourselves we have to get out of our own way like we talked about before but to see this as an opportunity and to have fun I love watching people play this game the number of smiles that I saw amongst you and I have to admit when I first started some of you looked a little dour a little doubting okay but in that last game you were all smiling and looked like you were having fun so when you reframe the spontaneous speaking opportunity as as an opportunity as something that you can co-create and share all the sudden you are less nervous less defensive and you can accomplish something pretty darn good in this case a fun outcome this reminds us of perhaps the most famous of all proposition sayings yes and a lot of us live our communication live saying no but yes and opens up a tremendous amount of opportunities and this doesn’t mean you have to say yes and to a question somebody asks this just means the approach you take to the situation so you’re going to ask me questions that’s an opportunity yes and I will follow through versus no and being defensive so we’ve accomplished the first two steps of our process first we get out of our own way and SEP can we reframe the situation as an opportunity the next phase is also hard but very rewarding and that is to slow down and listen you need to understand the demands of the requirement you find yourself in in order to respond appropriately but often we jump ahead we listen just enough to think we got it and then we go ahead starting on our to think about what we’re gonna respond and then we respond we really need to listen because fundamentally as a communicator your job is to be in service of your audience and if you don’t understand what your audience is asking or needs you can’t fulfill that obligation so we need to slow down and listen I have a fun game to play in this game you are going to SP ll e ve ry th ing y OU u sa y t o y ou you are PA r TN ER I will translate you are going to get with the same partner you just worked with and you are going to have a very brief conversation about something fun that you plan to do today I know this is the most fun you’re going to have all day but the next fun thing you’re going to do today you are going to tell your partner what you are going to do that will be fun today but you are going to do so by SPE ll ing IT ok so you’re going to spell it it’s okay if you are not a good speller okay the eye you’ll see the benefit of doing this so with the partner you just worked with person a is going to go first this time you are simply going to tell your partner actually you’re going to spell to your partner what it is of fun something of fun that you’re going to do today okay do what you were really going to do for fun and not do things like f EE D th e CA T right just because you don’t want to spell right so you can use big words all right 30 seconds each spelled to your partner something fun that you’re going to do today would you like to play yep exc EE L le NT IH ope tha t th ey WI n thank you that was very good thank you if you have not switched switch takes 30 more seconds with the new partner spelling grea t exclamation point tha NK y ou u PL EA se ta ke y OU u r SE a t so what did we learn what did we learn besides that we’re not so good at spelling you have to pause between the words how did this change your interaction with the person you were interacting with what did you have to do focus and listen and you can’t be thinking ahead you have to be in the moment when you listen and truly understand what the person is trying to say then you can respond in a better way a more targeted response we often don’t listen so we start by getting out of our own way we then reframe the situation as an opportunity those are things we do inside our head but in the moment of interacting we have to listen first before we can respond to the spontaneous request perhaps my most favorite maxim comes from this activity don’t just do something stand there listen listen and then respond now how do we respond that brings us to the fourth part of our process and that is we have to tell a story we respond in a way that has a structure all stories have structure we have to respond in a structured way the key to successful spontaneous speaking and by the way plan speaking is having a structure I would like to introduce you to two of the most prevalent and popular and useful structures you can use to communicate a message in a spontaneous situation but before we get there we have to talk about the value of structure it increases what is called processing fluency the effectiveness of which or through which we information we actually process structured information roughly 40% more effectively and efficiently than information that’s not structured I love looking out in this audience because you will remember as I remember phone numbers when you had to remember them if you wanted to call somebody okay young folks today don’t need to remember phone numbers they just need to look at a picture push a button and then the voice starts talking on the other end ten digit phone numbers it’s actually hard to remember ten digit phone numbers how did you do it you chunked it into a structure three three and four structure helps us remember the same is true when speaking spontaneously or in a planned situation so let me introduce you to two useful structures the first useful structure you have probably heard or used in some incarnation it is the problem solution benefit structure you start by talking about what the issue is the problem you then talk about a way of solving it and then you talk about the benefits of following through on it very persuasive very effective helps you as the speaker remember it helps your audience know where you’re going with it when I was a tour guide on this campus many many many years ago what do you think the single most important thing they drilled into our heads it took a full quarter by the way to train to be a tour guide here they used to line us up at one end of the quad and have us walk backwards straight and if you failed you had to start over to this day I can walk backwards in a straight line because of that as part of that training what do you think the most important thing they taught us was never lose your tour group I’m not sure never that’s never lose your tour River the same is true as a presenter never lose your audience the way you keep your audience on track is by providing structure none of you would go on a tour with me if I said hi my name is Matt let’s go you want to know where you’re going why you’re going there how long it’s going to take you need to set expectations and structure does that problem solution benefit is a wonderful structure to have in your back pocket it’s something that you can use quickly when you’re in the moment it can be reframed so it’s not always a problem you’re talking about maybe it’s an OP opportunity maybe there’s a market opportunity you want to go out and capture it’s not a problem that we’re not doing it but maybe we’d be better off if we did so it becomes opportunity solution which are the steps to achieve it and then the benefit another structure