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Public speaking and improvisation: Master spontaneous responses and manage stage fright!


a person delivering a speech

Did you know that improvisation is a skill that you can work on and master to shine in your public speaking? Let's dive into this fascinating universe and, I promise, you'll never look at a memory lapse the same way again.


The importance of improvisation


Improvisation is like the jazz of speech: fluid, spontaneous, and often the best parts are the ones you didn't plan. When giving a public speech, being able to improvise can save the day when:

  • Someone asks an unexpected question.

  • Your presentation is not going as planned.

  • You need to fill an awkward silence.

  • Stage fright makes you forget what your procedure will be like!





Mastering improvisation


Improvising does not (always) mean launching in without preparation. It’s an art that needs to be worked on. Here are some techniques to become the king or queen of improv:

  • Active listening: Before answering a question you hadn't planned, listen carefully to the question or comment. This will give you time to think and formulate a more meaningful answer. I know it's easy to say, but focus on the person talking to you rather than your stress. If the person is irritated, don't take it personally. Trying to see what is bothering her and understanding what she is expressing will allow you to not stress over your response and to take the remark in perspective.

  • Acceptance: In theatre improvisation, you must accept what is said (even if it is crazy) and build on it. For example, if someone tells you that your project looks like lasagna (which makes no sense), embrace the idea of a project that looks like lasagna. Accept the comment, integrate it, and explain why your project's layers (or steps) are crucial. Take what you're given and build on it!

  • The “Yes, and…” technique: Instead of blocking a conversation if someone makes a comment, use the “Yes, and…” to add something. For example, "Yes, and this reminds me of an important point...".

  • Prepare anecdotes: Having a few funny or relevant stories up your sleeve can save the day. They can serve as a parachute in the event of a memory lapse or a moment of intense anxiety.


Practice!


Improvisation can be practiced, even in front of the mirror! Here are some exercises to practice:

  • Spontaneous stories: Take a word randomly and tell a one-minute story around that word. This helps you think quickly and structure your ideas.

  • Quick questions: Ask a friend to ask unexpected questions on a topic you know. Answer as best you can without preparation.

  • The Endless Speech: Speak for two minutes on a mundane subject, like "Socks." This helps you stay fluid and not lose your main thread, even with little material.


Self-confidence and humor


Improvisation is also a question of self-confidence, or at least confidence in your abilities. It’s practical! Don't worry if you make a mistake – often, the audience won't notice! And remember, a little humor can turn an awkward situation into a memorable moment.

  • Laugh at yourself: If you make a mistake, don't be afraid to acknowledge it with humor. This shows that you are human and will make your audience more empathetic. You'll make better connections with her (it's true!).


The biggest secret of improv: Have fun!


The ultimate secret? Have fun! If you're having fun, your audience will sense it and be more inclined to follow you, even in moments of improvisation. Be yourself, keep it light and don't fear the unexpected.


Integrate improvisation into your routine


To really excel at improvisation, make it part of your preparation routine. Here are some ideas:

  • Group simulations: Organize practice sessions with friends or colleagues where you ask each other unexpected questions.

  • Improv games: Participate in improv workshops or clubs. These environments are perfect for practicing without pressure and learning from others.

  • Breathing and relaxation: Work on your stress management. Deep breathing techniques can help you calm stage fright and stay centred during your speeches and improvisations.


By mastering the art of improv, you become a better speaker and a more adaptable and resilient person. So, take a deep breath, smile and let the magic happen!

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