Becoming a Great Impromptu Speaker
By Natalie Gallagher
The first time I was called on to give an impromptu speech in front of my colleagues, I was so nervous and unprepared that I rambled incoherently for 30 seconds, then spoke as fast as I could through my key points. Later someone told me I should’ve been an auctioneer instead of a professor. Does this sound familiar to you?
There’s much we can do to be great at delivering prepared presentations, but more often than not, we will be called on to deliver speeches on the spot. Every professional will have to give an unprepared speech at some point during his or her career, which can be a terrifying proposition. Learning how to speak on the spot can help ease the fear, and lead to better impromptu speeches.
Here are a few tips to becoming a great impromptu speaker:
Practice, Practice, Practice
Challenge friends, family, and co-workers to give you open-ended questions you must answer in a 1-3 minute speech format. By doing this, you are training your brain to be able to rapidly access and organize key information. Do one speech exercise every day, even (and especially) while doing mundane tasks like washing dishes or taking a walk.
Develop a mental “template” for the impromptu speech
Even on the spot, a great speech includes a clear intro, body, and conclusion. A template you can easily access mentally for all impromptu speeches could look like this:
- Intro: Give 1-3 sentences of background info about the topic you’re being asked to speak on. It is appropriate to repeat the question, if that is how the speech was prompted.
- Body: Explain your point of view regarding this topic, and include at least one example/piece of evidence of why you feel that way.
- Conclusion: summarize the key points of what you just spoke about.
Read, Read, Read
Reading trains your brain to process information, and the more you do it, the better you are at it. Beyond that, reading also gives you a wealth of information to draw from when speaking on the spot. Even if it’s just 15 minutes a day, reading books, articles, blogs, essays, etc. will give you numerous examples and ideas to use in any of your speeches, including impromptu.
Use the Pause
During any speech, taking the time to pause, breathe, and gather your thoughts will lead to greater audience understanding and connection. The impromptu speech is no different.
The benefits of pausing include:
Making a key point – the audience will have time to process and think about what you said.
Losing your train of thought – the pause will give you time to gather your thoughts and begin again without nervous rambling.
Managing nerves – the pause helps you to breathe deeply, which signals to your brain that you are in a safe place, and thus calms you down.
The possibility of having to speak on the spot can be overwhelming and fear-inducing, but it can also be a great opportunity to strengthen our public speaking skills! By incorporating these simple techniques into our routines, we can master the art of impromptu speaking.
Natalie Gallagher is a skilled storyteller who works closely with clients to help them express their unique personalities through written and spoken content. Contact Natalie through email at firstname.lastname@example.org.