You’ve signed up to speak and now you’re too busy to prepare. Or maybe you’ve arrived at a meeting and a speaker drops out. Here are12 speeches that can be done with little or no preparation.
1. What are you expert at? Jot down several things you might want to say about your subject and flesh those out with several anecdotes. Or save time for Q&A. Let your audience know at the beginning you’ll take questions, so they’ll be ready. After a brief commentary on your expertise, let the audience shape the rest. You’re an expert, so you don’t need to prepare answers ahead. When the light turns to yellow, you say, “Time for one more question.” Answer that and wrap up.
2. What happened today and what did you learn from it? It’s a rare day when something doesn’t happen that’s challenging, enlightening, or interesting…something that provides food for thought. We often tell these stories to friends about the difficult person at work, the person who said something in the grocery line, the cop who stops you for speeding, the people on the golf course who were complete idiots. Tell the story and then say what you learned from it. In this same vein, you might think of something that happened to you long ago that makes for a story with a moral.
3. Jot down a list of things. Like three reasons you love living in Santa Barbara. Five reasons that everyone should do yoga. Seven tips on healthier eating. A speech can quickly be created with your own ideas or from something you just read or heard. Flesh each one out with commentary or an anecdote according to how much time you have. If you come up with a longer list, pick the 3-5 items that are most relevant or interesting and save the others for another time.
4. The offbeat news can be great fodder for speeches. There is a reason that the “Sheriff’s Blotter” is so popular. Pick three quirky news events, and comment on them. Or if you want to be more serious, what has happened in the regular news that has captured your interest? Talk about that from your perspective.
5. Show and tell: Look around your home or office and pick 3-5 items that mean something to you. Put them in a bag. Tell the audience about each and why it is meaningful to you. If the objects have some theme in common, you can build on that. If they are completely distinct, then what they have in common is they’re all meaningful to you. The audience will have learned something about you via the objects.
6. Have you recently read a good book, seen a good movie or gone to a good performance of some kind…or a horrible one? Tell the audience about it, why you liked it, what you learned.
7. Complain about something. Sounds negative, but it’s cathartic both for you and your audience to get something off your chest…even something as simple as the challenges of getting toothpaste out of a tube without dripping it on your shoe. Complaints usually come out funny, but they can be serious, too.
8. Take your audience on a trip. Travel stories tend to capture interest, especially if there were challenges you overcame. This can be a recent journey or a memory from long ago.
9. Something you believe strongly in. Think of a life principle you really care about. “Just do it.” “Never give up.” “Always say please and thank you.” Doesn’t matter what, as long as this is an idea you really believe in. Think of incidents that illustrate the truth of the principle.
10. Theme speech…what is the theme for the meeting? Think of a speech that’s about the theme.
11. Crazy friends or relatives…tell funny stories about people you know.
12. Holidays…if you are giving a speech around the time of a holiday, think of a story or several memories about that holiday. You might combine holidays with crazy relatives.
Don’t be afraid to be extemporaneous. Many real-world speaking opportunities come with little notice. Practice off-the-cuff skills at Toastmasters.