One way to begin a presentation is with a quotation, so we were delighted to be pointed toward one that encapsulates several previous Speak Previews® articles. It's a comment made by the Roman orator and philosopher Cicero, who said, "All action is of the mind and the mirror of the mind is the face, its index the eyes."

Although he might not have agreed completely that emotion plays a substantial role in the workings of the mind, Cicero would have applauded the skilled presenter's attention to facial expression and eye focus. The face and the eyes can be used to strengthen your message and engage your audience, two important elements of effective communication that shouldn't be overlooked. So do use them both, the face as mirror and the eyes as index, as a part of your communication strategy.


In response to our article on delivering impromptu remarks, a few people noted that their primary difficulty when put in the professional hot seat is that they don't seem able to think quickly enough to form a coherent and pertinent response that satisfies them. People do think differently and at different speeds. Some of us need to gather lots of information before we can reach a conclusion or even form a preliminary opinion. Others need only a little information to help them make an intuitive leap—or maybe they just process the bulk of it faster. So they are somewhat advantaged when it comes to making impromptu comments.

How can you become better at thinking on your feet? Here's an exercise that will help you learn to think faster. It requires you to make connections. It strengthens associative thinking, one of the major ways our minds attempt to group or categorize information and then link it to other pieces of information. It can serve as a sort of short-cut to forming your thoughts when you are asked to deliver comments but not given time to prepare.

In the exercise, we give you three words and you find one word that ties them together, one word that names a concept or category that all three words are a part of.

What, for instance, links Toast, Door, and Fry? (Answer: All three connect to the word "French.")

Here are some others:

  • Book All Girl
  • World Rockefeller Mollusk
  • Struck Gaze Light
  • Up Funeral Ship's
  • Over Out Card
  • Boy Grown Body

How did you do? Practice making such connections if speeding your thought processes is a priority for you. Connecting is, after all, a habit of the mind.


Another point arose from our article Mirror Me. While mirroring the body language, tone, and facial expression of another person can help establish rapport and understanding, deliberately not mirroring may help defuse a difficult situation. Responding evenly and gently to words spoken in anger, for instance, may help neutralize what could escalate into a nasty confrontation. Likewise, refusing to mirror menacing or dismissive gestures and body language can halt a cycle of antagonism. Such anti-mirroring may be useful in situations as varied as a Q&A session and a discussion with a colleague.

As we look forward now to our second year of Speak Previews® , we invite you to ask questions, make suggestions, and tell your stories. Sharing your experience helps us connect—in all ways.