This seems like a no-brainer, but experience says it’s a common problem: people constantly give speeches without enough preparation.
It’s important to be clear that we’re not talking about memorizing the speech. We are talking about getting familiar with it, comfortable with it, even cozy with it. It’s a simple truth: that takes time.
Not just time spent with the outline, either. It requires what I call “soak time.”
Marinating makes things better
When I get in a hurry in the kitchen, it’s quite possible to take some chicken breasts and just throw them in the skillet. The result is edible, even good when cooked at the right temperature. But it is much better if I prepare a marinade for the chicken and let it sit in the refrigerator that way for awhile. The result has much more flavor, and is much more tender. The ingredients are basically the same. The difference is the soak time.
Educators know that you will understand and retain more if you spend an hour a day going over something for five days than if you spend five hours on it. You literally need to sleep on it. Let your subconscious work for you.
The tyranny of the urgent
The problem isn’t true procrastination, but rather a combination of juggling and getting caught in the tyranny of the urgent. We can only juggle so items without dropping everything, and we tend to pick up only that which is most urgent. Steven Covey pointed out years ago that you must choose to spend time on the important items, or else the urgent will simply crowd out the important. (You can get The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People in Kindle format too.)
Make a different choice. Find some way to create artificial urgency, if need be. But do yourself a favor and start preparing early.
I see over and over student speakers with native ability who simply wait until the last minute to prepare speeches that wind up having little or no impact on the audience. All it would take would be starting a week earlier.
Give yourself the gift of time
People fool themselves into thinking they do better under pressure. If that’s true (and more times than not, it’s simply an excuse), you need to create your own pressure. A speech basically comprises structure, content, and delivery. Each take preparation, each take time, and each need soak time. A speech created under pressure will always be better with soak time.
Have you found your optimal preparation time? How much time do you need to be your best? Let’s hear about it in comments.