Impromptu Speaking

Created by Marilyn Latchford, DTM

There is nothing more challenging than trying to assemble your thoughts and speak on a moment’s notice. Whether it is to give an opinion, convince someone to accept your point of view or to inspire or persuade others on a moment’s notice, impromptu speaking takes place in all aspects of your life – at home, social events, at work.


Be Prepared


You can eliminate a lot of stress by being mentally ready. In most cases, you will know the overall topic being discussed. Do a little preliminary planning and keep yourself aware of the possibility of being called upon at any moment.


Before and during a scheduled meeting or event, ask yourself:


  • What would I say if called upon?

  • What can I contribute on the topic?

  • How much information can I give in a finite period of time? 

  • How can I build on what was previously said by other speakers?


If you are caught in a true impromptu situation, draw ideas from:


  • the audience itself

  • the occasion

  • something you have hear before from other speakers or attendees

Be Organized


A well crafted speech whether prepared or impromptu will add to your credibility.  Pay attention to:


Structure - Make sure you have a definite opening, body and conclusion tied back to opening whether your speech is 60 seconds or 10 minutes. Think about the following:


  • Is there a central theme or idea you want to present?

  • Do you have a story, quotation, question, interesting statistic or fact to capture the attention of your audience right from the start?

  • Do you have points and examples to support the central theme or idea?

  • Do you have a strong conclusion? What do you want your audience to walk away with – a challenge, call to action, final thoughts?


Content – To capture your audience, you need to engage them intellectually as well as emotionally. Too often people try to be serious and present only facts. There is a saying ‘facts tell but stories sell’. Where you can, insert stories or experiences to paint a picture in the other person’s imagination. People may not remember your words but they certainly will remember your stories.


Delivery - Every time you speak, you influence the attitude of the listener. Whatever you reflect out will be reflected back to you. Whether you are lukewarm or excited and passionate about what you are saying, you audience will pick up the clues and will respond in kind.



Keep the following in mind:


  • State your point with force and conviction. A request for action should be emphasized by vocal animation and directness.

  • Don’t forget the benefits of body language. Energy created by gestures, eye contact, facial expressions and whole body movement will attract eager listeners because people are naturally attracted to it.

  • Couch relevant detail in concrete, colorful language. It is the best way to recreate an incident and paint a picture for the audience.

  • Restrict your points to fit your allotted time. If you have 2 minutes, don’t present 11 points. Pick the most important points and elaborate.




  1. Express an Opinion – State your opinion, justify it with a supporting statement, offer reasons why you agree or disagree with an idea or concept, state opinion again.

  2. Address Cause and Effect - State the situation, discuss its causes and consequences.

  3. Break the Topic into Components  - Discuss each point individually using phrasing like: “three areas need to be taken into consideration”, “to begin with …”

  4. Discuss the Past, Present and Future - If assessing a situation over a span of time, use a timeline approach – point, past, present, future, and point.


Practice, Practice, Practice


Take every opportunity to speak so that your mind will relax and your energy will come out naturally. Practice at home, work and at a social event. Watch for visual clues from the other person and respond accordingly. 


Final Thoughts


  1. Don’t Panic – Take a few seconds to think about the topic and form an opinion. Remain calm and smile. There is no need to rush to the end.

  2. Don’t apologize - Apologizing or making excuses is annoying and reduces the effectiveness of your speech.

  3. Don’t Ramble - Repeating old statements or backtracking can become monotonous. Come full circle and restate your original points but be brief. If you come to a natural end, don’t start up again with another thought. This will only confuse your audience.

  4. Don’t Invent - Strive for sincerity and if you don’t know the answer, say so and ask a few questions in return to show your interest. Bluffing is risky.

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