Using Improv To Speak Off The Cuff

When you don't have a speech, then it's time to do some improv
When you don’t have a speech, then it’s time to do some improv
Image Credit: Doctor Popular

If I was to ask you how you prepare for a speech, what would you tell me? I suspect that you’d say that you realize the,importance of public speaking and so you sit down, consider why you’ve been asked to speak on and try to understand the event that you’ll be speaking at. You might also try to picture your audience and understand just exactly who they are. You’d then write out a speech, practice delivering it in front of a mirror (or in your car), then then show up ready to go. However, how would you handle it if somebody asked you to give a speech right then and there – no preparation permitted? Sounds like it’s time for some improve.

In The World Of Improv, It’s All About Failure

So just exactly what is improve? Improv is a form of performance art where a group of actors with no script, no props, and no scenery need to find inspiration in each other to perform a skit for their audience (and make them laugh). When you get asked to give a speech with no time to prepare, you’re going to have to use your improve skills to pull this one off.

The first thing that you’ve got to understand is that improve is all about failure. When you find yourself in a position where someone has suddenly asked you to give a speech that you’ve not had any time to prepare for, the very worst thing that could happen is that you’d do a bad job of it. There, I’ve said it. The odds are that you won’t fail, so knowing the worst that can happen you can start to plan to do better than that. This speech may not go all that well, but at least you’ll know that you didn’t fail.

Tap Into Your Spontaneity

If I asked you to give a speech on the spot, you have not had a chance to prepare anything for this event. What that means is that you are going to have to come up with a speech on the spot. This means that you can’t have prepared for what I am asking you to do because you didn’t know that I was going to ask. You are going to have to be spontaneous.

Spontaneity means that everything that you say is going to have to work together. What it means in the context of the speech that you’ll be giving is that each sentence that you speak needs to be related to the sentence that came before it. What you are going to want to happen is for your audience to never realize that you had not had a chance to prepare a speech. Using your spontaneity the speech should just flow from you and look very natural.

It’s All About The Obvious

As you can well imagine in those first few seconds after someone has put you on the spot and asked you all of a sudden to make a speech, you are probably dealing with “blank mind” syndrome. Don’t worry about this, it happens to all of us. A great place to start is going to be by stating the obvious to your audience.

Yes, you’ll be telling them either what they already know or what they could figure out by themselves, but that’s ok. What you are going to be saying won’t be clever or funny, but it will be true and it will get everyone’s heads nodding. Even better is the fact that this will buy you some time to determine what you really want to say. Keep in mind that not everyone in your audience sees the world the same way that you do, stating the obvious means that you can now start to guide them into the speech that you are going to be giving.

It’s All About The Offer

In the world of improv, an offer is considered to be any piece of information that is available for a performer to use in order to establish or develop a scene. When it comes time to give a speech where you’ve had no opportunity to prepare to give the speech, this is when you are going to have to start to become very aware of what offers are now available to you.

The good news here is that you need to understand that “everything is an offer”. The person who asked you to give this speech is an offer. The topic that they asked you to speak on is an offer. The event that you are at itself is an offer. Everything that you are currently feeling, observing, or even experiencing can be considered to be an offer. Your goal from this point on is to use your offers to speak with fluency and conviction so that your audience will believe that you have practiced this speech a million times before.

What All Of This Means For You

I’d like to be able to tell you that every time that you get asked to give a speech that you are going to have all of the time in the world to get your act together. However, as we all know, this is not the case. There will be those times where all of a sudden out of the blue, somebody is going to ask you to stand up and give a speech right then and there and they’ll expect you to deliver the benefits of public speaking. When this happens, you’re going to have to rely on your improv skills.

What this means for you is that you’ve got to get over your fear of failure. Look, you had no time to prepare to give this speech so if you are able to mumble even a few sentences, then we’ve got to consider that a success. Prepare to fail and then be delighted when you don’t. The way that you are going to get through this thing is by tapping into your spontaneity. You are going to have to make a speech up on the spot and each sentence will have to flow from the one that came before it. To get things started, you can state the obvious. No, it’s nothing special but you’ll get your audience to start to agree with you. Next, you need to discover what your offers are. These are anything that you can include in your speech and the list is almost endless.

The most important thing to do when you find yourself being asked to give a speech with no preparation is to not panic. Look, this may not be the best speech that you’ve ever given, but you can do this. Tap into that part of you that is always ready to have a talk with an audience and you’ll be able to pull this off. Improve actors do it all the time and so you should have no problems.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Public Speaking Skills™

Question For You: If you get asked to give a speech, how can you buy yourself some time to prepare?

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Note: What we talked about are advanced speaking skills. If you are just starting out I highly recommend joining Toastmasters in order to get the benefits of public speaking. Look for a Toastmasters club to join in your home town by visiting the web site Toastmasters is dedicated to helping their members to understand the importance of public speaking by developing listening skills and getting presentation tips. Toastmasters is how I got started speaking and it can help you also!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

During what part of your speech do you have the most power? A lot of speakers would say that it’s the last few minutes of their speech because if they’ve done their job then thanks to the importance of public speaking they now have the audience’s attention and what they say will be remembered after the speech is over. However, they’d be wrong. It turns out that your “moment of power” occurs at the start of your speech. In fact, it happens just before you start your speech.