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Summary: Think Faster, Talk Smarter by Matt Abrahams

  • Do you want to learn how to speak confidently and persuasively when you’re put on the spot? If so, you might want to check out Think Faster, Talk Smarter: How to Speak Successfully When You’re Put on the Spot by Matt Abrahams.
  • To find out more about this book and how it can help you improve your spontaneous communication skills, read our full review below.

In the following summary, you’ll learn how to calm your nerves and stop using filler words (um and ah) when put on the spot. You’ll also learn a three-part structure to sound smart in any meeting.

“We can train ourselves to think and speak on our feet, reacting in ways that come across as coherent, compelling, and unmistakably genuine.” – Matt Abrahams

Learn to speak clearly and confidently when put on the spot in important meetings by mastering the following techniques and mindsets.

Summary: Think Faster, Talk Smarter by Matt Abrahams

Deploy the 3S Anxiety Management Plan

Separate yourself from your anxiety: The instant you notice anxiety taking over your body, imagine yourself standing outside your body, giving yourself advice like you would offer a nervous friend. Imagine saying, “What you’re feeling is perfectly normal in the situation.” Or “The nerves you feel are just a form of excitement.”

Slow your exhales: The longer you exhale, the more carbon dioxide you release. The less carbon dioxide you have in your body, the less active your nervous system is. Therefore, when you feel anxious, take a deep breath, and aim to exhale as long as possible (a good rule of thumb is to exhale twice as long as you inhale).

Stick your landings: When nervous, you’ll naturally want to eliminate dead space by using filler words such as “ah” and “um.” But if you embrace silence and banish filler words between sentences, you will sound more controlled and confident. Banish filler words by timing your inhales just right – get to the end of your breath as you finish making a point and then immediately transition to a gentle inhale (it’s impossible to utter a filler word while you inhale). See yourself like a gymnast sticking a landing after a series of flips and then pausing to pose before resuming the performance.

You’ll find the 3S Anxiety Management Plan will temporarily reduce your speaking anxiety. But if you try too hard to be liked by your audience, your anxiety will quickly return. That’s why you should “dare to be dull.”

Dare to be dull

When you “dare to be dull,” you stop judging yourself as you talk and talk freely. When Matt Abrahams dares his Stanford students to be dull, they gasp. But when they try it, their communication becomes smoother and more authentic. He says, “In a delightful paradox, the more mediocre you give yourself permission to be, the better, more compelling a speaker you become.”

The phrase “dare to be dull” comes from the improv world and helps sketch comics be more relaxed and spontaneous on stage. Steve Johnston, past president of the iconic sketch comedy club, Second City—which produced stars like Chris Farley, Tina Fey, and Steve Carell—says, “we tend to think we must come up with the Big Idea when we speak, contributing something important, beautiful, or transcendent— like (an awe‐inspiring) cathedral. But providing the building block of a conversation—the brick—also matters. We serve as bricks by waiting, listening, and at times offering up logical connections between others’ ideas. We don’t have to say something original or pathbreaking every time.”

Use a smart message structure

Successful speakers regularly rely on structures to deliver messages. Salespeople use the problem‐benefit‐solution structure to reliably increase sales. For example, “You look hot and thirsty [problem]. You’d feel much better if you consumed some water [benefit]. I have a cold and refreshing bottle of ultra‐purified water right here [solution].” Trial lawyers use the IRAC structure to persuade a judge or jury: they state the issue, bring up the relevant legal rule, analyze the issue using that legal rule, and make a conclusion based on their analysis.

The easiest and most effective structure for impromptu speaking is What‐So What‐Now What. You start by discussing an idea, problem, or product [What]. Then explain why it’s important [So What]. And end by describing what to do with it or what actions should be taken next [Now What]. For example, “Our monthly report shows that sales have dropped by 15% compared to the previous month [What]. If this continues, we’ll be forced to lay people off [So What]. To increase sales, I propose that we launch the following marketing campaign… [Now What].”

Get in the habit of thinking in a What‐So What‐Now What structure by taking a minute after listening to a podcast, reading a news article, or watching an educational YouTube video to decide:

  • What was that piece about?
  • Why was that information important and relevant to my life?
  • How can I use it going forward?

About the Author

Matt Abrahams


Self-help, Business, Education, Psychology, Linguistics, Neuroscience, Improvisation, Communication


Think Faster, Talk Smarter: How to Speak Successfully When You’re Put on the Spot is a book by Matt Abrahams, a Stanford lecturer, coach, and podcast host who specializes in strategic communication. The book aims to help readers develop the skills and confidence to excel in spontaneous communication situations, such as public speaking, interviewing, networking, and giving feedback. The book is based on a six-point methodology that Abrahams has refined over years of teaching and coaching. The methodology consists of the following steps:

  • Assess the situation and the audience
  • Manage your anxiety and emotions
  • Organize your thoughts and structure your message
  • Deliver your message with clarity and impact
  • Engage with your audience and handle questions
  • Reflect and learn from your experience

Each step is explained in detail, with practical examples, exercises, tips, and tools to help readers apply them in various scenarios. Abrahams also draws on insights from psychology, neuroscience, linguistics, and improvisation to provide a solid theoretical foundation for his approach. The book is written in a clear, engaging, and conversational style that makes it easy to follow and digest. Abrahams also shares stories from his own experience and from his clients and students to illustrate the challenges and benefits of spontaneous communication.

The book is a valuable resource for anyone who wants to improve their communication skills and overcome their fear of speaking on the spot. It offers a comprehensive and effective framework that can be adapted to any situation and audience. It also provides a lot of practical advice and exercises that can help readers practice and master the skills they need to think faster and talk smarter.

Alex Lim is a certified book reviewer and editor with over 10 years of experience in the publishing industry. He has reviewed hundreds of books for reputable magazines and websites, such as The New York Times, The Guardian, and Goodreads. Alex has a master’s degree in comparative literature from Harvard University and a PhD in literary criticism from Oxford University. He is also the author of several acclaimed books on literary theory and analysis, such as The Art of Reading and How to Write a Book Review. Alex lives in London, England with his wife and two children. You can contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Website | Twitter | Facebook

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