How to Think on Your Feet

Posted by nancymueller on Monday, September 16th, 2013
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How to Think on Your FeetImagine the following scenarios . . .

You’re attending an in-house meeting, sitting around a conference table with your colleagues. Without warning, the meeting organizer turns to you and asks what course of action you recommend. All eyes are on you waiting for your response.

You receive a call from an angry customer who’s upset with the quality of the product you just sold. The customer wants to know what you’re going to do about it.

Your boss is scheduled to give a presentation to the Board of Directors in 10 min. But your boss had an unexpected emergency and needs you to take her place. You have no background information on the topic other than the papers your boss just dropped on your desk.

Do any of these scenarios cause a knot in your stomach? If so, you’re not alone. It’s showtime! Your time to shine.

But how can you rise to the occasion on such short notice? Here are 5  tips to help you think on your feet in any situation:

1) Stay Calm.

Take a deep breath. Give yourself a quick pep talk. Know that you are capable of coping with the unexpected. Keep your composure and act deliberately.

2) Stand Tall.

In her popular TedTalk, Harvard researcher Amy Cuddy describes how “power posing” can help people feel confident even when we lack confidence in our own abilities. By changing our body language, she shows us not only how we can influence others’ perception of us, but also how we feel about ourselves.

3) Pause First.

Take Abraham Lincoln’s quote to heart: “Better to be thought a fool and keep your mouth shut than to speak and remove all doubt.” Avoid speaking re-actively. Instead, give yourself permission to think first, then speak. Take a moment to gather your thoughts.

4) Clarify and Confirm.

Make sure you understand the situation and available options. Ask questions to to clarify and confirm your understanding. Asking questions demonstrates active listening and gives you time to think about how best to respond.

5) Organize Your Thoughts.

Think beginning, middle and end, just as you would when structuring a prepared presentation. Open with a confirmation of your understanding of the situation. Consider the options before you. Conclude with your action steps. If you don’t have the information you need to make a good decision, say so. Then follow up by doing additional research to help you address the situation.

When substituting for another speaker on short notice, let the audience in on the situation. Ask a few questions to assess their expectations. Briefly address the situation before proceeding with your presentation.

Think on Your FeetThe next time you’re put on the spot, use these tips to regain your poise and speak with confidence.

What’s your favorite strategy when you need to think fast on your feet? Share your comments with us here.

 

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