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Published on March 16, 2018

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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            The Gentle Art of Saying No

            The Gentle Art of Saying No

            No!

            It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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            But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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            What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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            But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

            1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
            2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
            3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
            4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
            5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
            6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
            7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
            8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
            9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
            10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

            Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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