How to Give an Impromptu Speech

727727_amy_lee.jpgAn executive seeking a job promotion came to Catherine recently for mentoring advice. Among the many things she was apprehensive about was that she had to give an impromptu fifteen minute speech on a topic that would be presented to her just before the interview. Wow! This was a nerve-wracking requirement. How do you prepare for an impromptu speech? By its very nature it has to be off the cuff. Not so. You can make things easier for yourself if you follow these easy steps. Some of these principles come from a “Power Messaging for Demonstrations” course that I run.
First principles

  • Tell ‘em what you’re gonna tell ‘em
  • Tell ‘em
  • Tell ‘em what you told ‘em

This is the same as a traditional essay approach.

  • Introduce the topic (Tell ‘em what you’re gonna tell ‘em)
  • Develop three points, each with an intro, body and outro (Tell ’em)
  • Conclude (summarise each point and tell ’em what you told ’em)


Speak slowly and precisely – about 120 words per minute – practice and time yourself to get the cadence of the speech.

Pause often for effect – people will get the impression that what you are saying is important.

Repeat things eg, “there are three major factors you need to consider (pause….) three major factors. These three factors ……

Look down at your notes, gather your thoughts, then look up and speak.
Keep a note of the time.

If you can, write major points on a white board – (take a blue and red marker and chux with you). Draw diagrams.

The voice you use should not be:

  • teaching voice
  • talking to kids voice
  • sing-song voice

You should use your “BEST FRIEND VOICE”, pretend you’re talking to one person – your best friend.

How the Impromptu Speech Should Run

impromptu speech.jpegClick on the image for a full-sized view.

Or otherwise download this file : Format for Impromptu Speech
1.1 Personal Introduction

This should be rehearsed and can include items such as:

  • who you are, what you do
  • thanks for the opportunity to address you on this important subject

1.2 The Big Picture

Make a few points about where the topic fits in with the greater scheme of things. For instance if you were asked to speak about pay for teachers, you might introduce the topic against the following background:

  • Technological advances in the 21st century
  • Attitudes of Generation Y
  • Community expectations in education

1.3 Story

Have a rehearsed generic story that can fit most occasions.

I like to talk about how small improvements in performance can lead to huge differences in outcomes, and then go on how to describe how Tiger Woods earned $9.1 million in competitions in year 2000, while Phil Mickelson earned only (!!) $4.6 million. The difference in their performance was 1.2 strokes per round over the period. This story takes about two minutes to deliver.

1.4 Personal Credentials

Describe how you are qualified to speak on this topic, eg:

  • education
  • work experience
  • personal interest

1.5 Summary of Points ABC

Tell ’em what you’re gonna tell ’em

2, 3, 4

Tell ’em

5.1 Prepared Statement

Have a conclusion prepared; eg, “This is a topic that should concern all of us, there are many facets that we could have examined, but unfortunately time hasn’t allowed me to present this to you in as much detail as I would have liked……..yadda yadda”


Tell ’em what you told ’em

5.3 Ask for feedback

5.4 questions from the group

5.5 Thanks

If you have any questions or would like us to conduct an interactive session for you, please contact us.


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