If I asked you to give a speech, how much time would you need to get ready to give the speech (including writing it)? Could you do it if I gave you half as much time? How about if I gave you 5 minutes? We don’t always control the situations in which we are asked to give a speech, knowing how to prepare one in just a few minutes is a key speaker skill…
Just Where Do You Start?
I guess the best place to start our discussion about what to do when you are put on the spot and asked to deliver a speech RIGHT NOW, is at the beginning. It’s pretty clear that if somebody is asking you to give a speech all of sudden, then they can’t be too picky about what you’ll talk about.
This is where you get some latitude. In order to pull off this quick speech creation thing, you’re going to have to pick a topic to speak about that you already both know and love. I’m hoping that it’s clear to you that you still need to keep your audience in mind, but because of the short amount of time that you have, this is the one time that you get to start with yourself first.
Since it is so critical that you already know your topic well, pick what you want to speak about and then spend a moment or two trying to think about how you can make this subject appeal to your audience. For example, if what you know really well is how to schedule family vacations and you’re going to be talking to a group of mothers, then focusing on the logistics of what to pack and keeping the family happy during the trip will generally be what you need to focus on in order to make your story appeal to them.
It’s All In The Details
Although you won’t have a lot of time to create your on-the-spot speech, it still needs to be interesting. A lack of time to prepare a speech is not a license to be boring. It’s time to whip out a piece of paper, you’ve got some writing to do.
What you need to write down is a list of things that you will want to cover in your speech. This is an important list because it holds the key to making your speech interesting to your audience. Write down the sequence of items that you want to cover, then take a second look at it.
The key here will be to make sure that the material that you will be covering flows. It needs to start some place and then build up to a natural conclusion. If you aren’t careful, then due to your limited time it will just be a jumbled collection of pieces of information. Use just a bit of your limited time to sort and rearrange your discussion points so that they present a complete story.
Houston, We Have Lift-Off
With picking a topic and creating a list of items to discuss, you will have used up a sizable chunk of the limited time that you have before you’ll be on the stage. What to do with the few remaining minutes that you have left? Simple: rehearse.
As we all know, the first few words out of your mouth during any speech are the most important – this is how the audience makes their decision whether or not to bother listening to you. You’ve got to mentally practice what you are going to say. Try out different phrases and word orders until you come up with something that works best for you.
What All Of This Means For You
Sorry, you don’t run the world just yet. This means that no matter how good of a planner you are, there will be times in which you get surprised by a request to give a speech with little or no time for you to prepare what you are going to say.
See this challenge as an opportunity to grow your speaking skills. Pick a topic to speak on that you already know well. Shape it to meet the interests of your audience. Make sure that you take a moment or two to rehearse what you are going to say in your head so that your first words will resonate with your audience.
In the end, if you believe in yourself and your ability to deliver a great speech, you will do just fine. In fact, who knows, maybe you are one of those speakers who gives the best speech of their life when they have had the least amount of time to prepare for it!
If you had 5 minutes to prepare a speech, what would you spend the most time doing?
What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time
So here’s a quiz for you: who has been the best speaker in the past 100 years? Not an easy question to answer, eh? Even those of us who don’t spend a lot of time studying history can come up with an impressive list of names. What made them so good and can we become as good as they were?