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Public Speaking Know How
Public Speaking Know How
The impromptu speech is the most dreaded speech in public speaking class. It’s the element of surprise and the unknown that makes students uncomfortable. Interestingly, students that are more apprehensive about this type of delivery usually do quite well. It’s a matter of thinking fast on your feet, choosing the best path from the ‘get-go’, and sticking with the plan.
An impromptu speech is one that is given ‘off the cuff’ or with very little time to prepare. In most situations, you’ll be asked to speak on topics that are familiar to you. The trick is to 'wow' them with a catchy introduction, deliver a knock-out close, and provide some key points in the body of the speech.
Giving an unprepared speech on the fly isn’t high on the priority list. It's a scary prospect standing in front of a group 'empty-handed'. Each time the subject is brought up in the classroom, eyeballs roll, sighs are audible, and faces look panicked. However, in the classroom, everyone’s in the same boat. In the business world, it’s something you need to know how to do in order to get ahead.
Trying to calm a speakers’ nerves may be achieved by taking a few simple steps.
If you’re anxious, try practicing some relaxation exercises. For instance, before heading to the podium take slow, deep breaths. This type of exercise will help to slow the heart rate and provide moments of pause. Use the power of visualization. See yourself successfully giving the impromptu speech in front of your peers. Try opening and closing your fists releasing excess energy from your body. These types of exercises will help to reduce nervousness with minimal movement or effort.
Next, it’s time to clear the mind. Most impromptu speeches will cover familiar topics. If it’s a classroom speech, the instructor may ask students to share a family memory. If you’re in the boardroom, your boss may ask you to give an update on a project. Intellectually, you know it’s an easy recap. Psychologically, you’re afraid you’ll screw it up.
Taking the steps needed to deliver a great impromptu speech
First, grab a pen and pad for brief note taking. If paper isn’t available, grab a napkin. During a recent classroom impromptu speech, I shared with students that if they didn’t have notebook paper on them, just grab a paper towel. There's plenty available in each classroom (cleaning supplies are everywhere due to CoV-2).
Begin jotting down key points. For a recent classroom impromptu, students choose from a variety of topics. Once the topic was decided, they were required to find two credible sources, via the internet to enhance the credibility of their speech. This exercise in fact finding not only provided more content for the speech but an unplanned lesson on how easy it is to find credible sources for speeches.
Once students had their sources, it was time to find good supporting materials to use for the speech. Students had 10 minutes to find two credible sources, take a few key notes, and plan their introduction and conclusion.
There wasn’t a time limit on the speech. For an impromptu, the length of time isn’t as important as providing enough credible material to satisfy the audience. Regardless, there needed to be an introduction, body and conclusion.
The introduction of a speech needs to get their attention. If you’re discussing a topic that’s familiar, opening statements are easier to create. The introduction should be personal, it should reflect your personality, and it should mean something. Remember, introductions are more of an art than science.
You may want to try to memorize your key points. Whenever you’re writing a speaking outline for a speech, typically your main points are written in key phrases and not sentences. You want to approach the impromptu speech in the same manner. Use keywords or phrases for the main points so they’re easier to remember. Check your notes and make sure you don’t forget any important statistics or examples. The key is to continue to engage the audience through good eye contact and a conversational tone.
Realize you’re in charge of the speech. The speaker is the one that procured the evidence and planned the content. Deliver the speech with all the confidence you can muster.
After the body of the speech comes the close. Sometimes the close may be as simple as restating the main points of the speech. However, you might want to combine the recap with a personal note of your own.
Give the conclusion a little punch and make it memorable. You want to close out the impromptu with a good line.
After recent impromptu speeches were completed, students felt good about the work they had done. Most of the speeches were around 2 ½ minutes. For prepared student speeches like the informative or demonstration speeches, speakers are to have three credible sources for each speech and they're to be three minutes in length. Preparation for this particular exercise in impromptu speaking allowed for 10 minutes of evidence gathering and a brief plan for the introduction and conclusion.
The end result was student’s had a speech prepared in 10 minutes that had depth, personality, and a conversational quality. It was the most relaxed speech to date. If students had an additional five minutes to prepare and the request had been for three credible sources, an entire speech, minus the preparation outline, would be 'good to go' with 15 minutes of invested preparation.
Talk about a confidence booster. This type of exercise was one for the books. Confidence levels rose as credible evidence was delivered in an informal impromptu speech. It was effective and only took 10 minutes to prepare. It was a win for the classroom and the boardroom.
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Liz Latta, Editor/WKCTC Instructor with over 15 years teaching experience. Master's Degree in Organizational Communications from Murray State University