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Improvisational and Extemporaneous Speechmaking

December 6, 2009

At Talk for Change Toastmasters, at every regular meeting, we practice the art of Public Speaking through means of prepared speeches as well as short improvisations in the form of “Table Topics”. Table Topics are 1-2 minute long responses to questions that the Table Topics Person asks during our meeting. Here’s a tip on how to become a better conversationalist and orator.

If you are entering the world of public speaking and are looking to become a better orator, you are going to be delivering more than one-way speeches, presentations. More than likely in your career, you will have to respond to questions, comments, and concerns from your audience extemporaneously, or “at the spur of a moment”. How do you prepare yourself for such a situation?

“Be Prepared” – The Boy Scouts

“Chance favors the prepared mind.” – Louis Pasteur

The old Boy Scout motto rings true in almost every situation. Louis Pasteur, couldn’t be more correct. In the context of impromptu speeches and responses, being prepared is a matter of knowledge more than it is about know how. The amount of knowledge you have about yourself, the subject matter you are speaking about, and the audience that you are speaking to will direct your ability to respond to any questions that may come up.

One way to prepare for such a situation is to write about what you know about the three topics. When writing about yourself, try to focus on how you came about the knowledge in the first place. By having a personal story about how you know what you know, you will be able to draw upon many tangents and parallels of knowledge from your mind which could enhance the topic matter alone. For example, my knowledge of public speaking has been cultivated through many extra-curricular school  activities, and by selling myself and my ideas in my old business.

Another way to prepare is to write about the subject matter. By writing and speaking about your domain of knowledge, you are essentially building a library of thoughts in your head which will be readily accessible when you are in front of a crowd. You can have a two-fold goal in writing either blog entries, magazine articles, or books on your topic: Your confidence in your knowledge will only get better if you write, and you will become an authority on the subject.

By learning about your audience, you will know how to best respond and give an improvised speech. This may include their liking of football, golf, or video games. Knowing your audience is as important as knowing your self. I highly recommend doing some research on who you are going to be speaking to before you do.

Now that you know as much as you can about yourself, your topic, and your audience, you have to deliver the speech. The same simple rules apply. Every speech should be to the point, and have three parts. An introduction, a body, and a conclusion are all necessary for your message to be effective. The introduction can include things about yourself, your audience. The body can include the meat of your argument or message. The conclusion can sum up your ideas in a few sentences.

Being extemporaneous isn’t difficult, and is certainly not impossible. It just requires a bit of footwork, and patience.

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