3 Ways to Prepare for Speaking at a Moment’s Notice

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Mark Twain once quipped that he “never could make a good impromptu speech without several hours to prepare it.” And the truth of the matter is that the ability to deliver a quality speech on-demand is a skill that takes a huge amount of practice and preparation.

If you’re asked to speak without any notice at all, what do you say? How do you keep an audience engaged? How do you stay organized, and prevent yourself from rambling? These three tips should give you a good start on how to do the legwork so that you can be a great impromptu speaker.

1. Read More

Being able to speak off-the-cuff means that you must have a broad base of knowledge from which to speak. That means that it’s really important that you build a solid knowledge base. That means you need to read more, learn more, and expand your understanding beyond just your particular area of expertise.

Read philosophy, read the classics, read about science and technology, read about art and music, and read the news. Broaden your horizons and learn more about the world. That will help you to have sufficient content to match any situation you might find yourself in.

2. Keep a Notebook

Keep a notebook, and fill it with interesting stories, quips, facts, and ideas that you come across. As you read, take note of the things that you think are important, or things that might be useful. Off-beat news stories, quotations, and anecdotes all make for great impromptu speech material.

Of course, you’re not going to have your notebook with you when you need to give the speech. Nor are you going to have time to prepare before the speech itself. So, why keep the notebook? First, the act of transcribing the information helps you recall it when you need to. Second, going over the notebook contents from time-to-time, and highlighting the things that seem most useful, will help you retain the information and keep it fresh. As an added bonus, this notebook will come in very handy when you have more time to prepare a speech.

3. Practice Regularly

Isn’t the definition of impromptu speaking to give a speech without having had practice or preparation? So, how do you practice impromptu speaking? Well, you practice by giving short speeches on a variety of different topics on a regular basis.

Find a book of quotations, open to any given page, and select one of the quotations. Take 2 or 3 minutes, and make an outline of a speech about the meaning of that quotation. Use the anecdotes and ideas that you remember from your reading or your notebook. Provide an introduction, three main points, and a conclusion that makes an argument for or against the quotation.

Have somebody watch you, or record yourself. Pay attention to what is working and what isn’t. Work on the problem areas in your next go-round. Give 2 or 3 of these a week, for a few months, and soon you’ll find yourself becoming a much more comfortable impromptu speaker.

Got more suggestions on improving your off-the-cuff abilities? Leave ‘em in the comments!