Deer in Headlights Exercise: Impromptu Speaking in Question and Answer Session (topic is yours)
when a deer encounters a car on a dark road?
The deer is:
Consider similar conditions
in your public speaking circumstances:
Surprised that an unforeseen
and strange question has been asked of you;
Shocked that a listener could
a result you are
Stymied, sputtering, inarticulate.
Rhetorical Road Kill—but Road Kill nonetheless.
This assignment teaches you
how to avoid this, and gives you the chance to practice.
The rhetorical context: you
are answering questions in a public setting (our class) about the term topic speech (fact and policy). Remember, however well
you think you know an audience, there are always surprises.
Step One: Write three tough questions that an unfriendly, disagreeable or insane audience member might ask. Remember,
that smart, sane people will disagree with you about your position—at least one question must contain a smart objection
that you should prepare for refutation.
***These 3 questions will
be on three separate sheets of paper. You will assign three classmates to be your questioners.***
Step Two: Answer those questions using IMPROMPTU delivery—uses little or no immediate preparation, but relies
on your stored knowledge. The trick is getting access and presenting it in a coherent fashion. To do so, use these guidelines.
N.E.S.C. is the system used
in inter-collegiate debate, and works well to impose an organization in an impromptu circumstance. You’re not “ad-libbing”
nor are you speaking extemporaneously; instead you are selecting from the information you have stored in your brain. Don’t
wander off, don’t use new material you haven’t thought about.
STRATEGIES FOR MANAGING THE
Q AND A
- Always answer as fully and as honestly as possible. Don’t fabricate, exaggerate, distort, etc.
This applies to genuine questions.
- Thank the questioner when appropriate—sometimes is it most appropriate when you’re really
disturbed they asked it!
- Be aware of the possibility that the questioner might be asking about something outside the scope of
your expertise and project—this is a touchy set-up: make sure it isn’t something you SHOULD know about, but don’t.
In the case that it really isn’t your topic, say, “That is indeed very interesting and important. It is however,
outside the scope of my research.”
- Compliment the questioner when appropriate—be sure to not appear to be “slimey” in
this—insincerity can wreak havoc in impromptu speaking.
- Empathize and identify with the audience member as often as you can; draw common ground whenever possible.
A good example can be seen in the debate about abortion: both sides agree that reducing the number of abortions is a desired
aim. Don’t demonize those who disagree with you, even if you feel embarrassed and shown-up; you have much more in common
with them that you think—focus on that.
- Hi-jack the question and answer when appropriate.
- Direct answers not only to the questioner, but to the entire audience.
with thinking on your feet—often we can arrive at a very good answer, but we’re shocked we can’t get to
it right away, and we end up losing composure.
between: 1. the appearance of being in control, and 2. actually being in control.
Your aim is the first—the
appearance of control. While we are all human, and have a wide variety of responses (emotional, physical, spiritual, intellectual),
a smart speaker chooses strategically which of these to reveal to the audience. Your blood might boil when you hear a question,
but it is almost always to your advantage to appear to be primarily rational