Methods For Impromptu Speaking

By Eric Pace and Donna Pace

The most challenging aspect of impromptu speaking is in generating and organising your thoughts. Sometimes when asked a question your mind may flood with countless possible answers, other times you may draw a complete blank. The challenge will be greater if your topic is on a subject you know nothing about. Also sometimes your sensitivity to a topic may make it difficult for you to address it adequately. Regardless of what situation you may find yourself in, it can be very useful for you to know that the following methodologies can quickly help formulate and organise your off the cuff responses.

Point, Reason, Example, Point

This method is probably the easiest to use. You open by stating a point. In the body of the topic you outline reasons for stating this point and illustrate with examples. Your conclusion restates the point you first made.

example: “Malta is a wonderful holiday destination (point). It is a country drenched in history and offers an abundance of activities for travellers (reason). Churches date back to St Paul’s era, catacombs
and air raid shelters date back to the second world war, Bastions date back to St Johns Knights. You could take a dive at one of the many wrecks or take a dip in one of the many beautiful inlets and bays (examples). Of course these are just some of the things Malta has to offer, it really is a wonderful holiday destination (point)”.

Who, What, When, Where, Why, How (Kipling)

Organise your flow of ideas by thinking: who is this question about, what can I talk about on this theme; where or when did something happen; why is it important, unimportant to this theme, and so on. Your response may include some or all of the these factors depending as it suits your purpose.

example: “I (who) had a dog (what) given to me for my first birthday (why), way back in 1977 (when). It was given to me as a gift by my grandfather and from what I am told he came with only a bow and a bowl (how).

Past, Present, Future

This method allows you to adopt a global approach. For example if your topic is on holidays you might talk about what a holiday might have been like in medieval England, what we mean by holiday today, and what it could come to mean in the future.

example: “I finished high school in 1992 (past). From there I took on a number of jobs which led me to undertake a University Degree which I hope to finish this year (present). After that I’ll look at my options, but will more than likely continue studying for a while (future).

Balanced opinion

Using this approach you choose to offer both sides of an argument or to compare the advantages and disadvantages of a particular action, situation or decision. For example, the cases for and against playing a contact sport, or the wearing of sneakers rather than leather shoes.

Key word

As you listen to your conversational partner a particular word or words may strike you for example “Peculiar” or “Ferrari’s”. You may choose to build a theme or an anecdote around the particular word(s).

Chunking

Chunking is when you divide a topic into chunks (that is, its possible sub-topics). Your response then becomes a discussion about the chunks. Most topics can be chucked up in may different ways. For example if your topic is your favourite car you could chunk on manufacturers (Ford, Holden, Toyota), or on style (sedan, wagon, ute), on on cars you have owned (1961 FB Holden, Alfa Romeo 75, Lexus IS250) or engine size, or fuel options, etc.

Describe a process

Describing a process is a very easy approach to answering impromptu questions. You simply explain the order of events or step by step actions one might take to complete a task.

example: “What happens when I use an Automatic Teller Machine. First I usually have to wait in line. Then when my turn comes I check I have the right plastic card. Next I insert ….”

Relationships

Respond by exploring the logical relationships with-in your topic. Typical logical relationships include the cause & effect relationship, or the problem & solution relationship.

example: “Our organisation set a goal of increasing it’s turnover by 35% this year. It is now July and we have only achieved 10% of that increase (problem). One course of action to help us achieve our goal is ….(solution)”

State an opinion and elaborate or justify it

example: “I believe that Primary schools must ensure that by the time children reach Year 3 they are developing information literacy skills (opinion). In a world where we are constantly bombarded by information through the media, the Internet and so on, it is imperative that children learn from a very young age not only how to access information but how to….(Justification)”

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  1. […] Follow P.R.E.P. Used by Toastmasters, Point, Reason, Example, Point may be one of the easiest ways of organizing your thoughts. Make your main point, give the reason(s) for stating this point, back it up with an example or two, then conclude by reiterating your point. For more ideas, see this how-to from Toastmasters. […]

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