Or is it a disaster waiting to happen?
I love to speak. (In fact, my wife would tell you I love to talk a little too much.) Part of my love of public speaking is that I am fairly extroverted and a bit of a ham. But most of it is because I have learned how to prepare a speech in order to maximize the chance it will be worth hearing.
Here's how to do it.
- Figure out why you are speaking. What is your purpose? What is your desired outcome? What do you want to have happen as a result of your speech? Write down your purpose, preferably in one sentence. Some generic outcomes that might fit your case:
- Propose or sell an idea, service or thing.
- Give your opinion or view of an issue.
- Make a recommendation.
- Address a problem.
- Report on progress.
- Learn everything you can about your audience. Who are they? What do they already know about your subject? What opinions do they hold on your subject? Why will they be attending your speech? What problems of theirs can you solve? What needs of theirs can you meet? I recommend getting this information directly from prospective audience members if you can. (If I can't get this information ahead of time, I will often seek it out during the pre-speech milling-around session, and then modify my talk accordingly.)
- Choose a structure for your talk. I like a structure like the one in this diagram (download a larger version here [jpeg, 197 kb] ). The elements are:
- Opening statement
- Explanation of the mechanics of my talk (your credentials, questions, how long, etc).
- Headlines for the three main points of my talk (I try to work with three sections whenever I can - just seems right).
- Details, stories and supporting data for point A.
- Details, stories and supporting data for point B.
- Details, stories and supporting data for Point C.
- Summary of key points for each of the three sections [Note: In 4-8, I tell 'em what I'm going to say, say it, and then tell 'em what I said.]
- Decisive ending statement or question.
- Open for questions.
- Gather your data
- Write your talk. [Note: you will not deliver a written speech, but I always write it first, and then boil it down to brief notes that will keep me on track.]
- Write your decisive ending (8) first. Everything in your talk will lead to this final statement. By writing it first, you have a clear picture of your destination.
- Next, write the headlines for the three main points you will make, or the three main sections of your talk. (In blue above.)
- Now, write the summary of each of the main points that you will use near the end of your talk. (In green above.)
- Next pull together the supporting data for each of the three main points. (In red above.)
- After you've got all that written, develop an opening statement.
- Finish up by writing out the mechanics of your talk. Several years ago, I listened to a wonderful talk by Karen Susman, a very funny speaker and coach. Karen taught us that audiences want to hear four things before you start your speech:
- "I will not waste your time."
- "I know who you are."
- "Here's how my speech is organized."
- "I know my subject."
- Put all the stuff you have written into the correct order (see 3 above) and then turn it into an outline.
- Decide what sort of visual aids you will use. You don't always need PowerPoint - in fact a talk is often better without slides. Make a conscious choice. If you are going to use slides, please see Presenting to Win: The Art of Telling Your Story (Jerry Weissman, Prentice Hall, 2003 257 pages) for some help on making the slides viewer friendly.
- Now start practicing! Practice the speech alone, in front of friends and family, in front of a video camera. Get comfortable with your material.
- If you are counting on any technological device (anything other than your voice), work out a backup plan. Laptops fizzle, screens fail to deploy, projector bulbs burn out, internet connections fail. Have a manual backup ready to go so that you don't keep your audience waiting.
- On the day of the presentation, relax. You are ready to shine. Show up early (at least 30 minutes). Check out the layout, test any audio or visual devices you need. Work out details with your host.
And let me know how it goes!