Tips for Speaking with Zero Prep

"Would you mind saying a few words?"

Wait. What?

You didn’t expect to speak. If you did, you would have prepared yourself.

Suddenly you feel pressure to come up with something worthwhile to say in about two minutes or less. You start to feel uncomfortable, but you can't say no.

Luckily you've got a cheat sheet folded neatly in your wallet. Here is what it says:


  1. Keep Your Audience in Mind. Talk about what they care about.

  2. Start with a Question. Open ended questions work best.

  3. Give Your Angle. Tell a story and make it personal. Stories are engaging and influential.

  4. Stick Your Landing. Think like a gymnist and finish strong; highlight your main point.

Here's an example: Imagine you've been asked to say a few words to a new group of summer interns:

Keep Your Audience in Mind: Interns may be feeling a bit nervous and uncertain about expectations. They aren't sure how to be successful in a new environment.

Start with a Question: “What is the one quality that will make you stand out this summer?”

Give Your Angle: “My advice? Above all else, stay curious. Let me tell you about Dan, an intern who worked with my team a few years back...” (Tell a brief story to highlight Dan's curiousity and how this quality helped him suceed.)

Stick Your Landing: "Ask questions and seek to understand why we do what we do. Share your thoughts and opinions, and stay curious. It's a great way to stand out this summer, and it's also how you’ll get the most from your internship with us.”

I'm a huge fan of preparation, but sometimes we have to wing it. These tips can help in a pinch. They work really well for impromptu toasts, meeting updates, and introductions too!



P.S. - If you need help with impromptu speaking, I'd love to hear from you! What are your challenges?

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