“Why Should I Hire You?” and Other Tough Questions You Can Answer Confidently

How to sound smart when talking off the cuff.

Ashley Batz Photography

Have you read anything interesting lately? Why should I hire you? What was your takeaway from that meeting?

Whether at a networking event, in a job interview, or passing your boss in the hall, we all want to sound smart when talking off the cuff. Unfortunately, our nerves can get the best of us, and sometimes we leave these situations feeling like we blew it. You know that feeling. As soon as the conversation ends, the perfect response comes to you. Why didn’t I think of that before?!

Take the Pressure Off Yourself

Leadership coach Kara Levy recently led the workshop “Talking About Your Value Off the Cuff: Confident Impromptu Speaking.” In just an hour and a half, The Assembly members learned tricks for speaking in an organized and concise way — with no preparation. Levy’s main message: give yourself a break and lower your expectations. That’s right. She says don’t stress about giving your number-one best answer. Instead, shoot for answers 1-5. Taking some pressure off will help you relax.

Here are other tips Levy had for impromptu speaking:

  • Speak at 70 percent speed. Slowing down will help you avoid filler words and come to a complete stop, instead of rambling.
  • Make your point up front, instead of saving it until the end. Then back it up with a reason (why do you think so?) and example (how do you know this?).
  • Pause! Don’t rush to answer a question. It helps you gather your thoughts and project confidence.
  • Offer to go first. If you’re in a meeting, speaking up early will make your contribution more memorable.
  • Avoid saying “I think.” Making the same statement without putting “I think” in front of it makes a stronger impact.

Levy’s workshop helped members get out of their comfort zones. Each of us had to stand in front of the group and answer a random question, using the tools Levy taught us. Questions like: If you could go back in time and thank someone who would it be? When is it OK to break the rules? What is one trend that will die out soon? If you could change one thing about your industry what would it be? Go ahead and try out one of these questions at the next members’ happy hour. You might just get the perfect off-the-cuff response.

Levy holds coaching sessions for Stanford Business School students, corporate leaders, and individuals who want to improve their communication skills. You can find more about her work at Kara Levy Coaching.

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