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Tips for impromptu speaking

01 Jun, 2020 Speeches and presentations
  • You have just joined a committee representing three business units from your organization, and the chair asks you to speak about a joint issue without notice.
  • You are called into an executive meeting to update top management about an issue you are responsible for managing.

These are a couple of examples of off-the-cuff or impromptu speaking, which happen frequently in our business lives.

Speaking spontaneously is a different skill from prepared speaking. However, this can be just as important as a prepared speech or presentation – possibly even more important.

During your career, senior managers will evaluate your qualities partly on the contribution you make at meetings. If you don’t say anything, especially when others believe you have the knowledge that others should listen to, many people will assume you are short-changing yourself. They will under-estimate your abilities and view you in that light in future. They might think you are an introvert and therefore unlikely to go higher up the ladder of leadership.

Examples of impromptu speaking

  • Your boss turns to you in a meeting and asks for a spur-of-the-moment update.
  • You get called into a meeting to tell them the latest on an issue.
  • You are asked an unexpected question while on a panel of speakers.
  • You receive unexpected pushback on your ideas at a company meeting.
  • You are asked on the spot to give a goodbye speech to a departing employee.

The challenge and the rewards

With a little preparation and practice, you can overcome the problem of not speaking up. If you handle your communication in those improvised interactions – your confident voice, your conversational tone, your concise answer – you will build trust from others.

Why is off-the-cuff speaking so hard? One major cause of not speaking up is not having enough time to prepare. People don’t necessarily have a framework for handling impromptu speaking, so they simply say whatever is on their mind, for better or worse.

Fortunately, there are frameworks for speaking off the cuff, and you can practice for those situations:

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About the author and editor Kim Harrison

Kim Harrison loves sharing actionable ideas and information about professional communication and business management. He has wide experience as a corporate affairs manager, consultant, author, lecturer, and CEO of a non-profit organization. Kim is a Fellow and former national board member of the Public Relations Institute of Australia, and he ran his State’s professional development program for 7 years, helping many practitioners to strengthen their communication skills. People from 115 countries benefit from the practical knowledge shared in his monthly newsletter and in the eBooks available from cuttingedgepr.com.

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