How to do your best in impromptu speaking

This is the second of a two part series on how to succeed in the impromptu speaking contest at Toastmasters. Hopefully this advice will be useful in other parts of your life.

The first thing to remember is that you are delivering a speech.  It is a short speech (1 – 2 minutes) but it still requires an opening, a body and a conclusion.

The big challenge is thinking what to say when you hear the topic. You will probably be in shock and don’t know what to say. Read on to learn how to get started with your speaking.


Here are some strategies to help you gain confidence and get started.

  • You don’t have to start speaking immediately. It is alright to pause for several seconds, because the timing doesn’t start until you say something.
  • Restate the question – “Thank you for asking me to speak on the subject of X”
  • Add a rhetorical question – for example if the topic was “Stress” – you could say “What do we know about Stress?”
  • Pull out a keyword or key phrase from the topic and repeat it maybe with a variation. For example, If the topic was “What success means to me”, you could say “Success – PAUSE – Success means many things to many people – PAUSE – but for me, Success is ….”
  • Give a quote or make up a quote -“I think it was Abraham Lincoln who said ..”
  • Say something humorous – “I’ve been waiting six months for someone to ask me that question!”
  • Repeat the question, maybe more than once, and add a linking statement. For example, if the topic was “Courage” – you could just repeat the title “Courage” then add “Courage means many things to different people. For me, Courage means……”

During this Opening time you should be thinking of what you are going to say and possibly a story you can use.


The body of your speech

Now you should use some kind of structure for the body of your speech.

  • Use a personal story – this is a very engaging format to use
  • Good/Bad – Plus/Minus – briefly talk about both sides of the question then conclude with your opinion. For example – “Australia needs a new flag” – briefly give reasons for changing the flag, reasons for keeping it the same, then conclude with your opinion.
  • Before and After
  • Compare and Contrast
  • Past, Present and Future
  • Choose two main features of the topic and discuss



When the orange light comes on you should be getting ready to conclude your speech. Summarise your speech – this is important to reinforce what you said and tells the audience you are about to finish.

Ways to state a conclusion – “To summarise”, “So, in answer to the question”, “as you can see, my thoughts on X are Y…..”

You may want to restate the Table Topic question, or your opening quotation or humor.

The last thing you should say is acknowledging the contest Toastmaster: “Mister Table Topics Master / Madame Table Topics Master”. Then go and sit down.

The most important advice is if you have no idea what to say, then say something you do know how to say, and speak confidently. NEVER say you don’t know what to say – just speak confidently and your audience will believe you.


What People Remember

Audiences remember the first thing you said (your opening) and your closing words (the conclusion).

Therefore, make sure you have a strong opening and strong conclusion.

People remember stories, so try and use a story in your speech – it does help.

More information

Part 1 of this series – the organisation of impromptu speech contests

Table Topics Contest Tips and Strategies – by Melody Braithwaite – the last page has some practice questions

 Sample Questions

These are the questions I used in my educational session:

  • What success means to me
  • Smart phones are making us dumb
  • The greatest invention in modern life
  • The craziest thing I have ever done
  • Ignorance is Bliss
  • Stress
  • Seize the Day
  • The greatest human quality.
  • My  greatest mentor.
  • Simplicity.
  • Stay hungry – Stay foolish   [Steve Jobs]
  • Dare to Dream.

Author: charuzu

I live in Sydney and interests include music, piano playing, technology, cooking, English language, public speaking, Toastmasters, Asian culture (especially Japan and Korea), cinema, personal development, productivity and making friends with people from around the world.

One thought on “How to do your best in impromptu speaking”

  1. These are great tips on giving an impromptu speech, and useful tips when you’re dealing with questions from the audience after a prepared speech you have given. At university when I was presented with a random topic to talk about by the tutor, I’d always pick out the keyword(s) and then ask a question about it, and maybe relate it to a recent event which usually gets people engaged in what I have to say. One of the most important thing when it comes to impromptu speaking and public speaking in general is not to rush – not only does it distract our audience from our words but we disengage ourselves from our topic too.

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