Quickly, What Am I Going To Say?
Short notice speeches and impromptu speeches
There are many situations in our everyday lives when we may be called upon to speak at short notice or speak immediately. You could be at work, speaking to retail staff or a bank manager. You may be speaking to a stranger at the supermarket. Wherever you are, you can practice spontaneous and short notice speaking.
The definition of short notice speaking is when you have some warning before you need to speak. Impromptu speaking is when you speak immediately, completely ‘off the cuff’.
Don’t panic! There are techniques which can be used in these situations to make them manageable and, in fact, enjoyable.
What to say
This depends on the situation and the topic at the time. Keep to the topic, know your audience and your purpose (to inform, persuade, motivate, entertain or a combination of these).
Speech construction is the same as for any speech – an introduction, a body of main points and a conclusion. However, with impromptu speaking the time is short and you need to think quickly, so knowing some techniques is very helpful. Discussions, giving an opinion and answering questions all require impromptu speaking.
When your boss asks you to speak in front of colleagues or a client, or you are asked to speak at a meeting or a function, the key elements for making a good speech in daily situations are:
• Speech structure
Try to think of some aspect of the topic which is new and interesting rather tell something already known. Unless you have a natural flair for this, the element of inspiration may be illusive. By practising the following techniques most speakers can develop the ability to think quickly and present a well- structured speech to any topic with little or no warning.
The aim is to be able to recollect a previous experience or information that is linked to the topic which will help to generate a flow of ideas and phrases.
If asked to speak totally impromptu the following advice will be helpful. Respond slowly. Walk slowly to the lectern or place of presentation. Pause after addressing the Chair, President, MC or the person in charge. While doing this keep thinking, thinking, and thinking, the whole time.
Don’t waste time. Decide on one point (often the best point for development is the very first one that came into your mind), then set out to build on it.
Speech construction – How to say it
Speech construction can be based on choosing one of the following methods.
1. PREP is a ‘tried and true’ method which is effective for business meetings, conference calls and interviews. These settings are structured.
P is for point – your main point.
“I believe that . . .”
R is for reason – why you are speaking on the topic
“The reason I believe this is because . . . “
E is for example – give examples to bring life to what you are saying
Give a number of examples depending on the time available
P is for point – conclude by restating your point
“This is why I believe that . . .”
2. Pros and Cons is another method which can be used in structured settings. Present the case for affirmative and the case for the negative, then sum up with an effective solution.
This method is also suitable when delivering an informative speech to an audience.
3. Time sequence method: Past, present, future Consider the past, present and future of the item, person or occasion on which you are asked to speak.
4. Listing method: List facts and ideas as they come to you. Try to summarise with a conclusion that ties it all together.
5. Social, political, economic method: These are suitable approaches for a topic of public interest. For example: The effects of mining
6. Personal, national, international method: Many impromptu speakers use the personal experience (tell it with a story). National and international events and situations can also be told in a story form. Using any of the three aspects can also be used in informative speeches.
7. The interrogatives: Use of the following formula or some of the elements is a method which can create an effective short notice or impromptu speech.
Prompts to assist in thinking:
• WHAT is it?
• WHY does it / did it happen?
• WHEN does it / did it happen?
• WHERE does it / did it happen?
• HOW will it / did it happen?
• WHO is it about?
Choose all of the interrogatives, a combination of them or one which is applicable to the situation.
Tips for you
As the speaker think about:
What does the topic mean to you personally?
Why are we here? Why am I speaking? What is my purpose?
Decide on your own reasons when answering these questions.
Remember the speech construction methods.
Consider the time factor.
Remember, preparation prevents rambling.
If it is a short notice speech, jot down a few points as preparation.
Remember . . .
Enjoy the opportunity to speak.
Keep it simple
Use language so that you don’t lose the direction of your speech and so the audience can follow you easily. Be sincere. No one expects brilliance and wit from an impromptu speech, however sincerity always shows.
Structure of the speech Follow the same rules as for a prepared speech
Opening / Introduction Make it attention grabbing. It is an opportunity to share your point of view.
Body / Content Select one main point worth making and build on that.
Ending / Conclusion Follow from the body of the speech, link it to your opening.
Many impromptu speeches occur at social events and sometimes you have an idea that you could be asked to speak. Be prepared. Have some basic ideas in mind at all times. Remember the more practice you have at making prepared speeches the more you will be able to respond to an impromptu or short notice request.
Learn to welcome the opportunity to speak up in any situation.