The Impromptu Speech: When and How

The impromptu speech is one without any preparation. I trust that during your career the impromptu is not your most common speaking context. A few situations do occur when an impromptu speech is very important.

Most job interviews involve answering questions. Each answer might be considered an impromptu presentation.

You attend a meeting and an issue comes before the group about which you have a definite position or a vested interest. Although you were not expected to contribute, you speak to the issue.

The boss may ask you unexpectedly to give a report about your department or a recent conference.

Here is a simple formula for delivering the impromptu presentation. Begin with a positive approach. As you start, smile, look confident, and begin with an assertion. Many impromptu speeches begin with the deer-in-the-headlight look and stumbling over the first words instead of speaking with confidence. With the assertion, provide a story or example from your experiences. An assumption is that you would not offer to speak or be asked to speak unless you have experienced and/or researched the topic.

Keep the length under a couple of minutes. Otherwise, you may exhaust your knowledge and start repeating yourself or making comments that you would later regret. End by repeating a version of your opening assertion.

Most important, however, is never to deliver an impromptu speech when you are expected to deliver a prepared speech!

Steve Boyd
Steve Boyd
Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D., CSP, is Professor Emeritus of Speech Communication, College of Informatics, Northern Kentucky University, near Cincinnati. Steve won the Toastmasters International Speech Contest in 1970 and was chosen Outstanding Professor of the Year at NKU in 1984, among other awards and honors. Since retiring, he volunteers with nonprofits, spends time with family, travels, preaches occasionally, and enjoys reading and writing. Contact Steve at (859) 866-5693 or at

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