In the last couple of years I’ve been asked to speak at a number events including global conferences, business networks, universities and also my old high school. I’m fairly comfortable speaking in public, but I’m comfortable because I’m generally well-prepared. As an introvert, it would be very difficult for me to get up in front of a room or hall full of people and speak without notice.
So my number one tip? Prepare.
As the old saying goes, by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.
Over the last couple of years as I have engaged in more speaking opportunities I have developed a bit of a process for putting together a talk and then practicing for it. Here it is:
1. Understand why you’ve been asked to talk
It’s so important to actually understand why the event organiser has asked you to speak & not someone else. I am not the most talented speaker & I am not the most experienced entrepreneur, but I have my own unique story that would interest a lot of people.
This is as simple as having a chat with the organiser on the things that they want to know about, hear about and the key message they want to get through to the audience. This will help in putting together your talk.
2. Put together a ‘skeleton framework’
The skeleton framework for me is where most of the preparation is. It’s easy to recite what you’re going to say down the track, but this is where you fill your talk with the best possible content. The aim of the skeleton framework is to give your presentation a structure and figure out the broad subjects that you’re going to talk about.
It will look a little something like this:
4 THINGS I’VE LEARNT ABOUT STARTING A BUSINESS (The Title)
* Marketing (Subject 1)
– Influencers (Broad Talking Point)
– Digital Marketing (Broad Talking Point)
* Finance (Subject 2)
– Xero (Broad Talking Point)
– KPI’s (Broad Talking Point)
* eCommerce (Subject 3)
– Platforms (Broad Talking Point)
– Apps (Broad Talking Point)
* Networking (Subject 4)
– Events (Broad Talking Point)
That’s it. It’s simple, but it requires you to come up with the content, move the parts around & make sure it all flows. You’ll likely make a few changes here as you go.
3. Recite your framework for next couple of days, nothing else.
This is now your bible. If you know this back to front it will go a long way. Why? Because if you get stuck in your presentation or forget what you’re talking about, you’ll know exactly where you are in the structure of the presentation and what to talk about next. It’s a safeguard, if nothing else.
4. Expand your talk into a one-pager
Here’s where you start adding more in-depth ideas about your broad talking points from the skeleton framework. Start writing very short sentences under each broad talking point including stories, quotes, ideas or whatever you want to include. This forms the basis of your presentation and what you will say.
I like to keep this to one page or less, I think if it’s anything more than that you’re not going to remember a whole lot of it. You also don’t want to be speak very rigid, I like to be very natural and conversational to engage the audience.
5. Practice. Practice. Practice.
I’m not sure if this is the same for everyone, but I’d rather do my talk in front of 500 people than practice in front of 1 family member. That’s just me.
At this point, you should be feeling really comfortable with your content and now it’s time to string a few sentences together on your own.
Pro tip: don’t over-stretch yourself with content that might be beyond you. Stick to what you know best and what has got you to the point of being asked to speak! It’s very easy for the audience to pick up on this & if you get any difficult questions on topics that you’re actually not an expert in, it could all unravel pretty quickly.
I find that I get my best practice done in the car. If I spend 20 minutes in the car going to work in the morning and 20 minutes in the afternoon, that’s two full speeches I could do without spending any extra time! Yeaaayahhh.
6. On the day
On the day of the event, you may want to have little cards to hold in your hand in case you forget where you’re at, but go into it with full confidence that you know what you’re talking about and that you’re well-prepared. You’re there for a reason!
I hope this has been helpful in planning for your next talk!