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