Thursday, September 1, 2011

Impromtu Me

Your position as a leader, manager, or citizen may require you to take a position on an important issue without time to prepare and practice. This can happen in a staff, council, or executive meeting, in job interviews, talent competitions, classroom discussions, political debates or a variety of other settings. Getting caught totally unprepared and rambling through a statement without any plan can be disastrous, but knowing how to respond intelligently can be thrilling and place you ahead of the pack.

Live forever? I’d rather die now.

In the 1994 Miss America Pageant, Miss Alabama was asked: “If you could live forever, would you, and why?”

This was her response: “I would not live forever, because we should not live forever; because if we were supposed to live forever, then we would live forever; but we cannot live forever, which is why I would not live forever.”

Okay! Thank you, Miss Alabama.

If you’d like to see how one of these painful impromptu statements looks in video, watch Miss South Carolina (Miss Teen USA, 2007).

We shouldn’t be critical of Miss Alabama or Miss South Carolina for failing to make sense. Many of us have been in similar situations and have done no better. But, we can escape most of these painful moments if we learn to follow a simple pattern to prepare ourselves on the spot for such opportunities. This pattern is widely known as the PREP formula (Osborn & Osborn, Public Speaking, Houghton-Mifflin, 2006).

The PREP formula can save your bacon.

This simple recipe or pattern works this way:

P – jot down your position on the issue being discussed. Make it a clear and simple statement.

R – make a quick note of the reasons that you hold the position you do.

E – list any examples you can think of to support your reasons.

P – restate you position or main point in conclusion.

If you don’t have time to make quick notes, at least formulate the position statement in your mind and think of the best reasons for it.

As you speak, follow the PREP pattern in verbalizing the material you have thought of. You may not always feel like your comments are adequate to the topic, but you will be miles ahead of where you’ll be if you start talking with no plan in mind.

Here's a rough example.

Learning Activity

Look over the list of impromptu speaking topics listed below. Give yourself two minutes for each topic. Without further study, try to make a statement or take a position on each. Then either jot down or make mental note of any reasons for the position you take and try to think of examples to support your reasons. When you get the hang of it, try to stand up and do the same thing vocally. The more you practice, the easier this task will become.

Immigration reform
Border control
War on terrorism
Cosmetic surgery
Global warming
Smoke-free public places
Athletes as role models
Aid to foreign nations
Consequences of litigation
Parental discipline/permissiveness
Ethnic separation/mixing
Executive pay amounts
Welfare/aid to the working poor
Penalties to sleep-impaired drivers
Cell phone courtesy
Stem cell research
Health supplement industry
Increasing the minimum wage
Gun control
Music and rap lyrics as an art form
Animal combat
Space exploration
Television and video game violence
Reality television
School sports emphasis
Performance enhancing drugs
Privacy violations by paparazzi and tabloids
Drug testing
Government price regulation
Bailing out failing industries
Educational vouchers

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