Speaking impromptu is one of the most challenging and nerve-wracking things for me as a presenter. If I have time to prepare and rehearse, I can get through a speech just fine. But no matter how much experience I rack up, nothing gives me clammy palms and jittery nerves like having to speak off the cuff. My guess is that you feel similarly, so I wanted to share a little technique that takes two minutes to learn and will enable you to give a brief talk on virtually any subject with very little time to prepare. I certainly didn’t invent this technique; it was taught to me by my dad a long time ago and I’m sure it’s been around even longer than that. The technique is called P.R.E.P.

P.R.E.P. is an acronym which stands for Point, Reason, Example, Point. These four terms are the labels of the major sections of the speech you’ll give. State the point of your speech, then give a reason why the point is true, then give an example of that reason, then re-state your point again in conclusion. This simple, simple organization method is easy to remember and really helps you get past those impromptu speaking jitters. Let me give you an example (the same one my dad gave me when he first told me about this).

Let’s say you’re asked to give a one-to-two-minute speech and your assigned topic is celebrity news pickles. Instead of thinking about how little you know about pickles, and why you have such bad luck to be the one picked to speak, and why does this kind of thing always happen to you…you remember the P.R.E.P. technique and start going through it’s steps.

First you need a point. In this case, let’s just use the simple statement, “I like pickles.” It doesn’t have to be any more difficult than that.

Point = “I like pickles.”

Next, let’s think of a reason why you like pickles. Pickles are cool. Pickles are crunchy. Pickles are salty. Pickles are refreshing. Most of those have to do with taste. So let’s summarize that into one sentence.

Reason – “I like pickles because of their crispy-crunchy, salty flavor.”

The next step is–you guessed it–to give an example of how much you enjoy this taste.

Example – “On a hot, humid, summer day, when my mouth is as dry as it can be, there is nothing like the uniquely refreshing feeling of biting into a big, juicy pickle.”

And that’s it. You’ve just written your speech. Let’s put it all together:

“I like pickles. I like pickles because of their crispy-crunchy, salty flavor. On a hot, humid, summer day, when my mouth is as dry as it can be, there is nothing like the uniquely refreshing feeling of biting into a big, juicy pickle. I really, really like pickles.”

Pretty good. It’s not gonna win any awards, but whaddya want on a moment’s notice?

Using the P.R.E.P method you can write a simple speech in no time on almost any topic. If you need to lengthen the speech you can add extra reasons and examples to reinforce your main point. If you were feelin’ froggy you might embellish the details a little more to make the speech even more interesting, but in it’s purest form it would still follow the Point, Reason, Example, Point structure.

Pretty easy, right? You could handle that, couldn’t you? I hope this little technique helps you the next time you find out at the last minute that you have to give a speech. It’s quick and easy and when the pressure’s on it’ll help you come across as one cool cucumber.

  • Jeff Smith

    Just for conscience’s sake, I got the PREP idea in a public speaking course taught by Robert Montgomery. I can’t find a link to him except for a memory course, which he also taught. It’s a powerful tool.