At times, you will feel compelled or asked to share your opinion in a meeting, at a business event or during a conference. For these situations, a bit of advance planning will reduce the pressure and increase the likelihood of making a valuable contribution.
Effective impromptu comments have specific characteristics. First, they are relevant. Second, they are specific. Third, they are brief. While many of us know and appreciate natural comedians or gifted story tellers who can talk all afternoon and hold their audiences, most of us benefit by being relevant, specific, and brief.
The PREP approach for impromptu comments advocated by Toast Masters International provides one strategy for putting this thinking into action. PREP stands for Point, Reason, Example, Point. Make your point. State the reason for the point. Give an example that supports the point. And close by restating your key point. In Loving Trees is Not Enough, I ask readers to consider this response to questions about the value or purpose of annual training at work:
Point: “Professionals at all levels practice basic skills annually.”
Reason: “We practice these skills to keep them sharp.”
Example: “Look at Major League baseball players. Each year, teams have “spring training” to review and practice the same fundamental skills being learned by the youngest little league players. And Major Leaguers are the best players in the world.”
Point: “We are professionals and we train annually to keep these skills sharp.”
PREP provides a framework for organizing our thoughts in impromptu speaking situations. Think about how this approach could improve meetings. How often have we listened to people ramble on without making logical sense or contributing useful points? This framework reduces anxiety and increases effectiveness by removing the need to figure out how to start, organize, and end our comments.
We can reduce the PREP approach further. First, state a single, relevant point. Second, give a specific reason or example that supports this point. Third, say “thank you” and sit down. Impromptu speaking success is simply one relevant, specific, and brief comment away.