Have you ever wished for impromptu tips as you stood up to address a group?
“And now Mike is going to share some information about the progress at the Children’s Home Project.”
I will never forget that moment. I was not expecting it. There was no warning. An audience was ready to hear from me. Was I ready to speak? It didn’t matter. I was up. My mind was spinning as I made my way to the front.
Have you experienced something similar?
“I was put on the spot.”
“They called on me out of the blue.”
“I thought, ‘Who? Me?’”
“My mind was racing as I stood to speak.”
“Ok. Here goes nothing!”
“It was terrifying.”
These are common responses to the sudden need for an impromptu speech.
By definition, an impromptu speech is delivered without planning, organization, or rehearsal… but it doesn’t have to be totally impromptu. There are some things you can keep in mind that will allow you to quickly plan and organize your thoughts—even when the speech was not on your agenda.
Here are three helpful impromptu tips.
IMPROMPTU TIP: THINK AHEAD
Most impromptu speeches happen within some sort of meeting. Anytime you attend a meeting, there is a chance you could be called on to share information or present an idea.
Think ahead. What is the meeting about?
What information do I bring to the meeting that might need to be shared? How could I best share that information in just a few minutes?
What ideas do I have that could be helpful to the group? How could I best communicate that idea in three to five minutes?
If you can mentally prepare to share information and propose ideas in any meeting, then you will be set up for success in two ways.
First, you will be better able to deliver an “impromptu” presentation than most people. Because it is not totally impromptu. You have planned and organized your thoughts, and perhaps even rehearsed the delivery.
Second, if you have the opportunity to share this content in one-on-one conversations, your thoughts will be better organized. This makes you look good!
IMPROMPTU TIP: LIMIT YOUR POINTS
The good news regarding impromptu presentations is that the audience does not expect a lot of information. They usually want a basic overview of the data or a general idea of your proposed idea. If there is a need for more than that, then there is a need for a planned presentation rather than an impromptu one. And if you do well, then you might be invited to share more information in another meeting… and you will have time to prepare a more complete presentation for that situation.
You might know more information than there is time for in the typical impromptu presentation. If that is the case, then prioritize the data to fit into three to five minutes and acknowledge that you have more information if it is needed. This prioritization happened before you were called on because you followed the first tip and planned for this possibility!
IMPROMPTU TIP: BE TRUSTWORTHY
When delivering impromptu presentations, it can be tempting to wing it regarding the facts or to make assumptions about the impact of your data. Be careful!
If you are estimating, make sure that it is clear that this is what you are doing. Do not state guesses as facts.
If you are proposing an idea and think it might result in a positive outcome. Do not prophecy it as a sure thing.
When you deliver bad news, be wise. If you are feeling defensive, it might be tempting to blame other people. Can you recall nightmare experiences where you have been “thrown under the bus” in situations like this?
Even if the blame lies with someone else, be careful how you handle it. Perceptions will be created by the way you handle the situation. Be purposeful. What perceptions do you want to create?
Be trustworthy. And seem trustworthy. Perception matters.
When your presentations are in-house, remember that you are going to be working with these people for the foreseeable future. The healthier the relationships, the better the workplace experience. If you offend a coworker, then their willingness to be cooperative is going to be affected. Even if the initial problem was their fault. This is a challenging reality, but it is true.
Impromptu presentations involve skill sets. These skills can be learned and improved. You are on a journey!
If your past impromptu experiences were painful, know that they can improve with learning and practice. If they have been good, then build on that foundation, learn, and make your presentations even better.
You can do it!
If you want to read more, pick up the book Big Presentations in Small Rooms.
If you like to listen, check out The Big Presentations Podcast.
If you are looking for a community, join The Workplace Presentations Hub.
We are here to help.