Sales people are often asked to talk informally without much preparation. For those who may be called upon to speak on the spot, it is best to remember what Mark Twain said: “It takes three weeks to prepare a good ad-lib speech.”
Carry around a few quotes from famous people that address common business situations, which you can pull out for impromptu speeches. Good sources for these include
To prepare to speak “impromptu” eloquently, find out what the subjects and objectives are for upcoming meetings. Make sure you know what is likely to be expected of you, not only in your area of expertise, but in case you are asked to give an opinion about broader company issues.
Do some extra research in your field. Go beyond the first few pages of results for an Internet search. Actually read some of the articles in trade magazines, rather than just glance at the news. Make it a habit to always be reading one of the 3,000 business books published in the United States each year (Harvard Business Press and Amacom especially put out volumes of fresh thinking). Leave it to your brain to synthesize all this material and to come up with something interesting to say at the right moment.
Practice responses to possible questions out loud (thinking about them in your head is never the same). Tape yourself, listen, and keep improving each one.
If you are completely surprised by the topic you are asked to address, buy a few moments to collect your thoughts by restating the question and acknowledging its importance to the company.
The “elevator speech” refers to the 100–150 words that can explain why your business proposition should succeed in the thirty seconds an elevator ride might take. It came about during the dot-com explosion, when venture capitalists were overwhelmed by proposals and needed an instant way to judge a prospect. Make sure your elevator speech does not sound too rehearsed, avoids jargon, is simple, and makes sure your unique competitive advantage will be remembered.
And most importantly, do not ramble: give the best couple of points you can come up with, provide brief support, and sit down. No one will expect you to be Churchill on a moment's notice.