How to speak confidently with no time to prepare

Very often these days I am asked to deliver a speech at very short notice. Sometimes, I have some notice and a little bit of time to prepare. Some other times, I only have minutes before I am due to go and stage and speak. These situations happen all the time and will happen to you too. The good news is that I have developed some techniques to speak confidently with no time to prepare. You too can use these techniques and make the most of these impromptu speaking situations to raise your profile.

By mastering impromptu speaking, you can always grab opportunities to raise your profile wherever you are.

We can all speak confidently about something

Firstly, it is important to remember that we can all speak confidently and with authority about something. It could be an interest or a hobby that you have. What you do every day in your professional life. Or even stories or anecdotes about past events or experiences in your life. Harness these stories or experiences when the time comes. Leverage your knowledge on any particular subject if you’re called to speak at short notice. Your knowledge will come through in your delivery and help you speak confidently. I have lost count how many times obscure factoids about Russia, movies or science helped me when asked to speak off the cuff.

Have one core idea and three points

I have talked before about centring a speech or a presentation around a single idea. When it comes to impromptu speaking, my good friend and fellow speaking coach Aletta Rochat call it a ‘T-shirt slogan’. Choose what your core idea will be and write down somewhere. Your idea mustn’t be longer than a single sentence and must resonate with your audience. Once you’ve decided what your idea it is, come up with three points to support it. These could be stories or anecdotes that relate to your idea and reinforce it. It could be a comparison of the pros and cons if you’ve been asked to persuade an audience on the spot. Just have no more than three points to maximise audience interest.

Engage the audience

Engaging your audience can serve multiple purposes. Firstly, it can give you a chance to gain extra thinking time on stage. Most of this thinking will be subconscious, but if you’re under pressure any time can help your thoughts to come across more clearly. Secondly and most importantly, engaging your audience will help you build a connection with it. This connection will enable your message to be heard and remembered more clearly. Stories are a good way of engaging your audience, but consider using these techniques too:

  • Rhetorical questions such as ‘Have you ever wondered about … ?’
  • Getting your audience to answer a question and revealing the correct answer later.
  • Giving your audience a short task to do such as writing their thoughts on a given topic.

Keen to practice the techniques?

Come along to my Speaking with Impact 1 Day workshop where I will cover impromptu speaking in detail. What’s more, you’ll even get the chance to practice impromptu speaking through games and fun activities. Places are limited so book yours soon!

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