Impromptu speaking is more of a predicament you may find yourself in rather than a method of delivery. Since an impromptu talk is one for which you have had no previous notice, you are denied the advantage of preparation. Yet, if you analyze your daily conversation, you will find that most of it, be far, is impromptu: in class, over coffee, at home, on the phone, with a date, and during interviews. In all these cases, except interviews, you may be conversing with one or a half-dozen people. You talk: they listen. They talk; you listen.
Because of your experience or degree of involvement in a group or organization, you should know whether or not you may be called upon “to say a few words” at a meeting. If there is any possibility that you may be called upon, prepare some comments. Before going to a meeting, banquet, social, civic, or fraternal gathering, ask yourself, “If I were called upon to speak, what would I say?”
An impromptu situation does not require a fifteen minute talk. Driving home one sharp point in a couple of carefully prepared minutes of an “off-the-cuff” talk can make you look like a real pro.
If there is any possibility, no matter how remote, that you may be asked to say a few words, be ready for it. It is better to be prepared and not called upon than not to be prepared and called upon.
Although you may have something prepared, in a general sense, once called upon, you must focus your thoughts on the specific subject and occasion.
Following are some ideas that may help in your actual delivery:
• Refer to what previous speakers have said.
• Comment on some of the topical views expressed by people at -our table. They could be a fertile source of ideas. Compare the past and present, with possibly a word on the future.
• Compare certain advantages and disadvantages.
• State the problem and a possible solution. (Perhaps you may wish to recommend a special committee be named to investigate the matter further and then file a report at the next meeting.)
• State the importance of the problem and its effect on our families and our daily lives.
• Consider the topic from the viewpoints of childhood, adulthood, old age.
• Consider the topic from political, economic, or social aspects.
• Consider a topic geographically–by city, state, country, and world.
One or more of these approaches should “work” for you, because your obligation is to speak only for a few minutes. No one is expecting a fully prepared fifteen minute talk. But you do have to think fast; make no mistake about that. And under no circumstances start off by apologizing.
If you are completely unprepared and do not wish to address the group, bow out as gracefully as possible (again, prepare a short statement ahead of time).
There is no question that the best preparation for an impromptu performance is to have had practice in extemporaneous speaking and to have a mind well stocked with information and opinions. The most important suggestion, however, is to prepare ahead of time. Before you go to any gathering plan a few pertinent remarks so that the audience will not only listen to you but will also envy your ability to speak off the cuff.
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