Clear Comm Consulting

Speaking “Off-the-Cuff” Without Losing Your Shirt

Jan 27, 2010

The only thing worse than having to stand up and speak for most people is to be forced to stand up and speak RIGHT NOW! You’ve probably heard the fateful words before, “Jamie, could you take a few minutes and share with the group about your recent client visits?” Here is the first thing that runs through most people’s heads: “What! Nobody told me I was going to have to do this!” So, to avoid shear panic, what are some effective strategies to handle this situation? Let’s take a look.

Bullet Points — Your best friends in this situation can be bullet points. What three things might you talk about for the next couple of minutes? While a rush of thoughts may try to overwhelm your brain, push them back and zero in on a few things — the important items.

Best Memories — Okay, let’s say the bullet point idea seems like too much to remember “in the moment.” Try this. What have you talked to people about when this topic comes up? What did you already discuss around the office? Tap your memory for what you have already touched on during one-on-one conversations and share that material with the group. If it was important enough to discuss with others, it can be edited slightly and shared with the whole group!

Tell Them a Story — Okay, let’s say those first two ideas still seem like too much in an “off-the-cuff” situation. Forget trying to remember this point or that and simply tell them a story. The very first Monthly Memo, way back 60 issues ago, emphasized the importance of telling a story. While we may be able to wow people with all kinds of statistics, charts and graphs they will most often remember a good story long after they have forgotten the charts and graphs.

What makes a good story? A “people angle” will provide you with the best road map to success. If you are into technology, engineering, mechanical issues or anything that deals with inanimate items, don’t forget the human connection! Sure this whiz-bang new product your company is offering does some amazing things, but what difference does it make to PEOPLE? How did it change someone’s life, or at least make it a little better?

We all know survey data shows people often fear standing up to speak — and being forced to speak in an impromptu situation is probably the worst of all. First, know you are not alone — and second, try these suggestions to get you going.

I hope 2010 is off to a good start for you and please let us know if we can be of help as you move onward and upward!

Cary Pfeffer is the founder of ClearComm Consulting,, a Phoenix, AZ-based communications consulting firm which is helping people tell their story. He works with clients to make the most of their media and live audience communication. Email him at: [email protected].

Follow along with Cary on Twitter @CaryPfeffer

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