Summary of Think Fast, Talk Smart

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Think Fast, Talk Smart summary

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An estimated 85% of people suffer from a fear of public speaking, and being called upon to speak spontaneously is a nightmare-inducing scenario for many. Presenting at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, communications lecturer Matt Abrahams shares several strategies to help you speak effectively off the cuff. With fun and games, he encourages his audience to embrace occasions to speak ad hoc as opportunities to shine. While his tips may not cure you of your anxiety, they will take the edge off the fear.

About the Speaker

Matt Abrahams lectures in strategic communication and effective virtual presenting at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.


To communicate effectively off the cuff, you first need to rein in your anxiety.

Some 85% of people admit to a fear of public speaking. While many of those afflicted can muddle through a formal, rehearsed speech, they often clam up when called upon to give feedback, an impromptu speech, an introduction or a toast. As a courtesy to your audience, you need to get your anxiety under control. If you exhibit nerves, your audience will feel uncomfortable and won’t be primed to receive your message. 

To overcome your anxiety, you must first acknowledge it. When you feel jittery, take a deep breath and recognize the response as a natural reaction. Nervousness is the brain’s way of preparing you for something of consequence – in this case, the delivery of an important message. Simply acknowledging your nerves will prevent them from spiraling out of control.

Next, remind yourself that the speaking engagement is not a performance that you must...

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