You arrive at your Toastmaster meeting and a speaker didn’t show up, so the Toastmaster asks if you would like to take the “opportunity” to speak. Yep. Been there.
You show up at your surprise birthday party and realize people might expect you to say something. Guess who turned 50 last month?
How do you feel when asked to speak on short notice?
Probably not too excited. Probably a little (or a lot) afraid. Turn your fear into purposeful energy and use this opportunity to make a difference!
Here’s a 5-Step process to prepare a speech in 5 minutes:
Step 1: THINK about your PURPOSE
- Why you? Why would you be the person to talk about this? If you haven’t been given a topic, try using the following topic prompts:
- Event-related–if there is a general theme
- Recent events—news items or even something that just happened earlier in the meeting
- Lessons learned from the past—pick a person, like your grandmother, to illustrate “lessons learned.”
- One of your passions or values in life—as it would relate to the audience.
- An analogy. At my surprise birthday party, I started out “I feel a little like George Bailey in the movie It’s a Wonderful Life . . .”
- Why this audience? Why would the audience want to hear what you have to say?
- What outcome? What do you want your audience to think, feel or do after you are done?
Write down your main message in one sentence. Everything you say must relate to your main message.
Step 2: BRAINSTORM. Give yourself a minute to brainstorm. Do you have one story that can provide the overarching framework? That’s my favorite approach to short-notice speeches. Start your speech with the exciting “conflict” part of the story, but leave the audience hanging. Then, in the body, make story-related, audience-relevant points. Finally, use the ending of the story as your conclusion. You have given your audience a nicely wrapped, memorable package.
The story framework may not work in all situations, so consider other frameworks, such as:
- First-second-third . . .
- Then . . . now . . . tomorrow.
- Location 1 . . . Location 2 . . . Location 3
Step 3: KEY POINTS. Come up with 1- 3 points and key supports. If you have a very short “say a few words” of less than 1-2 minutes, you can just make one point. For a longer speech, use 3 points. People can easily remember 3 points. Each point should have at least one support: a story, an example, relevant statistics. Write your points and supports in bullet format in the middle of your page, leaving room for introduction and conclusion.
Step 4: INTRODUCTION. Jot down an idea for an attention-getting opening: a question, a story, a startling statistic, a quote. If you have time to look up quotes by topic (http://www.brainyquote.com/), you can sound quite impressive using a relevant quote at the beginning or end of your speech.
Step 5: CONCLUSION. Your conclusion is what people will remember most. You will want to call back your key points and end with a call-to-action or an inspirational thought. Don’t add any new points in your conclusion.
At the very least, mentally go through your introduction and conclusion several times so that you can deliver them with power. If you have time to practice, like in the car on the way to a meeting, do so out loud to build fluency and confidence.
So, the next time someone asks you to speak on short notice, be daring and dazzle them!