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Most people hear the words, “Extemporaneous Speech,” and want to head for the door. No way to they want to get up and give a speech unprepared. In truth, that is only one definition of the phrase. It can mean:

  • Performed without any preparation
  • Prepared for in advance, but given without the use of notes
  • Skilled at speaking without any preparation or notes

The first definition will definitely have some looking for the back door. Surely, no one wants to have to give a speech without any preparation. Even having a teacher ask us to stand and tell about ourselves makes some quiver. If it is a topic we’re familiar with, however, most of us can fumble through it.

The only way to assure that you’re ready to give a speech according to the second definition is to know your topic. Research your topic thoroughly. After you’ve prepared your speech, and practice it repeatedly.

Surely, the third definition is the most difficult to master. The plus side of that definition is that you probably won’t be expected to be skilled at speaking without preparation or notes, unless you’re well skilled in your topic. I would hate to have to stand up and give a speech on nuclear physics. The good thing is, no one would ask me to do it. If, however, I was asked to give a speech on learning styles, and/or creative lesson plans for tactile learners, it would be a breeze. It’s a topic I have a great deal of knowledge and experience in.

Even if someone is familiar with the topic they are asked to speak about on the spur of the moment, it can still be frightening for some. There are a few key things you can remember that will help you when giving an extemporaneous speech.

  • Repeat your main point often. In other words, tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you told them. If you do that, not only will you stay on track, but by the end of your speech, the audience will have no doubt what you spoke about.
  • Be clear. Give a speech like you’d write a paragraph. Everything grouped together, and in logical order. Going back and forth is confusing to your audience.
  • Keep it simple. Simplicity in language is an important factor to conveying information effectively. You don’t make them feel that you feel they are not smart enough to understand, but you do want to make your topic so clear that anyone can understand it.

Extemporaneous delivery is certainly the most adaptable form of speech giving. Your speech is not rehearsed, so there’s no pressure to keep it the way you learned it. You are better able to focus on and adapt to the audiences non-verbal signals such as confusion, curiosity, excitement, or boredom.

Whatever the occasion, if you’re asked to give an extemporaneous speech, just take a deep breath and go for it. What’s the worst thing that can happen? You might fall flat on your face? Maybe, but you might do that running for the door too!


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