Always be Improv-ing

One of the most common pieces of advice I give to those aspiring to be great speakers is this: never be afraid to improvise. It is not only an asset but a necessity to any great speech. Allow me to explain – if you’ve memorized every part of your speech and know word-for-word what you’re going to say next there is no way it will sound organic.

You can try to sound as minimally scripted as possible, but you’ll end of sounding robotic. It’s best to have a point A, point B, and a general idea of how you wish to get from A to B. Many people claim they are unable to think so quickly or improvise well, but we do it every day in normal conversation!

We only think for an undetectable fraction of a second before opening our mouths. The key to transferring such an ability from normal conversation into effective public speaking is all about feeling comfortable (see our section on combating nerves). To set yourself up for success, try to avoid making flashcards or writing out a speech verbatim before giving it.

Let me repeat: you should NOT write your speech out word for word. Instead, make a bulleted list of the main topics you wish to discuss and any other notes you may need.

Think of this sheet as a reference guide you may glance at while speaking but are in no way reliant on. Practice rehearsing your speech with this list of bullet points, never forcing yourself to give the same exact speech multiple times.

Exercise:

Next time you’re having a conversation, try to think of where you’d like the conversation to go. Then, try to naturally steer the conversation into the topic you’ve chosen relying on nothing but the power of improvisation.

Be aware of how blunt you transition from one point to another and work on making such a transition more seamless. You don’t want to jump from point to point, but try to find a way to connect the two and do so “on the spot”.