to Give a Successful Impromptu Speech
you are known as an experienced presenter or as an expert on a particular
subject, you will certainly be asked to give an impromptu speech at one
time or another. Rather than declining or becoming tongue-tied, you should
view this with enthusiasm as a great opportunity to shine as a speaker.
How can you make sure that this will be the successful outcome?
Be willing and able. You just arrived for an evening or afternoon of listening to a presentation in the area of your field of expertise, when the chairman rushes up to you panicked. The speaker isnt going to get there, could you help out by taking his or her place? If you say no you will be thought of an uncooperative but if you say yes and do a poor presentation, it could hurt your reputation as a speaker and expert. I suggest saying, yes but also asking the person who is introducing you to stress what a good sport you are to fill in. Again, however, it doesnt hurt to be prepared if you will be attending a program in your field of expertise. And, it should be a habit to dress well for every occasion, as if you might end up in front of the group. There is always the possibility that you will be asked to fill in for someone else.
Organize your thoughts. Hopefully, you will have some time to organize your presentation before you are on stage. If it is not too obvious, take a walk to a secluded area where you can think through your opening remarks (usually a good story that youve told many times will suffice); what three major points you will make (there are different structures that work well, for example, the past, present, and future); and what will be your conclusion (a strong closing story or a call to action will both work to your advantage). If you cant slip away, think of these while sitting in the audience.
Take the platform with enthusiasm and confidence. Even though it is understandable that you will feel some apprehension in an impromptu experience, visualize yourself as confident and excited about the opportunity to present to a group who will be so happy and receptive that you have agreed to save the day. Remember that, on the whole, most audience members want you to succeed, and if the introducer has done his or her job you will be greeted with relief and pleasure. Take a moment to breathe and establish rapport. Once you start and have the audience with you, your nerves will vanish.
Never, never apologize or make excuses. The minute a presenter starts to apologize and make excuses, he or she robs him or herself of credibility, and the audience prepares for a mediocre or average presentation. Think of yourself as the hero or heroine and give the very best speech you can give on such short notice. You wouldnt have been asked if you werent up to it.
Avoid the common blunders. If you havent had sufficient time to prepare, you must be careful not to ramble or stray from the main subject. A good practice when giving any presentation, impromptu or not, is to decide what your main point or view is, support it with facts and arguments, and stick to it. Weve all heard speakers who talk on and on without saying anything important.
Enjoy the appreciation! Once you are finished, let the audience have time to clap and show their appreciation for a job well done. I have seen so many speakers so eager to get back to their seats, they dont give us time to let them know how happy we are that they have shared their knowledge with us. And, appreciate yourself too! If you forgot to say something you planned to say, or think of something you should have said, no one else knows that. Be happy with what you did! We are all too hard on ourselves!
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