How to Give an Impromptu 5-7 Minute Speech

Feb 10

I finished my first ten speech projects in a matter of months. Not because I was so driven and motivated, but because I went to two clubs and very, very frequently we discovered speaking openings at the last minute. In the corporate world, people often found themselves saddled with tight deadlines or last-minute meetings preventing them from attending meetings. Sometimes the club didn’t know they needed a speaker until the day before the meeting. Or the hour before. Or until the meeting started and the speaker just didn’t show up.

Not only can you get through more speeches if you learn how to give impromptu “prepared” speeches, not only can you help your clubs have a full roster, but learning to make a well-organized speech on the fly is a valuable speaking skill. To some extent, we practice this with table topics and speech evaluations, but rarely get the chance to make a formal speech in this style!

A gentleman from District 2 recorded a short (about 9 minutes) audio guide on how to create an impromptu speech. It’s excellent and I strongly suggest listening to it:

I’ll add some advice of my own from personal experience, building on what Wayne Botha said in the audio. To make a speech, you need an outline and content. That’s it.

So if you have some sample outlines prepared, you’re all set. Wayne gives one: here are a few others

(of course, you should almost always open with an attention getter and a preview, then end with a review of your points and end on a powerful note).

  • Compare/contrast
  • Problem/cause/solution
  • Opinion/reason/supporting example 1/supporting example 2
  • Past/present/future
  • Issue/first party’s point of view/second party’s point of view/common ground

With a little research or a little brainstorming, you can come up with many outlines for table topics, speech evaluations and, yes, full speeches. What’s important is that you have a few outlines you have used, can easily remember, and are comfortable with.

Then you need content. When I was on the college speech team, we were taught to give impromptu speeches of up to seven minutes, based on a quotation. All of them followed the same outline–we decided our opinion, our 1-2 reasons supporting our opinion, and 1-2 examples for each reason, plus an opener we could call back to in the closing. So all we really needed were some examples to drop into place.

To prepare for this, my speech coach had us all brainstorm a list of 20 items we could talk about for at least one minute each (and typically, we could speak for much longer than that!). If you take a few minutes to brainstorm a list of issues, historical events, characters or skills you are knowledgeable and passionate about, then you’re set. You may want to do a little research to clarify some hard details you have trouble remembering, but then you have your list of prepared examples.

Asked to speak? Pick one of your topics, one of your outlines and you’re good to go.

What advice do you have to share on giving impromptu full-length speeches? Leave comments below!

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