Updated: Apr 8, 2020
Communication is the number one professional skill. Communication skills top the list of skills and abilities that employers look for in new hires. Also, as one advances, communication becomes increasingly important. When you speak, it is not just about your competency but also the quality of the organization. Your reputation is at stake. Like it or not, when you speak in front of a group, you are evaluated robustly. #Communication is a broad topic and for this article, I will be sharing more on impromptu speaking.
There are so many occasions when professionals are asked to speak on the go, unplanned. It could be filling in for a late speaker, an update for a business meeting, introducing yourself in a networking event, or even a toast in dinner gathering.
These are some tips on impromptu speaking:
Always remember to thank the person who called you out. Always. This is to acknowledge respectfully and to show social grace. Doing this can help relieve tension, allowing you to start speaking comfortably.
Follow the Introduction-Body-Conclusion-Call to action structure.
The introduction gives the audience an idea of what you are going to speak. Just a couple of sentences, direct and straight to the point. This could be difficult as some do not know where to start. Hence, look for accomplished milestones or any solved issues. Example: our sales revenue grows 12% month on month hitting $1mil sales mark
The body is a few critical points that you want to deep dive into and share. Just a few points to further support your introduction. You can use 5Ws to frame your body – who, what, when, where, why. If you are addressing an issue, you can share your approach and the pros and cons of it. It should be relevant and nothing outside of the context. Nothing technical, no jargon and keep it simple so that all audiences can understand you. Example: all thanks to John, who closed a stellar sale with ABC Corporation last week after many months of hard work and follow-ups. Not forgetting Jason and Jasper, who brought in close to $600K sales from our territory accounts with another $200K in the pipe.
The conclusion is the portion that you close your speech with a summary, often in a positive note. It can be the result of your work or your upcoming plan. Example: the effort shown from the team is phenomenal and we expect to retire our FY target by the end of next month
Most people end their speech with a conclusion. However, including a call to action sets you apart from the rest. By having a call to action, it conveys ownership and accountability. It informs everyone to reach out to you for any concerns. Example: I will be away next week, but I am happy to connect with you if there is any question.
All in all, you should be taking less than 10 seconds to prepare and should not be speaking more than 5 min. If you do not even have any time to prepare, then prepare it out loud. Go slow, be confident and articulate clearly but never make up anything just to fill in the airtime. Saying something worthless or untrue will eventually make you unreliable and discreditable.
The best way to deliver it is to be more informal, relax and casual. Always maintain eye contact and smile! When you can look and talk to somebody for a few seconds and then to another person, it displays confidence. Moreover, when you smile and talk, it shows you are sincere and happy with what you are sharing. Remember, #bodylanguage is essential.
Tonality is the key – it conveys feelings. It tells us how enthusiastic you are, how positive you are, or how passionate you are. Show energy when you talk while staying friendly and conversational. Use humor only if you are confident and comfortable. Humor is important, but do not overuse it. This is an impromptu speaking, not sharing a joke.
If you do not have anything to say or you draw a blank, defer with an apology and end with follow-up action. Example: my apologies for not having any update just yet. However, I will email that to you before lunch. Remember to execute your follow up action to show that you are sincere and creditable of what you said. Alternatively, you can turn the situation into a Q&A session where you ask for suggestions and feedback, after that, concluding with a call to action. On certain occasions, it is advisable to empower a colleague whom you can trust, to speak on your behalf. While doing that, you can jump in when you see fit.
If you don’t know the answer, validate it, offer a solution, and seek agreement. Do not reply to anything false or act like you know something. Doing that will lose your credibility. Example: I am sorry, but I do not know the answer to that question. That being said, I will check with my teammates and get back to you by the end of the day. Will that work for you?
Be proactive and start practicing. Challenge yourself in your business meeting by speaking about your weekly update. By doing that, it will elevate your work reputation and visibility. Do not see it as a waste of time, instead of an investment. You will never know when you are required to make an impromptu speaking.
I suggest you visit LinkedIn Learning here to learn more about Impromptu Speaking.
Impromptu speaking can happen anytime. Why not start preparing for it? Leave a comment on how this impacts you!