Top Tips, Techniques, and Pitfalls on the Art of Impromptu Speaking in Public
Impromptu speaking may sound more dangerous, more unglamorous and more difficult than prepared speaking – but it is a very important life skill. Imagine your boss asks you where you were when you returned after a long lunch break, or imagine your wife asks you where you were after you came home late from a private drinking session with your friends. All these situations need you to be a master at impromptu speaking especially when you are cornered and need to speak without preparation.
There are many other impromptu speaking situations where you may find yourself speaking without preparation:
- The main speaker for the day backed out and you are asked to take his place.
- You are the surprise winner of an award and are asked to speak a few words while accepting the award.
- You are asked to provide a quick status update during the all-hands meeting.
- You are attending the wedding function of a friend, and need to propose a toast.
So, now that you have been drafted into this situation for impromptu speaking – there are a few strategies that you can use to master this craft.
Start Speaking! – Whenever someone asks you to speak, be ready to start speaking. Just go with the first idea that comes to your mind and start speaking about it slowly. You will gradually observe that once you start speaking slowly but steadily – dozens of other connected thoughts and ideas will start coming to your mind. Simply sail and you will find direction to where you need to go.
Anticipate situations where you might need to speak – For example, if you are a senior employee in the team and are attending the farewell of a colleague, there are high chances that you will be asked to speak. Before you head to the farewell party, do a little bit of preparation and research about the person in context. Look for a related story based on your experiences and interactions with that person. It always helps to have some stock content ready with you so you are not fumbling for words when you are standing on the stage.
Use storytelling techniques to reinforce your message: Everyone loves stories. A story is the easiest way to get your audience to remember your message. If you speak about a story from your personal experience – it is even better.
How to come up with the content of your speech – Read. Write. Watch Television. Consider everything as an experience. The more widely read you are, the more experiences and stories you would have to share with your audience.
Structures to Succeed – An impromptu speech is, after all, a speech and in the absence of any kind of structure, it is unlikely to make an impact on the audience. You could use from amongst any of the popular few structures I have listed below:
O.R.E.O – Opinion, Reason, Explanation, Opinion
- O: Clearly state your opinion about the situation
- R: Give a reason why you have that opinion about the situation
- E: Explain your reason with the help of a story or an example
- O: Reinforce your opinion after you have shared your experience to conclude
Chronological Structure – Break your speech structure down into different points on the timeline if possible
Sequential – If you are asked to speak for 5 minutes, it might be ideal to break your speech down into three main points. Once you have narrated the opening of your speech, give three supporting body points and conclude with a summary.
Causes and Effect – You could break your speech into a cause and effect structure. For example, an impromptu speech on Global Warming would fall well into this structure
Increasing Detail – Start out from a bird’s eye level and move to more detail
Some common mistakes you should avoid during impromptu speaking are:
Do not apologize for forgetting your content even if you lose your chain of thoughts. Move on. No one knows you forgot something unless you draw attention to that.
Concluding more than once – Be coherent. Once you have stated the conclusion of your speech, gracefully walk off the stage. Resist the temptation to add another thought once you have concluded your speech.
Fretting too much about perfection – Go a bit easy on yourself. It is impossible to give a perfect speech each time especially while speaking impromptu and the audience too knows that.
Suggested Reading: Managing your Public Speaking Anxiety and Stage Fear
About the Author
Puneet Wadhwa, the author of this blog – Speak to Succeed! is an IT Business Executive by profession, and a Public Speaker and Leadership trainer by passion. He has been professionally speaking for many years and has won several awards for his public speaking engagements. He presents corporate trainings and seminars to corporations and associations whose people want to speak and lead effectively. To contact Puneet, email him at email@example.com or fill out the contact form at http://www.speaktosucceed.in/about-me/.