You are in court, well prepared to submit and address the Bench on issues related to your matter and all of a sudden, a question is thrown at you that caught you entirely off guard. Poof! – your mind goes blank. Sounds familiar? We have all experienced it. As the saying goes, the human brain starts working the moment you are born and never stops until you stand up to speak in public.

The ability to think on our feet is a hard, yet valuable skill to master. Fortunately, there are some tips and tricks to make thinking on our feet more manageable.

Organize your thoughts
Ideas that are simply and logically structured allow listeners to keep up with us and take away key points. It is helpful to use what is commonly known as the three-part-plan. Organize your intended answers into three smaller points and walk your audience through each of those points in brief statements. This creates a chain of concise answers instead of overloading your audience with information.

Buy time
We often feel the need to provide an immediate response, but rushing to answer is a big mistake if we are not prepared for it.  It is OK to take a short pause to prevent such blunder. You can say, “That’s a good question…” or “It was good of you to raise that issue” or similar phrases.

Alternatively, you may ask for the question to be repeated or ask for an example. Not only will this allow you to narrow the scope of question and compile more information, but also gives you a few extra moments to think of your response.

Summarize and end
End your reply with a recap or a quick summary of your key messages. This triggers the listener’s memory and leaves a lasting impact of the answers given. Do not drag on with further explanations that may cause confusion.

It takes time and effort to master the art of thinking on your feet. After all, thinking is an ongoing exercise that stimulates the brain and there is no hard and fast rule to increase one’s thinking capacity other than to continuously practice. Have fun with your practice and remember that you can think on your feet!

The above are some pointers that I’ve learnt from my participation in the Think on Your Feet workshop.

Author :           Jaslyn Saw
Email   :           [email protected]

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