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How to Give a Great Impromptu Speech
Last Updated: February 4, 2023 References
This article was co-authored by Lynn Kirkham . Lynn Kirkham is a Professional Public Speaker and Founder of Yes You Can Speak, a San Francisco Bay Area-based public speaking educational business empowering thousands of professionals to take command of whatever stage they've been given - from job interviews, boardroom talks to TEDx and large conference platforms. Lynn was chosen as the official TEDx Berkeley speaker coach for the last four years and has worked with executives at Google, Facebook, Intuit, Genentech, Intel, VMware, and others. There are 8 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been viewed 390,390 times.
Most speeches are the result of careful planning, revision and practice. There may be times, however, when a situation demands that you give an impromptu speech with little or no time to prepare. When you find yourself in an unexpected public speaking scenario, you’ll be improvising what you say, which means you’ll have to be able to think on your feet. Following a basic structure, pacing yourself and staying composed will help you deliver an oration you can be proud of, or at least survive with minimal embarrassment.
Setting Up an Unexpected Speech
- Most of the time when you’re giving an impromptu speech, you’ll be singled out to say a few words on the spot. Since you’ll only have a few moments, preparing yourself is more about getting yourself in the right state of mind than it is knowing exactly what you’re going to say.
- If you really need to milk it, you can buy yourself some extra time by shaking hands, exchanging pleasantries or adjusting the microphone stand before speaking.
- Assume that everyone around you wants to see you succeed. This will help put you at ease. Expecting yourself to fail will only destroy your composure and make you more fearful of your audience.
- Confront the reality of your situation to avoid being blindsided by panic. Accept that you have to give a speech and then focus all your resources on giving a good one.
- Oftentimes, the more confident you make yourself appear, the more confident you’ll feel.
- Relax! Speaking in front of a crowd is not that big a deal. Even if you make a mistake, it’s not the end of the world.
- Don’t just jump right into the main idea of your speech. Test the waters by getting used to speaking and sharing a little about yourself first.
Delivering an Effective Speech
- Use simple sentences that follow a logical progression and enunciate your words carefully to keep yourself from getting tongue-tied.
- Slowing yourself down a little will give your mind time to catch up and formulate new ideas.
- Two minutes will fly by once you start speaking. Despite your reservations about being put on the spot, you may actually find it harder to give a short speech than a long one.
- A good way to give your speech a solid beginning, middle and end is to present details chronologically. For example start with “when I first became friends with John, he…”, follow that up with “now that we’re coworkers, we have more fun than ever…” and conclude with “I have no doubt that the future of our friendship will be just as entertaining.”
- When describing personal experiences, avoid sharing opinions on irrelevant controversial subjects.
- Humor is a great icebreaker and also makes it easier to hold your audience’s attention.
- Be sure any jokes you make are suitable for the age and demographic of your audience, as well as the occasion itself.
Ending on a High Note
- As with the rest of your speech, keep your conclusion brief. It’s alright to sign off with a simple “thank you for your time” or “let’s hear it for the newlyweds.”
- If you’re planning on making a specific request or appeal, as for a business conference, the end of your speech is the proper time to do it.
- The conclusion is the perfect occasion to come out with something especially heartfelt. Emotions will run high and the crowd will be moved by your sentiments.
- You don’t have to thank every important figure at the event individually. A general expression of gratitude is all that’s needed.
- Be clear who you’re supposed to hand the microphone or floor off to so that you don’t end your speech by looking around in confusion.  X Research source
- Impromptu speeches are mostly appraised by the willingness of the speaker to rise to the occasion. There’s no sense in being too critical of your performance since you’ll have had no time to work on it beforehand.
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- Practice for unexpected speaking scenarios by volunteering to give impromptu speeches at casual events. Thanks Helpful 15 Not Helpful 2
- While brainstorming, quickly come up with three or four main points to cover. Thanks Helpful 18 Not Helpful 3
- If you're using a microphone, stay within optimal range for your voice to be amplified. Don't move the microphone too close or too far away from your mouth. Thanks Helpful 14 Not Helpful 2
- Steer clear of subjects you don't know much about. Thanks Helpful 12 Not Helpful 2
- Be careful not to offend your audience. Not only is it bad form and will make your speech be perceived as a failure, it could actually harm your standing among your acquaintances. Thanks Helpful 12 Not Helpful 2
- Take a moment to get your appearance in order before presenting yourself. Steal a quick glance in the mirror or have a trusted friend tell you if your hair is a mess, your shirt is untucked, you have food stuck in your teeth, etc. Thanks Helpful 10 Not Helpful 2
- Don't use generic, pre-written speeches pulled from the internet or oration guidebooks. These can easily come off as stilted and inorganic. Your audience will be able to tell if you're simply going through the motions. Thanks Helpful 9 Not Helpful 4
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- ↑ Lynn Kirkham. Public Speaking Coach. Expert Interview. 20 November 2019.
