Preparing for an Unprepared Speech

By Caroline Nderitu HSC, Public Speaking Coach

“Success always comes when preparation meets opportunity” - Henry Hartman.

An impromptu request to speak does not mean that you should be caught with your pants down. Here are some strategies you could adopt to ensure that you are never running on empty.

ALWAYS EXPECT TO SPEAK

Have it in the back of your mind that you could be asked you to speak. Whether you are at a company cocktail party, launch of a combined harvester, or a cousin’s wedding; as long as you attend, you are a candidate for public speaking. It could be to introduce yourself, move a vote of thanks or to offer a prayer.  In any event, you will have to socialize and that still counts as public communication.

LEARN HOW TO INTRODUCE YOURSELF PROFESSIONALLY

Have a routine, well-rehearsed self-introduction or elevator pitch. You cannot afford to begin by stalling, “Err, my err, name err, is err…” Polish your self-introduction script and to work on its dynamic delivery in advance.

INVEST IN YOUR SPEAKING BANK™

Keep equipping yourself with material that could one day come in handy. To accomplish this, keep brushing up on your knowledge of topical issues as well gradually expanding your vocabulary and use of language. Other face-savers to keep in stock include statistics, customizable jokes, quotes and interesting anecdotes. If you have nothing in your speaking bank™, chances are you will go blank. Do not expect to harvest where you have not invested. Borrow a leaf from Mark Twain who confessed, "It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech."

NEVER LOSE FACE

If you are invited to speak, maintain your composure and wear a confident smile. Do not fidget or, even worse, burst out in shock, “What? Me?…” and a host of other confidence-eroding phrases. For starters, do not apologize for not expecting to speak or for being unprepared. Do not publicize how inadequate you feel. Just K.I.S.S. - Keep It Short and Significant.

SPEAK CLEARLY, PROJECT

Speaking up makes you look confident and lends credibility to your utterances.  Do not whimper. If you speak, speak to be heard – be visible and audible to all present. Make it count! Or to put it in Oliver Wendell Holmes’ words:  “Speak clearly, if you speak at all; carve every word before you let it fall.”

GET THE EVENT INTO YOU BEFORE YOU GET TO THE EVENT

Carry out some research before you get to that function. Know before you go! Make it one of your habits to ask yourself these questions: Who will be present? What the event is all about? What issues are likely to be floated, on and off the podium? By way of example, supposing you are a Kenyan fashion designer attending an ICT conference in Portugal hosted by the World Bank, and the guest of honour is the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Then, out of the blue, you are asked to say a few words. What would you speak about?

"It's not the will to win that matters—everyone has that. It's the will to prepare to win that matters." — Paul Bear Bryant. After all is said and done, the audience is on your side. They do want you to succeed. Ride on that goodwill, rise up and say something. Be fair to them, be prepared.

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Public speaking can be daunting, but the good news is, these skills can be acquired and polished to perfection. How? I am glad you asked. It is all covered in our Public Speaking and Business Presentation Skills course. This course is also available as one-on-one coachingin-house training as well as for children/teens. "Public speaking is not a talent – it is a skill." George Torok

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