Speak & Present Effectively

7 How to speak without preparation

Being able to answer questions clearly, calmly and professionally is a key job skill. This chapter introduces practical tips and strategies to help you sound confident and knowledgeable in interviews and meetings.

What is impromptu speaking?

Impromptu speaking is speaking without preparation, the way we do in conversations, classes, meetings and job interviews. We can’t predict what people will say, so if someone asks us a question, we answer spontaneously – without preparation. This is easy and relaxing with friends, but can be stressful in interviews, where we must respond quickly, correctly and professionally.

Impromptu speaking strategies​

The most important strategy is don’t panic! There are ways to buy time and formulate a professional answer. Two excellent strategies are HKCC and BRACE Yourself.

HKCC method

  1. Headline: Say the most important thing you want the listeners to hear.
    • For example, I definitely think I would make a strong addition to this team.
  2. Key Points: 2-3 key points that support the headline.
    • For example, I’ve got the qualifications and experience you want, plus I’ve worked on many successful intercultural teams. And finally, my ability to speak four languages will help when we interact with global markets.
  3. Close: Quickly summarize your headline and key points, optimistically.
    • For example, I’m excited about this opportunity and the chance to make a strong contribution to your team.
  4. Call to Action: Tell the listener what you want them to do, or ask if you’ve answered their question.
    • For example, I’d appreciate your consideration.
    • For example, Does that answer your question?



Whenever you feel anxious, pause and take a long slow breath in through your nose. Hold it for a second, then exhale slowly through your mouth. Doing this calms your brain and gives you time to think.

BRACE Yourself​ method

  1. Breathe​. Before doing anything, ​take a breath and calm yourself
  2. Repeat the question​​ or prompt (and comment on it if you want to).
    • For example, You’d like to hear about a weakness I have. That’s a great question; thanks for asking.
  3. Answer, in 2-3 key points that direct the conversation to what you want to talk about.
    • For example, (if you’re asked about your weaknesses, mention one then describe how you manage it) I wasn’t good at time management in the past, so I looked at how it affected my work, and decided to make a change. The first thing I did was create a schedule using my calendar app. Then I started using daily to-do lists. I prioritize the items, then schedule them. And finally, I report to my manager at the end of each week, giving her a status update on all my projects. These three strategies have made a huge difference in my efficiency, and also decreased my stress levels.
  4. Conclude professionally​ with a concluding statement or question.
    • For example, repeat the prompt​: So that’s how I improved my time management skills
    • For example, use a concluding statement: In conclusion, it’s easy to manage weaknesses by creating good habits.
    • For example, ask: Does that answer your question? or Is that the information you’re looking for?
  5. Examples Use related, appropriate examples and stories because they add precision and interesting detail. Also, they’re easy to remember even when you’re stressed.

 Test your knowledge 



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Business Presentation Skills by Lucinda Atwood and Christian Westin is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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