Mastering Impromptu Speaking

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mastering impromptu speaking

Mastering Impromptu Speaking

Whether you realize it or not, almost all of your conversations are impromptu. Your coworker asks you what you did over the weekend, or your team leader asks you the status of a project. You didn’t spend time preparing notes for these conversations, which happened spontaneously and organically. However, your anxiety may rise when you are called on during a meeting or asked a question you weren’t prepared for. According to Quantified, speakers are 19% less confident when impromptu speaking. This is why learning how to prepare for spontaneous speaking situations is essential.

mastering impromptu speakingOur CEO and Founder, Jessica Chen, recently hosted a Soulcast Media | LIVE event on LinkedIn, where she interviewed Communications Coach | Soulcast Media, Kelsey Moore.

They shared tips and personal stories about mastering impromptu speaking and its importance to career success.



What is Impromptu Speaking?

Giving a speech or having a conversation about a topic without much preparation ahead of time is considered impromptu speaking. Impromptu speaking situations can include talking to your boss, being put on the spot during a meeting, or being asked a question you weren’t prepared for. Impromptu speaking may lower your speaking confidence, but there are several ways you can prepare for spontaneous situations.


1. Preparation

Have you ever been called on during a meeting and put on the spot to answer a question? Chances are, you’ve felt a physical response to this situation. Your palms may start to sweat, and your heart rate may increase. This response is completely normal. However, it can cause you to blurt out an answer, or become tongue-tied. The key to overcoming this is to prepare. 

Consider the following:

  • Practice – Even though impromptu conversations are spontaneous, you can prepare for them to boost your speaking confidence. For example, one way to prepare is to practice having your partner, friend, or colleague pepper you with rapid-fire questions. The goal is to get you comfortable thinking and speaking on the spot. You will be able to train yourself to remain calm and think quickly. This will help you when the situation arises in a meeting or any other impromptu speaking situation.
  • Manage Fight Or Flight – Often, when you are put on the spot, your anxiety takes over, and you cannot clearly communicate your response. You will want to manage your fight or flight response to avoid this. One way to do this is to reframe how you think about the situation. For example, give yourself a moment to collect your thoughts. You’ve heard the question. You are going to think about what they asked. And then, you will respond. Breaking it down into small pieces will help you reframe how you think about the situation. 
  • Down/Up Technique – Another great way to help you manage your anxiety is to practice the down/up method. When put on the spot, you can look down and nod your head as if you are thinking about the answer. Take a breath to collect yourself. Then, raise your head and give your response. This gives you a moment to really think about what you want to say, and prevents you from blurting out an answer.

Even though impromptu conversations are on the fly, you can still prepare for when they happen. Reframing how you feel in those situations and practicing techniques to manage your fight or flight will help boost your confidence when speaking.


2. Demonstrate Confidence

Impromptu speaking tends to lower your speaking confidence. This is primarily because you aren’t given any time to write down your thoughts and rehearse your responses. However, it is essential for you to demonstrate confidence, even in these circumstances.

Consider the following:

  • Silences – To demonstrate confidence, you will need to get comfortable with silences. Silences can prevent you from blurting something out, using filler words, or giving away too much information. When you are comfortable with silence, you show confidence. 
  • Avoid Filler Words – During the Soulcast Media | LIVE, Kelsey shared how filler words can be used to hold the floor. In other words, you use these words to ensure the other person knows you have something to say and you don’t want to be interrupted. However, using these words makes you appear less confident about what you are saying. To avoid using these words, practice the up/down method technique. This will give you time to collect yourself and prepare a response. mastering impromptu speaking
  • Don’t Uptalk – Uptalk is when you end a statement with a higher tone of voice, making it seem like you are asking a question. This shows you aren’t sure about your answer. To avoid this, ensure your tone is down when you end your statement. Record yourself asking a question, and then listen back to hear how your tone of voice goes up. Then, record yourself speaking a statement. Notice how your tone of voice goes down. When your tone of voice goes down, it indicates you’ve finished your thought and are confident in your response.

Demonstrating confidence is critical when learning how to master impromptu conversations. Being comfortable with silences, avoiding filler words, and working on your tone of voice will help you project confidence. 


3. Use Framework

During the Soulcast Media | LIVE, Jessica shared how it can be challenging to practice clear communication when put on the spot. She said to ensure you are clear in your communications; you will want to organize your thoughts and responses using a framework.

Consider the following:

  • Car Method – During the Soulcast Media | LIVE, Kelsey shared the CAR method framework. CAR stands for Context, Action, and Result. She said you can use this framework to organize your thoughts when formulating a response. For example, if your boss calls on you during a meeting and puts you on the spot, prepare your answer using the CAR method. Think about the context in which the question has been asked. Then, consider what action you have taken or what actions others have taken. After that, think about the results. Use this framework to organize your thoughts before you respond. 
  • Provide Context – As you organize your thoughts, providing context first will help your communications. For example, if your boss asks you a question, think about what high-level context you need to give first. Then, you can go into the details. If your boss asks you how the project is going, you can respond with something like, “We’ve finished the first round of A/B testing. The results from the A group were XYZ, and the results from the B group were XYZ. We are analyzing the results to come up with the best option.” When you start high level, you can quickly fill in the details. 
  • Use Chronological Order – When formulating your response, you can use chronological order as your framework. For example, think about what happened first, next, etc. This will help you quickly organize your thoughts before you give your answer.

Clearly communicating your response when put on the spot can be difficult. A framework to organize your thoughts will help you clearly communicate your answer.


4. Saying No On The Spot

One of the hardest things to do when put on the spot is to say no. You may really want to help someone out, but the truth is you can’t take on every project. There are several ways you can say no on the spot.

Consider the following:

  • EOT  Method – During the Soulcast Media | LIVE, Jessica shared the EOT method. EOT stands for explain, offer options, and tone. For example, first, you explain why you can’t do something. You can say your plate is full, or you have a deadline you need to meet. Then, you offer options. You can ask them to circle back after your deadline is over. Last, remember your tone of voice. You always want to be mindful of how you are saying no. Be sure you keep your tone professional. 
  • Company Impact – Another way to say no on the spot is to talk about the impact this will have on the company. For example, you can say, “I would be happy to take on this project; however, it will take me away from XYZ project. Which project would you prefer I focus on?” In this way, you can say no by reminding the person of the overall company impact. mastering impromptu speaking
  • Consider Others  – Another way to say no is to bring someone else into the mix. For example, you can say, “My plate is full, but I know Erika is a great resource. You should reach out to her and see if she can help.” In this way, you are saying no but giving an alternative person to ask.

Every time you say yes to something, you say no to something else. Be mindful of how you are saying no, and be sure to offer alternatives.

Mastering impromptu speaking is a skill you can learn. Focus on preparing yourself for these situations, and remember to organize your thoughts with framework techniques. The more comfortable you are will silence, the more confident your communications will be.


Check out Jessica’s Youtube Channel if you want to see the full LIVE version of Jessica and Kelsey’s conversation.


Whenever you’re ready, there are 3 ways we can help you:

  1. Discover your communications style so you know where to start. Over 4,000 people have found theirs here.
  2. Attend our monthly communication workshop to build communications confidence (new topics: public speaking, advocating for yourself, building credibility, etc) here.
  3. Get your brand in front of 43k+ people by sponsoring our newsletter or Soulcast Media | LIVE LinkedIn events [contact:]

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