Be Quicker on Your Feet: 5 Tips for Speakers

If you want to be a more compelling and influential speaker then you must learn how to be quicker on your feet. This is especially important during question and answer (Q&A) sessions. Being quick is one of the things that separates good speakers from great ones. Some people mistakenly think that being quick on your feet during Q&A comes naturally – or not at all. This is not true! Anyone can learn this important skill; you only need the right awareness and some good advice. No matter your title or position, learning to think quicker on your feet will improve your credibility and career success. Here are some tips and strategies you can immediately use to think quicker on your feet during presentations and speeches. 

Effective speakers repeat key parts of the question. The best speakers and communicators naturally repeat the core words or phrases of audience questions. By doing this you are validating what is most important to questioner. But avoid adding editorial comments like, “That is a very good question.” That can come off as patronizing and it does not build rapport or trust. You can repeat the questioner’s key words and then confirm what is most important to them.

Top speakers quickly identify the most common types of questions. The most effective speakers take time to master Q&A. They do not leave it to chance! They learn to quickly identify the type of question coming at them: leading, hearsay, speculative, negative repeat, either / or, scaling, close-ended, open-ended, etc. Once you learn to identify the most common types of Q&A, then you can more easily learn the proven processes to address each type of question.

Polished speakers prepare a Q&A map.  As you are preparing for presentations or speaking engagements take time to create a Q&A map. Identify the most likely – and unlikely questions. Then, map out bulleted talking points for each question. You will often discover that most questions will fall into predictable categories related to your topic. It is also important to have a planned strategy for “off-track” questions. Will you defer off-track questions or invite the questioner to address those during another venue or opportunity? For questions that support your most important points, be sure to identify stories that will make your answers much more “sticky”. Studies show that data connected to a story is twenty-two times more memorable!

Compelling speakers use silence. Can silence play a role in being quicker on your feet? Yes and let me explain why. Have you witnessed speakers who ramble and think out loud as they answer questions? It is almost like they are having a conversation with themselves in front of everyone. This can be confusing and even erode the speaker’s credibility. The most compelling speakers are not afraid of silence. In fact, they use it with great purpose. You stand to lose your power and authority if you try to fill every crevice of your answers with words. So, take that extra couple of seconds when you get a question that demands more thought. You will look smarter! Everything you do communicates – and silence gives you time to compose just the right answer with the right amount of “white space” to showcase your answer. Compelling speakers also use nonverbal cues to show they are truly pondering the heart of the question.

Smart speakers ask for clarification. One of the biggest mistakes that speakers make is not asking for clarification! When people ask confusing questions, you should ask for clarification. Otherwise, you risk wading off into unnecessary territory. In small group settings it is also a good idea to summarize the heart of questions on a white board or smart board. It is fascinating to see how often this makes the questioner rethink or edit his original premise or question.

Become a More Compelling Speaker!

The easy part of public speaking is learning how to organize and deliver compelling talking points. The hardest part of mastering public speaking for most people is learning how to be quick on your feet and in command question and answer sessions. But you can do it by following these steps and committing to improvement. You will reap major rewards during your career when you focus on mastering Q&A strategies. Your credibility will get a big boost and you might even find out just how much fun it is to increase your influence by being quicker on your feet!

“Your credibility will get a big boost and you might even find out just how much fun it is to increase your influence!”

If you are seeking public speaking coaching or presentation training to be a more compelling speaker, then Contact Us today for a new game plan. Discover your hidden talents and enjoy your career and life more!

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Gail lives on a Texas ranch with her family, five talented horses, one very cute donkey and an entertaining bunch of dogs, cats and chickens! We support a horse therapy program for people with disabilities, as well as local animal shelters that rescue abandoned dogs and cats.

Benchmark has consulted with and trained leaders and associates from all 50 USA states and more than 25 countries. The Benchmark team provides award-winning leadership and communication strategies to Fortune 500 groups so they can achieve their business goals. We provide consulting and coaching services in: leadership development, storytelling / presentations, reputation management, crisis response, media skills, stakeholder engagement, effective communications, public speaking and soft skills training.