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Thinking on Your Feet

Louis Nizer

Do you feel comfortable thinking on your feet? Louis Nizer in “Thinking on Your Feet” writes that practice, practice is the key to being composed and delivering valuable content on demand. That great extemporaneous speech you heard was likely the result of the speaker’s careful selection of content, close consideration for the needs of the audience, and hours of practiced delivery.

Here is some of Nizer’s advice on speechcraft:

Focus – The first step of preparation is to determine the subject matter. As you write the speech, be conscious of its structure and rhythm – how your thoughts flow. Build anticipation into your speech. Prepare the listener for your point, don’t make it a surprise.

Brevity – “When the speaker had talked for 5 minutes, I was so impress that I’d decided to give every cent to his cause; ten minutes later I was prepared to throw in all my silver; twenty minutes after that I wouldn’t give him anything. At the end of the talk, when the contribution plate was passed around, I was so utterly exhausted that I extracted two dollar for my time.”

Preparation – To think on your feet is to understand what you’re talking about. Commit a speech to memory as a thrilling plot. Ideas should be memorized, not words. Recited words are not thought. A speech from ideas allows for natural posture and reduces the length.

Have Fun – Good public speaking is entertainment. Good humor requires the same planning and preparation as the other parts of your speech. Be creative and think how you can turn the common into something new and memorable: What foods these morsels be.

Nizer’s Witticisms

  • More actors have had their minds go blank than murderers.
  • The courage to experiment is rarer than the ability to achieve.
  • A pound of taffy when you’re alive is better than a ton of epitaphs.
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