Sure, you want to be ready for your presentation. But your speech preparation needs to be done the right way—not the wrong way. Here's how to do it right.
Prepare, prepare, prepare. That's great advice for giving a speech or presentation . . . as long as you're doing it the right way.
But if you fear that you're preparing the wrong way, you probably are. And it's that fear that's making it happen.
Confidence comes from know-how! Learn best practices from the 101 "quick tips" in my Public Speaking Handbook, How to Give a Speech. Click on image below to learn more.
Are You Only Playing Defense?
One of the ways that fear or nervousness affects our speech preparation, is to place us 100% on defense. Yes, we need to have skin in the game. But our goal in speaking shouldn't be to get through it with our skin intact. If you're playing defense to that extent, you're not going to get any points on the board!
The thinking goes like this: I'll over-prepare, with more material than I'll need. That way, nothing can go wrong.
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What's bound to happen with that way of thinking, of course, is that everything will go wrong. To be a dynamic and successful speaker, you need to play off what's happening in your talk, moment-by-moment. That's when sparks start to fly—when listeners respond to what you're saying, and you respond to their response.
After all, you can't know how people will react to your speech until you're giving it. It's the speaker who is flexible enough to shift gears, to tack in a different direction, to expand upon or eliminate a point when necessary. And yes, I'm talking about when you're presenting to large audiences too, not just small ones.
You need to ride that wave. You'll never do it if you're bound and determined to stick to your (over-prepared) material, no matter what's happening in the room or cyberspace. That's the opposite of effective speaking, where the give-and-take makes something happen that wouldn't have taken place otherwise. To use another metaphor: if you're overly careful, you're constructing a house of cards backstage, ready to be rolled on and displayed in all its fragile beauty. But only one person needs to go "Poof!" and your fragile house collapses.
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You Need to Be In the Moment . . . So, React!
If reading this still leaves you apprehensive, think of it this way: the audience is wholly and always a good thing for you, since they are the entire reason you're speaking. That means they are actually a source of strength for you, not something to be wary of.
Anyway, it's exhausting to stand up in front of an audience while wearing a suit of medieval armor. Part of the reason we get anxious about public speaking is that we allow a gulf to exist between "us and them." When we let that artificial chasm disappear, we discover that we can get close to people. And you know how good it feels to be close to someone.
Yes, you'll sometimes face push-back. But you can use that to your advantage! Download my Free cheat sheet, "7 Tips for Overcoming Audience Resistance."
Listeners need you to relax with them, because they want to see the real you. That's not the over-prepared you, but the one who depends on his or her expertise to interact with people who share the same interest in your topic. Be ready to just talk to people. The truth is, everything you are and have done up to now is your real preparation—and the one that delivers the goods.
Besides, it's fun to speak that way!
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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. In 2022 for the ninth consecutive year, Gary has been ranked by Global Gurus as One of the World’s Top 30 Communication Professionals. He is the author of the Amazon Best-Seller How to Give a Speech. His second book, Fearless Speaking, was named in 2019 as "One of the 100 Best Confidence Books of All Time." His handbook for presenting in video conferences, 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 Presence. Contact Gary here.
Photo by Ivan Lapyrin on Unsplash.