If you’ve ever been caught off guard and asked to “say a few words,” you know how tough impromptu presentations can be. They pose a real challenge because being unprepared tends to get the adrenaline going: if you freak out even a little bit, your fight- or-flight response kicks in, your brain shuts down, and you have no idea what to say. Then you think: I don’t want to do this! How dare they ask me to do this off the cuff?
What to do? Take a breath and fill your body with confidence (you’ll learn more about how to do that in the second section of this book). Then, take a moment to focus, first on clarifying an outcome and then formulating at most three ideas you can share with your audience that will achieve that outcome.
Don’t ever let yourself feel rushed. If you have to rise and speak immediately, buy yourself a little time by asking a question of the person who requested you speak: see if she will clarify the results she wants from having you talk. You can say something like, “I’m happy to get up and talk about this, but help me out. What specifically do you want me to focus on and accomplish?”
Even if you’re already standing, take a few moments to make mental notes while she speaks, and jot down the two or three ideas you want to share. Again, don’t overdo it. You don’t need a list of ten or fifteen things, and you don’t want to start rambling, so get clear on your outcome, stick to those three things, and you’re golden.