Previously I spoke about “owning your content and the importance of preparation and I mentioned how Sir Winston Churchill spent 1 hour preparing for every minute he spoke. There are no shortcuts in preparing an effective and powerful speech and as they say “prior preparation prevents pitifully poor performance” Mary Atkins in her book “Finding your voice: ten steps to successful public speaking” suggests that 90% of a speech is in the preparation and 10% is in the delivery. Writing your speech, preparing a script, editing the script and bringing it down to a one pager and then practicing, should lead you to be able to deliver the speech more confidently and effectively than if you just spoke off the cuff with no preparation at all.

However I want to make sure that you take care of the other aspects of preparation which include know your audience, know your venue, know your material so you can plug and play:

Make sure that you know your audience, where they are from, what they are expecting from your talk. Try and meet and greet them before you speak, shake their hand, find out where they are from and what they do. Make sure that you dress appropriately and match the level off dress worn by the audience. Don’t over dress and certainly don’t under dress. Don’t be afraid to Google and do your homework on your audience. Who was their last presenter and what did they speak on. What are your audience’s demographics, their values and their mission? Are there any cultural considerations that you need to consider?

Always take time to visit the venue and the room in which you are speaking, beforehand. This can be one or two days before if it is close by or early on the morning of your presentation, if you have had to travel a long way. Walk around the room, go up on stage, walk across it several times and stand behind the lectern. Imagine that your audience is present and experience the feelings that this vision brings forth. Sit in several of the seats to get a view of the platform from the audience’s perspective. Are there any visual obstructions, pillars or columns; are there any dark spots on the stage, from the audience’s perspective. Where is the lectern, if you are going to use one and where is the data projector and screen if you use PowerPoint. Are you going to need a microphone and if so what type will be provided.

It is important that you speak on your topic of expertise and area of passion. Don’t quickly volunteer to talk on something that you do not have a level of expertise about. Imagine possible disruptions to your presentation; power failures, less time than you planned; but can you still present you material in these circumstances. Can you reduce your time by half, can you present without the PowerPoint or video that you had planned to show because of a power or equipment failure. Can you still deliver your key message despite these and other scenarios where things go wrong? You should be able to and this is called plug and play? So you can go to any venue, any size audience, anywhere in the world and present for any length of time (shorter or longer than planned) and still have the same impact. Can you plug and play

More information on the importance of preparation can be found in my book “7 Steps To Overcome Your Fear Of Public Speaking” and this is also a key component of my workshops.

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