In this post, I will teach you how to speak unscripted. Follow this method to develop the skill of being able to give an ‘off-the-cuff’ talk. Apply this method to speak unscripted in front of an audience, or to create a YouTube video.

Why You Should Learn How to Speak Unscripted

Being able to speak unscripted is a rare skill that impresses your audience. By developing this skill, you can make a bigger impact at work.

People who are good at speaking unscripted exude authority. The speaker also has greater charisma when giving an unscripted talk because the speech rhythm, pacing and flow is more natural. The jokes in an unscripted speech are usually funnier too!

How to Speak Unscripted: A Common Misconception

Giving an unscripted talk on a topic does not mean the same thing as not preparing for your talk: this is a common misconception. When giving an unscripted talk, it is still necessary to prepare for what you are going to say by creating a few bullet points first.

Always Structure Your Unscripted Talk

People don’t like listening to unstructured talks that drift aimlessly, which is why you must stick to the topic you planned to talk about. You can’t divert your topic at a random point because your audience will get confused and annoyed with you.

To avoid waffling or random talking, you must establish your bullet points before you begin to speak. Each bullet point is like a different chapter of your talk. You can keep these bullet points as a mental note, or if your memory is poor, you should write them down on a piece of paper. Use this paper to jog your memory about what to talk about next, whenever you need it.

Being Perfectionistic Will Make Your Speech Worse

Speaking unscripted is not the same thing as speaking perfectly. The two types of speech are in fact opposites.

When giving an unscripted talk, it’s important not to self-monitor what you are saying by watching yourself for flaws or mistakes. It is only natural that we want to speak at our best when giving a talk, which is why we may take extra care to pronounce words correctly. The problem with doing this, however, is that it counter-intuitively leads to even more mistakes!

Don’t watch your pronunciation or grammar when giving a speech. This only creates extra stress, and leads to more errors!”

Jade Joddle

Watch my video lesson on how perfectionism when speaking leads to more mistakes:

How to Speak Unscripted without Saying ‘um’, ‘er’ or ‘uh’

When speaking unscripted, it is common to use filler words such as ‘um’, ‘er’ or ‘uh’. These meaningless words are often used to fill any silences or pauses in the talk.

Try not to use filler words when giving an unscripted talk because they create an unconfident impression.
Try not to use filler words like ‘um’, ‘er’ and ‘uh’ in your talk.

Using too many filler words in an unscripted talk creates a negative impression of the speaker. Using too many words like these will make it seem that you don’t know what you’re talking about. The same applies to overusing hedging words such as ‘like’ and ‘basically’.

The best way to stop using filler words in your unscripted talks is to make recordings of yourself and then listen to them. Only when we observe the scope of a problem can we begin to correct it. Eventually, you will learn how to replace filler words with an extended silent pause.

How to Speak Unscripted: Always Relax Yourself First

Giving an unscripted talk to an audience or in front of a camera is a type of performance, which creates adrenaline in the body similar to what an actor feels when going on stage. People who have sensitive nervous systems must not add to the stress of the performance by drinking caffeine or rushing around beforehand.

Five minutes before the unscripted talk is too late to memorise facts or things that you want to say. If you haven’t learnt what you want to say by then, the effort at memorisation will only create mental stress and lead to failure.

The 10-15 minutes before you give a talk should always be spent relaxing the body by doing something physical. Voice warm up exercises are good for this. Or if you prefer, you can do a stretching exercise.

Though voice warm up exercises may seem silly, they are enormously effective at getting you ‘in your body’. Being ‘in your body’ reduces nerves so that you can give a good performance without needing to struggle through it. You will also find that your speech is more coherent if you do a voice warm up before your talk.

Practise the Skill of Speaking Unscripted

The ability to speak unscripted is a skill that improves the more you practise it. A good way to practise is to set yourself mini topics to talk about.

Begin by speaking about easy topics for one or two minutes. You can then gradually expand the difficulty level as your skill improves. The most important thing when doing this sort of practice is that you must never go back to the beginning. If you make a mistake, you must always carry on from the point where the mistake occurred.

How to speak unscripted: never go back to the beginning if you make a mistake while practising.
“The Show Must Go On”: Never go back to the beginning if you make a mistake

As actors say when a mistake occurs in the theatre: ‘The show must go on!’ You can’t go back to the beginning in a real life performance, therefore you must never go back to the beginning when practising a presentation.

Follow this advice and your ability to give an unscripted speech will grow.

Extend Your Learning

▶︎ Watch my video on Perfectionism and How to Stop Your Mind Going Blank when Speaking English.

▶︎ Watch me give a speech at the University of Hull: “My Personal Speech Journey”

▶︎ Watch my video on Public Speaking Tips: Why I’m Not Nervous Anymore


Jade Joddle grows your confidence and skill to shine when speaking English.

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