How to Prepare for Public Speaking
Sep 29, 2009 | 8778 views | 0 0 comments | 99 99 recommendations | email to a friend | print
We have all done it. Upon lifting a small box, we are surprised at how heavy the little box is. With a loud groan, we adjust ourselves to accommodate the heavier-than-expected object. Sometimes this requires setting the box down and to take a different approach; and, sometimes, we lift the box with such speed that we hurt our backs in the process. If we had known that the box was heavier than it appeared before we took action, we would have known to lift with our legs - not with our backs. However, hindsight is twenty-twenty and we can use this example as a reminder to properly assess every situation before we commit to action and perform a task.

Let's say that, instead of needing to lift a box, you need to prepare to deliver a speech. Do you know exactly what your first step is? Where do you begin? It's simple. Work backwards.

To successfully work backwards, pretend you have a time machine and you can travel to the moment you have finished your speech. In your hypothetical future, a reporter asks a member of your audience, "What did you enjoy most about that speech?" How would you want the person to answer that question? Would you want the person to say that they felt moved because of your speech? Would you want them to say that they now want to buy your product as a result of your compelling speech? Knowing exactly what you are trying to create [e.g., an audience's reaction to a speech] is the first step to preparing for any important task. The more specific your answer is the more effective your preparation will be.

The next step is to create an image of who will be in the audience. Find an image of a person[s] that is representative of who you will be speaking to, print it out, and keep it with your list of hypothetical answers. The benefit of using this image is to picture your audience listening, reacting, and interpreting the meaning behind your words rather than picturing yourself talking in front of your audience.

Now that you have your list of hypothetical answers and a picture of a person in your audience, you are ready to begin outlining your speech. As you create your bulleted list of the points you would like to cover in your speech, keep the image of your audience and the responses you are trying to create close. With the picture of what success looks like firmly planted in your mind, you now have a baseline to work with; something that will guide you, your actions, and your decisions all the way to the target.

By starting with a clear picture of what "hitting the target" looks like, you have already improved your speech, even though you have yet to write one word. With the image of your audience in your mind, you can now ask yourself, "should I include this topic?" Instead of guessing, you can ask yourself, "does including this help me move this person (look at the picture you printed out of your audience member) towards saying (look at your list of hypothetical answers)?"

Picturing your audience throughout the preparation steps allows you to involve them in the creation of your speech even though they are not truly present for the process. Involving your audience throughout the preparatory steps allows you to drastically improve the quality of your presentation and dramatically reduce the amount of work required because you are, literally, working backwards.

The image of "what success looks like" is your cheat sheet. Your image of success is like the picture of what the completed puzzle looks like so that, as you dig through the puzzle pieces, you can make sense of them, know how to assemble them, and figure out how to create the perfect picture - the picture of your success.
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