How many times have you allowed yourself to improvise your speech? How many times have you actually managed to do that? How many times have you remembered the right answer to your audience's question after your presentation was over? How many times have you promised you would definitely improvise at your next speaking opportunity? I don't know about you, but I have tried it trillions of times. However, the fear of failure kicked in really hard and the massive "what if" bomb exploded right before my eyes.
So, I took time and put in effort to delve into the power of improvisation and soon learned that being intuitive was one of the underlying principles of this concept. Taking stock of the many role models in my industry, I always admired speakers who could effortlessly present their message and adapt themselves to the audience's energy levels at all times. If knowledge is power, then knowing my field of specialization well shall give me that confident feeling of being always prepared. Hence, the fear of being unable to answer my audience's needs made me stick to a predefined speech or lecture. When I joined a university program as a guest lecturer, the fresh and curious MA students of marketing simply did not let me discuss a subject the way I intended to, but bombarded me with questions and hijacked my presentation. After a stressful minute or two, some magic happened. My monologue evolved into a dialogue without hurting the essence of my lecture, and I managed to get across certain points in an easier way than I imagined. I could not wait to have my next class scheduled, and I surely could not wait to get in front of my colleagues at work to repeat this powerful experience.
Practice makes the master, as they say. I took a really exciting journey of discovering a rather untapped leadership tool: improvisation. If you listen and carefully monitor your audience you will soon be in an assertive position and learn how to use your own creativity.
I soon learned that there is a way to learn about it, but I feel if you are naturally not an extravert, then you will have a hard time adapting it as a natural leadership and presentation skill. Having said that, based on my experience, I have gathered few points that might help those who intend to unleash the power of improv leadership presentations.
1. Don't focus on what you say but why and how you say it.
2. Don't focus on your predefined key message but your audience's possible takeout.
3. List some questions you would ask yourself if you listened to your own speech as an observer.
4. Exercise your presentation with your predefined slides all mixed up and try to get back on track.
5. Exercise presenting your speech in full length first, then in 15 and in 5 minutes without losing its core message.
6. Remember that storytelling is no longer a monologue.