Think Fast, Talk Smart — A Summary

General Ideas

  1. Anxiety management
  2. Ground rules
  3. Structures

Anxiety management

  • Be Mindful of creeping anxiety. When signs of anxiety kick in before public speaking, acknowledge them and don’t resist them. Greet our anxiety and say hey — “Take a deep breath and don’t let anxiety spiral out of control.”
  • Re-framing. It’s a conversation, not a performance. There isn’t a “right” or “wrong” — just a better or worse. there are multiple ways to make it as a conversation like:
  • Start with questions: they are dialogic in nature. They could be rhetorical, polling, or simply asking for information.
  • Use conversational language: Use language that does not distance the audience from yourself. This can also be done with body language.
  • Be Present Oriented: Thinking too much into the future adds worries which might make you nervous. Some ways of staying present — push-ups, walking, listening to music, tongue twisters (also good for warming up the voice as an added benefit) or it could be anything that brings the attention and use some cognitive resources.

Ground rules

  • Be Dull: Don’t worry about being perfect. Don’t worry about perfection and flawlessness. Improvise, don’t stockpile information, let your brain act spontaneously. Train the skill of improvisation. Consistently worrying about greatness could get in your way. Be weary of Analysis paralysis.
  • Opportunities, not Challenges: Make it a conversation and don’t make it an adversarial situation. Make it an opportunity to clarify and explain what’s in your head, and understand what people are thinking. Take a “Yes, and..” approach instead of “No, but…”.
  • Slow down and listen: “You need to understand the demands of the requirement you find yourself in, in order to respond appropriately”. Don’t jump to conclusions without gathering enough information. So, slow down and listen to understand and be in touch with the receiver to fulfil your obligation as a communicator. “Don’t just do something, stand there.”
  • Tell a story: Respond in a structured way. We process and retain structured information 40% more reliably and accurately than non-structured ones. Structure helps us Remember.

Useful structures — “Structure sets you free.”

  • Problem > Solution > Benefit: Start with the problem. Then talk about a way to solve the problem. And finally, the benefit of solving it. Set a structure to keep the listener on track so that you never lose your audience. Can also be re-framed as “Opportunity > Solution [steps to achieve it] > Benefit
  • What? So what? Now what?: Start with what it is. Next, why is it important? And finally, what the next steps are. This is a good formula for answering questions, and introducing people [Who they are? Why are they important? And what to do next with them (listening, drinking, etc..)].
  • In spontaneous speaking situations, we need to juggle 2 things — what to say, how to say it. By already having a structure to guide us on ‘how to say’, we can dedicate more attention on thinking about ‘what to say’



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Darryl Leong

Darryl Leong

I write sometimes because its fun