August 12, 2010
Impromptu speaking skills are coveted by the masses, if not for any other reason than to have the ability to speak on virtually anything given only a short time to prepare. While this task seems fairly trivial, the implications of being able to do such a thing are huge. Becoming a great impromptu speaker gives you great confidence, foresight on handling speech messups, a solid handle on any type of Q&A your audience might throw your way, but most importantly, you will learn how to think on your feet.
So how does one become a great impromptu speaker? Practice. Boring and cliche, I know, but it’s true. No matter how much you think about thinking on your feet, you’ll only get better at it by doing it.
How do you practice? First, grab some impromptu topics by printing off a bunch of quotes from any of the various quotation websites. Don’t spend too much time dwelling on these and asking yourself if you could give a speech on it. That ruins the entire purpose. It would be ideal if you could get someone else to do this step for you. Then, cut the quotes up so that each quote is on its own slip of paper. Stick these quotes into an envelope and shuffle them around. Now you’re ready for the fun part. Draw three quotes and spend 15 seconds choosing the one you think you could give the best speech on. Place the leftover quotes back in the envelope. Now give yourself two minutes to prepare speaking for five minutes. If need be, you can use a notecard to jot your notes down on. (The less you depend on/use the notes method, the better you will become at thinking on your feet.) After your two minutes are up, no matter how ill you feel, give your speech and try to last for five minutes. You can do this in front of a mirror or any friends that are willing to listen. Rinse, repeat.
The more times you go through this “ritual,” the more comfortable you’ll become in front of any audience speaking on any topic, whether you’ve prepared the speech ahead of time or you’re dealing with Q&A at the end. Look for part 2 of this post to come soon with tips and tricks on using your two minutes of preparation time to form a great five minute speech. In the meantime, impromptu away!