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Public Speaking - Shooting From the Hip

Aug 19, 2008
There is a style of public speaking that absolutely terrifies a lot of people. But when you see a public speaker speak extemporaneously, it is one of the most relaxed and easy to digest forms of public presentation it is.

Now, to drop the fifty cent word, to speak extemporaneously means to speak without notes. In other words, pure extemporaneous speaking is done entirely without preparation and is done completely "from the hip" so to speak.

There are variations, however, on pure extemporaneous speaking. But if you can adapt to a more extemporaneous style, your presentation will benefit tremendously. Because people speaking directly from their minds to their audiences do not need notes, a podium or any helps at all, the level of eye contact and audience interaction is improved tremendously.

Freed from being tied to a podium and an outline, you can wander free around the stage and even into the audience and speak to them almost face to face. That kind of physical motion will grab an audience's attention and keep them fascinated with what you are doing for as long as the talk goes on.

But don't be deceived by thinking that a extemporaneous speech is rambling and has no structure whatsoever. One reason that many very seasoned public speakers go to it is they are capable of capturing and holding the outline of their talk in their minds and speaking from that outline without the aid of notes.

This kind of ability does not just come naturally. To be able to be relaxed enough in front of a crowd to not only speak spontaneously but also to do so while following an outline carried in the mind takes experience and the self confidence that comes with practice.

Giving an extemporaneous talk is equivalent to improv in the theater world. But that doesn't mean that a speaker who appears to be speaking without preparation is speaking without preparation. Often it means that what you are seeing is the result of extensive preparation.

Many times extemporaneous speaking means that speaker carefully wrote and prepared that talk to have the appearance of spontaneity. Then he or she became so familiar with that outline that it could be delivered completely without prompting.

This is more than just memorization. Memorization implies that the talk must be given word for word as it was written and in exact order. A memorized speech would come unraveled if the speaker lost his or her place because of an interruption.

But an extemporaneous speaker can be interrupted, take questions and even scramble that presentation because that level of familiarity with the talk is so complete that he or she literally lives and breathe what is being presented.

So, is it worth the extra work to learn to speak by "shooting from the hip"? It absolutely is. For one this, to be able to speak extemporaneously is the pinnacle of public speaking skills. When you see such a speaker on television or in a public setting, it may seem that he or she is making it up on the spot.

What you are really witnessing is the Oscar level of skill and ability on display in a public speaking. Anyone who strives for the best can set extemporaneous speaking as a goal.

But more importantly, being able to speak to a group in this manner is such a higher quality of presentation that you as a speaker will not only have more fun, you will see a higher level of response from your audience.

If you are teaching, they will learn better. If you are trying to sell, greater sales. If you are speaking to amuse, more laughs. So for no other reason than to see such improved outcome from the work you put in to public speaking, learn to speak extemporaneously. The rewards are tremendous.
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