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At the beginning of each year, I prepare. I look at the whole year and consider what I want to achieve, then how I’ll do it. A ruthlessly efficient strategy, which can only be hindered by poor execution (never a problem, honest).

It’s the same with any situation where you’re going to stand up in front of people and the result matters. If you intend to persuade them, you need to have brought something special, something you’ve spent some time on, not cobbled together at the least minute because ‘that’s just what you do’. The poorly-prepared speaker is obvious to the audience, and makes their hearts sink. Don’t be that person, you’ll have put yourself on the back foot before you’ve even opened your mouth.

The philosophy of thorough preparation will make things easier and less stressful for you. Here’s how to execute it and make those speaking situations much easier:

  1. Research the audience. Consider the objective. Why are you really there? Why is your audience really there? What do they want? What do you want them to be thinking when it’s over? 
  2. Calculate the minimum material you need to deliver. Keep it concise, and identify the three main points you want to get across. If it’s a big, important presentation, how few slides could you show and still get your message across? Do you even need to show any? Would a prop work better? This isn’t laziness, it’s using your time efficiently.
  3. Identify the theme. This may only come to you once you’ve really got stuck into the process of preparation, but it will help you keep everything on track. Go for something grand.
  4. Get your head together. Your biggest opponent in the room? The one person who’ll sabotage everything given half a chance? That’s right, it’s you. Remember: the audience wants you to succeed. You’ve been asked to speak. You may not be the biggest expert on the subject, but for the time you’re speaking, you have the floor; the authority.

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