Brooks C. Mendell, Ph.D.

    Author of: Loving Trees is Not Enough:

                      Communication Skills for Natural Resource Professionals

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Book Excerpt

From Chap. 3 on Negotiation...
Telephone negotiations, like telephone interviews, tend to be shorter and may produce additional misunderstandings. Risk comes with speed. Without the benefit of body language and eye contact, both parties have difficulty perceiving inclinations or commitment.

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Number 4, April 2007



Our topic:

Speaking Publicly: How to Make Effective Impromptu Comments


A professor told me years ago, “Never tell them more than you know and never tell them everything you know.”  This applies especially to brief comments where what you say must be on target and focused.  For example, there are times when you will be put on the spot and asked to make a comment or state your opinion in a meeting.  For situations like these, a bit of advance planning will reduce the pressure and increase the likelihood of making a valuable contribution.

Effective impromptu comments often share three characteristics.  First, they are relevant. Second, they are specific. Third, they are brief.  While natural comedians or appreciated story tellers may ignore the third rule, most of us will benefit by being relevant, specific, and brief. The PREP approach for impromptu comments advocated by Toast Masters International follows this thinking.

PREP stands for Point, Reason, Example, Point.  Make your point.  State the reason for the point. Give an example that supports the point. And close by restating your key point.  For example, I used this approach with a client who questioned the value of annual training:

Point:  “Professionals at all levels practice basic skills annually.”

Reason:  “We practice these skills to keep them sharp.”

Example:  “Look at pro baseball players.  Every spring, pitchers practice covering first base on ground balls hit to the right side of the infield. And these are the best players in the world.”

Point:  “We are professionals and we train annually to keep these skills sharp.”

Using a structured approach, like PREP, provides a framework for organizing your thoughts in impromptu speaking situations.  Think about how this approach could improve meetings.  How often have we listened to people ramble on in meetings without making logical sense or contributing useful points?  The PREP framework and approach reduces anxiety and increases the effectiveness of your comments by removing the need to figure out how to start, organize, and end. 

When we are really put on the spot, we can reduce the PREP approach further.  First, state a single, relevant point.  Second, give a specific reason or example that supports this point.  Third, say “thank you” and sit down.  Success in impromptu speaking situations is simply one relevant, specific, and brief comment away. 


The Loving Trees Newsletter.  Copyright © 2007 Brooks C Mendell.  All rights reserved. We welcome sharing this newsletter in whole or in part if properly cited and attributed.