On Short Notice: Tips for Giving a Powerful Presentation When You Have Little Time to Prepare (Impromptu Presentations)

Have you ever been tapped to make an impromptu group presentation with a half hour’s notice?
When is the last time someone asked you for a “brief update” on the status of an upcoming project in “about an hour”?
Did you ever stand up in the heat of a membership meeting where negativity prevailed and asked members to consider a more positive stance on an issue?

These scenarios require you to “think on your feet” – give an impromptu speech – if you do not want to embarrass yourself, and want to demonstrate your knowledge and mental organization. Be the envy of your organization and become the go-to person with the strong communication skills by taking initiative and being willing to make impromptu presentations by following this guidance.

Impromptu vs. Unprepared Presentations

The idea of preparing yourself for an impromptu presentation may seem like a contradiction. Impromptu presentations do not mean you do not prepare. Public safety, military, and law enforcement personnel — as well as good Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts — practice the mantra “be prepared”. You can apply the same mantra to impromptu presentations. Just as people trained to respond to emergencies at a moment’s notice, you will be able to respond with a solid presentation at a moment’s notice.

Please With Threes

A lesson I teach early in my presentation skills workshops, and that I learned in Toastmasters clubs, is to “please with threes”. Otherwise called the rule of threes, this means that you create a presentation using a speech structure that consists of three main components: an opening, a body, and a closing. Manage these three major parts of a presentation and your speech will be organized every time.

Attention-grabbing opening. On short notice, few people expect you to be witty or humorous. Typically, last-minute presenters are expected to address a specific issue or concern. Grab your listeners’ attention right away by asking a question that directly reflects back to the topic. It is usually what everyone in the room is there to learn about, so you immediately have their attention. You also buy yourself a few more seconds to figure out what you need to tell them.

The body of your presentation. The main part of your impromptu presentation answers the question posed in your opening. Plan to cover no more than three points in the body of your presentation. People best retain up to three pieces of information so list those three points to the group right away. Then give more detail for each point you just outlined. You most likely already know the details and can expand upon them.

The final part of the three-part presentation structure is a summary and closing statement. Start a powerful closing statement by addressing the opening question. Then ask whether you answered all concerns, and field questions. Finish your presentation by calling the group to action or reaffirming everyone’s commitment to the issue.

Public Speaking On Short Notice

Burn this basic presentation structure into your mind. When called upon to speak, you will be able to create a well-prepared impromptu presentation. You can apply this presentation structure to almost any speech you give.

Presenting on short notice is a strong, career- and business-building skill. The more you accept these types of presentations, the more you will stand out as the person who can best represent your organization in a positive light.

Sylvia helps people SHOW they’re as great as they SAY they are. She works with individuals and organizations (businesses, associations, non-profits, educational, and government) to make their “people image” (interpersonal skills) match – or exceed – their organizational image for greater profit, more clients, and a higher degree of personal and professional success. Sign up for monthly content and bring Sylvia to your organization at SylviaHenderson.com.  Blog: http://blog.springboardtraining.com.  Twitter: @SuccessLanguage.