Preparing a Speech in 5 Minutes

Preparing a Speech in 5 Minutes

How to stretch your skills in short time.

By Sid Gilman, DTM


As I walked into my Toastmasters club meeting, the Toastmaster said, “You are speaker number one.” “But I’m not even on the schedule,” I stammered. “And there are only five minutes to prepare.” “That’s OK,” she said. “I know you can do it.”

I always arrive five minutes before the club meeting starts. That day I was given a challenge I wasn’t sure I was up to.

When you are called on to make a speech in five minutes, there are two things you can do: You can tell the person you can’t do it. Or you can take the job and do your best. After all, we are taught in Toastmasters to think on our feet. Thanks to Table Topics, we develop our ability to judge a situation and respond to it.

I took the assignment.

Some of us have a hip pocket speech. If you do, there’s no problem – just give that speech. But if no one has a speech ready to give, then you are left creating one on short notice.

To produce a five-minute speech, you must choose a subject that is interesting to you and you are familiar with. Talk about things you are passionate about. I like airplanes. I’m a pilot and I have flown a lot, so aviation is interesting to me and I’m knowledgeable about flying. I can “hangar fly” for hours if I find someone who shares my interest and wants to talk. (Hangar flying is talking about flying experiences – It can be done anywhere!)

At that Toastmasters meeting, I searched my brain for a speech topic, and I remembered a particular flight that was full of weird happenings. I made a list of these events so I would keep them in sequence as I talked. I knew enough about that trip to relate it without notes, having told this story to several buddies.

My stomach was churning when the meeting started. I mentally rehearsed the speech several times during the Table Topics portion of the meeting. I didn’t hear any responses; I was so involved with my speech.

Then, the Toastmaster introduced me. “I’m on”, I thought. “Come on moths, stop fluttering around in my stomach.”

Off I went into the opening of the speech and the audience seemed interested. As I went through the story I began to feel more at ease. Things were going well, and I won the ribbon for the best speech.

My experience is not unique. All you have to do to give a successful speech is believe in yourself and concentrate on the job at hand. If you are familiar with your subject and are a Toastmaster, you’ll do just fine.

If you find yourself in my position and you are asked to give a speech on short notice, pick a subject that is interesting to you. For example, relate “the thrill of my last vacation.” There generally is a plethora of things to talk about. Did you talk to anyone special or did something unusual happen to you on the way to your destination? Did all go smoothly, or did you encounter bumps on the way? Either way, the details make the speech interesting.

Continue by telling how you went to important places and saw odd and wonderful sights. Even if it was a boring vacation, your slant on that could be interesting or funny and would make a fine speech.

Just because you have only five minutes of preparation doesn’t mean you can’t make your message appealing and have an impact on your audience.

Finish with a flurry of ideas on how you will spend your next vacation. Make them sharp and pointed (either positive or negative) to either make the audience want to go there, or convince them not to.

You probably have many subjects that pique your interest. Put them into context in an interesting manner, with a great opening, a wonderful body and a super close – and the ribbon is yours.

Of course it’s nicer and more comfortable to have abundant time to plan a speech. But sometimes things happen and you have to swing with the wind...so to speak.


Sid Gilman, DTM, is a member of Mid-Cities Noon-Time Toastmasters Club in Arlington, Texas.

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