How to Improvise Public Speaking

Published: Jun 23, 2023

Like most people, I’m not the biggest fan of public speaking.

But, I am a member of several social groups and organizations, so from time to time I get called upon to “say a few words” for a given occasion.

Knowing that this can potentially happen at any time, I always like to be prepared to rise to the occasion (and to avoid looking like a bumbling idiot in front of a crowd). Some time ago I began researching different methods, techniques, and formulas to make this easier. I figured, if I can keep a simple structure and maybe a few stories in my back pocket, then I’ll always be prepared with something to say.

One formula I’ve stuck with for a while is one I came across from Peter Khoury in an article titled “How to Give an Impressive Impromptu Speech”.

Peter lays out a simple, three-step formula for improvising a speech for just about any occasion.

It’s called the FAT method. Here’s how it works:

F: Feeling

The first step is to express your feeling about the topic.

For a quick example, let’s pretend you unexpectedly win a company award at work and your colleagues expect you to give a short speech. Knowing the FAT method, you’re ready for this and you can begin with something like:

“I’m grateful and honored to receive this Employee of the Universe Award. I couldn’t have done it without the support of my team and leadership (only if this is true)…”

A: Anecdote

Now, throw in a short anecdote to give the audience something to relate to. In our example, you might say:

“I remember my early days working for Acme as a Trap Engineer. The roadrunners were still running around in droves and I never imagined I’d have such an impact through my work here. Now, we are closer than ever to eliminating the lot of them…”

T: Tie Back

Finally, tie everything back to the topic at hand and close it out.

“I want to thank our company leadership and my colleagues for being a great team. I appreciate the award and will always strive to ensure our continued success.”

Bonus Speaking Tips

That’s it! Super easy, and that’s the point. The great thing is that you can extend any or all of these components to make as long or as short of a speech as you want.

As a bonus, here are some additional tips for generally good speaking:

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