Be honest. How often have you had a talk you knew you should prepare and yet found a bazillion reasons to keep pushing it off to as late a moment as you could or even found a way to wriggle out of the talk?
If that sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Most everyone procrastinates.
And if you have a job where you have a lot on your plate, it’s all too easy for life and other priorities to give you as many reasons as you like to put any speech preparation you’re not excited about on to a back burner…
…And before you know it you’ll find yourself agreeing with English TV presenter Christopher Parker’s view:
“Procrastination is like a credit card: it’s a lot of fun until you get the bill!”
Ouch. Now you’re starting to feel extra pressure about that talk and worse, this can feel even more acute if you also experience any sense of guilt, overwhelm and stress when you realise you’ve nothing done.
So that’s not good.
But what’s a body to do so you can pre-emptively get past these “I’ll start working on my talk later” or “I’ll do it after I ____, ____ or ____ (fill in your own blanks)” blues?
Confront the false dawns that hamper your speech preparation
It’s hard to overcome a bad habit – in this case, ‘speaker’s procrastin-itess!’ – if you don’t first acknowledge it exists, test the assumptions that repeatedly draw you to the habit, and decide that the outcome or prize for kicking the habit seems really, really attractive to you.
And the top reasons most folks try to avoid prepping a speech – and see if this applies to you – are almost always variations of fears that:
- “I’m going to find this hard or difficult work” and/or
- “I’m afraid I could mess this up in some fashion and look bad”
And since it’s human nature to self-protect if you think some pain or harm could come your way, it’s equally natural to try to avoid or push away these perceived discomforts for as long as you possibly can.
But, truth is, these are false dawns. Tackled in the right way, speech preparation doesn’t have to be hard work and the more prepared you are, the less likely you are to mess up and look bad…Even if you’re someone who has never done a deal of speaking.
And here’s some more good news. Here are a few ideas that’ll help you to feel any speech preparation is less scary and more manageable.
3 Ideas that’ll help you kickstart any public speaking assignment
Perhaps you’ve heard that hackneyed question: How do you eat an elephant? And the answer is ‘one bite at a time’. Well, that’s good advice when preparing a speech too.
#1. Simplify and realise less is more
The first and easiest thing you can do to make any speech more meaningful for any audience is to simplify what you want them to believe and action.
It’s in their interest and yours to lose complexity and don’t hit any audience upside the head with oodles of messages. They can’t and they won’t remember them.
And that makes your job easier too.
Forget about impressing anyone with how much you know (FYI no one cares) and concentrate on focusing everyone, including you, on just one thing in any speech and you’ll find it easier to ace it in a jiffy too!
#2 Start small and celebrate each success
If you’re not an experienced and confident speaker, start off with shorter talks to small groups that can boost your confidence before you try to tackle bigger/longer talks – which can take a lot of effort, even for experienced speakers.
AND take the time to give yourself a pat on the back every time you’ve given a talk. Celebrate all successes, small as well as large.
#3 Schedule and embrace chunking
There’s an old adage – what get’s scheduled is more likely to get done.
Take control when you’ve got a speech to write and practice and carve out many chunks of time for drafting, editing, further honing, and practicing your delivery.
Rome wasn’t built in a day and you’ll find it much easier to get things done if you break your speaking assignments into a number of smaller and easier to schedule periods of time. And this has an added benefit of making you more focused each time you do further work on a talk.
Like that elephant – if you can break anything down into smaller and more manageable bites, it’ll seem a LOT easier…Because it is!
And one more thing
Never try to wing a speech, even if it’s a short one. You’ll set yourself up for a fall. Put the hard yards in before you stand up to speak.
Hoping or wishing for divine inspiration is not wise. Audiences will almost always notice if you are unprepared.