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In some conferences there may be some out-of-schedule guest who has some valuable insights to share with the attendees (e.g. some government official or member of a legislative authority) who is allowed to address the audience with a short speech to present the above-mentioned insights.

What is the proper way to describe that kind of speech in English? Is there a standardized phrase or word for such things? The equivalent in some other languages is something like "intervention" but it doesn't sound correct to me in English.

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    It's an unscheduled speech, but 'unscheduled speaker' is probably more idiomatic. Jul 27 '20 at 15:30
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    off-the-cuff remarks
    – Lambie
    Jul 27 '20 at 15:34
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    There's 'impromptu', but that rather strongly suggests that the speaker just decides to stand up and give a speech. Jul 27 '20 at 15:38
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    I would say add-on speaker, but I'm having trouble finding a good source for that.
    – mankowitz
    Jul 27 '20 at 16:12
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    To report neutrally, you would avoid the terms out-of-schedule, disruption, or intervention. Could even call them surprise speakers. Maybe you don't have to report on the spontaneity at all, and call them speakers. Jul 27 '20 at 16:19
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"Extempore/extemporaneous/extemporary," "spontaneous," "unpremeditated," "unplanned," and their synonyms can accomplish this task.


"Extempore," "extemporaneous," and "extemporary" are all defined as:

Spoken or done without preparation. [Lexico]

These three are the most fitting words for this situation. In fact, the example sentence from [Lexico] for "extempore" is: "an extempore speech."


"Spontaneous" is defined as:

Performed or occurring as a result of a sudden inner impulse or inclination and without premeditation or external stimulus. [Lexico]


"Unpremeditated" is defined as:

(of an act, remark, or state) not thought out or planned beforehand. [Lexico]


"Unplanned" is (self-evidently) defined as:

Not planned.

Note: although "impromptu" does apply to this situation, for some it a negative connotation (as Edwin Ashworth pointed out), so I would probably use one of the adjectives I have listed above instead.

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  • Most of these answers focus on the perspective of the person giving the short speech. My impression, though, is that the OP is looking at the matter from the perspective of the organisers of the conference. A speech that the organisers have not planned for (i.e. it is not listed on the announced schedule) and that they allow to be given only at the last moment, may, in fact, have been carefully planned, and indeed premeditated, by the person who is about to give it; it needn't be at all extemporaneous. On the other side, a scheduled speech may be given extemporaneously.
    – jsw29
    Jul 27 '20 at 20:43
  • @jsw29 That is a good point; the speaker may have planned it, but the organizers may have been unaware of it. Nonetheless, I think all of these adjectives (potentially with the exception of "premeditated") could still be used by the organizers to describe the speech.
    – user392938
    Jul 27 '20 at 20:47
  • If the unscheduled speaker pulls out the previously prepared notes and proceeds to speak on the basis of them, the speech wouldn't be extemporaneous.
    – jsw29
    Jul 27 '20 at 21:08
  • @jsw29 That would only be true from the speaker's point of view. However, the organizers could view it as the following: the speech was spoken without being prepared by the organizers. Allow me to elaborate (because that might be a little cryptic). The organizers likely had to prepare (in some way—maybe by setting up a podium or microphone) for the planned speakers, so the spontaneous/extemporary speech could be seen as not prepared by the organizers. Please let me know if I need to elucidate further.
    – user392938
    Jul 27 '20 at 21:14
  • I see now what the source of the misunderstanding is. What you say is indeed correct according to the quoted definition of extemporaneous. The most usual use of that word, though, is for the speeches in which one formulates each sentence as one goes along, in contrast to the speeches that are read from notes or that have been previously memorised.
    – jsw29
    Jul 27 '20 at 21:29

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