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Stage fright: What to do if you can't think quick on your feet

Another cause of stage fright is the concern that you can't think quick on your feet.

The ability to respond quickly to questions from conference moderators, delegates, and journalists is certainly an asset. We all would like to be able to come up with a witty line that nails the question in a statesmanlike answer.

In practice, however, most people are flummoxed by a difficult question and are unable to get a word out.

Or they respond to questions very quickly. They are quick off the mark with a blistering comment.

But such presenters shoot from the hip. At best, they kick themselves later that they should have said something better. Or they blurt out the first thing that comes to mind, often gobsmacking, galling, or particularly embarrassing. They wish later they could swallow up all those words again. Maybe their comment would have been more at home in the Jim Carey movie "Liar, Liar" (I can certainly relate some head-shaking moments from my own career in the broadcast media, when my mouth was ahead of my thoughts. Ask me if you're interested).

The best way to deal with this issue – whether you feel you think too slowly or leap too quickly – is to make the most of your Talents (watch Mark explain in greater detail - story continues below video).

  1. Accept yourself. There are very few people who are naturally able to speak off the cuff in a measured way. These people are endowed with what Gallup CliftonStrengths refers to as a #Strategic Talent Theme. This is not something that you can acquire if you don't already have it. Even then, #Strategics often think later what they could have said better or should have said instead, even if they responded with an acceptable comment. So don't sweat it.
  2. Hone whatever mindset you are endowed with. If you are the sort of needs to think through your answers before you speak, play to that. Chances are, you are going to come out with a significantly better answer having given the question some thought.

That's a strong selling point! Explain to your audience that you are thinking about your answer first. Audiences prefer speakers who look like they actually care enough to give a sensible answer, rather than PEZ dispensing canned messages.

If you are wired to speak quickly, play to that too. Come out of the gate quickly. Acknowledge the question. Quickly say that the matter being asked about deserves careful consideration, rather than a rushed response. Quickly explain the points you are drawing into consideration.

No matter what your starting point is, it's fine.

It's what you do with it that counts.

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Mark Laudi

Mark Laudi

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