A speech at very short notice? No problem…no, really!

There’s nothing more terrifying than being caught on the hop by someone at a function who says, “ah, (your name) – can you just get up and say a few words to” (thank someone, introduce someone, cover up for an embarrassing issue, lose time because another speaker has been caught in traffic, etc…)

Here are some tips that will help you shine on this occasion even if you only have a few minutes to prepare the speech or presentation.

Never use language you wouldn’t use in normal conversation, because it makes you sound stilted, artificial, and boring. ALWAYS be yourself. Especially at short notice, sticking to the way you speak normally will make you come across more credibly – and easily.

The best speakers always talk to audiences as if they were talking to a friend over a cup of coffee – a natural, friendly, personal style.  Always bear in mind that audiences want you to do well; they’re not a lynch mob out to get you.

Write yourself a quick list of points to use in your speech or presentation, that includes a beginning, a middle and an end. Start by thinking of the issue in question – the person you’ve got to thank or introduce, why they’re there, what they mean to you and the audience.  Relate those to the occasion or reason why you’re all there.

Imagine yourself speaking about those points, and make sure they’re in the right order. Scribble down some further thoughts to fill in a bit of time … weather outside, traffic in the area, light-hearted mention of something that was on the news today.

Now, edit those points and tidy them up a bit, but don’t take out natural changes of pace. However clean up any sections that you think may sound lumpy and awkward in the speech. Reduce the points to a few trigger words that will make you remember what to talk about.

Depending on the occasion, it helps to add in a bit of humour in your presentation, as well as one or two anecdotes – preferably personal ones – to illustrate the points you make. Recall some appropriate jokes that you know, or if you have time, do a quick internet search for jokes about your topic and adapt one or two of those.

Also on the internet via your phone or laptop, you can run a quick search for a couple of quotations to use. Narrow the search by specifying the type of quotation you want – literary, political, humorous, etc.

If you should find that you have time to work out how long you should be up there saying a few words, calculate how many words fit into a given time slot – people speak at 120 – 150 words per minute.  Multiply your speed by the number of minutes, and that’s how many words you need to write.

Most important of all is to rehearse a bit – even a few minutes locked in a toilet cubicle going over it your mind for five minutes. Then go out there … and enjoy!

More help with your speech if you can spare a couple of minutes…

“Super Speeches”…how to write and deliver them well

“How To Write About Yourself”…how to make the most of yourself, whatever you need to write

“The English Language Joke book”…hundreds of laughs about this crazy language of ours

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