In my public speaking courses, we are just finishing the first round of “speeches.” (I put it in quotation marks because they’re really get-on-your-feet exercises.) I can already see a key difference among many of them.
There are two kinds of speakers: drivers and sailors. (There are two kinds of people: those who put everyone into two categories, and those who don’t. But that’s another post.) Drivers may or may not know where they’re going, but they try to steer everything exactly where they want to go. Sailors, likewise, may or may not know where they’re going, but they’re comfortable adapting to constantly changing conditions. Continue reading “To gain confidence, give up control”
Preparing a speech takes much more time than most people realize. Research. Organization. Interviews. Writing. Rewriting. Rehearsal. More rehearsal. Checking venue. Checking tech equipment. Getting decent graphics. Slideware. Travel. And on and on and on. Some experts say you need to devote an hour for every minute you will speak. Even when you’re speaking about a familiar topic, one you’ve spoken on dozens of times before, it takes more prep time than the average person realizes.
Here’s one reality of preparing a speech: there is no necessary relationship between how much effort you put into preparing for a speech and how well it turns out.
It is true that most people (in my opinion) underestimate the effort required to do a good speech, in terms of research, organization, rehearsal, and delivery. Nevertheless, it is also true that you can spend months preparing for a speech and spend joules of energy, and still have a bad speech. Continue reading ““But I worked so hard!””
Lots of people speak these days. TED.com has sparked a revival of interest in both giving and hearing speeches. And while most TED speakers provide a good model, plenty of misconceptions still float around about speaking.
Austrian journalist Karl Kraus once famously defined a journalist as someone who has nothing to say but knows how to say it. Journalism students have a tendency to fill a college career with nothing but journalism courses, which can lead to exactly the situation Kraus described. That’s why schools accredited by the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication require students to take no more than a certain number of hours in journalism courses–they need to have something to write about when they graduate.
Most people who identify themselves as procrastinators are not really–it’s just that they’re trying to work beyond their juggling skills. It happens I can literally juggle three objects fairly well (though with nothing approaching the skill in the video above), but if you throw a fourth object in there, I don’t just drop one object–I drop them all.
Figuratively, when life throws one more item into our juggling pattern, it can cause everything to go to, um, pieces. For some people, the presentation becomes the extra object.
Take the analogy a little further: juggling four objects requires more than just juggling faster. It requires a different pattern. In essence, you have to be able to juggle two objects in each hand.
Likewise, adding presentations to your mix of activities will require more than simply working faster.
A rule of thumb is one hour of preparation for each minute of speaking. That will vary, obviously, but if you think a 20-minute speech will only take an hour to prepare and rehearse, you are setting yourself up for stress and ineffectiveness. Furthermore, 20 hours of preparation in the two days prior to delivering the speech isn’t as effective as 20 hours broken up into pieces and spread over a month.
That takes a different pattern.
You usually can’t “will” yourself into preparation, but recognizing the need for adding another object to the pattern, and for changing the pattern, may give you the insight to be able to schedule the time you need.
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.