Wait, What? Speak off the Cuff? Try These 3 Steps

Sometimes giving a presentation could be easier than everyday conversations. Why? Everyday conversation is speaking off the cuff, or impromptu speaking, or extemporaneous speaking — whatever you call it — you don’t have time to prepare in advance. Also, it doesn’t give you a break!

Let’s see some examples: a colleague asks your thoughts on social media ethics; a friend asks your opinion on parenting, climate change, or KETO diet; your spouse asks to start thinking about next vacation ideas, and your neighbor asks you where you stand on recent issues on fireworks.

While “Wait, what, I never thought of it before!” is a perfectly fine answer, you want to use it as an opportunity to share yourself; something reflects your personality, what you value the most, and so on. On the other hand, you don’t want to ramble on and on, “oh, oops, what was the question again?”

So, how do you get better at speaking off the cuff? Try these 3 Steps!

1. Get Familiar with Your Speech Structure

A speech structure gives you a template (how to say); you can concentrate on what to say. The most basic structure is below:

  1. Repeat the question (reframe the negative ones),
  2. Decide which opinion you share,
  3. Tell reasons: start with “Some of the reasons why…”
  4. Repeat your opinion.

If it was a “Why” question,

  1. Repeat the question (reframe the negative ones),
  2. Start with “Some of the reasons why…”
  3. Repeat your opinion.

Repeating the Question (Reframe it when necessary)
Repeat the question ensures you understood it correctly, also a bit of time to think. Yes, you are right, it’s not much, but every second counts when you formulate your answer.
Power of Reframing
If you feel the question gets your nerve, you should try reframing it so you can think calmly. You and I both know, when our emotions get us, it’s not going to be pretty. You want to concentrate on getting the bottom of the question, and reframing helps.

For example, let’s see a defensive reaction:
“Your plan sounds too costly, didn’t you notice or you think it’s okay?”
“What are you implying? Do you want to say I didn’t think it through?”

Use the power of reframing:
“Your plan sounds too costly, didn’t you notice or you think it’s okay?”
“Ah, you have a question about budgeting, all right,”

See the power of reframing? It’s worth the practice, indeed.

Start with Three Little Words: Saying “Some of the…” (or sometimes “One of the…”) is a powerful way to start. Try it, you will feel your brain is activated and searching the answers for you right away. Also, you limit your response to some (or one), instead of infinity. It’ll save you from rambling and monologuing until someone rolls her eyes.

Make it a habit, and think as you say the three little words: “Some of the…”

2. Be Curious about Yourself

We often neglect to know ourselves, don’t we? Sure, occasionally, you do gamified personality tests and so on. But in reality, we are focusing on someone else said or did, and wondering why they said or did. You and I both know, it’s impossible to know behind closed doors; this guessing business is endless and often fruitless. I learned it the hard way, so let me say this: use the time to think of you, your feelings, thoughts, opinions — ask yourself, what does make you excited, angry, frustrated, sad, satisfied? You will be more confident and centered once you know where you stand, your tendency, and yourself. Sometimes, we are too close to ourselves; answering these questions could be uncomfortable. So, here are some ideas to ease your uneasiness:
1. Come to Buddies and participate in Table Topic session, designed to practice impromptu speeches, as well as your friends from all over the world!
2. Try asking yourself lists of topics. When you know yourself, answering unexpected questions gets easier. I like this list because it has 365! Answering unexpected questions might surprise you. This is, in a way, preparing for impromptu speaking in advance, too. https://www.dist8tm.org/assets/tm–365-sample-table-topics-questions.pdf
3. Did I mention come to Buddies? We have a Slack platform and there is TableTopic channel for impromptu speech practice.

3. Focus on People, Not Your Negative Voice

Your conversation partner doesn’t expect to be blown away by your brilliance. They simply want to know your thoughts, ideas, and opinions—they want to know you better. So, focus on the person talking with you, listening to them, building a relationship through the conversations. If you focus on yourself, your mind is away from the person in front of you; often causes the long, mumbling, and rambling monologue you will regret later.
When you share your thoughts, you can contribute more than you think, even you might think you didn’t deliver it well. So ignore/sway it when your negative voice pops up (and it will), decide you won’t be bothered by it.

There you have it:
1. Get familiar with your speech structure
2. Be curious about yourself
3. Focus on people, not your negative voice
You know what?
These are also useful for your next presentation, especially your Q&A session.

Oh, yes, I know, it’s easier said than done. It’s just like riding a bicycle; you can’t get better by reading and thinking; you need a safe place to practice.
Come to Buddies, you will find yourself surrounded by like-minded and extremely supportive people online. Guests are always, always welcome.

Get your Invitation here:

Whatever it is, worth doing is worth the effort; might as well have fun with it!

From Your buddy, Misako

You’ll be a Great Speaker!

“The human brain starts working the moment you are born and never stops until you stand up to speak in public.”

George Jessel, a great comedian, also a former Toastmaster once said that, and he was right. It was exactly what my brain acted before I joined Toastmasters. I published some books in my home country, but I was profoundly bad at speaking; book promotions were always disasters. When someone asked a simple question, I became like fish out of the water — gasping for air, moving mouth without a voice, and smiling to show I wasn’t in need of immediate medical treatment. Creepy, yikes, indeed!
That was me before I found my speech strength in Toastmasters. I won some speech contests, took training whatever available/affordable; now speak professionally — even became a certified speaking coach. If I could do it, you can do it, too.

The secret was simple: practice with The Right Mindset and Effective Methods of Learning, and most importantly, you’ll need The Right Buddies. Let’s break down each of them.

