Why You Should Stop Worrying and Learn to Love Impromptu Speech

Posted by Elizabeth Levey
June 18, 2014

by Elizabeth Levey

elizabeth-levey-1What’s your reaction when I mention “impromptu speech”?  A pit in your stomach? Your pulse beginning to race? Sweaty palms?  Trembling hands?  Waves of nausea?  If any of these sound all too familiar to you, you’re not alone.  Speaking in public has long been one of our greatest fears, and for many of us,to do so without any forewarning sends our anxiety levels skyrocketing.  And yes, it’s true, impromptu speaking can be nerve wracking, but it doesn’t have to be! There are lots of good reasons to embrace the opportunity of impromptu speaking, and here are a few:


1. Impromptu speaking is exciting! Maybe you’re giving a presentation that you’ve given countless times before, or maybe your technology crashes and you have to stall until AV comes to your rescue.  Either way, you can infuse the moment with a bit of impromptu speaking.  Allow yourself to take a brief detour from your usual or planned material- it can be a little scary, but also a lot exciting.  As long as you channel your adrenaline into a positive feeling about your off-the-cuff speaking, you can use this jolt of excitement to carry you all the way through the rest of your prepared content. 


2. When speaking in an impromptu situation, for better or worse, no advance preparation has happened. Without the time to carefully construct and guard your response, this vulnerability often lets you speak from an instinctual and authentic place, and gives your presentation a bit of that extra oomph! One of my favorite examples of this is during the annual Miss America pageant.  Usually the candidates give such safe and middle-of-the-road answers, but every now and again, someone’s personal stamp shines through like a beacon, making her even more memorable to her audience.


3. Impromptu speaking leaves so many opportunities for surprises. Have you ever been in a Q&A session where someone in the audience asks a really tough question of the speaker? This ties back into the excitement of impromptu as we discussed above.  From an audience perspective, something unexpected like a challenging question or comment can breeze into a presentation like a breath of fresh air. Listening to a credible speaker’s response to such a surprise moment can be very enjoyable for the audience. Often, the audience can be surprised by the contribution of the audience member too – who knew quiet Myrna in accounting was so insightful?


So the next time you have the opportunity to do a little impromptu speaking, or are asked to work with impromptu speech topics, don’t start scanning the room for the nearest exit. Be brave!  Take a deep breath, collect your thoughts, and remember some of the reasons to embrace impromptu speaking.  Once you change your mindset, you may find yourself delivering some of the most dynamic, persuasive, and powerful content of your presentation.


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