- ↑ http://blog.kevineikenberry.com/leadership-supervisory-skills/six-keys-to-better-impromptu-speaking/
- ↑ http://wittcom.com/how-to-develop-confidence-speaking/
- ↑ http://sixminutes.dlugan.com/how-to-impromptu-speech/
- ↑ http://www.askmen.com/money/body_and_mind_150/192b_better_living.html
- ↑ http://www.write-out-loud.com/how-to-use-humor-effectively.html
- ↑ https://speakingwithoutnet.wordpress.com/2012/02/08/ending-on-a-high-note-the-last-sentence/
- ↑ https://www.workingvoices.com/insights/presenting-how-to-react-when-you-make-a-mistake/
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How to Give an Impromptu Speech, with Examples
Updated march 02, 2021 - dom barnard.
An impromptu speech is when you're asked to speak in public without prior notice. It can be one of the most terrifying speeches you'll ever do; standing up in front of a crowd and having to speak for a few minutes without preparation is daunting, even for the most seasoned speakers.
It's not likely to happen often, however when it does, you don't want to be caught completely off-guard. Here are a few things to bear in mind if you're asked to speak at short notice.
Impromptu speech definition
An impromptu speech is given with little or no preparation, yet almost always with some advance knowledge on the topic. This is sometimes referred to as "off the cuff" or "spur of the moment".
For example, in class, a teacher may ask a student to give a short impromptu speech about a topic that was in the assigned readings. Business meetings may also start with everyone talking briefly about what they have done recently on the project.
In small informal meetings, the audience will interrupt an impromptu speech and ask questions, which helps guide the speech and the information that is presented.
When campaigning, politicians sometimes respond to reporters or voters almost anywhere and at any time.
Comedians are well known for their impromptu replies to hecklers, which are sometimes planned, but usually made up on the spot.
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Tips on giving an impromptu speech
If you are about to make an impromptu speech and have a few minutes to prepare, follow these two tips:
1. Make some quick notes
The first thing you should do when asked to speak is to grab a pen and a piece of paper (or napkin - whatever you can find to write on). Jot down a few initial ideas, or even just a few words that you can expand upon during your speech.
If you don't write anything else, make sure you've written down your starting and ending sentences, as these are the most important.
2. Decide on the tone
Next, think about what tone to speak in. This will depend on the type of event you're at. For example, at a wedding, you would speak informally, and you can have fun with the speech, whereas at a business conference you would speak more formally and stick to a professional tone.
Impromptu speech frameworks
This is when it gets easy. Pick one of these frameworks to use as a structure for your impromptu speech, and you'll instantly feel more prepared. They're easy to remember, so you won't have to write them down - instead write down keywords for each point.
1. The 5 Ws
Useful for when you're speaking about a person or specific event
Following the 5 Ws provides instant structure to your speech, and you'll be able to organise your thoughts in an easy-to-follow way. You don't even need to change the order - starting with ‘who' gives context to the speech and ending with ‘why' leaves the audience with the most important, relatable point.
- Who - who is involved in the event or who is attending
- What - what event are you at and what are the common goals?
- Where - where is the event, how did the initiative the event revolves around start?
- When - is the timing of the event important? What does the future hold?
- Why - why is everyone there? Why are you there?
For example, if you're talking about a fundraising event, you could say who started the charity, what the goals are, where it is heading, when the event is happening, and why it's important.
2. Diplomatic framework
Useful for formal occasions such as a business conference.
For this impromptu speech, start by talking about the advantages and disadvantages of the subject topic , then end with a conclusion.
This will make your speech informative and enable you to talk for a longer period of time than the 5 Ws. It's important not to be afraid of silence when using this framework.
Given that there is less room for creativity, you may find you need to pause to think about what you're going to say next. While you think, you could walk up and down the stage slightly as if you are letting your last point settle, ask if there are any questions, or ask for a glass of water.
These techniques all buy you more time if your mind goes blank and save you (and your audience) from feeling awkward about a prolonged silence.
Useful for informal events such as weddings and book launches.
Storytelling is a powerful method of speaking and is an easy way of connecting with the audience . When having to speak when you aren't prepared, start off small, then medium, and end large. Basically, talk about the event from an individual perspective, then a group or national perspective, and end with the bigger picture.
