Impromptu speaking or thinking on your feet is synthesis thinking not new thought thinking. You do have to prepare to think on your feet; but then you have to let go and flow. So it uses structure and flow at the same time.
In impromptu speaking or thinking on your feet, you are most often sharing your expertise in a spontaneous situation where you want to help a client or influence a prospective client. You don’t have time to plan all your words. You must grab some thoughts and ideas and stories and let them flow through your mind and out of your mouth.
Thinking on your feet is thinking as you speak and speaking as you think. This experience is hard to articulate and hard to teach because it happens at another level of consciousness than normal thought. Normal thought is usually a mental process of thinking in words, one word at a time. But thinking on your feet is not verbal but rather thinking in gestalt concepts.
Thinking on your feet is rarely pure creative thinking. You are not usually making up totally new ideas, rather you are synthesizing and stringing together ideas, insights and stories that have been thought out at a prior time.
I was hired a few years ago to facilitate a Leadership Houston class to make leadership declarations at the last meeting of their year-long program. The Director of LH had met me and hired me, but he did not ask for the approval of the man (I will call him Bill) who had facilitated the whole year of sessions.
So, he had to get the three of us together on a conference call to discuss my participation in the last session. There was definitely a flavor of “audition” in our call. There was an unspoken expectation that I would have to prove my value to Bill even though the stated purpose was to plan the last session.
At the beginning of the call, Bill asked me to talk about my work and what I did. I had a choice to make FAST! I could tense up and try to think of what to say or just dive in.
I took a deep breath, said, “OK” and opened my mouth not knowing what I was going to say. About 5 minutes later I stopped talking. I heard a silence on the phone line and then both said “WOW” at the same time.
I don’t know exactly what I said, but I know I was grounded and present in that moment. I had managed to synthesized the following concepts:
- An opening that was a “Helping people get what they want” line.
- What was different about my approach.
- What results are often achieved.
- A story to back it up.
- What I thought we could do to help the LH participants make their leadership declarations.
I followed the flow of thoughts as they occurred to me. And I was not focused on my performance. The pieces of content I shared were things that were already in my verbiage. I had said them many times before. Now I was just synthesizing them to help Bill and the LH Director understand what I could do to support their last program.
I love to make speaking easy for myself and for my clients. Learning to break things into chunks of content and to string them together produces talks that are compelling, persuasive and creative. Check out Speaking from the Heart class descriptions.