Tuesday, May 24, 2011


There are, of course, times when someone presents you with an impromptu topic and you have to address the question. They will happen throughout your lifetime. But, the good news is that with more life experience you will be able to handle these questions with greater ability.

On the other hand, there are those who really enjoy asking questions that are "off the cuff" for roughly the same reason surprise parties exist: to see how you handle the situation. It is true that how you handle the "situation" reveals quite a bit about who you are and how you solve problems. But, there are times when you have no desire at all to have folk "prying" around inside your brain just so they can see what makes you tick.

If you like putting your best foot forward, then you should join me in thinking that impromptu topics are extremely dangerous. Especially in such situations as job interviews, new and important relationships and important unusual situations. The question is simple: "In this situation, how can I appear to be better than I really am." The least you can hope for is, "I don't want this situation to make me appear less competent than I really am."

So, how should the impromptu situation be handled? Anticipation: thinking and planning ahead is a habit of successful people. You should be able to anticipate many impromptu topics and then prepare for the occasion. The more you can anticipate the better your chances of appearing to be "brighter and more intelligent" than you really are.

Plan (outline and rehears) the content of your response to each impromptu question you can anticipate. Know what content you will use to address the topic that appears suddenly. Don't plan the words, but instead follow the same path you would if you had ample time to prepare your address. In short, you should prepare an extemporaneous speech in which you have the content under control and you choose the words needed at the time you answer the question.

Avoid making impromptu speeches whenever possible and in place of them give appropriate extemporaneous speeches. You'll be ahead of the game.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Extemporaneous Delivery

Extemporaneous delivery is probably worth as much time as you can afford to spend on the project. By extemporaneous we mean you know what you are going to say and you have the content well in mind. You have organized the data appropriately for your listeners and when the time comes for you to speak, you choose your words while you are speaking.

Aristotle thought that between content and delivery, delivery was not nearly as important. Demosthenes on the other hand felt that delivery is critical. Personally I think that excellent content excellently delivered should be the goal. In life, you will most often be asked to speak on things about which you are well informed. Your biggest problem will be matching the audience to you and your topic. That will guide you in what to include, while you are narrowing your topic. Then the order in which you have been most successful talking to others about the topic.

Task: establish a central idea and type it across a blank page in your word processor, and save it to your desktop. Whenever you think of something that should be included in your presentation, open the document and add it. As potential main ideas occur to you, add them. As supportive material occurs to you, add them under the appropriate main idea. Out of this will grow your fairly detailed outline.

Practice: examine your materials, adjust them to fit you, your audience and the occasion. Let the rough outline sit for a time and then go over your materials and set a final version of the outline. Use that outline to build the visual materials (PowerPoint, Keynote, etc.) you will need to clearly make your points. Remember, the more ways you can simultaneously say a thing the easier it will be for your audience to understand and retain what you are saying. Remember, in the "real" world you will be asked to say to a large group things you have already been saying to individuals and small groups. You have practiced your speech. More practice won't hurt and could help.

Delivery: get to your location early, setup and test everything. Once you stand up and begin realize that there is nothing more you can do to prepare. Your only concern now is that the audience will understand and be able to recall and use what you are saying. It isn't important that you are perfect in appearance or delivery. . .only that the audience understands, can recall and use your content. You are at this point more like a missionary than anything else: only concerned about the audience.

Afterwards: what kinds of questions are asked? What might you have done to make clearer what you were trying to say. Make notes and then make repairs, because it is likely that you'll be asked to do this again fairly soon.

Don't forget to make available leave behinds. Be certain that your contact information is clearly part of the leave behind.

Friday, May 20, 2011


The body of the speech is why you are presenting a speech to an audience. The body of the speech will come primarily from your brain, that accumulation of experiences and thoughts. But to increase your effectiveness in public address you will need to spend considerable focus on your introduction.

An introduction is a multifaceted creation. It moves the members of the audience from where they are to where they must be to understand what you are going to say. It includes: 1) topic (central idea), 2) breakdown of the topic (main ideas), 3) who you are and why you can say what you're going to say, (credibility) and why and how this information will be important to them. Throughout this introduction you will be gaining their attention.

Introductions need to be short, clear and easy to follow and recall. Everything in the paragraph above can be said in a very short time. Details are eliminated and general statements will be used.

Introductions are used to tie your subject to the topic included in the body of your address. The audience then has an idea of what you are about to say and the order in which you will be saying it. In short, it quickly builds a structure which will allow them to attach information (data) to as you move through the thought process.

Introductions are so important it would probably benefit you and your audience if you actually wrote out the entire introduction word for word. That will help you to see the strengths and weaknesses of the introduction before you stand before your audience.

This same process will aid you in your conversational practices. You will correctly analyze what the other person is going to need to understand what you are about to say.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


Is it necessary? Yes, for most of us. It helps us to analyze the interface between the audience and the speaker. It helps us identify weaknhttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifesses in the presentation and it aids the listeners in recalling what was said. It is essential for preparation of visual aids such as PowerPoint of Keynote. Yes, it is necessary.

On the internet you will find many examples of standard outlining format but here is one that you may find useful.

Here is another method that will work until you learn and master the outlining form that a bulk of instructors in the educational system prefer.

Central Idea (a single declarative sentence in simple concrete words.)

Main Idea (one of the parts of the Central Idea)
Support (data that supports this Main Idea)

Main Idea (another part of the Central Idea)
Support (data that supports this Main Idea)

Main Idea (another part of the Central Idea)
Support (data that supports this Main Idea)

This method of outlining has worked for some folk for years. It is simple and straight forward, but not as elegant as the standard outlining format taught by most language teachers. Use this suggestion for now and when the time comes to learn what your high school English teacher was trying to teach you, learn the standard outlining format because you want to.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Are You Ready?

That's a key question many times everyday. In public address it is key to controlling speaker anxiety (stage fright.) If you know what the goal is and you've explained this others before, and you have a pretty good idea who you're talking to, you've gone a long ways to a less fearful presentation.

Goal: what do I want them to be able to do or think when my presentation is finished?
Practice: I have explained this to others several times and have a pretty good idea of how it should be done.
Audience: I've know this audience pretty well, and I've talked to them in other circumstances before successfully.

Now you've got an excellent start on being ready. That is going to help a great deal when you are standing before them and trying to make sense.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Why Groups?

There are several reasons.
1) Groups are often more creative in less time because of multiple brains working on the problem.
2) What one person doesn't find clear and easily understood, one or more of the others may.
3) When you understand the action of the group you are more comfortable with the outcome and very likely more supportive.
4) The accumulated experience in several individuals provides more data and understanding than is possible in an individual.

For these and many other reasons, businesses are looking for employees that can communicate well and work together in groups to solve problems as quickly and effectively as possible.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Things Done Together

There are many things that we can and should do by ourselves. But, much of today's chores are best done by groups of people. In sports, a fully cooperative team with talented players often leads to a winning combination. In business a group of associates that are cooperatively working toward a shared goal often leads to winning.

Anything we can learn that will improve the chances that we will be effective team/group members should be used. Organizations of all kinds are looking for people who can turn their average groups into winning groups. Your contributions in this area will aid you in getting the job, and maintaining it. Group participation has become one of the most effective tools of the business community. More can be accomplished by an effective group than an individual can accomplish alone. “Many hands make light work," John Heywood wrote in the 1500's. It isn't a new idea, but it has become important once again.