For example, if you're asked to give a speech at a wedding , you could talk about when you met the couple and your experiences with them (small), what their relationship and marriage means to the rest of the wedding guests (medium), and end with the future of their relationship and their family legacy.
Practice impromptu speeches
Impromptu speeches, by their nature, are hard to practice for. You don't know what the topic will be or the type of audience you'll be facing. However, the more you practice, the better you'll be when the impromptu situation arises.
We've designed an impromptu speaking exercise with the following:
- Speak about what's on a random slide for 30 seconds each slide
- Feedback on your performance so you can identify areas that need improving
- Audio of the practice session is recorded so that you can listen back and self-evaluate your performance
You'll practice quick thinking by talking about a series of random slides for 30 seconds each. You'll be able to give speeches at short notice and answer questions more easily with this brain training.
Practice Impromptu Speaking
Practice your impromptu speaking skills by talking about a series of random slides for 30 seconds each. Receive feedback on your performance.
Examples of an impromptu speech
Here are two examples of impromptu speeches. The videos skip the short preparation time and start when the speaker starts speaking.
Being able to deliver an impromptu speech is an important skill to have and will save you a lot of anxiety when you're asked to speak at the last minute.
To prepare yourself for the unknown, try an impromptu practice exercise so that your brain is trained to think on the spot. Not only is this an effective way to learn, but it's also fun!
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15 Best Impromptu Speech Tips (With Examples)
An impromptu speech is often the scariest type of speech you can make because you don’t get to prepare or predetermine what you’re going to say.
The speaker only gets a topic given in the form of a quotation, object, or proverb, and they have to do their best to deliver long-awaited answers.
Impromptu speech doesn’t have to be a full speech on its own. It can be a combination of answers to short quotations or terms provided during interviews or live discussions broadcast on the television.
While you can’t prepare yourself for the impromptu speech since you might not have any idea what you’ll be asked, you can still work on improving your speech and dialog with the help of the tips below!
I have also listed some great examples of impromptu speeches to give you an idea of what I am talking about.
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1. Hold it Together (Be Confident)
2. focus on your audience, 3. plan a structure, 4. don’t ramble, 5. stand out, 6. talk as if you were talking to a friend, 7. tell a relevant story to personalize your speech, 8. pay attention to your voice tone, 9. make sure to follow your speech with confident actions, 10. don’t aim for perfection, 11. practice beforehand, 12. use humor to break the ice, 13. the meaningful pause, 14. keep things short, 15. try turning the impromptu speech into q&a session, university of kentucky – speech and debate team, chris gurrie impromptu speech example, toastmaster international – impromptu speaking, impromptu speech example: thesis-point-story format, angel anderson – impromptu speech example, 15 best impromptu speech tips.
These 15 tips will let you know exactly how to behave during an impromptu speech, how to know what and when to say, and how to guide your speech without having too many pauses or breaks in between.
Impromptu speeches might happen suddenly for many reasons, and often, you might find yourself in front of the audience without even agreeing to it.
No matter what happens during the speech, you have to assure yourself that you’ll be alright. This means you should look up, never avoid eye contact, and breathe deeply. Thinking about something positive is a confidence boost you might need to get through the speech.
When you’re starting your impromptu speech, keep in mind that you’re not going against the audience, yet the audience will be on your side.
Therefore, you should work with the audience and focus your speech around something positive and helpful to the audience.
The goal is to have the audience listen and understand what you’re saying in your impromptu speech but also respond to the things you’re saying. Being confident in front of the audience is one thing you should do, while the other is to focus on the audience and plan a structure you’ll learn in the next tip.
Even though you might not be prepared for a speech, you will still be able to quickly develop a speech structure in your head as soon as you hear the topic, question, or object you’re given to talk about.
Every speech structure should include three steps and the speech can be structured around almost anything. The most popular structures are:
- Before/the event/the result
Think of the structure as a guideline of your speech that will help you get from start to finish as smoothly as possible. Another thing to keep in mind is that you can tell your structure/plan to your audience so they can easily keep up with your speech and know what to expect from it.
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When you come up with a quick structure for your impromptu speech, you’re left to deliver the speech, but one thing you should keep in mind is not to ramble.
Rambling won’t get you anywhere; you’ll feel unease, and your audience won’t follow your speech easily.
Instead, it would help if you stuck to the “less is more” saying, stick to the target, and keep things short and to the point.
With a proper structure plan, you’ll have three key points (no matter what they are), so by splitting your speech into three sections, you’ll be able to judge how much time you should spend talking about each section.
Many try to stand out by actions, gestures, and confidence during their impromptu speech. While this is also important, there’s something even more important.
