Gary Genard's

Speak for Success!

"Be a voice not an echo." - Albert Einstein

Should You Prepare Extensively For a Presentation? Wing It? — Neither!

Should You Prepare Extensively For a Presentation? Wing It? — Neither!

What's smarter for giving a great speech: preparing until the last minute, or winging it to be spontaneous? The answer lies between those two extremes! 

I'm assuming that if you're reading this article instead of flying over it, you don't have wings. Naturally, then, you shouldn't "wing it" when it comes time to deliver an important pitch, speech or presentation.

For some speakers, doing so may seem like a good idea. These are people who suffer from anticipation anxiety and worry about an upcoming appearance for weeks or months. Their thinking is, "Well, if I don't know beforehand that I have to speak, I won't become a worry wart. So, why don't I always just get up there and do it?"

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50 Ways To Conquer Your Stage Fright - Dr. Gary Genard's book Fearless Speaking

There's actually a second subset of speakers who put their tap-dancing shoes on at the very last minute. These are Master-of-the-Universe speakers. They say to themselves: "I've been doing this for thirty-five [forty, fifty, etc.] years. I know everything about this topic. I'll just get up there and talk!" However, that definitely isn't the essential skill you need to speak for leadership

But I can almost guarantee you this (unless you're Winston Churchill reincarnated): any speech you haven't carefully prepared is going to be rambling and uninteresting. Let's call it the "amoeba effect": an ever-changing shape that no one can get their minds around.

Okay, Then I'll Prepare So Nothing Can Go Wrong!

Now, let's take a look at the other camp. These are speakers who head in the opposite direction, thinking: "I'll have so much material on hand and think out the answers to every possible question, nothing can go wrong!" But that isn't how to outline a speech effectively.

In reality with this type of thinking, everything goes wrong. That's because these speakers aren't present at all. They're not in the moment! Even though you're watching them on stage or on your screen, they're having an out-of-body-experience. They are mentally back in their office,  looking through their notes to remember what they're supposed to say. Presence in speaking means being present—including shifting gears when necessary to get through to listeners. (Here's more on how to give a great performance every time you speak.)

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Dr. Gary Genard's book on speaking as a leader, Speak for Leadership

Welcome To A Beautiful Place: The Middle Ground

There's a place public speakers and actors alike need to occupy in performance. It's the sweet spot where you combine solid preparation with spontaneity, and give that to the audience.

Without sufficient preparation and practice—with the audience in mind at all times—you end up doing listeners AND yourself a great disservice. Your whole task as a speaker every time you speak is to serve the needs of the audience. That requires understanding listeners and their needs, and consider how you can deliver what you say in their terms. After all, if you know how to connect with an audience, you'll big a big step closer to influencing them positively!

But you can't be so calcified in your thinking, or so nervous about your abilities, that you convince yourself that the information you're imparting is all that matters. The truth is, you are the most important part of the equation. If that weren't so, we'd only want the data, and wouldn't need you up there in front of us to talk about it. We're actually depending on your uniqueness to talk about this topic, for any number of reasons, and are hungry for the experience of listening to you. We want this talk to be an exciting journey into knowledge or belief. Please, lead us!

How To Prepare For a Great Performance

A final thought about last-minute preparation: Don't spend the final moments until you speak going over (and over) your content. You know what I mean: making sure you say this, spend more time on that, and remind yourself of your strategy for showing all 92 slides.

Spend your final moments thinking about your audience not your content.This is a specific group of people, in those seats today, to hear about this narrow topic. Focus on how you're going to get through to them. Content is your strong suit. Being an in-the-moment presence in front of an audience probably isn't. This is the area you want to bulk up just before you go on.

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Cropped headshot for Speak for Leadership back cover -- 8.30.21

Gary Genard is an actor, author, and expert in public speaking and overcoming speaking fear. His company, The Genard Method offers live 1:1 Zoom executive coaching  and corporate group training worldwide. He was named for nine consecutive years as One of the World’s Top 30 Communication Professionals, and also named as One of America's Top 5 Speech CoachesHe is the author of the Amazon Best-Seller How to Give a Speech. His second book, Fearless Speakingwas named in 2019 as "One of the 100 Best Confidence Books of All Time." His handbook for presenting in videoconferences, Speaking Virtually offers strategies and tools for developing virtual presence in online meetings. His latest book is Speak for Leadership: An Executive Speech Coach's Secrets for Developing Leadership PresenceContact Gary here. 

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