which works equally equally well is the what so what now what structure you start by talking about what it is then you talk about why it’s important and then what the next steps are this is a wonderful formula for answering questions for introducing people so if I’m in the moment somebody asked me to introduce somebody I changed the what to who I say who they are why they’re important and what we’re gonna do next maybe listen to them maybe drink our wine whatever right what so what now it the reality is this when you are in a spontaneous speaking situation you have to do two things simultaneously you have to figure out what to say and how to say it these structures help you by telling you how to say it if you can become comfortable with these structures you can be in a situation where you can respond very Abele to spontaneous speaking situations we’re gonna practice because that’s what we do here’s the situation is everybody familiar with this child’s toy it’s a slinky okay you are going to sell this slinky to your partner using either a problem-solution benefit or opportunity solution benefit what does this slinky provide you or you could use what so what now what what is it why is it important and the next steps might be to buy it okay so by using that structure see how already it helps you it helps you focus get with your partner and we’re only going to have one partner sell to the other partner okay so get with your partner one of you will volunteer to sell to the other okay sell a slinky using problem solution benefit or what so what now what please begin the Mikey so when I debrief this you can go ahead and pass him out does that make sense no no after this activity thirty more seconds please excellent let’s all close the deal seal the deal I have never seen more people in one place doing this at the same time I love it I teach people to gesture in gesture big it’s great I love it so if you were the recipient of the the sales pitch thumbs up did they do a good job did they use the structure awesome I’m recruiting you all for my next business as my salespeople please try to ignore this but as we’re speaking the handout I told you about is coming around on the back of that handout you are going to see a list of structures the two we talked about and several others that can help you in spontaneous speaking situations these structures help because they help you understand how you’re going to say what you say structure sets you free and I know that’s kind of ironic but it’s true if you have that structure then you’re free to think about what it is you’re going to say it reduces the cognitive load of figuring out what you’re saying and how you’re going to say it all of this is on that handout okay so what does this all mean it means that we have within our ability the tools and the approaches to help us in spontaneous speaking situations the very first thing we have to do is manage our anxiety because you can’t be an effective speaker if you don’t have your anxiety under control and we talked about how you can do that by greeting your anxiety reframing as a conversation and being in the present moment once you do that you need to practice a series of four steps that will help you speak spontaneously first you get out of your own way I would love it if all of you on your way from here to the football game point at things and call them the wrong name it’ll be fun if most of us do it then it won’t be weird if only one and two of us do it’ll be weird right second give gifts by that I mean see your interactions as ones of opportunity not challenges third take the time to list and listen and then finally use structures and you have to practice these structures I practice these structures on my kids I have two kids when they ask me questions I usually answer them in what so what now what they don’t know it but when they go over to their friends houses and they see their friends ask their dads questions they don’t get what so what now what so you know you have to practice the more you practice the more comfortable you will become ultimately you have the opportunity before you to become more compelling more confident more connected as a speaker if you leverage these techniques if you’re interested in learning more this is where I do a little plug ok I’ve written a book many of the MBA students who take the strategic communication classes here that I and others teach read it it’s called speaking up without freaking out more importantly there’s a website here that I curate called no freaking speaking and it has lots of information that I’ve written and others have written about how to become more effective at speaking so that’s that’s the end of my plug what I’d really like to do is enter into a spontaneous speaking situation with you and I would love to entertain any questions that you have there are two people who are running around with microphones so some of us who remember the Phil Donahue show we’re gonna do a little bit of that if you have a question the microphone will come and I’m happy to answer it I think if you drawing if you talk about hostile situations hostile situations yes so when you find yourself in a challenging situation first it should not become a surprise to you it should not be a surprise before you ever speak you should think about what is the environment going to be like so it shouldn’t surprise you that there might be some challenges in the room when there are hostile situations that arise you have to acknowledge it so if somebody says that’s a ridiculous idea why did you come up with that to simply say so the idea I came up with was right acknowledge the emotion I recommend not naming the emotion okay so you sound really angry person I’m not angry I’m frustrated now we’re arguing over their mental state right emotional state so so I say something like I hear you have a lot of passion on this issue or I hear there’s great concern from you so you acknowledge the emotion cuz otherwise it sits in the room and then reframe it respond the way that makes sense so if somebody raises their hand and says your product is ridiculously priced why do you charge so much I might say I hear great concern and what you’re really asking about is the value of our product and I would give my value proposition and then I would come back and say and because of the value we provide we believe it’s priced fairly so you answer the question about price but you’ve reframe it in a way that you feel more comfortable answering it so the way to do this is to practice all the skills we just talked about the only skill that I’m adding to this is the awareness in advance that you might be in that situation first I have to truly listen to what I’m hearing right it’s very easy for me when I hear a challenging question to get all defensive and not hear what the person’s asking I see it as an opportunity to reframe and explain ok so again you have to practice but that’s how I think you address it are there other questions I see a question back here yes please yes first of all thank you very much great great presentation thank God for a lot of the the speaking I do I have remote audiences