By: Susan Dugdale | Last modified: 04-27-2023
Impromptu speaking can be enough to frighten even the bravest of souls. If that's you, take heart.
Being asked to speak in public is a HUGE challenge for many people.
And being asked to come up with a good impromptu speech on a random topic as well as speak publicly at a moment's notice can catapult the task straight into the very-difficult-to-be-avoided-at-all-times-I'd-rather-die category.
However having acknowledged your fear, let me introduce you to KISS*, an effective way to turn a difficult task into great success.
* KISS: Keep It Short and Sweet.
The KISS (Keep It Short & Sweet) principle gives you a basic structure or formula you can apply to all sorts of occasions where you are likely to be called on to "say a few words".
Like for instance:
When you're asked to wrap up and conclude at business meetings.
It's no problem.
Or you have to give an impromptu presentation, a project update, on the spur of the moment.
Or you're asked for a brief summary of your company's latest developments and have to deal with an unexpected question.
Whatever situation where you're being asked to speak with very little, or zero prep time, KISS will serve you well.
You may even grow to love making off-the-cuff speeches at short notice!
Use the time you have between being asked to speak and actually getting to your feet to plan even if it's only a couple of minutes.
If you're in the middle of a social event or busy meeting find a quieter corner to concentrate.
The very first thing, and the easiest way to start, is to jot your notes on whatever is handy: a paper table napkin, the back of envelope, a piece of paper, index cards...
Get down as many ideas as you can. You do not need the exact words - just the key points as they occur to you.
Now select ONE main point (the best or strongest) from your notes to focus on. Write that down and any opening/closing ideas.
The speech structure you need is the same that you would use for any other form of speech.
You need an opening, a body and a conclusion.
Sort the body of your speech first using which ever of the impromptu speaking templates below best suits your topic.
Having planned the body of your speech, now focus on your opening and conclusion.
Take your lead from the impromptu speaking template you've chosen. If, for example, you've chosen Past, Present, Future you might open with a comment based on time.
"Thank-you for invitation to speak to you about XXXX. To place this in context I'm going to take you on a journey. Are you ready? Firstly we'll go back in time, then we'll focus on what's happening now and lastly, we'll go forward..."
To close, summarize your points briefly and if possible, make your final remark the clincher.
First Aid (solutions) for problems arising from anxiety
If you do, you transmit your anxiety to your audience. Without your alerting them they may never have noticed.
Now you've drawn their attention to how you're feeling, at least some of them will stop thinking about you'd been talking about, and will start to focus on you personally.
Will she continue? Oh my goodness, is she going to cry?
Stop if you need to. Take a pause to marshal your thoughts together. Remember time appears much slower to you. You may think you've stopped for an eternity but it's seldom perceived that way by the audience. They will think you are deeply pondering your next statement or very kindly giving them time to consider your previous point.
Explain your throat is dry. Take the time between someone fetching the water and you taking a sip, to gather your ideas.
It will jog your memory into providing the next point you want to make.
Get the audience involved and then answer their questions.
And lastly, remember impromptu speaking is a skill, and like all skills, it improves with practice.
To help you become what you want to be; an accomplished impromptu speaker, I've several pages of speech topic starters.
There's enough there for many hours of happy practice!
Be kind but disciplined with yourself.
If you really want to become comfortable speaking off-the-cuff, you will.
However it does mean finding the courage to get through the initial discomfort of trial and possibly, error.
There is no other way to learn than by doing it.
Keeping it succinct & simple (KISS) will make a positive difference. Try it and see for yourself. I promise, it is doable!
Commit a few of the speech organizers to memory so they're there for you to choose from when you need them.
Do give this a go. It's an important skill to have in either your work or personal life.
The photo is of my award for winning the impromptu speaking (table topics) competition between all the Toastmaster clubs in my area, E7, of District 72, New Zealand. It's there as proof that it's manageable.☺
A comprehensive bundle of 17 proven fun and effective impromptu speech activities, complete with full guidelines and printables.
The very last words on the topic come from Mark Twain who was obviously no stranger to the concept of "pre-planned spontaneity". His famous tongue-in-cheek quote on impromptu speaking is above.