Posted June 13th, 2013 under

Do Good Speakers Wing It?

There is a misconception that speakers that speak off the cuff and look relaxed on stage are doing it because it is just natural and they are improvising most of what they are saying. This is not true. The trick to making it look like it is happening in the moment is preparation. When I worked in comedy you would hear people say things like, “He seemed to be making it up as he went along”, or “it was all off the cuff”. I can assure you in 99% of times it was material he had used before and it is made to look fresh and in the moment as part of the performance. Every speaker that is making the same speech a number of times needs to keep it fresh and give it the improvised feel or it becomes mundane for both speaker and audience. As Mark Twain said,“It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.”

Here are two ideas on how to make a speech look impromptu…
1. Tell lots of stories – they always feel improvised as they are usually more animated and you can also improvise a bit here while staying within the story-line.
2. Ask questions of the audience – but be prepared for the outcomes you get. For example, if the response is negative or positive have a prepared answer for both. This is improvised to an extent but you are still prepared for the outcomes.