We’ve all heard the cliché many times before that people fear speaking in public more than they fear death. Whether or not that’s actually true is up for debate (plane crashes, anyone?!), but it would be foolish to deny that giving a speech can be quite nerve-wracking. Luckily there are public speaking courses, Toastmasters, and drunken wedding speeches to get us over this fear. For those of you out there that have shunned the more informal drunken wedding approach, and have instead chosen to attack your discourse difficulties from a more rigid and educational standpoint have no doubt come across the impromptu speech.
The impromptu speech is, like its name suggests, one that is done done with very little preparation, and that lasts just a few minutes. It’s most famously a part of speech and debate, and is an event in competitions. The guidelines of impromptu speech giving are both freeing and limiting for the speaker, and provides a unique challenge to anyone willing to (or forced to) give one of these mini addresses. If you’re biggest obstacle to public speaking is your confidence, this course on how to speak more smoothly and confidently will lay the groundwork for successful speeches in the future.
What is an Impromptu Speech?
Impromptu speeches generally have a preparation time of about one to three minutes, with the actual speech lasting about three to five minutes, and sometimes even extending up to eight. These types of speeches are mostly known for being a part of speech and debate competitions, but can also be found in public speaking courses, as well as the international organization Toastmasters, which helps people with their public speaking and communication skills. The format of the speech is meant to test the speaker’s skills in organization, inventiveness, and, of course, oration. And don’t forget that you’re speaking to an audience, so make sure that your speech engages them.
We mentioned before that the impromptu speech is both limiting and freeing for the speaker. They’re liberating in that the person isn’t restricted in choosing a topic. Pretty much anything is up for grabs, as long as the speaker is able to discuss it clearly for the allotted time. However, the format can be limiting in that there’s only a few minutes to prepare, with just slightly more time to actually give the speech. If you think you’d have trouble getting your thoughts together to make a good impromptu speech, this course on how to speak and think clearly will help you present, then organize your thoughts with clarity and precision.
Topics for Your Impromptu Speech
If you happen to be taking a public speaking course, belong to Toastmasters, or just want to challenge yourself, and will have to give an impromptu speech sometime soon, we have some topics for you to choose from, or at least ones that can inspire you to come up with another, more personalized topic. Let’s start off with some tips on the process of giving an impromptu speech. Once you get over the fear of standing in front of people, next you need a strong voice, and this course on enhancing your speaking voice will improve your delivery and performance.
- First off, when picking a topic, pick one you’re familiar with, that you have knowledge of and that you want to talk about. It will help if you can use personal experience to not only back up your argument, but to speak more naturally, and with conviction. It will also help if you can speak from memory, as you won’t have pages of notes to help guide you.
- Because this and all other speeches test the speaker’s organizational skills, come up with a good introduction, a body to support it, and a conclusion that ties everything together.
- Pick a topic that lends itself to the five minute format. A history of agriculture isn’t going to be a good impromptu speech topic, but how to eat an Oreo will be.
- The main gist of your short speech will be to either inform or persuade, so pick a topic that falls into one of those categories. This course on making a clear and logical argument, along with this article on problem solving skills, will improve your ability to think, argue, debate, write, and persuade.
Now, let’s get into the various topics you may want to use for your own impromptu speech. There are an infinite amount of topics you could choose, and if you don’t like any of these, perhaps a few of them will inspire you to strike out on your own and come up with a topic of your own creation.
- My biggest concern for the future is…
- If I were an animal, I would be a…
- Saying “um” is one of the worst things you can do in public speaking.
- Advice for Little Red Riding Hood
- Cities are for people, not cars.
- Children should watch less/no television.
- Why are manners important?
- Uniforms smother individuality.
- Why is a sense of humor important?
- “Normal” is decided by society.
- Real learning happens outside the classroom.
- Wisdom vs. intelligence
- Talking to someone vs. talking with someone
- Advertisements targeted to children immoral.
- Pets are for people without children
- What human quality do we need more of?
- When is lying a good idea?
- If I ruled the world…
- The effects of color on people
- Poor health begins in the mind.
- Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
- Poverty is a state of mind.
- Is it really that great being young?
- One thing that I would impress someone with is…
- High salaries of athletes, actors, etc.
- My most vivid memory from the past year
- My favorite of the five senses
- If I were the opposite sex/president/an author/rich, I would…
- If I had a mission statement
- People often stereotype…
- Why do teenagers smoke?
- You’re the prey (ant, gazelle, etc.) – convince the predator (anteater, lion, etc.) to not eat you.
- A favorite nickname of yours
- Three uses for a product other than its intended use (pencil, cup, scissors, etc.)
- If you were a salesperson, sell the audience a piece of your clothing.
- The most difficult thing I’ve ever done
- My best job ever
- Explain the rules to your favorite game.
- Which came first: the chicken or the egg?
- How to make a pizza
- How to make your favorite meal
- How to be a beekeeper
- Ghosts you’d like to meet
- The morality of zoos
- Dogs are better than cats (or vice versa)
- Discuss your favorite movie, book, etc.
- Your first memory
- Real vs. fake Christmas trees
- Bottles vs. cans
- Should smoking be allowed in public spaces?
- Review the last movie you saw.
- Your favorite hybrid animals
- Speed dating
- The most successful person you know
- How to buy a car
- Your favorite smart phone app
- How to become a comedian
- Violence on TV
- Uniforms in school
- Three things you do well
Hopefully some of these topics were able to inspire you to whip up a quick impromptu speech that will impress your audience. If you’re already taking a class that will improve your public speaking ability, then chances are you’re in the process of overcoming any fears you may have had, or maybe you never had any to begin with, and you’re just honing your skills. If you happen to be the former, and still need something to get you over the hump, this course on overcoming your fear of public speaking should help you alleviate your anxiety.