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Impromptu Speeches

How practicing impromptu speeches can help with speaking skills

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Impromptu speeches refer to those time when you get up in front of people and speak about a topic without preparation, or with very little preparation. Impromptu speech is a fancy phrase used to indicate speaking for an extended length of time about a topic. Practicing impromptu speeches can help you or your class prepare for at these common tasks:

  • Weddings or other celebrations
  • In class when a professor asks for your opinion about something
  • Job interview questions
  • Small talk at parties
  • Exchanging opinions at business or other meetings
  • Speaking in public
  • Making new friends and exchanging ideas

Practicing Impromptu Speeches

In order to become comfortable giving impromptu speeches, practice giving impromptu speeches in front of the mirror, in class, with other students, and so on. Here are some techniques to help get used to speaking without preparation.

Think in Terms of a Well Written Paragraph

Although writing is not the same as speaking, there are some common characteristics relating impromptu speaking and well written paragraphs. A well written paragraph contains:

  • An Introduction
  • A Main Idea or Point
  • Supporting Evidence / Examples
  • Conclusion

Speaking successfully about a topic should follow the same basic outline. Introduce your topic with an interesting antidote, quote, statistic or other information to catch the listeners' attention. Next, state your opinion and give some examples. Finally, make a conclusion by stating why this information you've provided is relevant. Here's an example of someone stating her opinion at a party to a group of friends about a film. The language may be more idiomatic than in writing, but the structure is quite similar.

Example Opinion or Impromptu Speech

The new James Bond film is so exciting! Daniel Craig looks amazing and he's such a good actor. I've heard that he does all of his own stunts. In fact, he was injured making the last film. He's also so tough, but at the same time so suave. Have you seen the trailer in which he jumps onto a moving train and then adjusts his cufflinks! Classic Bond! Not all James Bond films are great, but it's amazing how well they've stood the test of time.

Here's a breakdown of how this short opinion parallels basic paragraph structure:

  • An Introduction - The new James Bond film is so exciting!
  • A Main Idea or Point - Daniel Craig looks amazing and he's such a good actor.
  • Supporting Evidence / Examples - I've heard that he does all of his own stunts. In fact, he was injured making the last film. He's also so tough, but at the same time so suave. Have you seen the trailer in which he jumps onto a moving train and then adjusts his cufflinks! Classic Bond!
  • Conclusion - Not all James Bond films are great, but it's amazing how well they've stood the test of time.

Clearly, this opinion would be much too informal for a written essay or business report. However, by providing structure we can speak with confidence, as well as get our points across.

  • Give yourself 30 seconds to prepare
  • Time yourself - try to first speak for one minute, then two minutes
  • Get corrections
  • Try, try again

Rules for Practice

Here are some rules that I find helpful for practicing impromptu speeches on your own or in your class. If possible, get someone to help out with correction in class for both the overall structure, and common grammar problems. If you don't have anyone, record yourself. You'll be surprised how quickly you improve keeping these simple tips in mind.

  • Give yourself 30 seconds to prepare
  • Time yourself - try to first speak for one minute, then two minutes
  • Get corrections
  • Try, try again

Finally, here are a number of topic suggestions to help get your started practicing impromptu speeches.

Impromptu Speech Topic Suggestions

  • Why are habits or routines helpful? / How can habits or routines lead to boredom?
  • How does the weather affect your mood?
  • Why did your favorite team win or lose the last game, match or competition?
  • Why are you looking for a new job?
  • What happened to make your break up / end your last relationship?
  • Tell me something about a hobby or a subject in school?
  • Why don't parents understand their children?
  • What makes a good parent?
  • What suggestions would you make to your boss to improve the company?
  • If you could take a year off from work or school, what would you do?
  • Why are governments in such trouble around the world?
  • Why did you enjoy or not enjoy your last date?
  • Who is your mentor, and why?
  • What should the teachers do more / less often?
  • Why did you do well / poorly on the last homework assignment or test?
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    5. Impromptu Speeches in ESL

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