Hands-Free Impromptu Speaking
Impromptu speaking requires a high degree of trust and willingness to let go of a fear of judgment, memorising, quests for perfection or “being right”. When speaking, your job is to let the story stream through its course, flowing around rocks or impediments in its path and trust your words will pour out juuuuust right for that moment. It is also called “speaking off the cuff” or “leaping without a net”. For some people, it is also a moment of public speaking fear, requiring specific coaching in just how to do it with ease.
Examples of impromptu speaking include: handling questions and answers at the end of a talk, being asked to contribute something at short notice, an invitation to introduce yourself to a group or new people or filling in for someone else “on the spot”.
I have 3 pieces of advice for easeful impromptu:
1. Prepare In Advance
2. Don’t Over-Think (KISS)
3. Only Talk About What you Know
1. Prepare In Advance
Impromptu speaking increases it’s fabulous factor by smart forward preparation. If you know you will be at an event requiring you to say a few words, well, take the time to prepare mentally, physically and emotionally those few words. The better your “headspace”, the better your confidence with words.
The key is to not rigidly memorise, but to trust you do know your material and prepare a strong foundation with the main points. Then simply adapt the content to fit the context of the moment. This keeps you fresh, real and credible. Impromptu literally becomes a dance of spontaneity while the structure holds you in place ensuring sense and relevance.
2. Don’t Over-Think (Keep It Simple, Silly)
One of the most powerful pieces of advice I can give you is to “get out of your head and into your body.” Fear and unhelpful beliefs (for instance, “I’m no good” and “no one is listening”), start in the mind and will stay there, making themselves very comfortable if you label yourself as a fearful public speaker.
Nervous anxiety is a normal physiological response to fear and presumed danger (for instance, sweating, feeling sick, fidgeting, going blank). Your mind generates a fear response if it presumes it’s under threat, even to a situation like speaking in public.
Did you know that your body’s response to excitement is very similar to your body’s response to fear? Try changing the language you use to describe yourself and your state: “I feel nervous about public speaking” becomes “I feel excited by public speaking.” Same response, different word.
You can also try:
- Plant your feet on the floor and use a stance that makes you feel stable and strong. When you need to reground yourself during a speech, stop, take a breath and feel your feet on the floor. As soon as you are back in your body, you become present and relaxed.
- Use a relaxation exercise like Inner Calm to breathe more evenly. When you feel fearful, you tend to breathe from the top of your chest in short shallow bursts – reinforcing the message to your brain that there is something to panic about. When your body perceives there is no danger and it can relax, your breathing will deepen and slow. So, show your mind it has nothing to worry about, and relax your breathing and limbs. Some people find it helpful to place their hand on their belly to remind themselves to breath slowly and evenly.
3. Only Talk About What You Know
If you are going to speak in public, it’s because you have something to say. You will run into trouble if you give a speech about something you know nil. If you don’t know enough, find out. Make it easy on yourself by only speaking about what you know. Consider what you do know about a topic, and speak from that perspective only. This builds trust, authenticity and confidence.
Rather than assume you have to be an expert before you speak in public, first plunder your own resources. You are the sum of so many years of experience. It’s easy to forget or underestimate the goodies you have within you. Just like many clients I’ve coached for job interviews, they often forget they have great skills, because they take them for granted and no longer value or even see them.
When you trust yourself to relax into easeful impromptu speaking, you will no longer need your notes.
Impromptu Trust Challenge
Are you up for a challenge to trust yourself that you will always have something to say?
Try this now: take out a dictionary or book and just let the page fall open. Whichever word your eye falls upon… that is your word to talk about for 60 seconds. Pause and wait for a personal story that relates to the word. The key here is to not plunge in and pour out everything you know about that word in 20 seconds and then peter out with nothing left to say. Take your time, it’s not a test, you can’t fail. Give your listeners a break. You do not need to fill every second with words.
If this challenge is easy for you – great!
If not and you need to flex your impromptu speaking muscles this year, feel free to make an appointment to work with me via Skype or phone. I have 6 places left in my diary for private coaching for the month of March. Here’s the link for more information: Public Speaking Coaching Programs
Best wishes for a “hands-free” 2015. Geraldine