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How to Explain Anything to Anyone Easily: 8 Spontaneous Speaking Structures

How to Explain Anything to Anyone Easily: 8 Spontaneous Speaking Structures

Do you get in your own way during a job interview or while giving a presentation? If so, you might be wondering:

“What can I do to quickly explain something when in the moment?”

Thankfully, there are ways to do this and they are very simple ways. Author of Speaking Up without Freaking Out: 50 Techniques for Confident and Compelling Presenting, Matthew Abrahams informs us, “When you are in a spontaneous speaking situation, you have to do two things simultaneously,”

  1. Figure out what to say.
  2. Figure out how to say it.

Let’s examine 8 spontaneous speaking structures that allow you to become comfortable and respond immediately to any speaking situation.

What are Spontaneous Speaking Structures?

A spontaneous speaking structure is a way to tell a story. It is a way to explain anything quickly by using simple structures to frame a story.

“Structure sets you free.” – Matthew Abrahams

Here’s why structures set you free:

Speaking structures help you explain anything ad lib. They provide an easy way to structure our thinking and prevent us from freezing in the moment.

Abrahams informs us,

“You need to set expectations and structures do that.”

I highly recommend watching the following video (the video is long so I recommend you skip to 41 minutes in where spontaneous speaking structures are discussed in more detail):

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8 Spontaneous Speaking Structures

Let’s now examine 8 spontaneous speaking structures:

1. What? So What? Now What?

    Terry Borton’s Development Framework was constructed in 1970 and is a simple approach involving only three questions: What? So What? Now What? [1] I recently wrote about this framework in Razor-Sharp Thinking: the What-Why Method. This framework provides us a formula for answering questions.

    • What? What happened or what is emerging?
    • So What? Why is it important or what lessons can we learn from it?
    • Now What? What are we going to do next or what should we do moving forward?

    2. Who? Why? What?

    Abrahams provides an easy way for us to use Borton’s Development Framework when introducing someone by simply changing the What to Who.

    • Who? Who they are.
    • Why? Why the person is important.
    • What? What we are going to do next (i.e. listen to their presentation).

    3. Problem/Opportunity – Solution – Benefit

      Another powerful, yet extremely simple technique is the Problem (or Opportunity) – Solution – Benefit structure. Abrahams explains that this is a great technique to use when pitching or persuading someone.

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      • Problem/Opportunity. What do you want to solve or what do you want to capture?
      • Solution. What are the steps to achieve it?
      • Benefit. What is the benefit to their organization?

      4. ADD

      Abrahams illustrates a simple approach to use during a question and answer period of a speech, presentation, or interview.

      • A: Answer questions concisely (condense your information into a few succinct words).
      • D: Detail the answer through an example (illustrate an example through the use of a metaphor or analogy).
      • D: Describe the value of your answer to the asker.

      5. TAKE

      Yet another example of a simple speaking structure offered by Abrahams is TAKE. This is a great approach to use when accepting recognition.

      • T: Thank your audience.
      • A: Acknowledge the award/accomplishment.
      • K: Keep the momentum going.
      • E: End with impact.

      6. 1-3-1 Speech Structure

        The authors of The Secret Memory Booster in Public Speaking offer a powerfully simple approach to learn, remember, and present information using the 1-3-1 approach.

        • 1: Idea The first step is to structure your idea through Prep (get their attention with questions, a story, a quote, or a startling statistic), Promise (specifically the benefits to your audience), and Path (indicate how they will get the promise or preview the main points).
        • 3: Themes or Main Points Next, outline your main points through the use of the following: SHARP, Power Phrase, Reflection, Application, Power Phrase, then Transition. SHARP = Story (anecdote, metaphor, or analogy), Humor, Activity, Reference/Quote, Photo/Prop
        • 1: Conclusion or Call to Action In your conclusion, use the following: Summary (call back to the main points), Q&A, Memorable (tie to the intro).

        7. STAR

          This next technique is perfect to use when answering the typical behavioral interviewing questions asked during a job interview. Behavioral interviewing is an approach used to assess a candidate’s past experience and to judge the response to similar situation on a future job; thus, it is used a predictor of future performance. [2] For example, say you are interviewing for a job and the interviewer asks,

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          “Describe a time when you had to…”

          • Instead of rambling through the question with an incoherent reply, try the STAR technique:
          • S: Situation Detail the background. Provide a context. Where? When?
          • T: Task Describe the challenge and expectations. What needed to be done? Why?
          • A: Action Elaborate your specific action. What did you do? How? What tools did you use?
          • R: Results Explain (quantify) the results: accomplishments, recognition, savings, etc.

          8. What – Why – How Feedback

            Lastly, the perfect structure for growing from feedback is the What – Why – How structure. Pay attention to the feedback you receive (from all around you – people, environment, etc.). Then ask the following:

            • What? What is going on? Which leads to an understanding of the Why.
            • Why? Why is this happening? Which leads us to invent new things (the How).
            • How? How can things get better? This then leads us to change our actions; thus, leading back to the What (for which the cycle never ends).

            By following these 8 simple spontaneous speaking structures, you will find you can easily explain anything off the cuff. Each one of these speaking structures helps you structure your thinking and allows you to respond confidently in any situation.

            They allow you to tell a story, set expectations for your audience, provide you a way to figure out what to say and figure out how to say it. Thus, a spontaneous speaking structure sets you free.

            Featured photo credit: unsplash via unsplash.com

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            Reference

            More by this author

            Dr. Jamie Schwandt

            Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt & Red Team Critical Thinker

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            Last Updated on January 15, 2021

            7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

            7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

            The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

            Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

            Posture

            First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

            • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
            • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
            • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
            • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

            All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

            Facial Expressions

            Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

            • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
            • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
            • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

            If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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            1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

            A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

            The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

            This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

            2. Relax Your Face

            New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

            The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

            To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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            3. Improve Your Eye Contact

            Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

            The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

            To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

            3. Smile More

            There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

            Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

            4. Hand Gestures

            Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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            It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

            5. Enhance Your Handshake

            In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

            “Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

            It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

            6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

            As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

            Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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            Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

            Final Takeaways

            Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

            If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

            More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

            Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

            Reference

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