Have you ever been asked, “What do you think about that?” This is a golden opportunity to get your point of view across to people who are actually ready to listen. You really want to take maximum advantage and “blow it” with an off-the-cuff remark. At this point you will not have the assistance of a PowerPoint deck, handouts or video. You must avoid the temptation to rattle off a few rambling, exploratory remarks. Your remarks may be off-the-cuff, but they must be organized and coherent.
You can achieve this by using the “Impromptu Sequence”. Put your presentation skills to work. Give your opinion in a four-step process.
1. Frame the issue
Controlling the message is one of the most critical of your presentation skills. Take charge of the issue by framing it. In many cases your framing may seem obvious, but it’s still important. It not only lays out the issue, but it gives you ownership of it. You are not reacting to someone else; you are discussing your own analysis. State the issue succinctly. “What I see here is that our major outreach target is threatening to sign with a competitor.”
2. Present your viewpoint
Everything is shorter in an off-the-cuff presentation. Your whole presentation will probably last no more than a minute. Follow your framing with your opinion. “I don’t think we should change our terms unless we get an equal concession. I think we can successfully compete on performance, quality and reliability rather than price.”
3. Support your position
Use one or more of the five types of evidence: data, expertise, cases, image, or story. Most often you should select the strongest type of evidence. For example, you select expertise: “I once worked for a company where we started to lose business to a competitor who cut prices. We doubled our focus on quality control and delivery reliability, and customers soon learned that a cheaper product that took twice and was not reliable wasn’t much of a saving. Our competitor, by the way, is still struggling with very thin margins.”
4. Present your recommendation and name benefits
Walk your audience through the evidence supporting your recommendation. Don’t assume now that they will make the connection between your position and your recommendation. Spell it out for them. “Here’s what I think we should do. First, we should institute a zero-defects process, then we should do the same for shipping and delivery. Finally, we should develop a marketing campaign based on quality and reliability.”
In presentation skills training, you probably learned to devote about 20 hours of preparation to every hour of presentation. You don’t have that luxury for an off-the-cuff presentation. That means you need to prepare yourself on any issue that’s likely to come up. Know the issues that are likely to arise and outline your position on them.
Mark Twain probably said it best when he said, “It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.” Invest your three weeks up front before you need to.
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