How to Be Prepared for Frequent Unplanned Presentations

How to Advance in Your Career-Expert Advice

Professionals must often deliver formal, prepared presentations. However, they must also give frequent, unplanned presentations.


Imagine this scenario: You are in a virtual or in-person meeting when the executive leading the meeting notices you in the audience.  She says, “I didn’t know you were going to be here. We are 10 minutes ahead of schedule. Why don’t you give us a 10-minute update on your latest project?”

As you make your way to the front of the room, you have only five rows to gather your thoughts before you take the stage to deliver 10 minutes’ worth of interesting information. In a virtual meeting, even less! In a virtual meeting, you have only a few seconds to gather your thoughts.

This is an important opportunity.  You want to do well. The entire leadership team is there as well as your colleagues in the division.  The audience knows you had no time to prepare. If you do well, your reputation increases because you have just proven you can think on your feet.  When you prove you can keep your cool and deliver a clear, concise, and on-message update, your credibility soars.

Develop this ability and find unexpected opportunities ahead.

Learning how to become perpetually prepared is easier than you think.

Let us review the best way to prepare a formal presentation. It begins by answering these questions:

Who is the audience?

How do I make them interested in my subject?

Why have I been asked to speak?

How long is my presentation?

What is the big idea or central theme of my message?

What talking points will I use to make my case?

What is a good way to open my remarks to arouse interest?

Do I have an example to clarify my major points?

Is there a call for action or a request for support?

Principles Are Universal

No matter who or how large your audience is, the subject you are addressing, or how long you speak, the principles are the same.

As a speech coach, I always recommend that my clients practice with “safe audiences.” For example, tell your stories and examples at the dinner table or over coffee. Ask your coworkers to listen to you rehearse the presentation you will give to your senior managers.

Why not get in the habit of spending 5-10 minutes outlining what you will say or would say if asked.

The Pressure is On

Let us go back to your walking up to the front of the room or being the focus of the virtual meeting.

Always have something to say while you are thinking about what to say. My recommendations are to have “back-pocket phrases” prepared for when you need them. The late great comedian Jerry Lewis said, “It takes me 8 hours to write my best ad-libs.”

Also, have a logical structure into which you can mentally slot your ideas. Here is an outline I teach my clients. I hope it may come in handy for you.

On behalf of the dedicated six-person marketing team, thank you for the opportunity to update you on our latest project.

You will remember that in January our leadership challenged us to . . . (Put this update into the context of the whole year.)

At the end of the first quarter, we were happy to report . . .

Our biggest success was . . . (example)

We had a challenge in . . . because . . .

You will be glad to hear we overcame that with . . .  (This will be a great story; make heroes of your team.)

Now that we are at the end of the second quarter, you can feel confident that . . . (Paint a picture of the result of the completion of your next stage or end of the project.)

At the next division meeting, we look forward to reporting . . .

Again, thank you for this opportunity.

Your marketing team is proud to be the face of our company, reaching out to prospects, customers, investors, and our community.

You Nailed It!

If you would like more information on preparing both formal and informal presentations, enjoy this segment from FrippVT Powerful, Persuasive Presentations online learning program.

Fripp Virtual TrainingIf you want to become a great speaker easily, conveniently, and quickly, Fripp Virtual Training can help.

“I wanted a super bowl-quality coach, and I was lucky to be introduced to Patricia Fripp. Her help in coaching and scripting was world-class. With Patricia Fripp on your team, you can go places.”
– Don Yaeger, Long-Time Associate Editor for Sports Illustrated magazine, Award-Winning Keynote Speaker, New York Times Best-Selling Author

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Executive Speech Coach and Hall of Fame Keynote Speaker Patricia Fripp works with those who realize that powerful, persuasive presentation skills give them a competitive edge.