February 16, 2008

Always be prepared to speak

I have a client who's preparing two speeches for her son's wedding and reception. Last weekend, she attended her soon-to-be daughter-in-law's bridal shower and asked me if she was supposed to say something at the shower.

I told her that it was a good idea always to prepare to be called on to speak in situations like this. Bridal showers are not usually occasions for speeches, and being the mother of the groom, it was unlikely she would have to say something.

But in case there was a game or an activity where the guests were asked to say something about the bride, I suggested being prepared. I mentioned that I'm almost always prepared to speak when I go to events.

She said, "Yes, but you're a professional!"

And that was exactly my point. Professionals are used to being called upon to speak, so we always have a few remarks in our heads for such occasions.

But people who are not professional speakers are usually unprepared when asked to speak, and end up tongue-tied and embarrassed.

Even if you're not a professional speaker, you can prepare for being called upon to speak. Think about the event you're attending. Is it a graduation, retirement, birthday, wedding or other celebratory occasion? Are you close to the honoree in some way?

If there's any chance you will be asked to speak, have a few words prepared. It doesn't have to be anything more complicated than, "I've greatly enjoyed my six years working in the cubicle next to Janet, and I wish her all the best in her future adventures."

Always assuming you'll be asked to speak is going to serve you better than hoping you're not asked to speak! For more tips about speaking off the cuff, here's an article I wrote in November.

Have you been called upon to speak unexpectedly? How did you handle it?

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2 comments. Please add yours! :

Anonymous said...

Not only do you have a few words ready, but you also have the ability to put a few words together at the last moment in a logical and clear structure.

That only comes from experience.

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Yes, putting them together at the last moment is more difficult and requires experience. Which is why I tell people who've been surprised with a request to speak to take one or two minutes to write down some thoughts on a napkin so they have a little bit of a head start!

But we don't always have the luxury of one or two minutes, do we?

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