It's interesting that speaking “off the cuff” is such a terrifying proposition for so many people.

If you and I were having a conversation, neither one of us would have any idea what was going to come out of our mouths 5 seconds down the road.

And yet, we'd carry on and trust that our ideas would , and that if we got distracted or tongue-tied or even lost our train of thought, that we'd find our way and communicate what we'd intended to communicate.

So if we can do that, why is speaking so intimidating?

Usually, it's because of the same old doubts and fears that hold us back, even when we have to plan and rehearse:

We're going to slip up…

Say something stupid…

Forget to make an important point.

So how do we improvise a good speech? One that sounds well-thought out and prepared, even though we're making it up?

your talk as you would any other speech.

Start with the . What's in it for the audience? How do you want them to think, act, or feel different after they've heard what you have to say.

What are the steps to get there and how much do you have?

If you're giving a one-to-two-minute Table Topic talk, you probably have to share only one step.

Creating a speech off the cuff involves a few steps. The most important is deciding on a clear .

That lets the audience know you'll be limiting the scope of your talk without wasting time on “fifth wall” excuses.

If you're giving a longer talk, you'll probably include more steps, but if you know where you're going, you'll probably be able to come up with one or two or three steps to get there.

And if you know where you're going and how to get there, your opener will create itself.

Think of speaking not as an opportunity to embarrass yourself but as a way to become comfortable with the process of structuring a speech.

Some of your talks will be better than others, but if you offer to your audience, share a logical , and make the scope and purpose of your talk clear from the beginning, you'll be ahead of most speakers who have time to plan and rehearse!