It freaks everyone out, but at some point or another, you’re going to be called to give an impromptu talk.
Maybe it will be in front of eight people in the boardroom after the boss taps you on the shoulder and says “What do you have to say about that? Get up and tell us!”
Or maybe you’re speaking at an event and you learn the keynote speaker’s flight was canceled, and they call on you at the last minute.
Or maybe you feel like the talk you prepared isn’t the right one, and you need to take things in a whole new direction, and you’re up in five minutes.
As a full time communicator, I’ve been there…in almost every scenario you can think of.
Here are 5 ways to handle that moment when it comes.
1. DON’T PANIC
The biggest enemy you have when you’re called on at the last moment and you panic is you.
Your emotions will threaten to hijack your brain. You’ll convince yourself that you’re not able to do a good job, that this is unfair, that you haven’t got it in you to rise to the occasion.
After all, this is happening, and you’re more ready than you think.
2. THINK ABOUT WHAT YOUR AUDIENCE NEEDS
So where do you start?
Who’s the room?
What are their issues?
What do you possess that might help them?
How can you empathize with what they’re going through?
Speakers who care about their audience will always have a more engaged audience.
3. FOCUS ON WHAT YOU ALREADY KNOW
Great…so you’ve thought (even momentarily) about your audience and tried to silence the panic in your head and heart.
You’ve got a few decades of life under your belt, and you know something.
Focus on that.
For professional communicators (preachers, leaders), you’ve likely got a few talks under your belt that you can cherry pick from. Do it.
When you panic, you’ll be tempted to focus on what you don’t know. Focus on what you know instead.
You know way more than you think.
4. PRETEND YOU’RE HAVING A CONVERSATION…BECAUSE YOU ARE
In all impromptu talks, here’s a principle that simply works: pretend you’re having a conversation. Because you are.
Why does imagining you’re having a conversation work?
Because you do it every day. Think about it.
How much time do you prepare for the conversations you have every day? For the most part, unless you’re asking for a raise or having a tough intervention, the answer is “Well, I don’t.”
5. FINISH EARLY (IT’S OKAY…REALLY)
Of all the things communicators struggle with, this is one of the worst: we convince ourselves we don’t have enough to say to fill the time.
First, that’s almost never true. Most speakers and preachers go over time, every time. Cue the buzzer for that habit.
Second, the audience is almost always grateful when a speaker finishes on time and extra grateful when the speaker wraps up early.
If you run out of things to stay (and you might), stop. Even if you’re done early.
People are incredibly grateful when communicators realize they’re done.
So that’s it. A five-step strategy to help you nail an impromptu talk, or at least not blow it.
Brandon Hardison – Champion Strategies