How to Give a Pretty Good Speech on the Fly: P-U-N-T


A while back I was at a friend’s baby shower, chatting with the other guests, when it became clear someone should say something to mark the occasion. This was a long awaited pregnancy and these women wanted an emotional outlet, a chance to shed a happy tear and at long last applaud our expectant friend.

Just then our hostess popped over and asked me to do the honors. ME? “Well,” she pleaded, ”You’ve known her longer and I’m no good at speeches.”

So I set down the mimosa and rooted around for a pen, a scrap of paper and a quiet place to gather some thoughts. Twenty minutes later, our guest of honor had the applause she deserved and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

Don’t get me wrong - It wasn’t a great speech. It was simply a great occasion that wasn’t blown by a bad speech, or worse, the lack of a speech when one was required.

How’d I pull that off? I PUNT-ed. That is, I used the rather simple P-U-N-T formula I’ve come up with for giving a pretty good speech on the fly.

If you find yourself in the midst of a moment that requires someone to say something—about a friend, a colleague, a product or an event—the rather simple P-U-N-T system just might see you through.

Personal experience: Start with a bit of personal experience that shows your relevance to the subject:  How you met the guest of honor, joined the group, first discovered the product, etc. We all love a story. Just be sure to keep it quick because the speech isn’t about you.

Universal experience: This is where you bring in the audience. Transition to the shared experience of the crowd: Why you all love the honoree, believe in the company, belong to the group, etc.  This is the spot to pull some heartstrings or lay it on thick about the attributes of your subject.

Now. Here’s where you bring things to present day, remind everyone of the reason you’ve all gathered and why it’s worthwhile.

Tomorrow. Lastly, bring things to a close by casting a happy glow over the future. Your final line should make it clear that you are done and give everyone a reason to send up applause or raise a glass.

Now, I don’t suggest this system for the toast at your daughter’s wedding or the commencement at your alma mater. But when you have to speak with little or no notice, this simple PUNT formula can help you rise to the challenge. More often than not, the momentous occasion will take care of the rest.

Christina McKenna