Mock Trial Strategies

Impromptu Skills

Impromptu Skills and Exercises

Robbin Williams, stand-up comedian, USO Show, Visit to Speicher

Impromptu speaking is where a speaker has to give a short talk with little or no preparation. In Mock Trial, this is especially helpful for attorneys and witnesses to learn to think quickly.   

Impromptu Skills

These are essentially the same ones listed under oratory skills, except that now you need a quick structure to use because there is not much time.

Figure out your introduction, an organizational structure for the body, a conclusion and start speaking

  • Introduction
    • Hook to grab attention
    • Arouses interest 
    • States the topic and your main point
  • Possible Organizational Structures for the body 
    • Story telling
    • List
    • Chronological
    • Cause and effect
    • Problem-Cause-Solution
    • Argument (proposition then reasons)
    • Compare and Contrast
    • Categorization
  • Conclusion 
    • Ties into the introduction
    • Restates your pain point(s)
    • Perhaps leaves the listener with a question

Exercises

Exercise 1: One Minute Speeches, little or no time to prepare

  • Create a list of easy topics to address. Put them on separate pieces of paper with three topics per paper.  Fold the pieces of paper so the topics cannot be seen in advance.
  • Put the pieces of paper in a hat.
  •  Everyone takes turns drawing one piece of paper from the container, choosing one of the three  topics given, and presenting a speech in front of the team. 
  • Little or no time should lapse from the choosing of the topic to the giving of a speech. The coach/teacher starts the time and says you have one minute. The speaker tries to fill the entire minute. 
  • When done, the speaker then tells the audience what they think they did well.
  • Audience and coach tell the speaker things they did well. Audience and coach then offer a few suggestions (but not too many).

Exercise 2: Five Minute Speeches, three minutes to prepare

  • Create a list of more difficult topics to speak on. Put them on separate pieces of paper with three topics per paper. Fold the pieces of paper so the topics cannot be seen in advance.
  •  Everyone takes turns drawing one slip from a hat, choosing one of the three  topics, and giving a speech. 
  • The speaker has three minutes to prepare the speech. The coach/teacher starts the time and says you have five minutes, with one minute and 30 second signals at the end. 
  • When done, the speaker then tells the audience what they think they did well.
  • Class tells the speaker things they did well.

Exercise 3: End Line variation

  • Same as Exercise 1 or 2, as time and skills permit
  • Prepare a list of endings.
    For example: ‘Just do it’, ‘Diamonds are forever’, ‘He’s fallen in the water’, ‘Some like it hot’, ‘His bark is worse than his bite’, ‘Love makes the world go round’, ‘An apple a day keeps the doctor away’, ‘First up, best dressed’, ‘King for a day’, ‘Funny money’, ‘Laughter is the best medicine’…
  • Each speaker is to tell a story ending with the line they’ve been given.

Exercise 4: Start Line Variation

  • Same as Exercise 1 or 2 as time and skills permit
  • Prepare a list of opening sentences or phrases.
  • For example: ‘It was a dark and stormy night’, ‘I wish people would not say …’, ‘Yesterday I saw a herd of cows ‘, ‘My favorite activity is bird watching’, ‘The wisest saying I ever heard was …’, ‘In 20 years time I will be …’, ‘It made me yell’, ‘All I want for Christmas is …’, ‘Something is terribly wrong …’, ‘The little voice inside my head …’, ‘This is the secret I’ve never shared before’, ‘I never knew what happened …’, ‘Sometimes I just want to …’, ‘You know it’s Summer when …’, ‘Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you’, ‘The story made me want to …’,’I heard the best news this morning’, ‘The sound of people laughing …’
  • Each speaker begins with their opener, building a story and extending it however they wish.

Exercise 5: For and Against

    • This public speaking activity encourages flexibility; the ability to see a topic from opposing sides.
    • A speaker has 60 seconds to talk ‘for’ a topic and then another 60 seconds to speak ‘against’ it.
    • Prepare and print out a selection of controversial speech topics. You’ll need one per person.
    • Each person draws a topic and then speaks both for and against it.
    • As a variation, you can have one per two persons and have different people speaking for and against the topic.
    • Sample topics:
        • Money is the root of all evil
        • Animal testing is immoral

        • Cloning animals should be banned

        • Global warming is created by human activity

        • Euthanasia is unjustifiable

        • Poverty is a state of mind

        • ‘Religion is the opiate of the masses’ – Karl Marx

        • Marriage is essentially a business contract

        • Pets in apartments should be banned

        • Politics are just the current fashion
        • A country gets the government it deserves
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