If there is one thing that some people fear even more than public speaking it’s speaking off the cuff. Impromptu speaking can turn confident presenters into gibbering wrecks. We’ve all been there. You are sitting in a meeting and suddenly your boss turns to you and asks for a quick update on a project you’ve been working on. You weren’t expecting it and you have nothing ready.
Your mind goes blank, your throat constricts and everyone is looking at you.
I know it’s scary, but speaking off the cuff doesn’t have to be difficult. Much of your terror comes from the initial adrenaline surge you get because our mind perceives such situations as a threat. Here are four ways to improve your ability to speak off the cuff.
1) Change the way you think about impromptu speaking
Off the cuff speeches are actually a fantastic opportunity to demonstrate your expertise. Think about it for a moment. You are normally asked to speak about stuff you actually know about, aren’t you? Why would anyone at work ask you to speak about something that they know you know nothing about?
2) Start with a pause
Don’t start speaking immediately. Pause, take a breath and get your mind into gear before engaging your mouth. As well as buying you valuable thinking time, a pause creates more credibility as it shows that you are thinking before speaking.
3) Trust yourself and turn off your internal critic
I believe that our brains are amazing and that they will, if you trust them, feed you with everything you need to speak confidently and coherently. The problem is most people have an internal critic which judges our ideas before we express them.
The critic’s intention is positive in that it wants us stop us from saying anything stupid, but if we give it too much credenc its effect is to shut down our creativity. Experience has taught me to trust my first ideas and you will find the same. It takes a little courage and a lot of practice, but it’s the key to becoming a confident off-the-cuff speaker
4) Use a simple framework to organize your thoughts
Speaking off the cuff, like any other type of presentation, benefits from a logical structure. In other words it needs a beginning, middle and a conclusion.
I use a formula called PREP to help me organize my impromptu speaking. This is an acronym for Position, Reason, Example and Proposition. I start by stating my Position, go on to explain the Reasons for this position, give one or more Examples that illustrate my position and then finish by either restating my position or making a Proposition for further action.
Speaking off the cuff is a learnable skill like any other. When I first started I was terrible, but now I believe and am pretty good at it. I continue to use and practice all of the above tips and I am confident that you will benefit from using them too.
About the Author:
Gavin Meikle is a presentation skills trainer and coach with Inter-Activ Presenting in the United Kingdom who’s mission is to change the way the world communicates. He runs workshops, courses and one-to-one mentoring programs for business owners, managers and executives. For more information, visit http://www.inter-activ.co.uk/