Impromptu, Table Topic or speaking off–the- cuff are opportunities; all speakers will never be able to avoid. You will always be called upon to say a few words when you least expect. Call it what you will; speaking, thinking, on your feet or winging it; impromptu speaking is a valuable skill every speaker must develop. Impromptu speaking occasions may occur inside or outside of your workplace, social events, or even while conversing with your spouse or kids. In almost every aspect of daily life, those speaking opportunities will occur. However, if you seize every moment to speak, your impromptu skills will one-day pay-off huge dividends.
Some may ask how do you prepare for that which you cannot predict. The trick may be to avoid trying to predict – practice being in the moment. Use the skills you have developed over the years as a speaker. Use your life stories and experiences that brought you to where you are presently standing. A well-delivered response will depend significantly on how well you listen. Be attentive. Listen for keywords and your inner voice as you silently confirm what you just heard. Your inner voice will then direct you through as you proceed to deliver your answer with confidence and a style that represents who you are as a speaker. Don’t fight the feeling – that’s a battle you will often lose.
Before you begin to answer the question or state your position, pausing with a smile is always an excellent way to start. It is a fantastic way to connect with your audience. There is no time penalty for smiling once it is not overdone. Pleasantries are unnecessary – restate the question to your audience and if possible tag it with a bit of humor to begin. Quick wit is a plus; however, in a Toastmasters Table Topic setting, your allotted time is only 3 minutes and 30 seconds. Green at two minutes, Yellow at 2:30 and Red at 3 minutes at which time you have 30 seconds grace before disqualification for going overtime. For that reason, I recommend you use the KISS approach. Keep your response Succinct and Straightforward. Keep your responses Short and Sweet. Always leave yourself some time to summarize. Sell your answer with your summary.
To stay focused on the topic, you can use a model, formula, or template. There are many excellent samples available for all different types of questions and occasions which you can turn into acronyms. There is the PREP formula:– POINT–REASON – EXAMPLE – then sell your POINT to summarize. There is the WAG – Where I WAS where I AM where I am GOING. Again, you must summarize to close. The CER:- CAUSE – EFFECT – REMEDY is another useful model. And the PPF:– PAST – PRESENT – FUTURE is another. Stay with the rule of threes to create your own. As you continue to gain more experience and different types of impromptu speaking opportunities build your own LIBRARY.
Mark Twain said it usually takes him three weeks to write a good impromptu speech. Although Twain makes a good point, I believe it takes a lifetime of experiences to stand before an audience without any rehearsal to speak with confidence. Whether you are an experienced speaker, or it is your first time on the platform, remember you are delivering just a “few words” and not a dissertation. Your few words must have an opening, body, and conclusion. Sounds familiar – however, it is the words you choose and your delivery that will make all the difference.
Follow the basic rules of public speaking. Never apologize, do not ramble, be authentic, and be in the moment. Sell your point with your summary. Don’t wait to be chosen; don’t wait to be called, raise your hand to be selected. Stand and deliver, and soon you will master the most useful public speaking skill all speakers must excel at – Impromptu, off -the – cuff speaking.