Real Leaders

Unexpectedly Called to the Microphone? Here’s How to Handle it

Each week, speech coach and leadership mentor James Rosebush will answer a question on how to improve your public speaking

Preston Beale, CEO of, asks: How can I get ready for spontaneous speaking if asked to step up to the microphone unexpectedly?

Dear Preston,

Yes, this is a major fear — to be called to the podium to make  spontaneous remarks for which you are not prepared.  This will happen to all of us at one time or another. There are two answers. 

In one scenario you are called up to make a comment or to reply to a specific situation or issue. When this is the case the solution is: always listen and respond contextually.  That is, your remedy and topic is easily at hand if you have been listening and are attentive to the topic being shared. Your comments would be within the context of the general subject.  

The second solution is what I call the “read the newspaper every day” remedy.  I always train my students to scan their regular newspaper or newsfeed every morning. If you do, you will always have something to say.  You might start by saying “I was thinking about the fascinating story of a Chinese entrepreneur who is fighting for the right to introduce crypto currency in Asia and how this applies to our own economy.” 

This information could be taken right from what you scanned and could prove topical and interesting, and score you points for knowing a little more than your audience. You are giving something to them. It will keep them focused and satisfied.  You’ll be amazed at how many people do not read the news and at how much material you can gain from reading it yourself!

Have a question you’ve always wanted to ask about public speaking? Email James at and your answer may feature here.

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