How to Prepare for Your Next Speech

Drew Davis

Drew Davis

The moment you take the stage

The opportunity to share you knowledge, wisdom, humor, or experiences with a group of people is excellent. And not one to be wasted. We often come across these opportunities because we have been recognized for the ability to commute value to a group of people! Exciting!

Unfortunately, unless this is our given profession, or we are in a position that requires us to do this regularly, we don’t have a great game plan or routine for how to do this. SO, I’m writing this article to give you some ideas for ways in which you can nail your next opportunity.

Set an Intention

Before you do anything else, distill down to one sentence what you want attendees to walk away with.  This doesn’t have to be a soul searching exercise, but give yourself a clear intention

Ignore your first idea.

Don’t go with your first idea. At least, immediately. The faster that you try to narrow the scope, the higher the likelihood that you leave out something important or awesome in your talk. Let the idea for the speech roll around your brain for a week. Make a list of all of the angles that you could try. Write a few drafts. The less attached you are to an idea or approach, the more open you will be to a truly great idea when you stumble onto it.

Read AND practice your speech.

Many people make the mistake of collapsing these steps into one. They practice their speech by reading it aloud. This is not practicing. You want to rely on your transcript as little as possible during the event. Reading it out loud is an essential step, but so is reading it with nothing in front of you. Even if you mess up, or pause, or miss a piece, KEEP. GOING. Make it all the way to the end. Then, go back to the transcript, see what you messed up, put it down, and do it again. This is how you develop true comfort with the material

Get feedback.

Present the speech to someone, anyone, who won’t be at the event. This is a step too easy to skip. Ask your spouse, or a co-worker. If you can, be specific in asking for feedback. How do you want to come across? What do you want people to takeaway? Were you successful in accomplishing that?

Let it sit.

Get the speech to a point where you could present it proudly at least 24 hours before the event, and then just let it sit there.  You may find that new ideas and excitement creep in over those 24 hours, or that you feel really good about it as is.  Both can be good, but you should give yourself the opportunity to return to it with hindsight BEFORE you hit the stage.  There is nothing worse than being in the middle of the speech and realizing you would love to materially change what you are about to say.

If you follow those five steps, you will significantly improve your chance of hitting it out of the park. 

This is the first in a series of three articles about how to speak publicly like a pro.  Stay tuned for the articles on the day-of speech delivery, and the final article on how to evaluate the speech afterward. 

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