1. What is The Right Mindset?

Yes, you can become a great public speaker because you are still reading this. It shows your determination – that’s what pushes you through the journey. Your determination is the right mindset; keep it in your heart no matter what happens (or whatever you are told). There are times you feel discouraged, your passion gets dimmed, dark clouds of doubt loom over you — but that’s when you need to remember why you wanted to become better speaker/presenter. Shouldn’t it worth the effort, march through the setbacks? I’m guessing your answer is yes, as I’ve been through many times.

When you feel like discouraged, please don’t push yourself to the edge. Instead, imagine if you are your best friend. Talk to you as your best friend would do, treat yourself as the same.

Often, we are hard on ourselves — it’s natural when we get frustrated, things didn’t go as we expected. But think this: is beating yourself really helping you, now? Your goal is to improve and grow; you’ve got a lot else to do. It’s a slippery slope to self-pity when you start blaming yourself (yes, I’ve been there. And that wasn’t pretty).

Remember you have the strength, that’s why you started this journey. At Buddies, we all experienced the “ditch” and know how hard it can hit you. We also know a warm encouragement, a gentle nudge can do a wonder; we support you with all our hearts. Embracing struggles can be the most significant catalyst to your own growth; you’ve got this & Buddies got your back.

2. Effective Methods of Learning

No, “simple” doesn’t mean easy, unfortunately. Prepare some work to do, but it’s well worth it. Let’s dig deeper for some methods.

Effective methods include: Know what makes a good speech, Learn some speech structures, Learn how to handle your anxiety. Then, practice speech delivery. Let’s tackle one by one:

Know what makes a good speech: Toastmasters International offers many manuals and paths. At Buddies, you can consult with club officers and experienced members how to set your goals. We also offer to mentor; when you get the right mentor, the growth is tremendous. Don’t worry, if you and your mentor don’t work well, you can always seek a different mentor.

Learn Speech Structures: Whatever the path you choose, knowing some types of speech structures will help. For example, when you need to speak off the cuff, this structure does wonder:

  • Decide your answer, tell it in a few words “I believe/think/ that…”
  • Provide 1-2 examples/reasons/data that supports your answer: “For example, I happened to know…”
  • Conclude by repeating your point, “And that is why I believe/think that…”

More on: Speech Prep: Structure Sample:

This structure gives your listeners a sense of completion. It’s a mini version of the bookend method; making a full circle by starting with your main point and repeating the point at the end. Once you are familiar with the structure, you can concentrate on thinking about your answer/opinion/message. Tabletopics session at Buddies meeting is a perfect place to practice for speaking off the cuff.

How to handle your anxiety
I always do this and recommend to try: when you are nervous and shaky/jumpy before your speech, try not to calm yourself.

Yes, you read it right: most people say you need to calm down, but it’s actually a hard thing to do when your adrenalin is running full throttle. Instead, say to yourself, “I’m excited!” (you should be, you practiced hard!) and your mind will be pumped up, becoming “Yeah, I’ve got this!” mode. No, I’m not making this up, there is a study: Why saying ‘I am excited’ makes you perform better It was a lifesaver. Before that, I ran around the building/street because I was super jumpy! I wish I knew back then…

Practice speech delivery
Practice in front of a mirror (minimum), in front of your speech buddy (better), deliver your speech at a meeting, watch it from our recordings (the best).

The most effective way is to record your speech and watch it and learn what worked/didn’t. It’s hard to watch yourself, oh yes, I know, but you will gain SO much. I promise you. 2001 public speech World champion Darren LaCroix often says, “If you can’t watch your speech, what about your audience?” Ouch, but true. I must confess, though…

To be honest, it took me a couple of months just to watch myself. The first couple of times, I hit the reply button and had to leave the room or even went outside (what was I thinking? Beats me). Once I got used to, it sure propelled my speech improvement. Believe me, your recorded speech is a treasure box. You can learn so much from your own speech, what to emphasize, what to cut, what you are good at, what to improve, etc. At Buddies, we record each meeting so members can watch it; it’s an amazing cost-efficient practice method. Take advantage of it!

3. You Need Right Buddies

Yes, practicing speech is simple but No, it’s not easy. A great speech is not one-time use, it should be practiced and improved so you can connect with your audience deeper and better.

Once you create your signature speech with the message you want to spread, it becomes your lifetime asset. You can start speaking at your local groups, church, conferences, Shark Tank, Create Youtube, Online courses, and write a book about it, and on and on; the opportunities are countless.
Some of the Buddies became successful life coaches, Youtubers, succeeded at his scholarship interview, gave a presentation in front of Shark Tank (!), won a speech contest, got a book proposal, and the great news keeps coming in.

Did they achieve it at ease? No. I know their struggles, and they overcome with the tenacity, also got support throughout their journey. To find and express your authentic voice, you might need to deliver multiple speeches and multiple times to refine them. Yes, you are right, it takes time. Who is patient enough to take the journey with you? My answer is, well, I guess you know it already, and you are right: Buddies Online Toastmasters. Buddies is an international family, a rare combination of professionalism and friendliness. We encourage each other, celebrate together, and we are unstoppable to get better. The only boundary can be your time zone: Check out the local time converter; visit a meeting as a guest.

Yes, you will be a great speaker:
1. Commit yourself to the goal of yours
2. Learn proven methods & practice
3. get your buddies and keep going!
Simple doesn’t mean easy — we are here to support you.

Got interested? Guests are always, always welcome.
Visit us: https://buddies.toastmost.org/guest-register/

From Misako