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Podcast Episodes

What is behavioral economics? Why does it matter to you?

327. Overcoming Speaking Anxiety: Matt Abrahams’ Strategies for Confident Communication

Matt Abrahams, a leading expert in communication and a lecturer at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, shares valuable insights on improving communication skills in spontaneous situations on The Brainy Business podcast hosted by Melina Palmer. In this episode, Abrahams discusses key strategies from his book, Think Faster, Talk Smarter, which focuses on helping individuals feel more comfortable and confident in impromptu speaking scenarios. Abrahams draws from personal experiences and observations to develop his methodology. He highlights the challenges individuals face in speaking spontaneously and emphasizes the importance of confidence and commitment when responding. Through anecdotes and practical tips, Abrahams shows how anyone can enhance their communication skills in impromptu situations. Throughout the episode,

Abrahams discusses the significance of active listening, reframing situations as opportunities, and effective structure in communication. He encourages individuals to embrace uncertainty, take risks, and prioritize listening over speaking. Abrahams’ book offers practical steps and exercises to help listeners practice and refine their communication skills. Professionals seeking to improve their spontaneous speaking and communication skills–from presentations to job interviews to networking events–will find this episode insightful and actionable. Abrahams’ expertise and relatable anecdotes make it a valuable resource for individuals looking to enhance their speaking abilities in spontaneous situations.

In this episode:

  • Explore how proficient communication in unexpected situations can give you an edge.
  • Learn how enhancing your active listening abilities can drastically improve the quality of your communication.
  • Delve into the significance of preparing for spontaneous conversations.
  • Master the art of using concise structures to drive powerful communication.
  • Get a grip on actionable strategies for honing your communication skills in unplanned situations–from speaking on a stage to job interviews to networking events and more.
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SHOW NOTES:

00:00:00 – Introduction,
In this episode, Melina Palmer welcomes Matt Abrahams, a leading expert in communication and a lecturer at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business. They discuss Matt’s new book, Think Faster, Talk Smarter, which focuses on speaking effectively and confidently in spontaneous speaking situations.

00:03:10 – The Need for Spontaneous Speaking Skills,
Matt explains how his personal experiences and feedback from students led to the development of his methodology for speaking confidently in the moment. He emphasizes the importance of spontaneous speaking skills in everyday communication.

00:05:23 – Overcoming Spontaneous Speaking Challenges,
Melina shares her own experience of struggling with spontaneous speaking during a job interview. Matt tells a story about an unexpected question he faced during an interview and how he turned it into an opportunity to showcase his skills. The lesson is, even when you are caught off guard, to connect to something and commit to your response.

00:09:31 – Confidence and Commitment in Spontaneous Speaking,
Melina highlights the importance of confidence in spontaneous speaking, as people can sense if you’re not confident. Matt explains that committing to your response, even if it’s unexpected, is crucial and draws parallels with the world of improvisation.

00:13:25 – Lessons from Improvisation,
Matt discusses the influence of improvisation on his methodology and shares the principle of “failing big.” He encourages speakers to commit fully to their responses and not be afraid of failure, as it can lead to unexpected successes.

00:15:24 – The Power of Getting Lost,
Matt Abrahams discusses the importance of getting lost and embracing uncertainty in order to expand what’s possible in spontaneous situations. He explains how striving for control and perfection can actually limit our potential, and how cognitive bandwidth affects our performance.

00:16:25 – Striving for Mediocrity,
Abrahams encourages his students to strive for mediocrity in order to achieve greatness. By focusing on getting things done rather than judging and evaluating, individuals can have more resources to perform well. He emphasizes the need to embrace uncertainty and take risks.

00:17:43 – Allowing Yourself to Get Lost,
Abrahams explains the importance of allowing oneself to get lost and try new things in order to broaden what’s possible and stay focused in the present moment. While it can be challenging, embracing uncertainty can lead to rewarding outcomes.

00:18:42 – Overcoming the Fear of Average,
Melina shares a personal anecdote about feeling overwhelmed by being graded on a curve in college. Matt highlights the concept that from average, greatness can emerge, and emphasizes the need to focus on personal growth rather than labeling ourselves with grades.

00:20:04 – The Six Steps to Better Communication,
Abrahams outlines his six-step methodology for improving communication, which includes managing anxiety, getting out of our own way, reframing spontaneous speaking as an opportunity, emphasizing the importance of listening, using structure, and maintaining focus.

00:29:22 – The Value of Listening,
Matt discusses the importance of listening in conversations and the benefits it brings to the listener. He explains that listening is a muscle that needs to be strengthened and that good listeners help speakers solve their problems instead of immediately jumping in with solutions. He also emphasizes the need for space, pace, and grace in listening.

00:30:58 – The Mindset of Listening,
Matt Abrahams shares insights from an interview with a listening researcher, Guy Ichakov, who highlights the mindset of a good listener. He explains that a good listener’s job is to help the speaker solve their problem, rather than trying to solve it themselves. Abrahams reflects on his own tendency to jump into problem-solving mode and actively works on adopting a listening mindset.

00:32:21 – The Power of Structures in Communication,
Matt Abrahams discusses the importance of using structures or frameworks in communication to help organize and prioritize information. He introduces the “Swiss Army Knife” structure of three simple questions: What? So what? Now what? This structure helps in formulating clear and concise messages that are easy for the audience to understand.

00:35:51 – Preparing for Spontaneous Conversations,
Matt Abrahams explains the irony of being able to prepare for spontaneous conversations. He compares it to jazz musicians following certain chords and patterns, or athletes training specific behaviors to respond spontaneously in a game. Abrahams emphasizes the value of frameworks and structures in preparation, using an example of three simple questions.

00:40:01 – Conclusion,
Melina’s top insights from the conversation. What stuck with you while listening to the episode? What are you going to try? Come share it with Melina on social media — you’ll find her as @thebrainybiz everywhere and as Melina Palmer on LinkedIn.

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