The first and the last sentence are the most memorable. It’s all about the primacy and recency, and most of the audience will most likely remember the first and the last thing you say.
Therefore, starting and finishing with powerful sentences that go well with your given topic and are linked to the message you deliver in the speech is super important as it will have the biggest impact if properly executed.
Talking in front of the audience can be scary, but without preparation, talking in front of the audience can be even scarier.
Instead of feeling the pressure, feeling uncomfortable, or sweating buckets, you should go on with your impromptu speech as if you were talking to a group of friends.
You don’t have to fake anything, as the audience will see right through it. Instead, be yourself and try to do your best as this will always provide a better result.
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The great thing about impromptu speeches is that they can go in your favor. If you don’t know what to talk about or what to include in your speech, here’s one tip that can help change the way you do your speech.
Try to think of a personal story that will be relevant to the subject of your impromptu speech. This will give you a topic to talk about, you won’t have to do any research or try to come up with facts that you will have to somehow back up, and your audience will love a personal story.
Personal stories are always easier to follow, and they’ll always go down well with any audience. Another piece of advice is to include a personal story in the middle section of your speech, but you can place it somewhere near the beginning of the speech.
When you take care of everything else before the speech and during the speech itself, many speakers forget to think of the voice tone.
There’s not much to overthink and you should speak slowly. Rushing might get you near the end sooner, but your speech won’t be a smooth ride.
Instead, take your time, focus on your breathing, rely on pauses, and have an impact while you deliver the key parts of the speech.
Confident actions are the most powerful body language actions that are not hard to get right, yet you might have to remind yourself to be “presentable”.
Standing tall on both your feet, not slouching over, keeping eye contact, using hand gestures, and avoiding fiddling are some of the things that will make you look confident.
Such confident actions will go well with your speech structure, confident voice tone, and relaxed, personalized speech.
Learning a couple of hand gestures will also put you at ease as you won’t have to wonder what to do with your hands during the speech.
Every speaker wishes for their speech to be perfect, but an impromptu speech is the worst time to expect a perfect speech from yourself.
Therefore, it’s okay to lower the bar and focus on the execution and let the main goal be the smooth flow.
Setting the bar too high will only put you under pressure. In reality, most impromptu speeches happen due to unpredicted reasons, so if you’re put under the spotlight unwillingly and unprepared, the audience will notice, and they’ll understand, so there’s nothing to be afraid of.
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You might not ever be prepared for a specific impromptu speech, but if you’ve been put into the spotlight once, you can be put under the spotlight again.
What you can do is practice quickly coming up with a speech structure on any given topic. Even if you have only a couple of minutes, you can develop a quick and concise structure and rehearse it in your head or in front of a mirror before you go in front of the audience.
And if you have a couple of hours, you can do a lot of practicing and even go through all these tips and be fully ready, no matter what the audience throws at you.
No matter what the speech is about, you can always add a bit of humor to it. Don’t overdo it, but even a tiny bit of humor can help you make a better connection with your audience, ensure they pay attention to what you’re saying, and that they’re intrigued to hear what’s next.
Followed with a personalized story, you’ll have the audience hooked up until the end of the speech.
Of course, humor should come naturally, and you shouldn’t do it if you feel like you have to force it. But keep in mind that humor can be a great ice breaker, so it’s never a bad idea to keep it as a “secret weapon”.
Unfortunately, you’ll likely feel stuck or not know what to say next during your impromptu speech.
Just the thought of this can paralyze many speakers who are put under the spotlight. However, there’s a quick tip you can use to turn the block in your head into an advantage.
Instead of worrying if your audience noticed, try to “fake” a meaningful pause whenever you’re feeling stuck. During this pause, you can relax, and sooner than you know it, you will think of something.
The best thing is, your audience will never notice that “something’s wrong”, and yet this will also give them a breather and help them continue following your speech.
Less is more, and during impromptu speeches that can go extremely wrong, it’s better to cut your speech short and yet deliver everything you believe is valuable to the audience.
In other words, it’s better to regret not saying something than to say too much and then be on the spot from where you can’t turn back.
Also, keeping things short will help you stay in control of your impromptu speech and even look a lot more confident during your performance!
Since most impromptu speeches happen unexpectedly, not only will you have to come up with something from nothing, but you’ll also have to give the audience something you’re looking for.
Therefore, depending on the setting of your speech, you might try and turn your impromptu speech into a Q&A session, just like the journalistic interview type.
This will help you think less about what your whole speech will look like and focus on things the audience asks you in pieces.
You’ll still have full control over the answer, so turning a speech into a Q&A session is never a bad idea.
