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weeveeship's avatar

How can I think on my feet better?

Asked by weeveeship (3962 points ) January 3rd, 2011

I participate quite often in class. Usually, I take time to formula a thought before even raising my hand. Once I am called on, I will just say what I already planned to say. Some say that I sound overly logical and mechanical, but my style has been working for me so far.

However, my style is weak in situations where I have to think on my feet. For instance, I tend to use a lot of fillers (umm….uhh…you know…, etc) when I do impromptu speaking.

Any way I could think on my feet better?

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9 Answers

gailcalled's avatar

The slow, hard way. The more you do it, the easier it should become. A little stumbling is not so bad. Most of us are not polished orators.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

Read Shakespeare. Seriously. He wrote on nearly every situation you’re likely to encounter in real life, and he wrote amazingly well. Lyrical, witty, funny, sharp, caustic, lovingly, he already said it. In fact, the more literate and well-read you are in general, in general literature, jokes, slang, current events, the more likely it is that something you already know applies to the situation at hand.

In addition to having a ready reply if you memorize some of his dialog, people will think you’re literate, and giving a quote from the top of your head still leaves you the rest of your head (and a few additional seconds) for your next bon mot.

Cruiser's avatar

Repeating the question in your opening reply can help greatly…..

try this…

“I think I can think on my feet better by restating the original question followed by qualifying thoughts I might want to offer.”

This buys you time to rethink what you want to say and help you avoid the “um’s” and ‘uh’s”.

submariner's avatar

3 rules for public speaking:

(1) Know what you’re talking about.
(2) Talk about what you know.
(3) When (1) and (2) do not apply, silence is golden.

wundayatta's avatar

I’m going with @gailcalled and @CyanoticWasp here. It takes a lot of hard work, and it requires that you have a wide knowledge base, which means doing a lot of reading.

The last is important for what I am about to say. The more you know and the more tools you have, the more creative you can be. Creativity is about associations—linking one idea to another, often in ways others have not thought of.

I have a wide variety of interests and talents. From statistics to dancing. Music to psychology. Investing to international relations and politics. That’s what helps me write about many different kinds of issues, but more importantly, say sensible things that are different from what most others say. The nice thing about being knowledgeable is that it means you are often right. That’s when it starts to get scary. Seriously.

rovdog's avatar

While knowledge will help, and experience of course, I think it is mostly about attitude. You have to become comfortable thinking on your feet and expressing yourself as you think. There might actually be some great public speakers who speak brilliantly when prepared but not as well impromptu. So I kind of see speaking extemporaneously as something different than public speaking. You will think on your feet better if you learn to be open to what you are saying and perhaps even react to your own thoughts as they happen.

I think the “Umm” and “Uhhs” in the beginning are good because with practice they will become qualifying sentences and other interesting thoughts that you can tie in. People who are really good at this can sort of quickly build an outline in their brain of where they are going and conversations that lead to their overarching ideas. It works for me to think of it more like a conversation than a monologue- even if a monologue is what you have to deliver.

I would suggest taking improv classes- or some kind of acting classes- but especially improv. I did so much of that when I was younger that I rarely feel ill prepared when called on to speak- though half the time I am. I never set out to learn public speaking through this activity but it can really open you up and make you comfortable speaking to an audience. The only danger is when you come to rely on this ability a little too much and realize you should have taken the time to think things out before you spoke. I really do think it is mostly about attitude, and improv is a great and fun way to practice that attitude.

hotgirl67's avatar

Take a moment and think about your response.Don’t just blurt out anything.Act confident and stay calm,cool,and collected.

sarahtalkpretty's avatar

Just don’t worry about the pauses. I think it’s better to speak slowly or pause between statements than to say “um” or “y’know.“The key is having the confidence to speak at your own pace. Easier said than done sometimes, but that should be the focus.

Kayak8's avatar

There is nothing wrong with thinking before you speak—I wish more people did so!

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