Master the Art of Impromptu Speaking: 2 Essential Techniques For Event Hosts & Public Speakers

Emceeing . 9 Min. Read . By: Devon Brown

Ever found yourself on stage, with the audience's eyes glaring back at you, and boom – you need to fill in time or wing it without any script?

Welcome to the club!

Having to speak impromptu or stall for time isn’t just a minor hiccup; it's the ultimate test of your skills as an event emcee or public speaker. I've been there, trust me. Hosting events since 2005, in front of crowds of up to 6,000 people, I’ve seen it all.

Today, I’m going to give you some of my best secrets for tackling this situation like a pro. The two techniques I’m going to share with you are total game-changers. These strategies will have you taking those anxiety-inducing curveballs and turning them into home runs.

In the next few minutes, you’re about to discover how to:

  • Turn stage fright to the stage might: Learn 2 techniques that transform nerve-wracking moments into easy victories.
  • Keep the audience in the palm of your hand: The secret to captivating your audience, even when you're unscripted.
  • Go from impromptu to impressive: Discover how to seamlessly transition from caught-off-guard to confident.
  • Never miss a beat: Master the art of always being ready, making sure you’re the speaker who never loses their cool.

Ready to turn those impromptu challenges into your moments to shine? 

Great, let’s dig in!

Impromptu Speaking Technique #1:

The Art of Audience Engagement

Imagine for a second, you're on stage, the clock’s ticking, and you need to fill time – what do you do? Here’s my first secret weapon: get the audience involved.

It’s like throwing a lifeline straight into the crowd.

The trick here is simple yet powerful: Ask for their biggest takeaway.

Picture this: you’re the emcee at an event, and unexpectedly, you’ve got extra time to kill. Instead of panicking, you turn to the audience and ask, 

“What’s your biggest takeaway from today?”

Not only does this move buy you time, but it also turns the spotlight on your audience, making them feel like part of the event. It's engaging, interactive, and guess what? It can easily fill up five minutes or more.

Emcee Expertise In Action: Leveraging Personal Stories For Audience Engagement 

I used this exact technique on my aunt's 70th birthday. 

She was running late, and I was the emcee. I asked the guests, 

“What’s a story or a memory you have of Aunt Bev that you’d like to share?” 

The responses were heartwarming, hilarious, and most importantly, time-consuming in the best way possible.

And here’s how I made it even more powerful: with each response, I’d dig a bit deeper, ask a follow-up question, or share a related story of my own. It kept the conversation flowing and the audience engaged.

Remember, whether it’s a large conference or a family birthday party, this technique is a lifesaver. It turns a potentially awkward silence into an opportunity for connection and engagement.

That’s how you make the audience a part of your show. But what about those times when the spotlight is solely on you, and you've got to keep the show going? Enter the next game-changer: Story Banking.

Impromptu Speaking Technique #2: Story Banking

Again, imagine something for me: you're on stage, and the previous speaker just wrapped up way earlier than expected. The crowd is waiting, and it's all on you now. 

This is where your 'Story Bank' comes into play – a collection of personal stories, experiences, and tales, ready to be told at a moment's notice.

How To Build Your Story Bank

Creating your Story Bank is like putting together a puzzle – each piece is a story that fits into the bigger picture of your emcee persona. 

Start by jotting down memorable experiences, funny incidents, life lessons, or even something that happened just the other day. 

The key? 

Each story should have a message or a takeaway that resonates.

Using Stories Effectively

Now, the real art lies in using these stories. 

It's not just about telling a tale; it's about connecting it back to the theme of the event or the message of the previous speaker. 

For instance, if the theme is about 'overcoming challenges,' you might recall a personal story of resilience and tie it back to the theme, adding depth and relevance to your impromptu speech.

Personal Experience: Story Banking in Action

Let me give you an example from my own Story Bank. 

During an event focused on innovation, I found myself with extra time to fill. I delved into my Story Bank and pulled out a personal anecdote about a creative solution I once came up with during a challenging situation. By linking this story back to the theme of innovation, it not only filled the time but also reinforced the event's message, leaving the audience both entertained and thoughtful.

Your Story Bank is your safety net. 

It gives you confidence, knowing you have something valuable to contribute, no matter the situation. Plus, it’s a fantastic way to add a personal touch to any event, making your role as an emcee or public speaker not just about filling time, but about adding value.

Now that you've got a grip on audience engagement and story banking, you might wonder, "Can I use these tricks in any setting?" Absolutely! 

These techniques aren't just for certain types of events.

They're versatile tools in your emcee toolkit.

Adapting Impromptu Techniques

Across Diverse Events

Whether you’re hosting a corporate conference, a casual workshop, or even a family gathering, these techniques are your secret weapons. 

Let’s explore how to adapt them to fit any event's vibe and theme.

Audience Engagement in Various Scenarios

Consider audience engagement.

At a formal business conference, your approach to audience interaction might be more structured – think of posing industry-specific questions or prompting discussions on recent trends.

Such as,

In light of the recent shifts in our industry, what’s one change you think will have the biggest impact in the next year?

Or, 

What’s a challenge your team has faced recently, and how did you overcome it?

In contrast, at a more casual event, like a social gathering, you might opt for lighter, more humorous prompts to get the audience talking.

Such as,

What’s the funniest thing that happened to you this week?

Or, 

Who else has an embarrassing story to share about John? 

Hands up!

Story Banking for Every Occasion

Story banking, too, has its place across the spectrum. 

In professional settings, your stories might focus on leadership lessons or industry experiences, whereas at casual or personal events, anecdotes could be more about life lessons or humorous experiences. 

In a professional setting, you might share stories of "how a small change led to a major business breakthrough" or "a time when thinking outside the box solved a complex problem."

And at a casual or personal event, you might share stories like "the day everything went wrong but turned out right," or "an unexpected adventure during a regular day."

The key is to match the tone and theme of the event, ensuring your stories resonate with the audience and add value to the occasion.

Spotlight Success:

Mastering Impromptu Skills at a Major 2019 Event

Back in 2019, I was standing on a stage in front of 4,000 people. 

Suddenly, the unexpected happens – the keynote speaker concludes 20 minutes early. That's 1,200 seconds of stage time that needs filling, and all eyes are on me.

Here's how it went down: 

First, I tapped into the audience engagement technique. 

I asked the audience, 

"What's been your biggest inspiration from today's talks?"

The responses started flowing, creating an interactive and dynamic atmosphere, and more importantly, filling in valuable time.

But I didn't stop there. 

One of the audience's responses triggered me to remember one of the stories in my Story Bank. I segued into an anecdote that was both relevant to the event's theme and personal enough to captivate the audience. This story wasn’t just a time-filler; it was a moment of connection, bringing the audience closer to the event's message.

The Outcome: A Win for Everyone Involved

The result? 

Those 20 minutes flew by. 

The audience was engaged, the event organizers were relieved, and I walked off that stage knowing I had successfully turned a potential crisis into a highlight of the day. It was a testament to the power of being prepared with the right techniques and the confidence to use them.

This experience wasn't just a personal victory; it served as a concrete example of how effective audience involvement and story banking can be, even in the most high-pressure situations. It’s about being ready for anything and turning every challenge into an opportunity.

Elevate Your Emcee Game (And Your Public Speaking Game) with These 2 Proven Techniques

There you have it – a deep dive into the art of mastering the unexpected as an emcee or public speaker. 

We've unpacked two powerful strategies:

  • Audience involvement; and 
  • Story banking

Each offers unique ways to transform impromptu speaking challenges into triumphs.

With audience involvement, you turn potential panic moments into interactive, engaging experiences that resonate with your audience. It's about making them feel like they are an integral part of the event. 

Story banking, on the other hand, equips you with a repertoire of personal, relatable stories, ready to be deployed whenever you need to fill unexpected gaps. Together, these techniques not only save the day but also significantly boost your confidence and versatility as an emcee.

Embracing the Role with Confidence and Creativity

Remember, the true mark of a skilled emcee or public speaker isn't just about sticking to the script; it's about how confidently you handle the moments that go off-script. By mastering audience engagement and story banking, you're not just filling time; you're enhancing the event's overall impact and leaving a lasting impression on your audience.

Step Up Your Speaking Game: Get Your

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Great public speaking, including impromptu speaking,

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Devon Brown (“Duh-Von” not “Dev-in”) is a speaker, author, entrepreneur, former hip-hop dancer, and World's #1 Event Emcee. Once described as a sort-of ‘MC Hammer meets Tony Robbins’; his style is 50% education, 50% entertainment, and 100% must-experience. Be sure to connect with Devon on social media.

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