I have interviewed more than 100 speakers and all of them have said that they do feel fear of speaking impromptu. I asked, “Is there anything particular that you fear?” and received the following responses, “I fear that I will not be able to create a great answer quickly” and “I am afraid that the audience will not like my answer and will think badly of me.” In fact, all speakers, to a certain degree, fear speaking impromptu. It is easy to reduce fear of impromptu speaking significantly if you follow the 3 recommendations below.
Rely on your previous experience
If you fear impromptu speaking, you are not alone. People fear everything that is unfamiliar to them. Every time you get out of your comfort zone you feel fear, but it is also the time you grow the most.
When I was 7 my mom said, “Starting Monday you will go to school on your own.” I said, “Mom, I am very afraid to go to school without you. I haven’t gone anywhere by myself before. I am afraid that I will get lost.”
Guess what? I felt fear only the first day I went to school without Mom. However, I then realized that I did remember the path, I had gone to school already many times before, and there was nothing to fear. The same happens to every impromptu speaker.
After you give more than a dozen answers impromptu and practice the techniques of thinking on your feet, you will think, “Hey, I have spoken impromptu before! Sometimes my answers were great, sometimes they were so-so, but it wasn’t as bad as I feared. The audience didn’t eat me alive and I even had fun.”
To reduce fear of impromptu speaking, just make it familiar to you and it will become a part of your comfort zone. Speak impromptu as often as you can and after a while you will not fear it anymore. Why? Because you already spoke impromptu and know from your previous experience that there is nothing to fear.
Accept that not every answer will be stellar
Realize and accept the fact that not all of your impromptu answers will be stellar. Many circumstances are difficult to predict, such as the question you will get, ideas you will have, what your mood will be, and who will be in the audience.
The best impromptu speakers know that it is impossible to give stellar answers consistently. Once you accept this fact you not only will stop worrying that your answer won’t be good, but you also will give much better answers on average. Your subconscious mind won’t be blocked by your worries and will give you great ideas for a speech.
Get familiar with the setting
If you anticipate that you might speak impromptu, get familiar with the setting. To allow your brain to think only about the answer, eliminate the elements that are unfamiliar to you and that can provoke unnecessary fear.
Get on stage and look at the empty audience seats. Sit in different corners of the room. Shake hands and speak with the audience members. The better the connection you feel with the room and the people, the easier it will be for you to think on your feet and connect with the audience.
Once you go on stage, the room will be familiar to you and the audience members will be your allies. You will speak to the audience just as you would to a group of friends in your kitchen. Without fear of the unfamiliar setting and the audience, your brain will concentrate only on thinking about the answer.
Most people fear impromptu speaking, but experienced impromptu speakers know its nature and how to reduce it.