the inspiration blog

How Do You Prepare for an Important Speaking Engagement?

Posted on: April 25, 2013

Most professionals and entrepreneurs who need to give a presentation, talk or speaking engagement will do some degree of preparation. Unfortunately, they prepare the wrong way! Many focus on their content, trying to get every word perfect, maybe making tons of last-minute changes. And others “prepare” by procrastinating. Finally, some will just look at their notes and mumble through it… but that also doesn’t prepare you adequately.

As well, I often get calls from people who get nervous when they speak. Or I get asked to help them craft a talk. Or they want to know how to speak “off the cuff,”  and to not be worried too much about what to say.

These are all signs of a lack of knowing how to prepare.  So, here are some important elements to keep in mind.

Know the core of your message. When it comes down to it, it doesn’t matter if you mess up  a little, or find the perfectly nuanced phrase. Simply stay in touch with the central idea or transformation you are trying to convey, and that’ll keep you on track.

Focus on helping and serving your audience. Place your attention on how you can be of service. Make it about them – not about you. This is your intention. When our intention is about being of service, rather than about our own desires, it can help us relax.

And, more than anything… warm up! It’s absolutely essential to have a great warmup routine. You wouldn’t run a marathon without a lot of stretching as well as eating right beforehand, would you? The same goes for speaking. Here are several elements to a good speaking warmup.

  1. Warm up your body. Stretch, move around, and practice body language like gestures and facial expressions. Speaking is a full-bodied act!
  2. Open up your voice. Do vocal warmups, enunciation exercises, diaphragmatic breathing, and more, to find the full power of your voice. Practice using different vocal dynamics.
  3. Warm up emotionally. What do you need to do to feel ready? To take care of yourself? To be present? It’s essential to have your heart in it, and to feel good.
  4. Get in the game. This would also be called your “mental” warmup, and could be done in part with the aforementioned focus on serving your audience. You can also do affirmations. I teach mindset shifts to my clients, and these are also helpful.

And, once you’ve done all of these, you can finally apply these to your presentation, and practice your talk. Remember that 50-80% of communication is nonverbal. So, focusing on everything but the words may also help it go well. Also, last-minute text changes tend to throw you off, not help; it’s  more important to get comfortable than get the words totally perfect.

If the above are a mystery about how to do them, keep an eye out for the Claim Your Voice training – it’ll make it all really clear.

What surprised you from these ideas? Or, what are your own ways you warm up for a talk? Please share and comment below.


10 Responses to "How Do You Prepare for an Important Speaking Engagement?"

Your comments are right-on, Jonathan.

This is SO helpful! I’m one of those with a tendency to obsess over the language when I get nervous, sometimes to the extent that I disconnect from my purpose and my listeners! This reminder about how to get out of my head and into my heart and body really hits home for me. Thanks, Jonathan!

karen – so true! i don’t have much experience with this yet but the fallout from the disconnection i felt was so painful afterwards. happy to learn these tools.
cheers from shana

Your comments resonate as I just did a workshop on Communicate with Freedom using EFT to lower tension of speaking, and vocal exercises to warm-up and transfer to vocal variety.

I like this Jonathan. Good to have you back. Here is what I do. After knowing my topic, I outline my points, arrange then in a logical order, research, write then rehearse, rehearse and rehearse. I focus on what I want to audience to take away and use stories and anecdotes. My secret to good delivery is rehearsal and not being so careful about the words I use but keep simple. I get into my car, have my headphones on (So I don’t sound or look crazy on the roads especially when I’m alone) and speak out loudest varying my tone. The other thing I do is sing along lyrics of a song.

this is so empowering, jonathan. thank you! “Focus on helping and serving…” – that alone shifts it all.

cheers from shana

Excellent ideas as always, Jonathan! Really resonate w/ “know your core mssg” and “focus on serving them.” Takes all the obsessing over “script” away. 🙂 Also, just discovered (accidentally) a new preparation – upper cervical chriro. an hour later, I was able to sing “Something’s Coming” from West Side Story; hitting notes I haven’t hit in years. My projection almost shocked me. LOL!

I’ll be trying out your suggestions as I give my presentation to the publishers at our annual conference. Your email was most timely!

I am extremely impressed with your writing talents as neatly as with the format for your blog.

Is that this a paid subject or did you customize it your self?
Anyway keep up the nice quality writing, it’s uncommon to see a nice blog like this one these days..

Thank you! This is my area of expertise, so it comes from 28 years of experience in public speaking and performance, and 18+ years of coaching it. All writing and all tips are fully mine. The acknowledgement is much appreciated!

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