On the Fly Tips for Public Speaking

By Kerri Garbis, CEO Ovation 


You’ve got a presentation due. Soon. Like real soon. Have you put in your prep work? Have you been procrastinating on researching and writing up your talking points?  Or…are you just going to ‘wing it’?  Winging it, improvising, or speaking off- the-cuff is a common practice given lack of time or adequate planning in our busy professional world, but some tips can make ‘winging it’ look and feel like a master class in successfully engaging your audience rather than making you look like a hot mess on the stage (or on the screen).

I was on a plane a while back, and the gentleman next to me pulled out his laptop and was working on spreadsheets and graphic tables. He sighs and shifts in his seat uncomfortably, muttering to himself as he types frantically on his keyboard. “Got a presentation due?” I ask him instinctively. I have seen this behavior all too often. Turns out, he’s a dentist going to a dental conference and has to make a presentation immediately after he lands for which he is totally unprepared.

“So, I guess you are just going to wing it?” I ask him. “Well,’ he says, ’I was just too busy to prepare for this and I guess as I am an expert in my field, I know what I’m talking about and I’ll be fine. Right?” he asks looking to me for validation.

Many professionals feel this way when they realize that they haven’t done their due diligence for a presentation or speaking engagement, relying on their career status or history to tell their story. 

As coincidence would have it, I tell him about my company, Ovation and how we are experts in communications skills training and professional speaking techniques. So many things can happen and so many things can go wrong with just ‘winging it’ I tell him, so I share Three Better Alternatives to Winging It with him that immediately unfurrowed his brow and lifted his confidence.


If you don’t have a lot of time, think about creating a story for your audience. You are the expert. For any field or area of expertise, break your presentation into three sections. Give it a beginning, a middle and an end. This technique gives audiences a journey of information with a real chronological timeline that listeners can easily follow and understand.


Say any part of the 3-section story out loud to yourself or a willing colleague before presenting to an audience. Saying things out loud gets the presentation in your body, your voice, and out of your head. Things sound differently in our mind when they are not expressed verbally outright, so get it out in a spoken manner first rather than thinking it will sound as good as you thought it did in your head. You will then have the time to correct any wording, expression, pause, etc.


If you are face-to-face, find the room you are presenting in. Get in early before people arrive and walk around the space to familiarize yourself with the room, acoustics, layout, etc. Position yourself where you will be when you go ‘live’ and speak out loud. This practice will get you present and ready to be in the moment.

Presenting virtually? Speak your content out loud at your desk in front of your computer. Most importantly, put on your shoes! The real work shoes kind. This puts you in character and in a professional space that inspires confidence and energy rather than the fuzzy bunny slippers you keep under your desk… 

Follow these simple tips to make you a rock star and not a hot mess when it comes time for all eyes and ears to focus on you!

Kerri Garbis is the Founder and CEO of Ovation and has trained hundreds of business professionals internationally throughout her career as a professional actress, entrepreneur, and speaking coach. She is a Professional Speech Writer certified by the Professional Speechwriters Association, a Business Etiquette Expert, certified by The Emily Post Institute, and an Emotional Intelligence Expert, certified by The Hay Group. Her dedication to dynamic, user-tailored content has helped ensure that every Ovation consultant delivers the highest level of client-focused professional training. Visit www.getovation.com today to learn more. If you want some expert, do-it-on-your-own-time presentation coaching, check out StudioG , featuring weekly live workshops, training videos and resources, and unlimited access to Bravo , an AI-driven rehearsal platform that includes real human coaching. 





This is a Sponsored Post – the author has requested this post be shared on WE Magazine for Women and WE were compensated for sharing.