“Impromptu speaking” is defined as making a speech without prior preparation. This can range from as little as a question asked in class to a formal impromptu speech during a debate defending your point of view.
The hardest thing about impromptu speaking is the fact that you have to think on your feet under pressure. A response is usually required within minutes if not seconds. Impromptu speaking is the scariest type of public speaking; it is just you and the audience. You cannot hide behind carefully crafted words.
At Public Speaking for Kids we recognize this can be troublesome for adults but for our children it is nerve- racking! As parents and teachers we need to focus our attention on helping our children master this skill. It will help them in later stages of life, from job interviews, presentations and even ordinary social interactions.
There is only one solution: you have to PREPARE for an UNPREPARED speech. Sounds like a bit of a contradiction, but it is not. The biggest mistake parents and teachers make is to allow their kids to walk up to a stage, in front of an audience to do an impromptu speech without having undergone the necessary preparation and mental exercises.
Kids have to practice impromptu speaking. Those that perform well at competitions are the ones that have done it many times before. It is our responsibility as parents and teachers to practice with our kids. Here are some easy exercises to do:
- First and foremost, explain to your child what you are trying to achieve. They should understand that you are trying to help them, not force them into doing something that they do not want to do.
- Be patient and allow their confidence to grow over time.
- Do time limited speaking exercises where you only allow a certain amount of time to respond to your question, or to prepare a mini-speech on the topic you give them. (There are examples of other engaging activities and exercises throughout the Public Speaking for Kids site).
- Start by giving them 20 minutes to prepare. Later reduce it to 15 then 10, then 5. Eventually you will successfully get down to impromptu speaking.
- Keep decreasing the time as their confidence and skill increases until you get to the point where they need to respond immediately.
- Most importantly keep to topics / subjects which are within their reference world. (Kids of 7 will not be able to give you a conclusive argument for or against global warming, but young adults of 18 might.)
- Let your child do his or her speech when ready, without interrupting or interfering.
- Once they are done, ask their opinion first. (“How do you think it went?” or “How did that feel?”)
- Only then give constructive feedback: give 2 compliments for each 1 recommended change or improvement.
- Be real – kids have “nonsense sensors”. They know when you are making things up, so in order to build their trust you have to speak the truth.
- Follow the guidelines outlined throughout Public Speaking for Kids.
Lastly and most importantly: PERSIST!! Impromptu speaking is the hardest and most rewarding skill your child will ever have to master, so keep at it.
Make the world an oyster for your children: get them involved in Public Speaking for Kids!