My son is 9. Each morning before school, we usually have to ask him many times to get dressed, as he doesn’t see the urgency until the last minute, resulting in rushing and panic. And we get annoyed. Why doesn’t he just get dressed and brush his teeth when we ask him to? Or even better, without being asked? It’s not as if it’s a surprise task, he has to do these things every day before he goes to school. We don’t get it. Perhaps he doesn’t get himself in gear because it doesn’t seem important yet, and leaving it until as late as possible has become a habit. Why change?
I see the same thing when people prepare inadequately for their presentations: they leave it to the last minute and then confuse their fear of speaking with the panic felt due to poor preparation. Perhaps the reason they’re nervous each time is that they don’t put in the required work beforehand. Consider your process; does this sound familiar?
Do yourself a huge favour: as soon as you know you will have to stand up in front of some people to speak, start preparing. Even if it feels as if it’s much too soon, note down some ideas and get a basic structure sorted. Starting the process of actually thinking about it makes the writing process considerably easier. Even preparing months in advance will be really useful – although it feels too soon – because it allows you to develop the material without the stress created by an imminent deadline, plus you can feel smug about it. Try nailing these:
- Who, where, what, why? Don’t just start writing in autopilot, have a think about the context, the audience and what they need from you. What problem will you solve? If you haven’t changed their outlook or inspired them then what’s the point of giving the presentation in the first place? I’m not saying ‘what’s the point’ as in ‘why bother?’, I’m saying ‘what’s the reason?‘.
- What’s the theme? You might be talking about a piece of software or a process, but perhaps what holds it all together is something grander, more relevant and appealing to your audience like ‘collaboration’, ‘saving time’ or ‘making money’.
- What’s the call to action? What do you want them to be thinking as they leave? I’m sorry to be the one to break it to you, but an enthusiastic audience is pointless unless they actually do something practical with all that sparkly enthusiasm.
Go on, then
You already know that you should prepare early, everyone does. But only a few will actually do it – make sure you’re one of them.*
* That’s my call-to-action! You see, I practise what I preach.