How do you deliver a speech with no prep?
Jack Milner / 25 Mar /

I was having lunch with my very lovely and remarkable mentor (and remarkable not just because he’s happy to be my mentor). I asked him for feedback on some ideas I have for a book.

“The world doesn’t need another book on presenting,” (doh!) he said.  “However, one on impromptu presentations, now that is something I (as a former chief executive and chairman) would have bought.”

He’s right of course. The tricky presentation is not where you have weeks to put together your content and rehearse but the one where some bright spark suggests you “say a few words to (fill in the blank).”

"You want me to say a few words?!"

So for all you impromptu presenters, here are five simple steps to creating a 5 minute presentation that can be delivered with close to zero preparation.

First the scenario.

One of your partner organisations has a leaving do for their longest serving director. You’ve been asked to say a few words. Unfortunately, this is a day which you’ve spent fire-fighting various problems at work, your youngest child is ill, your partner’s mother is in hospital and now you’re also juggling child care! You do not have time to prepare the few words. To make matters worse, your most respected colleagues and the senior team from the partner company will be there in attendance hanging on your every word. Your sales director then says, just as you’re leaving the building, that it would be incredibly  useful if you used the occasion to do a bit of bridge building! Arghhh!

Fear not, breathe, this is what you do…

Step one.

Be clear on the purpose of your five minute speech. This will give your speech energy and focus. And no “I hope I get through it in one piece” is not a clear purpose.

You decide the purpose is to thank Ken and build bridges with his company. Prep time 30 seconds.

Step two

A story. This should reflect the purpose. The great thing about a story is that it requires no rehearsal or effort to recall the details, so you can focus on building rapport and making a connection with your audience. Once you’ve told the story you just need to be clear on the context and how it connects to your overall message.

You choose an anecdote about the pre-digital occasion when the office was flooded and Ken dealt with your urgent request whilst wading through soggy files. If the story is funny, true and emotional so much the better. You will remind everyone that Ken’s selfless behaviour is typical of the partner company. “You guys are great.” Prep time for quality bridge building and story one minute (or however long it takes to come up with the story - you can improvise the bridge building). 

Step three

Three simple points that follow up the story. The third one usually has a little twist to it.

You’ll never meet a more honest man than Ken, a more diligent man than Ken, or someone who can more effectively organise office days out that are always debauched and over subscribed! Prep time thirty seconds.

Step four

The call to action. Finish with thanks and ideally a call to action. This displays confidence and ensures your speech lives beyond the five minutes you spent talking to your audience.

You thank everyone and "make sure you enjoy tonight in the spirit of one of Ken's away days." Prep time - 30 seconds?

Step five

Breathe, use whatever positive affirmation you need (mine is “good enough”), build some rapport and deliver with energy!

There you go, a five minute presentation. If you’ve followed these simple steps you won’t even need notes.