An impromptu speech, by definition, is the one that a speaker delivers without any prior preparation on the topic. Impromptu, itself, means “doing something without preparation”.
In declamation contests, a random topic is fired at the speaker on the spot, and the speaker gets just a few seconds to think over the topic. In the span of these few seconds, the speaker is expected to come up with relevant content to speak on the topic, for a specified duration. In group discussions too, speakers are given a topic to discuss and are required to come up with their content at the spur of the moment. In debates, the speech is often regulated by the arguments of the opponent.
Such speeches, where the speaker has to be on his/her toes at all times while responding quickly to a topic, is called “Impromptu Speech”. The interviews of politicians, the US presidential debate, or even the panel discussions of TV channels are all examples of impromptu speaking. Interestingly, personal interviews also need thinking at the spur of the moment, yet we generally don’t place it under the realm of impromptu speech. The reason behind this is the questions in interviews are more or less focused around the resume of the candidate, who gets a lot of time to prepare the answers of these expected questions beforehand.
In 2008, National Forensics Association (NFA) in USA introduced to the world a new form of impromptu speaking for competitions; they called it the “Editorial Impromptu”. A short editorial, consisting of around 3-5 paragraphs, is provided to the speakers who are required to read and develop their opinion on it in nine minutes, followed by five minutes of speaking. Limited number of notes is allowed to the speakers for reference purpose.
Impromptu speaking has become a norm in today’s world and is used in many instances for selection into B-schools and for job placements. It’s become highly important for people to master impromptu speaking to climb the rungs of the corporate ladder.