A reader recently sent me a question asking for some assistance regarding 'impromptu speeches'. For many standing up and speaking in front of a group is a little disconcerting. Add into this the 'impromptu' element, where the speaker is given very little time to prepare and then even great speakers may 'shake at the knees'. A good way to approach this task is to first understand what it means if you can do it well.
If you are successful at giving an 'impromptu speech' it signifies
• you are competent in the language
• you are confident addressing people who may be strangers
• you present your ideas clearly
• you can connect with and engage the listener
So let's assume you have the first trait and are competent in the language.
The next aspect, confidence to address people who may be strangers, this is more challenging and particularly if it is a job interview situation, it can be tough. I don't think there is any simple solution to this apart from a realization that says, "I am important, what I have to say is useful and interesting and my ideas are just as worthwhile as anyone else's". At the end of the day – life goes on. Your success and pathway in life will meet many challenges; this impromptu speech is just one of those. Look at it as an opportunity, get excited, feel inspired and remember to smile because it can and should be fun.
The third point, present your ideas clearly, is very important to remember. Often when we stand up and talk to a group our heart beat goes faster, our breathing rate increases and our mind races. What comes out of our mouths sometimes can be too fast or too 'out of this world' to appeal to the listener who is not experiencing the same 'adrenaline rush' as you. So calm down, focus on your main points and plan your time.
Assuming that you will be given a little bit of preparation time before you have to get up and speak, it therefore is vital that you plan your speech, just like an essay, ideally introduction, 3 main points supported by examples and a conclusion. It is a formula and may sound boring, but we are not expecting instant J.F. Kennedy's or Dr Martin Luther King's – we just want a believable,well-rounded speech that holds the listener's attention and suggests if given more time, then you could really do an excellent job. So remember the K.I.S.S. formula and keep it simple stupid!
The last point - connect with and engage the listener, is really where you can make yourself memorable and appear distinct from all the other competitors. Ideally you will have some understanding of who the people you are talking to are. This will require a bit of time on your behalf, to actually sit down and think, who are these people, what do they want, what would they be interested in hearing, what are they tired of listening to etc.
To really get to the heart of people takes time and sensitivity so as soon as you walk into that room you are identifying from body language, clothing, voice tone etc, who is the boss, who is second in charge, whose opinion matters most, who may be important to influence etc. Understand your audience as much as possible. What do they really want from you – perhaps most of all it is trust – they need to be able to trust you so if you get the job and they ask you to speak up in front of a group – they know you can do it, it isn't a problem.
But also there is a whole lot of other baggage that comes with this. Are you able to sell the whole organization by your style and manner? Do you fit into their corporate image or is there too much dissonance? Ideally you have been into their workplace before. You have surfed extensively their website and when you present yourself at the impromptu speech it is in a style and way that is just as though you already work there. You fit in.
So – for anyone who is a little bit nervous about giving an impromptu speech just remember - it is a life long skill that only gets better with time. The sooner you get started on this, the sooner more success will come to you and the sooner more doors will open. When you feel better about yourself people start looking at you differently.
You have a right to be heard so believe in yourself. Believe in yourself in the same way people who really love you, and know you, believe in you. They want you to succeed so remember them when you stand up. Visualize their spirit, image and love before your speech.
Remember anything that is a challenge is useful for us in the long term.
Disconcerting adj. disturbing, upsetting, off putting e.g. He had a disconcerting habit that saw him always put his finger up his nose and then into his mouth
'Shake at the knees' = to be nervous, e.g. When she came up to me and tried to kiss me I shook at the knees.
Out of this world = not realistic or based in reality, a bit far fetched, e.g. Listening to your reasoning makes me feel it is a bit too "out of this world" to really be a good idea.
'Adrenaline rush' = a shot of energy, adrenaline is the hormone that makes your heart beat faster, e.g. When I jumped out of the airplane and parachuted I experienced an amazing adrenaline rush.
Well – rounded adjective = to be balanced, complete, unified, no parts missing, e.g. She was a well- rounded character always happy and cheerful but also hardworking and very serious.
Baggage, noun = in this context baggage refers to the extra material that is brought to a situation, the wider context that needs to be appreciated, e.g. After serving in the war the soldier brought back a lot more baggage than just his green uniform, i.e. he was mentally disturbed, often violent etc.
Dissonance, noun = Lack of agreement, consistency, or harmony; conflict, e.g. When the two of them came together there was an obvious dissonance that was difficult to ignore.