A great deal of confidence in public speaking stems from proper preparation. To be an effective facilitator, you need a clear idea of what you want to achieve with your presentation. If you create a well-prepared plan, you’ll go in knowing when you’re doing what, and why.
If you’re the procrastinating type, take if from one of your own (moi) and don’t wait too long to prepare your presentations. Yes, I’m an accomplished procrastinator, and it’s bitten me in the butt before. So I say with confidence that the sooner you prep, the less likely you’ll be to face last minute challenges from problems like a poorly written talk or a hundred other things that can go wrong if you aren’t ready. For example:
- You go to print your notes just before walking out the door but your printer malfunctions, runs out of ink, or gets knocked to the floor and shattered by a Yorkie with separation anxiety disorder.
- Maybe you make it to the car only to realize traffic is worse than you thought, which leaves less time for setup at the venue so…
- You have even less time to figure out all that things that seem to go wrong with projectors, wires, and internet when you talk in an unfamiliar environment.
But don’t worry, just about all of the things that might go wrong can be prepared for. So where do you begin?
Decide What You Will Talk About
Perhaps you already know what you want to talk about, at least generally. You might have a product or service for sale, for example. You might already have a refined message or could still be working on that.
As an entrepreneurial person, you should be speaking about a topic or topics that you’ve spent some time thinking about. You want to communicate with others because you have committed to sharing something important with them. You know all you need to do. Now it’s time to drill down to something more specific. For example:
- What makes this topic so important/interesting to you?
- What specific features and benefits do you want to talk about?
- Why are these benefits important to your audience?
- Who are you and how does your story give credibility to your message?
- How will the lives of your listeners improve as a result of what you have to say or show them?
Not only are those questions the kind of topics you should always be ready to write and speak about, they are at the heart of successful entrepreneurial communication. Also note the focus of those points happens to be on your listeners. That’s not by chance, and we’ll come to that important focus soon enough.
Clarify Your Central Idea
If you don’t have ready answers to each of those questions yet, don’t panic. We all have to flesh out these keystone topics over time. Part of that process is figuring out what your purpose is when you prepare a communication, especially when doing any public speaking.
You may have one overall topic that you will always speak about. At the same time, you can present on multiple aspects of that one topic. For each presentation you approach, clarify the central idea of what you want to say. Then say it to your audience at the start of your talk. Public speaking, or presenting of any kind, is all about clarity.
Take some time now to think about a talk you have given, are scheduled to give, or hope to give. What is the central idea you want to communicate? If you’ve never done an exercise like this, here is a template to start with:
The purpose of my presentation is to help my audience understand ___________ so that they will be able to do ______.
You might have to phrase your statement a bit differently for the central idea to be clear, but give it a try. I’d love to hear what you come up with. Drop me an email or comment and let me know what you’re working on.