Has this ever happened to you?
You’re at an event minding your own business.
Okay…maybe minding a few other people’s business as well.
The last thing on your mind is a speech…far less, an impromptu speech.
You think you hear your name…but you convince yourself you must be dreaming…
And then the person next to you pokes you in the ribs and declares “the MC is talking to you!”
So you listen…and she’s informing the audience that she will ask you to say a few words about…
“What is the matter with these people? Why can’t they get a programme going without an impromptu speech from me?” you wonder quietly, as you smile aloud.
I agree with you that it feels like you’re summonsed to give these impromptu speeches, far too often.
But you’re on your own when you declare that you HATE giving these speeches.
Because, you see me, I LOVE giving impromptu speeches. I love the rush of adrenaline I feel when I’m invited to deliver one.
I truly enjoy the feeling of deceit I experience when I deliver one like I had two months’ notice.
And when the MC’s expression changes from deliberate "sympathy" to confused “what the hell just happened!?” I am over a Caribbean full moon.
So what’s my secret?
Those of you who know me are shouting “you are a trained Public Speaker!"
That’s true…but that’s NOT my secret.
It’s rather simple really. My secret is that I rely on my abundance of common sense.
Really now…how many times are you going to be called on to speak without notice, before you tell yourself "I can't stop this from happening so I'd better plan for it!"
That's what I told myself and after that, I was ready for any MC or Chair who wants to jump me by asking me to speak out of the blue!
But it gets better...
Not only can you plan for it, you can fall in love with it too!
And the best part is...I will show you how starting right now with a definition.
What’s an impromptu speech?
You give an impromptu speech when you’re invited to speak on an (formal) occasion with little or no prior notice. In other words, on the spur of the moment.
But, don’t forget that there are times when YOU volunteer to give a speech that you were not scheduled to give.
Do you remember last year at the AGM when the Chair forgot to mention a critical point about the project your committee worked so hard on?
When you jumped up on a point of information to correct this omission, you were delivering an impromptu speech.
When are you likely to have to deliver one?
Here are a few instance when you could be called to deliver a speech with little or no notice:
1. At the AGM of an organisation you belong to
You were the Chair of a committee last year. You completed your report, handed it in with great recommendations and you celebrated the weight that was lifted off your shoulder.
Now you’re at the AGM, with not a care in the world. Then the President thinks it’s a good idea to fill a space with your experience as Chair of that Committee.
2. To fill in for someone
Someone who was previously assigned to do an introduction, a vote of thanks or some similar speech on a programme, has not shown up. And now, they ask you to fill that slot.
3. To speak on behalf of a colleague
Your colleague is leaving (Praise God!) and you attend the farewell function only at the urging of your wife.
Suddenly, among the spoons tapping on glasses and the fists pounding on the table, you are ushered to the front of the room. A microphone is thrust into your hands and you now have to something nice about your enemy.
4. To sell your business
You are at a conference and you had your agenda weeks in advance. Nowhere on that agenda were you required to speak about your business. Now you’re here, you discover you have to...and right after the welcome address!
Why should you fall in love with delivering them?
I know it's easier for you to fall in love with cleaning your room once a week with a tooth brush than with anything to do with public speaking. But here are 4 key reasons why you should fall in love with delivering impromptu speeches.
1. It gives you a unique opportunity to show that you can think on your feet – a very important skill in our fast-paced world.
2. You also demonstrate confidence to an audience which is likely to have many members who admire this quality.
3. Your audience will remember you for lifting the standard of an event when it could have been a disaster when the assigned speaker could not make it.
4. If you deliver a well-presented impromptu speech to the right audience, you can win really great business or explode your struggling career.
So…Can you truly fall in love with giving an impromptu speech?
Of course you can! Here are some tips to help you.
- Expect that you will be asked to speak. It may even be impolite to or unmannerly to refuse. Therefore, collect information, jokes, anecdotes, strange facts, unusual experiences, etc to use as needed.
- Keep up to date in your field. Read extensively and surf the internet but avoid information overload. Collect newspaper and magazine clippings both paper-based and electronic. Also, talk to professional in your area.
- Use your friends to help you. Turn the tables and make them into an impromptu audience and practice small speeches on them. Take their feedback seriously.
- Keep a few speech structures (mentally) handy. Yeah…sounds crazy, right? But I’ve found that most speeches can fit into one of a few structures. Take the time to select 2 or 3 and learn how they work. Here are a few to start you:
- Chronological Order
These tips represent the courtship stage of your love affair. With practice, before long you will be fully in love and asking for "her" hand in marriage.
How do you handle the actual speaking moment?
- Keep your cool. Remember that most of the time, you can’t escape giving an impromptu speech. It may even be impolite to refuse
2. Take a few moments, if possible and go off somewhere to think about what you are going to say.
- Decide which of your mental structures will best work for you in this moment.
- Decide on the single message you want to leave with your audience and surround it with your opening and closing. Your “falling in love” tips above will be invaluable here.
- If the topic is controversial, decide immediately if you’re going to be for or against it. You don’t have the time to be going one way and then the other.
- Here’s one of my “cheat tips” just for you. If the notice doesn’t even allow you time to go off somewhere to think. Take the longest route to the lectern. This will give you a few more seconds to work on numbers 3 - 5 above.
- Take your time when making your presentation. Also, keep it simple and shut up when you’ve come to the end.
- If you’re asked for your views, state them succinctly. Don’t repeat yourself until even you are bored!
How can I look like I had prior notice of an impromptu speech?
- Don’t act surprised when you’re invited to speak. You were preparing for this all the time, remember? And besides, it makes you look like an amateur.
- Don’t apologise for the short notice…or anything else. You know what I mean: “I just heard about this speech…so I can only try my best…” Your audience knows about the short notice, they got it the same time as you did.
- Don’t ramble or stray from the topic you’re asked to deal with. Thinking about this tip…where would you find the time, anyhow?
- Include a few quotations or some unusual information in your speech, if you can. Just make sure they’re relevant.
- Be cool and relaxed with your presentation. Act like you knew that the MC was going to ask you, even before he knew he was going to ask you.
Your next impromptu speech...
Hmmm...I can hear you falling in love with delivering impromptu speeches.
And why wouldn’t you?
I’ve explained what it means to speak without prior notice including the fact that you can volunteer to do it.
I’ve shared my love affair with speaking impromptu and showed you the valuable benefits of your falling in love with it too.
I carefully explained how you can appear as though you were preparing for the speech for months and even shared my secret “cheat tip” with you.
You know you can’t really avoid being called upon to speak and how well you do it could mean increase business for you.
So what’s your next move?
It’s simple really.
Take all the information I’ve given you and commit to upping your speaking game...starting right now!
To your next impromptu speech...