By Barbara Roche

Whenever I finish teaching my MBA communications course, I immediately try to capture all my thoughts on how to improve it for the next round. Because I teach at Wharton, I am always blessed with students who provide feedback on what they found helpful and what they would do differently.

The #1 response I get from students – by a margin of 2 to 1 – is that they want more time to practice impromptu speaking.  And I couldn’t agree more.  It’s a lot easier to deliver a speech that you wrote yourself than it is to sound intelligent and engaging on the spot. So I thought, why not give our readers a chance to practice extemporaneous speaking.  Sounds like fun, right?  I promise it will be.

Here’s your assignment:  Find a friend or colleague to play along.  Each of you selects a topic from the list at the bottom of this post, and decide who will go first. Then, using the three steps below as your guide (yes, you can print them out and have them in front of you), speak for one minute. Keep track of each other’s time so that you know what it feels like to speak off the cuff for 60 seconds. Once you have finished speaking, have your partner offer feedback. Then switch. Keep switching back and forth until your one-minute speech is like a finely cut diamond.  If you are so inspired, pick a new topic and start all over again.

Step 1:  Choose your purpose.  Are you trying to inform, motivate, or persuade?  Think back on Debate 101 and remember that your word choices will help the audience know your goal:  “what” and “how” implies information.  “Should” and “why” implies persuasion. “Can” and “possible” implies motivation.

Step 2:  Articulate your main argument.  In one clean and declarative sentence, communicate your primary message point.  Now your audience can settle in and listen.

Step 3:  Elaborate.  Back up that argument with a bit more information; you might even give an example. If you’re in the zone, you might want to include a metaphor or statistic.

Step 4:  Build a bridge.  To wrap up, bring it right back around to your key message. What will make your audience remember you and your insightful commentary?  Say it again, but don’t just recite the exact words you used in your first sentence. Make it more interesting by adding variety.

That’s it!  Now for your fun topics:

1. Was Gisele right?  Did Brady’s teammates let him down?

2. Why do so many men love to play golf?

3. Who will win the Republican primary race?

4. Should all Americans drive an electric car by 2015?

5. What’s the best movie ever made?

6. Why do so many women love to shop?

Let me know how it goes.