Red face. Sweaty palms. Shaky voice. We’ve all likely experienced at least one of these symptoms when having to give a spur-of-the-moment answer or speech. Luckily, Matt Abrahams (Stanford lecturer, coach and host of the popular “Think Fast, Talk Smart The Podcast”), has a six-step method to help us become “more comfortable and confident in the moment” regardless of “how affable, sociable, and facile with words we perceive ourselves to be.” In Think Faster, Talk Smarter: How to Speak Successfully When You’re Put on the Spot, he provides suggestions, exercises and techniques on how to become a better speaker.
The first part of the book covers the six initial steps and the second part explains how to talk smarter in specific situations. Throughout, there are prompts to Try It (attempt specific techniques), Drill It (practice key techniques in more depth) and Use It (integrate these techniques into our daily lives). Along the way, Abrahams gives many examples of spontaneous real-life scenarios, such as when a moderator asks to add 15 minutes of informal question and answer after a formal presentation. He also offers tangible advice and coping tools such as creating an Anxiety Management Plan (AMP) and suggestions on how and when to use it. Tips and tricks for a variety of situations such as “daring to be dull” by “giving ourselves permission to do what needs to be done” are also highlighted. And a user-friendly chart summarizing various techniques to help manage impromptu speaking anxiety makes these methods easy to incorporate into one’s life.
Commentary from authorities such as researchers, psychologists, professors and improvisation experts gives perspective and credence to Abrahams’ methodology. And he isn’t afraid to relay his own experiences and problem-solving techniques, highlighting the benefits of learning from mistakes or what he calls “missed takes,” which can serve to focus efforts and empower us. Think Faster, Talk Smarter provides affirmation that there is no right or wrong way to communicate, instead focusing on the importance of practice and preparation, stressing that “all of us can become strong speakers in the moment if we put in the time.”