Tame Anxiety to Speak Faster and Smarter with Matt Abrahams

Interview by
Dr. Chad Prevost
Dr. Shelley Prevost
Published on
September 25, 2023

In this episode

Many of us dread having to convey our ideas to others, often feeling ill-equipped, anxious, and awkward.

Public speaking experts help by focusing on planned communication experiences such as slide presentations, pitches, or formal talks. Yet, most of our professional and personal communication occurs in spontaneous situations that creep up on us and all too often leave us flustered and stumbling for words. How can we rise to the occasion when we’re put on the spot?

In THINK FASTER, TALK SMARTER communication expert, Stanford lecturer, and host of the popular podcast, Think Fast, Talk Smart: The Podcast, Matt Abrahams provides tangible, actionable skills to help even the most anxious of speakers succeed when communicating and speaking spontaneously. Thinking faster and talking smarter Abrahams argues is not an innate skill that requires natural talent, and can actually be learned through preparation and practice. He provides science-based strategies for managing anxiety, responding to the mood of the room, and communicating in concise, relevant, compelling, and memorable ways regardless of the audience.

Especially important in today’s frantic, multi-tasking world, Abrahams draws on research from a variety of fields including psychology, biology, anthropology, communication, and improvisation along with stories from his clients and students, to offer best practices for: navigating difficult conversations, responding to impromptu questioning, shining in job interviews, providing effective feedback, making small talk, apologizing, persuading others, and responding to spontaneous digital communication like text and email.

Whether it’s speaking in front of others in meetings or conversations with family, friends, colleagues or a manager, learning to speak spontaneously can help us get out of our own way, and show up for some of the most meaningful moments in life—moments that often catch us by surprise, short circuiting our intelligence and leaving us to project just a fraction of our true personalities. Abrahams argues that by training ourselves to think and speak on our feet, and reacting in ways that come across as coherent, compelling, and unmistakably genuine, we can learn to be more of who we really are in the moment, and convey more of what we really think.

THINK FASTER, TALK SMARTER is an accessible guide to communication that helps readers master new techniques to better communicate in our fast-paced times.

Our Discussion

Communication, presence, and spontaneous speaking. 0:00

The inner work and outer impact, myth-busting speaking skills.

Spontaneous speaking and managing anxiety in public situations. 4:52

Effective listening and spontaneous speaking techniques. 10:09

A technique called pace, space, grace, which involves physically moving and giving oneself permission to listen to both what's being said and what's being felt within oneself.

Improving spontaneous speaking skills. 15:40

Communication structure and anxiety management. 19:28

Embracing spontaneity in communication. 24:50

Communication techniques and strategies. 29:03

Guest Speakers

Matt Abrahams

See his TedTalk here

Check out his newly-released book Think Faster Talk Smarter here