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What makes a great impromptu speech?

Have you ever seen somebody make a great impromptu speech and thought:

“What a great natural speaker. If only I could be that good naturally”?

Have you ever seen somebody make a great presentation at a conference and thought:

“How do they do that – from the heart, unprepared, off the cuff”?

Well, I’m here to tell you a secret, whisper it quietly, it’s all a technique.

The best presenters, public speakers and media interviewees all have one thing in common, they’ve prepared rigorously.

Breaking it down

impromptu speech presentation training glasses.

Delivering a truly great presentation is like writing and performing a piece of music.

It starts off with a single riff: that’s your topic of conversation.

Gradually you build in the music verses and the chorus: that’s your structure.

And finally you add the lyrics: these are your words, your stories and your examples.

Now, in order to write a great piece of music, you need to know several things.

You need to know what you want to sing about.

You need to know what your audience likes.

Lastly, you need to have the ability to perform it effectively on the night.

Things to consider before your presentation

impromptu speech presentation training structure solo violinist.

It’s exactly the same with a great presentation.

Make sure you ask yourself:

  • What do I want to say?
  • Who is my audience?
  • So how will I put it?

We’ve helped Senior Managers, Chief Executives, MPs and Olympic Gold medallists.

We have helped them structure their presentations to win bids, gain promotions and defend huge cuts to public services.

We always ask the same question:

“How do you normally prepare for your presentations?”

You would be amazed, perhaps astonished, for every time we hear the answer:

“I don’t have time to prepare”.

I’ll let you in on another secret here, if you take that approach, your audience will see right through it.

And they’ll resent you for it, because you’re valuing your time over theirs.

Structuring your message

impromptu speech presentation training cliff richard.

This is the equivalent of the Cliff Richard turning up to a packed Wembley having failed to rehearse any of his material.

We’ve all heard it many times before: if you fail to prepare, prepare to fail.

Mark Twain famously commented that it took him “more than three weeks to create a good impromptu speech”.

So do your preparation, ask yourself first about what you want to say.

What are your key messages?

What do you want to get across and what single point are you determined to make?

Then consider the audience.

Who are they?

Are they a junior or senior audience?

Will they understand all of your jargon?

Why are they here?

What common factor brings everyone together?

What stories and examples are going to work best for them?

And finally, ask yourself how you’ll structure it.

Lead with what’s in it for the audience, and move on to your final points.

Finish with a strong call to action.

Bringing it all together

impromptu speech presentation training band guitarist on stage.

And then the performance: like all great music, it must be performed in a way that suits its audience.

Consider your pace, tone and body language. We’ve written more on this here.

If you’re announcing a bonus you’ll want to be upbeat.

Job losses require a more sombre tone.

If you have a regional accent you’ll need to slow down.

If there’s a lectern provided, you’ll need to avoid looking like you’re holding on for dear life.

It’s all a technique.

The great thing about a technique is that it can be taught and learned.

And the best thing? People will look at you and think:

“What a great natural speaker. If only I could be that good”.


Written by Andrew McFarlan, managing director of Pink Elephant Communications. You can view his profile here


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