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Best Impromptu Speech Examples
We’ll now take a look at some of the best examples of impromptu speeches to draw inspiration from.
In this impromptu speech example, the speaker only took two minutes for a quick structure plan from where she was put under the spotlight straight away.
A great start with a personalized story that leads straight into the argument. During the argument, clear signs of uncertainty are visible, but the speaker did well by slowing the speech down and taking a couple of very short meaningful pauses.
Prepared with examples which is a bonus, the speaker went through her speech structure with ease. There were moments where the speaker was nervous, but she kept it well together and even seemed confident in her speech at times.
Use gestures, confident actions, eye contact with the audience, and all other positive things you can learn from the tips above.
Closing the speech without any rumbling and getting the point straight across to the audience is a memorable way to end the speech, which is why this is one of many perfect examples of an impromptu speech.
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This is a short yet educative impromptu speech example where the speaker, Chris Gurrie, gets assigned a random topic by the audience and then guides the viewers of this video on how to plan a perfect impromptu speech structure.
While you would usually have around two minutes for the planning and practice process, Chris does it in about 30 seconds.
Chris starts his impromptu speech with many questions that come from a personalized story that then leads into the main topic of the speech.
What Chris also does is focuses on his audience and he shares his planned structure.
Chris’s impromptu speech is full of valuable information the audience might not have been aware of, which then ties to things on a larger scale. Even though Chris only took 30 seconds to work on the speech plan, he looks very relaxed, confident, with a strong game right until the end of the speech.
What’s interesting enough is that if you didn’t know this was an impromptu speech, you might not even know. Therefore, this is a perfect example of how good you can get at impromptu speeches without knowing the subject beforehand.
If you prefer learning from a video example, this four-minute video is everything you’ll need to gain the confidence to do an impromptu speech.
In this example, you’ll learn opportunities where impromptu speaking might be required. Of course, all of the opportunities are the ones where you don’t have much time to prepare.
However, with the techniques covered in this example video, you’ll learn how to manage last-minute speeches.
Lastly, the video will teach you all the benefits of holding impromptu speeches.
Even though this is an educational-type video, if you have a better look, you would notice that this whole video is less than five minutes long, and it’s scripted in a way to serve as yet another impromptu speech example.
Therefore, as you learn how to perform an impromptu speech, you’re watching an impromptu speech which is a brilliant idea.
Preparing yourself for an impromptu speech is only half the job, so in this video, you also learn how to deliver your impromptu speech with more useful tips.
Planning a structure for your impromptu speech is super important. The thing about the structure is that you can develop any three- or four-step process that will get you through the speech.
This video is a perfect example of a thesis-point-story format where Chris, the speaker, gets assigned a random topic from where he creates the thesis-point structure, shares it with the students, and gets down to the speech itself.
With word play, Chris slowly introduces the topic to the audience, and while he speaks to his students as his friends, he is getting down to the story’s main point.
As Chris goes through his impromptu speech, you can also notice that he asks the audience plenty of questions, and by answering his questions, he is slowly revealing the whole story behind the point of his impromptu speech.
Even though this example might be a bit complicated to understand, you can also learn from Chris’s body language, how he speaks, and how he controls his speech as he’s a highly skilled impromptu speaker.
In this four-minute impromptu speech example video, Angel Anderson teaches you exactly what impromptu speaking is, how to practice it, and even shows an example full of important tips that can help you develop the same skills.
Angel uses a question-style topic, after which he sets the timer for two minutes for his impromptu speech.
With this type of question, Angel starts his impromptu speech with a personal story that gets interesting, which ensures that the audience follows him.
Not only did Angel answer a question, but he also shared an anecdotal story, and even then, he shared some more information connected to this story.
By far, Angel’s video is not the perfect impromptu speech, but it’s a real example of how easily you can work on your impromptu speech, practice, and learn as you progress.
Of course, this example is ideal for all interview-type impromptu speeches, which can be as hard as the topic-type speeches.
Impromptu speech can seem scary at first, but with plenty of preparation and practice, you will be able to speak on any topic without much preparation.
These 15 tips are everything you’ll need to start, develop, and finish your impromptu speech while being confident both verbally and nonverbally.
On top of that, these five examples show you how impromptu speech is done first-hand. Remember that you shouldn’t aim for perfection, but even tiny improvements are a good step forward to achieving a decent impromptu speech.
Tom loves to write on technology, e-commerce & internet marketing. Tom has been a full-time internet marketer for two decades now, earning millions of dollars while living life on his own terms. Along the way, he’s also coached thousands of other people to success.