How well do you think and speak on your feet?
Unlike planned speeches or prepared narratives, impromptu messaging can rattle the best leader and present an opportunity to fumble or shine. One of the competencies successful executives acquire is the ability to communicate spontaneously.
In the work I do with clients, we often devote attention to developing executive presence and enhancing communications. Even the most averse to public speaking will, in time, develop a rhythm and level of comfort with delivering prepared remarks to audiences, but the on-the-spot encounters can be equally as important and nerve-racking.
Whether it's an unforeseen discussion with a dissatisfied customer, an unexpected toast at a social function, or a left-field question at a town hall, leaders who successfully address these encounters forge a connection with their audiences and earn enhanced trust.
Pressured to perform and sometimes paralyzed by our inner critics, the first thing to keep in mind in these chance occurrences is to stay cool: slow down, take a deep breath, and calm yourself. Second, listen, observe, and even paraphrase the question to check understanding. Third, structure your response to ensure you stay on point and say enough without being verbose.
To build this skill, leaders should seek opportunities to be put on the spot. Practice and experiment. After, reflect on what went well and what could be improved next time. Soon, these spontaneous communications will be more natural and both you and your audiences will benefit.