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Flying by the seat of your pants – ad libbing with confidence and skill

In my last post I discussed the issue of speaking off the cuff, the fear many people have of losing control, and the fact that technology hasn’t helped us grow our confidence muscle.

It’s the topic most often raised in my training room, by people of all levels of seniority, in all sectors.

There are tips on preparation and rehearsal; banishing perfectionism and desensitising ourselves to ad libbing.

Here’s another nugget – a magical word. Several.

When used in response to a challenge or a tricky, unexpected question, it creates the illusion of ordered thinking, structure and control. You’ll look like a swan gliding serenely over the water while, in reality, the legs are paddling furiously beneath the surface.

And it’s best used alongside another tool – The back reference.

For example, if you were asked for your thoughts on the pros and cons of Black Friday, your ‘back reference’ would be a comment on the validity/brilliance/topicality of the question or issue. At its simplest it might be “great question”. A slightly more fulsome response might be “oh yes, there’s lots of debate at the moment on this, isn’t there?  I heard a really interesting discussion about it on the radio the other day”.

Then comes the magic word – “There are several viewpoints/factors/issues……….. On the one hand/some people think………………, but then on the other hand/others feel strongly that …………………and then there’s the problem of………….”.

Because several is unspecific, it doesn’t matter if you make two or 72 points. And you don’t even need to state your own opinion (if you haven’t got one). You can conclude that there’s validity on all sides of the debate.

This technique will not only make you sound more structured and in control, it will also make you feel thus. Win/win.

There are of course more strategies and tools to help us grapple with this topic so I’ve created a brand new half day training session – ‘By the seat of your pants’ which I’m piloting on 7 December for the PRCA.  If this is an issue which is holding you back in your life/career, do come along.

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