distributed all over the country with telecom any tips for those kinds of audiences so when you are speaking in a situation where not everybody is co-located ok in fact right at this very moment there are people watching this presentation remotely what you need to do is be mindful of it second try to include engagement techniques where the audience actually has to do something so physical participation is what we did here through the games you can ask your audience to imagine something imagine what it would be like if when we try to achieve a goal rather and say here’s the goal we’re trying to achieve say imagine what it would be like if see what that does to you it pulls you in I can take polling questions most of the technology that you’re referring to has some kind of polling feature you can open up some kind of wiki or Google Doc or some collaborative tool where people can be doing things and you can be monitoring that while you’re presenting so I might take some breaks I talk for 10-15 minutes and say ok let’s apply this and let’s go into this Google Doc I’ve created and I see what people are so it’s about variety and it’s about engagement those are the ways that you really connect to people who are remote from you okay other questions you’re pointing oh I’ve got to look for where the mic is yes but this may be a similar to the first question but I do a lot of expert witness testimony what’s your recommendation for handling cross-examination specifically so in any speaking situation that you go into that has some planned element to it I recommend identifying certain themes that you think are important or believe need to come out and then with each one of those themes have some examples and concrete evidence that you can use to support it you don’t go in with memorized terms or ways of saying it you just have ideas and themes and then you put them together as necessary so when I’m in a situation where people are interrogating me I have certain themes that I want to get across and make sure that I can do that in a way that fits the needs in the moment if it’s hostile again you the the single best tool you have to buy yourself time and to help you answer a question efficiently is paraphrasing the paraphrase is like the Swiss Army knife of communication if you remember the show MacGyver it’s your MacGyver tool right so when a question comes in the way you paraphrase it allows you the opportunity to reframe it to think about your answer and to pause and make sure you got it right so when you’re under those situations if you have the opportunity to paraphrase a so what you’re really asking about is x y&z that gives you the opportunity to employ one of these techniques now I’ve never been an expert witness because I’m not an expert on anything but those tools I believe could be helpful the microphone is back there thank you thank you so much this has been so helpful and enjoyable this morning thank you would you please show the last screen so we can get down the name of the book the children and the information absolutely thank you I think they actually you might even have an opportunity but you know it’s on the sheet to everything I said is on the back of that sheet but I’m happy to have this behind me while I well I thought other questions yes please I work with groups that from that represent many different cultural backgrounds yes so are there any caveats or is this a universal strategy so in terms of from your perspective as the speaker I believe this applies but when you whenever you communicate part of the listening aspect is also thinking about is who is my audience and what are their expectations so what are the cultural expectations of the audience that I’m presenting to so there might be certain norms and rules that are expected so when I travel and do talks I have to take into account where I’m doing the presentation so I I’m I help present in the Ignite program and if you have not heard about the Ignite program and here at the GSB it’s fantastic and I just did a presentation standing in one of these awesome classrooms that have all these cameras and I just taught 35 people in Santiago Chile okay and I needed to understand the cultural expectations of that area and what they expect and what they’re willing to do when I asked them to participate so it’s a part of that listening step where you reflect on what are the expectations of the audience I think we have time for two more questions and then I’m gonna hang around afterwards if anybody has individual questions but some of these folks really want me to keep on schedule I wanted to ask a question now one of the things that you’ve done effectively and you’re talking and I’ve seen other effective speakers do is interject humor in their talk how what are the risks and rewards of trying to do that well first thank you and I appreciate all of you laughing those are that’s not the sum total of all my jokes you’ve heard them I am not funny beyond those jokes so humor is wonderfully connecting it’s wonderfully connecting it’s a great tool for connection it is very very risky cultural reasons get in the way sometimes what you think is funny isn’t funny to other people what research tells us is that if you’re going to try to be funny self-deprecating humor is your best bet okay because it is the least risky there is nothing worse than putting out a joke and having no response it actually sets you back farther than if you would have gotten where you would have gotten if the joke would have hit so basic gentles you need to think about with humor 1 is it funny how do I know I ask other people first second what happens if it doesn’t work to have a back-up plan right and then third if you’re worried about the answers to those first two don’t do it right one last question please the microphone is right here and then like I said I will hang around afterwards yes please I am sort of on the opposite side of this since I am a journalist and I frequently have to ask spontaneous questions of people who have been through media training yes so so any tips for chinks in the armor way to ask ask a question without being antagonistic but get a facsimile of a straight answer well so let me give you two answers one is I have young boys and the power of the Y is great just ask why a couple times and and you can get through that first two layers of training you know why do you say that well how do you feel about that the the second bit is to what I have found successful in getting people to I do this to get people to answer in a more authentic way what I’ll do is I’ll ask them to give advice so what advice would you give somebody who’s challenged with this or what advice would you give to somebody in this situation and by asking for the advice it changes the relationship they have to me as the question asker and I often get much more rich detailed information so the power of the Y and then put them in a position of providing guidance and that can really work with that I am going to thank you very much I welcome you to ask questions later and enjoy the rest of your reunion weekend… thank you

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *