Sometimes, we have time to prepare what we will say at a scheduled talk or in a debate, but at other times we have to speak “off the cuff” (without any preparation)! So it is good to practise speaking “off the cuff” from time to time, so that when we are caught unawares, we are able to “think on our feet” (think of things to say very quickly).
The following exercises may help you. We suggest you do these exercises in a group for maximum effect.
Someone stands up and picks a word out of a bag. Then that person has to speak immediately on the topic for exactly one minute. The person is not allowed to have preparation time. This activity will help you make quick associations. This speech does not need to make a lot of sense!
Prepare a collection of word cards each with a familiar noun on it. Put the word cards in a box or a bag. A player picks two cards and then must tell a story connecting both words together. The story needn’t be long, complicated or true. Later on, if people are comfortable with connecting two words, you can increase the number of words to be linked together to three or even four.
Take a familiar object such as a book, a photograph or a stuffed animal and make up a “history” behind this object. Each speaker tells the history, that is, the story, behind the object. This activity can be extended to an event such as a picnic, an accident, winning a medal. The stories needn’t be factual or true – they can really be fantastically imaginary!
The goal of this public speaking game is a natural flow of spoken fluency.
Prepare a list of opening sentences or phrases. Some examples might be “One day the moon turned blue …”; “This is a secret I have never told anyone…”, “I cried when I heard …”
Each speaker begins with their opening sentence or phrase and creates a story in any way they wish. It is especially good fun if the game has three or more players, with each player speaking for a minute and continuing the story from where the previous player ended.
Prepare a list of ending sentences or phrases. Some examples might be, “And that was the end of that.”, “He finally achieved his wish.”, “He stood on the stage and smiled.”.
Each speaker is to tell a story ending with the line they’ve been given.
These activities will ensure you speak “off the cuff”. The more you practise this art, the better you will be able to “think on your feet”!