Tips for giving impromptu talks

April 29, 2011

Over the course of our careers and personal lives, there are times we are asked to speak without warning or sufficient preparation. And unlike a prepared speech, impromptu talks lack the benefits planning and practice provide and instead require us to think on our feet — which can be downright terrifying for many.

Chances are high that you will eventually find yourself in an impromptu speaking situation, so the best thing you can do is arm yourself in advance. Quite honestly, putting a little time and effort into improving your impromptu speaking skills will benefit your everyday life, not to mention those inevitable moments when you are put on the spot.

And with the tips we have provided below, even the most nervous on-the-spot speakers will find themselves in better control during an impromptu talk.

Use your natural style. Everyone has their own distinct way of speaking. Some people are storytellers, who rely heavily on examples and anecdotes to support their points. Other people rely on humor, and still others rely on hard data. Knowing your style will help you feel more comfortable when thrust into an impromptu speaking moment. You won’t struggle to get your point across, and your audience won’t struggle to keep up with you.

Use an example immediately. The best way to connect with your audience is to appeal to them emotionally with an anecdote. Putting a personal spin on your talk humanizes it, making it more relevant to your audience. Not only that, but using a personal experience is an easy way to ease into your argument, as opposed to trying to develop logical supporting facts from the onset. An even better way to get your audience to relate with your point is to bring stories that involve them.

Be engaging. The success of any speaking engagement hinges upon how well you capture and maintain your audience’s attention. The key is to speak with animation and conviction. Enthusiasm is contagious — the more enthusiastic you are, the more your audience will keep their attention locked on you. Walk around the room, gesture occasionally and use eye contact to help deliver your point.

Know there is a beginning, middle and end. Impromptu talks can’t just be a series of unrelated sentences strung together; they require structure — a beginning, middle and end that move from one to the next with ideas that support your central thought logically. After all, your objective is to get your point across. So instead of rambling on, speak slowly and use pauses to gather your thoughts and to let your audience digest the last thing you said.

Keep it brief, if necessary. Don’t get hung up on how long you have been speaking. Impromptu talks aren’t like college public speaking courses — there is no set length of time. If you feel you have reached the end of your story, or that you are drifting from relevant points that support your central argument, cut to the conclusion. If nothing else, the audience will appreciate your brevity.

This post is brought to you by the good folks at Dale Carnegie Training of Central & Southern New Jersey, providers of professional development and management development courses and information in New Jersey. We would love to connect with you on Facebook and Twitter @CarnegieJersey.

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