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SL Column: Impromptu Presentations

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Impromptu Presentations

     When a situation arises that requires a fast response while you are moving at 70mph on two wheels, your reaction had better be immediate and effective.

     When your manager or client asks you on the spur of the moment for a status update, or asks that you present your idea for consideration to a group of people, your presentation had better be effective and seem like it was well developed. You can prepare to present information, ideas, data, or status with very little forewarning by heeding the following presentation guidelines.

  • Keep the A-B-Cs in mind. Develop a short (A)attention-getting opening. It might be a leading question, a surprise statistic, a humorous situation, or a statement of an immediate problem, for examples. Develop three key points for the (B)body. Present a call to action and summarize the key points in the (C)closing. This three-part presentation structure is a consistent winner in terms of effectiveness.
  • Develop the three key points in the body into mini-presentations that can stand on their own if you need to eliminate one of the points. Questions and time limitations sometimes prevent you from covering all the points you plan to make.
  • Tell a short story or use a recognized (by your audience) analogy to illustrate points. When people “see” a visualization of the points that they hear, they invoke more than one sensory input and retain the information longer.
  • Jot the main points to remember on paper and distribute a single page as a handout or note-taking sheet.

     Impromptu presentations are still planned and prepared, albeit in five minutes or a half hour’s time rather than over a period of days. Volunteer to make impromptu presentations as much as you can because practice helps you build confidence with moments’ notice presentations.

Bonus gift: Practice making two-minute impromptu presentations, called “table topics”, by joining a local Toastmasters club. Go to the Toastmasters International web site at to learn about this leadership and public speaking organization and to find a local chapter that meets near you.

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