Prepare, prepare, prepare
I’m usually not one to use a sports analogy, but my marketing director told me that basketball coach Bob Knight once said, “The key is not the will to win. Everybody has that. It’s the will to prepare to win that’s important.”
And that seemed kind of perfect to me.
You see, the same is true of public speaking. Wanting to be a great public speaker isn’t enough. It’s really all about the preparation. But how do you prepare?
First, know your audience and craft your message to them. Speak in a way that is comfortable and natural for you, but in a language they can understand, and make sure you are addressing their needs and not just your own. If your message is clear and it resonates with them, you will feel that as you speak and it will make you more confident and comfortable.
Second, anticipate resistance and prepare to meet it. Find the most likely objections to your message and know how you are going to answer those objections.
Meeting obstacles you didn’t expect is nerve-wracking, but if you’ve anticipated the obstacle, encountering it can be comforting and reinforces your total mastery of what you are presenting.
Third, focus on how great your talk is, not how long your talk is. Everyone in your audience would prefer an excellent 45-minutes to a mediocre 90-minutes. They would also prefer an excellent 90-minutes to a mediocre 45-minutes. It’s not about the length, it’s about the quality. Every time.
In addition – and I can’t emphasize this enough – practice. Practice in front of a mirror, or on video, or with a colleague who can give you feedback. This can be really helpful in identifying all the ways you are communicating when you speak; your tone of voice, body language, facial expressions, hand gestures, “ums“, “uhs“, crutch words, or jargon.
All of these are more easily identified and improved upon with an outside point of view.
And finally, know your space. By arriving early and getting comfortable in the room you remove an unknown, which will make you feel much more at ease. Take some time in the room before the crowd arrives to just be in the space, to breathe in the space. This will help to prepare your body and mind since you’ve already prepared your presentation.