Sometimes you get surprises that don’t look very positive. For many people, being asked to make a “quick debriefing” at the last minute is not good news. Especially for introverts, that feeling of not being prepared can derail you.
Sometimes you’re asked right then and there to “share your thoughts/progress on X.” That’s the cue for the brain to completely shut down and your mouth to run dry. Some call this “panic.”
Impromptu speaking is stressful presenting.
There are some easy tools you can use to instantly alleviate the anxiety and connect with your audience, even though you don’t feel prepared to speak.
Remember that if you’re asked to speak, it’s because you know the topic. You know more than the audience, or for some reason they want your point of view. However, you may not know what to say and what to leave out in a 5 or 10-minute “debriefing.”
This happened to a colleague of mine last week. An experienced presenter, she introduced herself and then asked her audience what they would like to know about her project. Problem was, they were also unprepared and didn’t know enough to ask pertinent questions. That can happen, just tell them what you want them to know.
Alleviate your stress when you’re put on the spot:
: Take pressure off yourself by reminding your brain that this is not your acceptance speech for winning a Nobel prize. Your audience simply wants to learn something and they are not expecting a “award-winning presentation of the year.”
: Try to see it as potentially funny.
: If you can, go to the bathroom and raise your arms above your head to make a large V. Maintain this position for up to 2 minutes.
: Inhale deeply and slowly and exhale deeply and slowly through your nose. (If they’re not staring at you, repeat up to 5 times. Slowly.)
: Smile. That will make you and everyone there feel better already. If possible, Stretch and yawn.
What to say:
The main thing to communicate is this. Why this project is important to you (although you may have to define it first) AND why you think your audience should care about it.
In other words, share what’s in it for them.
After you tell them that, then you can ask for questions. If you don’t get any questions, simply tell them what you think is most relevant. Since you don’t have any guidelines, you simply decide what they need to know. They don’t know that you don’t know.
What to do with your body:
: Stand up straight with your feet 6 to 8 inches apart.
: Look at your audience. Go from person to person and establish eye contact.
: Smile and pretend this is how it’s supposed to be.
: Tell them you can give more details later.
Don’t be derailed by impromptu speaking. See it as a game and get through it. Your audience will never know you weren’t prepared!