Impromptu, Table Topics, or speaking off–the–cuff are opportunities all speakers will not be able to avoid. From time to time, you’ll be called upon to say a few words when you least expect. Call it whatever you will, every speaker should develop their impromptu speaking skills.
Many spontaneous speaking opportunities occur inside or outside your workplace – Table Topics contests, social events, or even conversing with your spouse and kids. In almost every aspect of daily life, impromptu speaking opportunities occur. However, if you seize every moment to speak, your improvisational skills will improve and someday pay huge dividends.
You may ask how do you prepare for moments and questions which you cannot predict? The trick is to avoid trying to expect or anticipate those moments. Instead, it is best to practice being in the moment and using skills you have developed over the years to stay ready. Use life stories and experiences that brought you to where you are at presently. Also, work on your listening skills. A well-delivered response depends significantly on how well you listen.
Listen for keywords, then let your inner voice silently confirm. what you heard. Before you begin to answer, let that inner voice direct you as you deliver your response with confidence and a style that represents who you are as a speaker. Be authentic. Don’t fight the feeling – that’s a battle you will lose. Show your appreciation for the question with body language.
Before you begin to answer or state your position, pause. A smile will help to break the ice with your audience. It’s also a perfect way to establish a connection with your audience. There is no time penalty for pausing and smiling once it is not overdone. Avoid pleasantries. They are unnecessary – Get to the point. Restate or paraphrase the question to your audience. If possible, tag your opening with a bit of subtle humor. Quick wit is a plus; especially in Toastmasters Table Topic competitive settings. Remember your allotted time is only 3 minutes and 30 seconds. After 3 Min and 30 Sec, you are disqualified.
- Green at two minutes,
- Yellow at 2:30
- Red at 3 minutes. 30 seconds grace period.
For that reason, I recommend you use the KISS approach. Keep It Succinct and Straightforward. Always leave yourself some time to summarize. Then, sell your answer with your summary. To stay focused on the topic, you can use a formula. Many excellent samples are available for all different types of questions. Stay with the rule of threes as you create your formulas to gain experience with different types of questions. Here are some examples. In all of the following examples the speaker should summarize to close:
- PRE: Point Reason Evidence
- WAG: Where I was, where I am, Where I am going.
- CER: Cause – Effect – Remedy
- PPF: Past – Present – Future
Mark Twain once 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 rehearsal to speak confidently. Whether you are an experienced speaker or your first time on the platform, remember you are delivering just a few words and not a lecture. Those few words should have an opening, body, and conclusion. Sounds familiar – however, it’s the words you choose and deliver that will make all the difference.
Stand and deliver impromptu speeches with confidence by following 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. Stand and deliver, and soon you will master the most helpful public speaking skill all speakers must excel at – Impromptu, off-the-cuff speaking.