Successful Impromptu Speech is not only about words
In the last post, I was trying to convince you that impromptu speaking is a must-have skill for UX Designers (and actually anybody who is working with people). Even if I convinced you, one question is still on the table: HOW can you deliver a successful impromptu speech?
Here are a few things to consider:
- Don’t rush
Simply — take a deep breath, choose your main point, and walk (not run!) your audience through it.
It is understandable that when you are asked a question or it is expected from you to elaborate on something here and now, you want to answer as soon as possible. However, this can only cause an additional and unnecessary amount of stress. Knowing that you have limited time to think could be paralyzing, but also gives you a stimulus to focus on the main aspect of your answer.
Speaking slowly helps you to articulate your idea more clearly and connect with your audience on a deeper level (how many times have you asked somebody to repeat what they said only because they were talking too fast?). Don’t be afraid of pauses — give yourself time to organize your thoughts before making the next point in your speech. This way your audience also has an opportunity to digest what they’ve just heard. Simply — take a deep breath, choose your main point, and walk (not run!) your audience through it.
2. Try to have a structure
It doesn’t have to be inspirational or motivational
No matter how long you are talking to another person or group of people-when your speech is unorganized, you will probably end up repeating yourself, or you will be misunderstood without even knowing. I will not tell you to have an opening with a hook, a body with a few points supporting your idea, and an inspirational ending.
Or I will.
But in a different way.
There are few ways to start your impromptu speech:
- repeat the question you were asked out loud, giving yourself a little bit more time to think.
- Make your main point and a brief explanation why this is your answer
- If you know right off the bat what do you want to say, you could give a little teaser to your speech, for example, “There were three things I kept in mind while designing this section…”
- Tell a short story that is directly connected to your answer — you can surprise the audience and definitely make an impact
“Body” of your impromptu speech most likely will be very short, since you will not have too much time to explain everything. That’s why focus on your main point (the next section), so you could smoothly make a transition to the ending. It doesn’t have to be inspirational or motivational — ending in impromptu speaking has a way more important role — making sure your audience understands you!
Don’t start a new story or add a new point here — that will only make your speech confusing. It would be good to repeat in short what you’ve already said and underline your main point that you were building the whole speech on. If you see the topic is too broad to “just answer and forget about it,” you could also encourage your audience to ask more questions. Leave the space for further dialogue, at the same time making your point clear.
3. Focus on your main point
Focusing on the main purpose of your speech is a steady road to impromptu speaking success. Don’t try to support your idea with too many additional stories or anecdotes. Sometimes even 3 supporting stories are too much for one time unless you make it very short and clear to your audience. Let your recipients fully focus on your message, otherwise you will trigger many unnecessary and off-topic questions.
4. Relax and speak your mind
Let them see you as a person, not only an answer-giver.
Treating your recipients like predators that are going to eat you alive when you say something wrong is definitely not the right attitude to have. Befriending your audience in a very short time and under the fire of questions seems impossible, but only by speaking comfortably, you can make them be more fond of you. Take a deep breath and talk as you would talk to a person close to you. Let them see you as a person, not only an answer-giver.
Stress is normal when it comes to public speaking, and there are many ways to conquer it. You could even transform your anxiety into excitement! For now, start from telling yourself that you know what you are talking about and take a deep breath. You cannot predict everything, but the knowledge you have is your shield in any situation (even if you don’t have to know everything!).
If you focus on delivering your design decisions clearly and confidently, you can be sure you will be understood and heard.
Additionally, you could even finish your speech with a question, to continue the discussion or trigger your audience to think about a certain issue. For example: you were asked to explain your design choices by your team leader that clearly doesn’t like what you’ve done. Take a deep breath and think about your main point. It would be good if you had 2 to 3 supporting ideas to justify your decision even more. At the end you could ask a question ”What would you do if you see this screen for the first time and want to perform action X?” And the conversation goes on.
Of course, we are not fortune-tellers, and giving you perfect scenarios of conversations will not picture real life, especially while having this heated-up conversation about an important project. However, if you focus on delivering your design decisions clearly and confidently, you can be sure you will be understood and heard (because nothing and nobody will give your solution a guarantee to be accepted).
The first and last activity to improve your impromptu speech is practice! Not only at work, where many are at stance, but also in public speaking clubs like Toastmasters. There are tons of options out there to try.
Do you have any personal stories about speaking impromptu?
I am curious about your experiences.