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Communication - a Voyage of Experience: Part 2

Posted November 12, 2010 5:58 PM by English Rose

The Introduction and Part 1 to this series are available via the links.

Part 2: Impromptu Speaking

In Part 1, I looked at prepared speeches, the ones where you get enough notice to be able to write, review and practice a script. In Part 2, I'm going to take a look at impromptu speaking: those times when you are put on the spot to make a coherent and cogent statement about something, be it your latest project; your opinion on a news story or your feelings about the winner of Strictly Come Dancing.

Often, impromptu speaking is thought of only in workplace terms – giving reports and the like. However, there are many situations outside of work where the skills can be applied: giving a vote of thanks; introducing yourself at a party; and returning something to a shop are just three examples.

There are a number of techniques you can use to assist you in making a success of these opportunities to speak.

The first is to repeat of rephrase the question. This has two effects:

  1. You check that you have heard the question correctly; if you rephrase, you can also check that you have understood the thrust of the question
  2. It buys you a few more seconds of thinking time!

The second is to to breathe.

This sounds very simple and extremely obvious, however, it is surprising how many nervous speakers forget to do this very thing. Result: voice cracks, brain freezes and you end up gasping like a fish.*

Instead, take a breath just after you repeat the question. Take another after your first point; and another after your second point – you may be able to see a pattern here. By then, you should have got into the habit and will be breathing and speaking alternately and naturally. If something throws you, and you have to make a choice: choose breathing first and you'll find the speaking follows quite naturally.

Now you've confirmed the question, worked out how to breathe and speak alternately, we can consider what you are saying:

  • Do you answer the question directly?
  • Do you take an alternative view?
  • Do you answer the question you wish had been asked?**

All of these are valid responses, in different circumstances. Only you can decide which is appropriate to the situation facing you at any given time.

An impromptu speech is still – yes – a speech. So it should have a beginning, a middle and an end. The body should be logically organised. If you don't believe this is possible in a short response, time yourself speaking for 2 minutes, see how much you can say and how many ideas you can cover in that time.

Alternatively, search youTube for Toastmasters Table Topics and watch some of the examples there. You'll be surprised at how much can be said in two and a half minutes, and how much better it is with a good structure.

Your local Toastmasters club will practice impromptu speaking at at each meeting. Guests are encouraged to join in with this part of the meeting, so head along an have a go: you have nothing to lose but the fear!

*ok, so there may be a touch of hyperbole in there. Speech 4: How to say it.

** It's not only politicians who do this!

© ER Productions 2010

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#1

Re: Communication - a Voyage of Experience: Part 2

11/13/2010 11:47 PM

I've heard this before, but I appreciate it as much now as I did then... A LOT!

I also like the rhetorical question... it stimulates the mind of both speaker and audience.

It never hurts to have a handful of favourite quotations either.

like this one time, at band camp...

Chris

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#2

Re: Communication - a Voyage of Experience: Part 2

11/14/2010 3:40 AM

As an adjunct (oooh, do I get a GA for a fancy word?) to the breathing thing, is the 'don't be afraid of the pause'. (or embrace the paws)
.
..
...

While you are doing it look around the audience.
And then carry on blethering about whatever..., usually about bows in my case.
Del

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#3
In reply to #2

Re: Communication - a Voyage of Experience: Part 2

11/15/2010 5:14 AM

You did get a GA for the fancy word, but it was immediately recinded as you've stolen my thunder on both the next entry and the bad pun. Not that you'll stop me publishing it anyway...

Embracing the paws is very important - in fact there was a discussion on my local radio station this weekend about the delights of pets' paws...

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#4
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Re: Communication - a Voyage of Experience: Part 2

11/15/2010 7:30 AM

Whoops sorry.
Our boss is a marketting man who over uses the silence thing, especially on the phone, (he phones back to the office while he's out on business...'have you done xyz yet?..no cos I'm on the bloody phone ).
We are all used to it now and sit there in silence waiting to see if he'll crack instead
.
..
...
.errrr, are you still there?
Del

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#6
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Re: Communication - a Voyage of Experience: Part 2

11/18/2010 4:57 AM

No worries - it's good to see/hear the same techniques from different people in different situations, it lends credence to them.

My boss's boss uses silence - in fact it's always a bit of a shock when he says more than 10 words together (I think he might just be grinding his teeth and biting his tongue most of the time... )

There? No. I'm here, just got back from There...Ware was nice.

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#5

Re: Communication - a Voyage of Experience: Part 2

11/16/2010 8:53 AM

Good stuff, Rose! Thanks for reminding us of the basic -- and some more advanced -- aspects of ublic speaking. I especially liked your emphasis on the fact that it is ALL public speaking, whether prepared or impromptu. The only differnce is how much time you have to prepare. (Mark Twain said, "It takes me at least three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.")

The only thing I could add is to know your audience. Knowing how familiar the audience is with the subject will certainly help you organize your material and decide what to say, how deep to go on explanations, etc. If you aren't sure, err on the side of caution and assume they don't know.

Maybe you'll talk about this in the next segment?

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#7
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Re: Communication - a Voyage of Experience: Part 2

11/18/2010 5:01 AM

Thanks bp01. Excellent extra points - and a quote...all good techniques


Know your Audience and Organise your Material are on the list, but a bit further away than the next segment - that's moving on to some basic listening skills. Just need to type it up...

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