Start before you are ready may be useful advice for a start up launching a new product, but it certainly doesn't apply to presentations. Do the work, and you'll deliver a cracker speech.
But a lot of people tell me the hardest part of having to give a speech is actually sitting down to start writing it. And according to my research over the last 12 months around 80% of you do it less than a week before you have to speak. And then you tell me you’re no good at public speaking. Ahem.
One of the problems is that as the pressure mounts, most of us fire up our laptops on a Sunday afternoon (with the kids running around) and open a blank PowerPoint template. Then we just start writing filling the slides with data and stats from the latest report.
First thing. Your presentation is not a document. Don’t write it like one or you will become known as your organisation's Most Boring Public Speaker.
Secondly. Just blurting everything down onto Powerpoint will get the job done, but there is an easier and more efficient way to start, write and learn your presentation. And one which will increase the chances of your audience listening, and stay listening.
As tempting as it is to start finding those pretty pictures or developing bullet points or detailed graphs (stop it) you need to get to the heart of your message first.
Use a white board, a laptop, a piece of paper or whatever works for you and first ask yourself these three questions:
What does my audience know about my topic?
What do they need to know?
What’s the one thing I want them to walk away with?
If you can’t answer these questions, don’t start. Go find the answers first. Then once you’ve got that clear, grab another piece of paper and randomly write down everything you know on this topic. Not in detail. Just headlines. So if I was to give a talk on baking, my topics might be ingredients, types of pans, oven temperatures, how climate affects baking, pastry chefs, methods … You get the idea.
Then go back to your brief.
How much time do you have?
Who is your audience?
What do they need to know most about baking?
Gently mix the topic, the audience and the time frame, then you're ready to bake.
A trap many of us fall into is that we have so much knowledge on our topic and we want to share it all. It shows how smart we are. AGGRESSIVELY EDIT. You will ramble way over time and lose the interest of the audience. Pick your sub topics very carefully, match to audience needs and you’ll keep them engaged.
So once you’ve put all that together, only then do you open up your Powerpoint. You'll find your slides will be more relevant to sync them with your talk and not the other way round.
Once you get used to this process, watch your prep time shrink and your confidence expand. Way to go, tiger!
Lynne Schinella is a speaker, coach & facilitator who helps develop influential communicators.
For her speaker retreats see www.execspeakercoaching.com - next event 6 - 9 May, Byron Bay.
To find out more about what Lynne does and why, click here.