Speaking on the Spot – How to Do Impromptu
Some time ago, a survey was carried out on combat fighter pilots to find out what their greatest fears were. These were people who can land an airplane on a carrier at night, and yet consistently they said that the thing they were most afraid of was getting up in front of an audience and giving a speech. Even under the best circumstances, public speaking is one of our culture’s most feared activities. However, what if they didn’t give you any time to write the speech? Welcome to impromptu speaking. This how-to will explain how to give an impromptu speech, for even the most terrified and unwilling speaker.
What is an impromptu speech? It is any speech that must be prepared within a limited time period and then given immediately. Impromptu is most often associated with competitive public speaking, but it can show up in even the most innocuous situations. Let’s say you’re happily relaxing at your best friends wedding, polishing off your fourth margarita, when you are called upon to give a toast, right now. That is an impromptu speech. This how-to will focus mostly on the competitive aspect of limited preparation speaking, but the skills taught here apply to any situation.
The main thing running through your mind after you are handed your impromptu topic is probably along the lines of what in the world am I supposed to say about this? Perhaps some scattered impressions or ideas are called by the topic, but of course, those are nothing you could give a speech on. Think again – that is exactly what you are about to do.
Virtually any form of content can be used in an impromptu speech. Personal stories, jokes, facts, opinions — it is all fair game. The trick is to arrange them all in a way that makes sense. Your best bet is to come up with a basic main theme that interests you, and then to organize your ideas and supporting elements around that theme.
Now, get up and start talking. Even if you are shaking like a leaf inside, it is important to present an aura of confidence. Speak slowly and evenly, and make sure that the entire audience can hear you. Do your best to avoid filler words such as like and um. There is nothing wrong with a brief pause between statements.
You want to use up as much of your time as you can, but avoid rambling on and on about something that has no connection to your topic. It is better to keep it short and sweet than to lose your audience at the very end.
Above all, keep your cool. Do your best, and remember that there will always be a next time. Good luck!
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