and Tricks for Thinking on Your Feet By Chris King
promised one of my subscribers, who is also a member of Toastmasters,
that I would write this article. You see, at a Toastmasters club meeting
there is usually a section for “Table Topics.” You don’t
know ahead of time what the topic will be until you are called upon to
speak for a minute on that topic. It is excellent training, but can also
become mind boggling for the newer speaker.
are also members assigned to give evaluations of the presentations and
presenters. Again, you must be able to succinctly and helpfully
address the group on your feet with little time beforehand. The more I
considered this topic, the more I realized that it doesn’t just
apply to a Toastmaster meeting, it will also apply to many situations
in which we find ourselves: networking, all kinds of meetings, interviews,
radio or TV appearances, voice mail and phone calls. So, how can you become
known as someone who is articulate, engaging and can “think on your
feet” with ease. Read on.
number one suggestion is to be prepared.
You ask, “How can I be prepared if I don’t know what the topic,
the question or situation will be?” If you are serious about becoming
known for “thinking on your feet” you will need to commit
to spend time preparing. Following are some of my preparation tips and
Topics – or actually any topic that comes up in everyday
conversations. First of all realize that topics will revolve around
the time of year, common themes, what’s in the news, trends and,
possibly, history. We are not dealing here with “rocket science”
so being completely accurate and not straying from the topic one little
bit is not necessary if you present in a lively and interesting way.
I suggest thinking of the various topics that might be discussed and
prepare short, lively and fun stories that speak to those topics. Even
if the topic is not exactly what you prepared, you can start with, “I
am so glad you asked me that, because it reminds me of the time when
…” Listeners are more fascinated by good content, delivered
well, than by facts and figures.
– again, be prepared with a plan. When asked to evaluate a presentation,
or an idea or proposal, I always follow these steps. Start by listing
the strengths and appreciations – what you especially enjoyed
about the presenter’s style and the presentation. Next, do you
have any questions? For example, you could say something like, “I
was a bit confused when you said … I would suggest more clarity
here.” Then, mention one or two suggestions, keeping in mind the
level of the presenter. Even if the presenter is a seasoned professional,
too many suggestions may not be helpful – just remember that your
job is to be helpful, not critical. Wind up an evaluation by repeating
what impressed you the most about both the presenter and presentation.
a prop or props – again with preparation be ready with
a prop that can serve as a metaphor or will make an impact. I attended
a networking session this past week, where one of the attendees was
a magician who performs for businesses at their conferences, meetings
and trade shows. He had our attention immediately when he started pulling
coins out the air and asking how much magic we have in our marketing
messages. You don’t have to be a magician, however, to use a prop.
A mini boomerang can be a metaphor for “whatever you send out
will come back to you.” A packet of seeds could stand for “what
we sow will grow.” You get the idea, look around for common objects
– erasers, highlighters, paper weights (stability), scissors,
etc. – and figure out how you might use them in a variety of ways.
Make it fun and it will be fun for your listeners, and I guarantee you
will be remembered.
number two suggestion is that “interesting people are those who
We are definitely in the Information Age, so there is no reason not to
keep up with interesting information. The great news is that with the
Internet so handy we have all sorts of way to keep up-to-date with a plethora
of topics, trends, careers, communications and groups. Following are a
few of my favorites:
Yahoo Groups and Listserves – no matter what your interests
are, there is a forum, a discussion board, group and/or an active list
that you can find to join. Some are loaded with interesting and eye
opening topics, while others are babble. Take part in the interesting
ones you find, because you will never be without an answer when called
upon. By interacting, you will become more experienced in expressing
your ideas. If someone doesn’t agree with you or understand you,
you will learn how to be more precise – all will help with “thinking
on your feet.” A quick way to get started is to search Google
Groups or Yahoo Groups. Both offer a wide variety. As you visit websites
of interest and sign up for their discussion boards or forums.
– at this site, you sign on for news feeds, blogs,
lists, etc. It is your choice, but the best part is the variety. You
can check out the headlines and the blogs quickly and read only what
interests you. Yes, keeping up can take time, but it is worthwhile time.
Besides the learning you will experience, you will have lots of interesting
information at your fingertips and in your mind when called upon to
“think on your feet.”
number three suggestion is to use research to your advantage.
If you are interviewing with a company or meeting with them to give a
presentation, find out all you can about them ahead of time. Again the
Internet and search engines are a huge help. Besides finding out about
them in particular, research their industry and niche. They will be impressed
by how quickly you grasp what their challenges are while “thinking
on your feet.”
and/or TV appearances – if you will be appearing, make
sure you have a list of questions ready for the host with your excellent
answers ready and prepared. Even if they don’t ask the questions,
you can always answer the question you wanted them to ask. Just switch
smoothly. This takes research on what usually happens on this station
or channel. Again, turn to the Internet for broadcasts and sample interviews
– most are there.
– this is a reasonably priced product that, in my opinion, is
the best for research, topics, news and answers to any questions you
might have. Besides the great dictionary and encyclopedia, you get history
facts, birthdays and a quick way to find definitions and explanations.
One way I use it for networking is look up the news for that day, along
with the important births and events that occurred on that date. Great
I sum up my suggestions, I guess that my main theme is that nobody can
just “think on their feet” without preparation. It
is time for us to get busy preparing.
it will not only be interesting, it will be fun too! Let
me know how
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