How To Create A Winning Impromptu Speech
Champion, 1996 District 75 Table Topics Contest
The Impromptu Speech is one of the most challenging contests that any Toastmaster can participate in because, unlike the other speech contests, participants in this category do not have a prepared speech to deliver.
To do well, one must dissect the topic correctly, develop an organized speech and deliver the speech with pizzazz and confidence, all within a specific time limit.
Seem like a tall order? Not really, if you consider the fact that we often have to give impromptu speeches in our everyday lives such as when we try to sell a product or introduce a friend.
Before I go into specific ways you can tackle each kind of impromptu topic, let me first brief you on certain reminders.
- Stick to the time limit. No matter how beautifully delivered your speech is or how well-organized your thoughts are, if you are not able to express yourself for at least one minute but not more than two minutes and thirty seconds, your answer still isn’t going to count. Moreover, I would suggest that you use a maximum of thirty seconds to think, more than that and the audience gets fidgety and this makes a bad impression.
- Make eye contact. This shows that you have confidence and are not afraid to tell everyone what you think. Having good eye contact also shows your sincerity and helps you to connect with the audience.
- Speak in a loud clear voice. Make sure to test the microphone beforehand but make sure your voice is audible even without it. If no one can hear what you have to say, you won’t be able to make your point.
- Use vocal variety.You are not there to bore the audience with your monotony. Vocal variations are needed to give your speech more impact and to highlight your points more effectively.
- Use appropriate language and humor. Don’t use overly technical or high-falluting words especially in anecdotes and jokes. Otherwise, you might end up alienating your audience.
- Start or end with impact. Having an introduction that immediately catches the audience’s attention or having a conclusion that wraps up your speech with a bang automatically gives you better recall to the audience and especially to the judges.
- Use your body. Speech does not rely only the mouth to communicate. Every single part of the body has a role in getting that message across.
- Enunciate. If you continuously eat what you are saying, you’ll never taste sweet success.
- Practice. Muscles that are not used atrophy. If you do not practice answering as many kinds of questions as possible before the contest, chances are you’ll get mental block during the contest.
- Be humble. No matter how much you know, there will always be something you don’t know. So if at first you don’t succeed, at least you know what you need to do to win next time.
There are basically three types of topics that are asked during the speech contest: current events questions, situationers and quotations. For each kind, a different approach is used.
Type A. CURRENT EVENTS QUESTIONS
This is the type of question that occurs less frequently than the others and is also the easiest to prepare for. The question usually asks you to give an opinion or comment on a burning issue like the Monica Lewinsky affair.
To prepare for this type of question, read the newspapers often especially the opinion pages of national dailies. This will help you get a better grasp of the issue.
To answer this type of question, I would suggest that you begin by giving a brief overview of the situation so that those who are not very familiar with the topic will know what you are talking about.
Explain your chosen side as diplomatically as possible so you don’t offend those whose opinions may be different. Try to point out the good qualities of the opposing opinion before giving even better reasons why you chose your side. Personal insights and experiences would be helpful to add humor or drama. Recap your answer by stating that although you respect other opinions, as far as you are concerned, you stand by your choice because of your most major reason.
Type B. SITUATIONERS
Lately, this kind of topic is being used more often. This type of question is the hardest to answer because there are no clear cut right or wrong answers. Situationers often stump contestants because of the sheer absurdity of the premise. The important thing to remember is to be as creative and original as possible. A sense of humor would certainly be an asset.
There are two ways you can approach this sort of question:
- The Dramatic Approach: If you have a particularly dramatic reason for your choice or your style allows you to espouse noble reasons without appearing fake, then by all means take the serious route. The appropriateness of this approach however would depend largely on the topic itself. When delivering, use a dramatic tone. State your choice and support it with a heart wrenching or heart warming reason. Anecdotes would be quite useful.
- The Humorous Approach: This approach is the most often used and if done well can spell victory. The important thing to remember is to be as outrageous as possible. It doesn’t matter what your answer is as long as you are able to give some sort of logical explanation as support. Make the audience laugh with you. Deliver your piece is the deadpan manner used by humorous contestants.
Type C. QUOTATIONS
Quotations can be serious, funny or so simple and common that you can’t think of anything new to say. The key is to understand what the quotation means and be able to apply it to your life and to Toastmasters.
In order to understand the quotation, you have to practice explaining quotations as often as possible. The more quotations you are familiar with and have expounded on, the better your chances of being able to accurately capture the essence of the quotation. Who knows? You might even have expounded on the quotation in a previous rehearsal and thus have an advantage over the other contestants.
The important thing is not to take common quotations for granted especially ones that don’t seem to be saying anything at all. Complicated quotations are difficult to answer but you’ll be amazed at how many contestants have a difficult time with common quotations.
When delivering, being able to quote similar or related quotations can be effective. It is very important that you are able to concretize the thought behind the quotation through specific anecdotes or personal experiences that the audience can relate with. If you can include how doing what the quotation says has helped you in your Toastmaster career even better.
No matter what type of topic, creating a winning impromptu speech ultimately depends on you. How hard are you willing to work? How open are you to comments and corrections? How badly do you want to win?