How many impromptu conversations have you found yourself in this week? What would you do in these situations?
- You’re asked a question you weren’t prepared for during a meeting.
- You’re approached by an executive who wants a quick update.
- You need to sell your idea in five minutes rather than the 30 minutes you were promised.
- While delivering a prepared presentation, you begin to run out of time while your listeners lose interest.
- You’re networking at an event.
Most of our conversations are impromptu – yet most individuals believe that if they know what to say and had time to prepare, they’re effective communicators. We don’t have opportunities to prepare for every conversation. As leaders you’re expected to effectively speak off the cuff. Even if you’re prepared while delivering a presentation, you need to have the ability to adapt your message on the fly without skipping a beat.
Three valuable must-haves for communicating with confidence, credibility and influence during an impromptu conversation:
1. Trigger words. Prepare, think and speak in bullet points rather than paragraphs and run-on sentences. When your notes include full sentences, it’s too difficult to quickly gather your thoughts when you refer to your notes. Bullet points will trigger your thoughts, save time and keep you on track.
2. W.A.I.T. Why are you talking? When you forget what to say, the biggest mistake you can make is to continue torturing your listeners while you ramble. Trust your competence and PAUSE. The most powerful skill you can have at the ready is an ability to pause, which allows you to adapt your message on the fly and meet your listeners’ expectations. When you pause, you will be in control of:
- what you want to say
- what your listeners hear and understand
3. Listen to the Why. Listen beyond your listeners’ words to hear and understand what is important to them. Why would they be interested in your topic? Why are they there? Why is your message important to them? Tap into your listeners’ answers to these questions so that your message resonates with them.
During your next impromptu situation, communicate like it’s your best game-day ever.