Giving a speech without preparation is challenging. Mark Twain, one of the most celebrated American novelist and essayist, on more than one occasion has admitted, off-the-cuff speaking wasn’t as easy as he made it appear to be. Many were surprised when Twain stated, it usually took him three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech. While we all will agree that extemporaneous speaking can be challenging, with practice, thinking on one’s feet is a valuable skill which can be developed with practice. The first related skill that should be developed and mastered is listening. Good speakers know how to listen. Good responses depend on how well we listen, especially for keywords in questions.
A pause is always a good first step before beginning your answer. Take a few moments to add expectations or drama before you begin your reply. Use the moment of silence to gather your thoughts. Also, you can use body language or a display of emotion to indicate how you felt about the question. A smile, surprise or disgust is a good indicator of how you were affected by the question. Next, you must answer the question or state your opinion with confidence. If appropriate, add a bit of humor to break the ice. Decide on your formula or strategy which works for you. Some of the best know strategies are:
- Express an opinion
- Address cause and effect
- Break the topic into components
- Discuss the past, present, and future.
The strategy you use should include a summary to clearly indicate you are closing. Your summary should be a reminder of your key points, call to action and or your answer to the question. Practice your formula, develop your strategy and with time, you will be ready to face any challenging question without preparation.