You will be surprised how much this approach will do
for your self-confidence.
Impromptu speeches are not completely without
preparation. When you are in a situation where you
might be called on to speak, it is a good idea to think
over what you might say if you were called on.
Nevertheless, even when you have not done this, you
always have a minute or so between the moment you
learn you are to be called on and the time you have to
start talking. Use this time to pin down the major points
to get across. Why are you talking? What is the
objective you want to accomplish? If you could say one
sentence, what would it be?
Try to form a mental outline of four or five points
supporting your main theme, plus an opening sentence.
If you have time, decide exactly where you want to end.
If you do this, you will make the best of the most difficult
of all speaking situations.
Memorizing a talk word for word is at the opposite
extreme of the impromptu method. Some speakers can
use this method effectively, but too often it results in a
stilted, inflexible presentation, simply because the
speaker is more concerned with his material than he is
with his audience.
Unless you are an experienced actor, memorization
is absolutely the worst way to present a speech. When
you memorize, usually you are committing words and
sentences to memory rather than a sequence of ideas.
The result is scanned routine that would not sell vacuum
cleaners, much less the Navy. It is an expressionless,
boring presentation that leaves your audience in doubt
as to your sincerity and even your knowledge of the
Another major weakness of this approach is the fact
that if you forget a word or a sentence, you may omit
important portions of your talk without knowing it, or
even worse, find that you do not know where you are,
what you have said, or what comes next. In recovering
you may omit or even repeat parts of the talk.
A great many Navy speakers read speeches that
have been written out word for word. This manuscript
method is almost as inflexible as memorization. Again,
it sets up a barrier between the speaker and his audience
because the speaker must pay close attention to what he
is reading and cannot react to the responses of the
audience. Occasionally, talks are read effectively when
the speaker is particularly gifted and practiced at
reading, but for the most part, the manuscript method
should be left to special circumstances, such as the
When the verbatim text has been or will be
released to the news media and it is probable that
the speaker will be quoted extensively.
When the subject matter involves security or
policy considerations so sensitive that the exact
wording is essential.
When the talk is being broadcast and timing is
A speaker must have a lot of experience and usually
a bit of training to read a speech effectively, since a
speech is read effectively only when it sounds as though
it were not being read. This method is not recommended
for your own use; and if you are called onto help any
officer or petty officer prepare a speech, you should do
what you can to discourage him from reading from a
completely prepared text.
The extemporaneous method is usually used by
most good speakers. To a speechwriting newcomer,
extemporaneous sounds synonymous with
impromptu or extempore, but in the language of
public speakers, it means something quite different.
The delivery seems to be off the cuff, while actually
the material has been well prepared and rehearsed. An
extemporaneous delivery is a happy medium between
the overly casual impromptu and the stiff memorization
or manuscript. The talk is very carefully planned and
outlined in detail. Sometimes a complete draft of it is
written out, but this draft is only used in rehearsal. The
talk is delivered from an outline with the speaker
memorizing the sequences on the outline, but never the
What makes the extemporaneous method so
effective is that it borrows the good qualities from the
other three methods of speaking without incorporating
their bad qualities. A thorough and careful use of the
extemporaneous method results in a talk as polished as
a memorized one, and certainly more vigorous, flexible
There are other advantages of the extemporaneous
method. With an outline, you can adapt your talk to the
situation, spending more time than originally planned