How to Write an Impromptu Speech

Writing an impromptu speech isn’t a non sequitur, though it may seem contradictory.

Impromptu Speech

Improptu Speech

While you don’t have time to write down your thoughts if you’re called on to say something extemporaneously, you do want to make a positive impression.

The secret is to prepare in advance so you’re ready with your “impromptu” remarks.

Tell Me About Yourself

“Tell me about yourself” is one of the questions that people fear the most. It’s usually the first “surprise” question you’ll get in a job interview, or when meeting a prospective client in a new business pitch…or even in a media interview. Don’t start sweating. Instead, take a breath and then respond with the key points you had prepared in advance because you expected that opener.

When you’re put on the spot you need to have a response in your hip pocket that you can use for that situation.

In a job interview, you might say, “You’ve probably read my resume before this meeting, so what I’d like to tell you about is my passion for writing because it says a lot about me.” Then share the key messages you’ve prepared in advance to describe why your passion will help you to do the job better than any other candidate.

Anticipating Questions

Grab the opportunity – and you need to look at it that way – to give an impromptu speech so you can demonstrate your prowess at networking events, client meetings and even with a group of strangers who sit down together at an industry dinner.

A personal example is the time I entered the board room where my team and our client, a biotech CEO, were meeting to discuss a large group training session that was starting the next day in Las Vegas. My plane was late, the meeting was already in progress, and I barely had time to sit down when the chairman asked, “Tell me, what can we expect from you and your team this weekend?”

To buy time, I responded, “Ron, I’m so glad you asked me that. We’re excited to share everything we know with your thought leaders.” Then I caught my breath and continued, “There are three major areas we’re going to cover” and went on to recap the training content, all the while smiling and making eye contact with him.

While not expecting to give a spontaneous speech in front of 12 people that day, the chairman liked what he heard and we continue to work for that company many years later.

Do Your Homework

Do your homework in advance of a meeting. Learn who is going to be there and what their responsibilities are.

Write down your thoughts ahead of the meeting, including examples, analogies and metaphors that will engage your audience. Practice them until they seem extemporaneous!

This is your time to shine and sell yourself when you have the chance to jump into the conversation with your impromptu remarks.

On All the Time

Always be ready with comments that are relevant to the occasion. Many experienced professionals have learned this lesson the hard way, having embarrassed themselves when they fumbled around for something to say. You can bet they are now prepared for the occasions when they have to make impromptu remarks and speak “off the cuff”.

If you’re a new professional, you might not expect to have a speaking role when invited to a meeting with more senior executives. But wouldn’t it be great if you were unexpectedly asked for your opinion, and you were ready to give it?  You’ll get high marks from people who could be helpful to your career and make yourself memorable for the right reasons.

Truth be told, there is no such thing as an impromptu speech. Isn’t that what we do every time we open our mouths to talk?

Everyday conversations are impromptu speeches. Start to think of them that way and you’ll be much more confident the next time someone says, “tell me about yourself.”

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