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Reverse FISO (Forced Impromptu Speech Opportunity)
By Joe Bouchard
Published: 01/19/2015


The following is an installment in "The Bouchard 101", a series featuring "Ice Breaker's" designed to promote training awareness and capabilities in the corrections industry.

For some people, it is easy to give a speech if you have material prepared. But, you really put it all on the line when you are given a topic and told to present on it. You have no choice in the matter. You will talk on what is drawn randomly from a hat.

For those who normally are not afraid of public speaking, the impromptu speech can send waves of trepidation through one’s mind. But, it is one thing for an instructor delegate this task to students and not face that fear themselves.

Are you willing to take the risk? How quickly can you think on your feet as an instructor? How willing are you to let students turn the tables on you? Are you secure enough with your speaking abilities to let students take control of the class? If so, then you are a good candidate for reverse FISO or Forced Impromptu Speech Opportunity.

This is a variation on the FISO icebreaker that appeared in the 2009 icebreaker book for IACTP and is featured on page 145 of this book. Here is an excerpt from that exercise:

“A few years ago, a version of the following exercise was conducted in a leadership academy which I attended. I don’t think that anyone knows the origin of this exercise, as it is lost in antiquity. But it is an excellent complement to any communications module. I have since used the forced impromptu speech opportunity (FISO) in corrections classes that I teach for Gogebic Community College. And, when it is all said and done, participants seem to enjoy FISO more than one would think. There are very few necessary materials for FISO. Really, one just needs one or two scraps of paper for each person present. The instructor must write one interesting (or strange) topic on each slip of paper. The slips are then folded and placed into a bucket or hat. Each student will select a topic and give a one minute speech.”

In Reverse FISO, it is not the Instructor that forms the topics. Students break up into teams and decide what instructor will do a 1 minute speech on. Break students into teams of four or five and have them compile five different topics for a speech. The topics can be serious or unusual. It is up to the students.

Reverse FISO benefits students because they have an opportunity to think of creative or odd topics for the instructor to speak on. In the guide of putting the Instructor on the spot, this is a way for students to get those creative juices flowing. If you run a contentious or challenging class, you may face some topics designed to stump you.

Instructors benefit because they step down from control and show a more human side. If this icebreaker serves as segue into a module on how to give a speech, students can critique the Instructor.

Joe Bouchard is a Librarian employed with the Michigan Department of Corrections and a collaborator with The International Association of Correctional Training Personnel (IACTP). He is also the author of “IACTP’s Corrections Icebreakers: The Bouchard 101, 2014”. The installments in this series include his opinions. The agency for which he works is not in any way responsible for the content or accuracy of this material, and the views are those of the contributor and not necessarily those of the agency. While some material is influenced by other works, all of the icebreakers have been developed by Joe Bouchard.

Visit the Joe Bouchard page

Other articles by Bouchard:


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  6. Richard I. Garber on 01/19/2015:

    Joe: Interesting article! What you call Reverse FISO Toastmasters International calls Table Topics, and a lot has been written about it. I just blogged about it here: http://joyfulpublicspeaking.blogspot.com/2015/01/reverse-fiso-or-table-topics.html Richard

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