Thursday, August 22, 2013

How to Deliver Impromptu Speeches Without Anxiety

Even people who are very good at delivering prepared speeches are often nervous about being asked to do an impromptu talk with little or no warning. This is something that comes up regularly both when I coach speakers and in online forums.

But dealing with this anxiety is actually very simple. What causes the problem is just the uncertainty and you can eliminate this uncertainty by preparing. The secret is to anticipate what you might get asked to talk about, prepare short talks on these topics and practice them.

Being asked to speak should not come as a surprise. If you are a leader, politician, hero, inventor, startup founder or whatever sooner or later someone will ask you to speak about your experience, idea, business or invention. And since there are only a limited number of situations where speaking is possible you also know more or less when the request is likely to come. You also know more or less what people might expect you to talk about. If you founded a startup people want to hear about that. If you broke a world record people will want to hear about that. You are not going to be asked to talk about something you know nothing about.

Concretely here is how you can prepare for these situations:

BRAINSTORM LIKELY TOPICS. Make a list of the two or three topics you are most likely to be asked to speak about. If you are not sure what these might be ask a friend or colleague to help. In most cases this is very simple. You talk about things that people expect you to know about: your company, your app, your video, your book or whatever it is that people know you for.

DESIGN A SHORT TALK FOR EACH. For each of the topics on this list design a short talk. This should have just one, two or three points and have a simple structure. Make a short list of bullet points to summarize the content. Write down just the key points and don't try to write a script. An impromptu talk should sound smooth and coherent, but not like a recital.

PRACTICE DELIVERING WITHOUT NOTES. Try delivering each of your standard talks using no notes. If you did the design step well then it should be easy to remember your main points. If they are too hard to remember then go back and simplify it. You can carry a small card with the key points for each talk and use this card so that you can practice wherever you are -- maybe in a hotel room, as you drive or in other moments when you have free time. Even better is to practice when talking to friends or colleagues.

Preparation and practice are always critical in public speaking, and since impromptu speeches are really something you should expect there is no reason for not preparing for these, too. Being prepared and being ready will take away the feeling of anxiety, making your speech sound even more compelling.

Lectures, Workshops, Coaching, Writing.

For lectures, workshops, one-to-one coaching and writing on this and other communication topics visit, email or call me on 0033 6 79 61 42 81 in France and 0046 730 894 475 in Sweden.

Other Posts on Related Topics 

Three Keys to Making an Effective and Interesting Presentation
Presentation Technique: Pointing Without Pointing
How to Add Passion to Your Presentations and Speeches
What Romney's Jet Window Story Teaches about Jokes in Public Speaking


TJ Walker said...

Nice tips Andrew. Keep up the good work!

Andrew Hennigan said...

Thank you.