I still remember the time when I went blank when asked a question in a group of senior leaders. It was supposed to be an informal roundtable discussion but I felt the need to make an impression as it was an opportunity for me to share some different perspectives. It was an engaging conversation where I really wanted to contribute and I had thought about some of the ideas to share.

An interesting question got asked and I was invited to comment. I thought of a few things to say and started to share. By the time I finished my first point, I couldn’t remember the second point I was going to make! I can’t even remember what the question was now, I must have really gone blank!

I had to be honest and say that I had something else to say but that my mind had gone blank. By doing that I thought the conversation may continue and I could come back in when the idea came back to me. But… whether it’s because they were all being polite or were actually interested in my second point, everyone waited for me to speak!

Of course, that made me even more anxious and I had to pull out all my strategies to ground myself. After what seemed like 10 minutes (which was probably more like 5 seconds) the second idea came back to me and I was able to continue. Phew! What a relief!

This was after many years of developing my skills in speaking. These kinds of situations used to stress me out so much more, so I really understand what it’s like to worry about being put on the spot.

Introverts are particularly prone to worrying about being put on the spot. They do have a natural preference to think things through before speaking, so it’s natural to have this worry. However, it can become an excuse not to speak up or respond, when, they can respond on the spot with a bit of skill-building and practice.

Without the skill, it can become a negative spiral that holds you back. You worry about being put on the spot, the worry prevents you from being present, causes your brain to freeze even more and when you don’t respond well, you criticise yourself for it and confirm your belief that you are not good at responding on the spot.

Unfortunately, because of this fear of being put on the spot, many people:

  • Don’t speak up in case they get challenged or get asked questions.
  • Don’t share their thinking until it is fully thought through.
  • Are afraid of, avoid or get nervous about public speaking, especially the Q&A part of it.
  • Avoid networking or speaking to people they don’t know because they are unsure what to say.

As a result, you may have the best knowledge, expertise or experience but remain a ‘best-kept secret’ because you don’t share it.

In my experience, there are five enablers for getting comfortable about being put on the spot.

  1. Belief: Shift your belief from ‘I’m not good at speaking on the spot’ to ‘I will be fine even if I’m put on the spot’ so you give yourself a chance to be more relaxed about it.
  2. Brainwave: Access the right brainwaves that enable access to memories, ideas and thinking.
  3. Response: Have a few comments or questions up your sleeve to buy yourself time.
  4. Presence: Shift your attention to what is happening in the present moment to respond.
  5. Reframe: Deal with the inner critic that pop up in the conversation as well as afterward, which reinforces your beliefs that you are not good at speaking on the spot.

Find out more about these leaders in the book, Quietly Powerful: How your quiet nature is your hidden leadership strength and #QPLinterviews in the Quietly Powerful LinkedIn group site.