By Spence Finlayson
When I first started my career as a motivational speaker, I wrote out a full speech then discovered that it hampered me in executing my high energy presentation because I had to keep my eyes basically glued to the written speech. So I adopted a new way to prepare my speech, which is to do bullet points on 3 x 5 index cards and which enabled me to move around the conference room, looking into the eyes of my audience.
Alexander Gregg said “There are three things to aim at in public speaking. First, to get into your subject, then to get your subject into yourself and, lastly, to get your subject into the heart of your audience.”
I found that the index cards worked brilliantly for me. So as I prepare for my speech, I make sure to get all the pertinent information on the topic. I do my research on the proposed topic, making notes on what I deem good material to share with my audience. At the time I also search my mind for any of my personal stories that I could use to hammer home my point. I continue to say that people love a good story. According to Wikipedia, “Storytelling describes the social and cultural activity of sharing stories, sometimes with improvisation, theatrics, or embellishment.”
When I receive the topic from the meeting planners or my booking agent, I think about it for at least seven days before I begin to prepare my speech. This time gives me the opportunity for ideas to flow into my consciousness and then I am able to make the essential notes for the speech. I may be a little different from other speakers in terms of my preparation but it works well for me. While I am preparing my speech, I visualize the audience, the room set up, and my introduction.
Visualizing is a key component in public speaking as well as in life in general. I can vividly recall while living in my hometown of Nassau, Bahamas, visualizing how I would speak in the Caribbean and the audiences’ response even before I got there a few years later.
When I stepped on the stage in the Cayman Islands at a Rotary Club luncheon meeting at the Radisson on Seven Mile Beach, the exact response that I had visualized occurred. The Rotarians were cheering me on very enthusiastically and from that one speaking engagement, the word was out, that there is a dynamic young motivational speaker from The Bahamas who can deliver. I received many more speaking engagements after that, which led me to 22 other Caribbean countries speaking professionally.
Visualization is defined as to recall or form mental images or pictures, to make visual or visible, to make perceptible to the mind or imagination. Dennis Waitley says, “When you visualize, then you materialize.”
Paramahansa Yogananda said this about visualization: “Proper visualization by the exercise of concentration and willpower enables us to materialize thoughts, not only as dreams or visions in the mental realm but also as experiences in the material realm.”
So, for me, visualization is key in preparing my speech. Additionally, I am thinking about my upcoming speech daily before the event, so when I finally take the stage, I am on fire and fully conversant with my topic. So I implore you to prepare your speech diligently. For me, once I have done my preparation, I am a more confident speaker. If you don’t prepare properly it messes with your self-confidence and as a result you will deliver a poor speech.
Here are some tips for preparing your speech:
• Focus on your main idea… keep the main thing the main thing.
• Use descriptive words and quotes to support your points
• Make sure your facts are right
• Use the KISS theory: Keep It Simple Simon
• Know your audience
• Open your speech with an attention getter
• End it with a strong motivational quote that you know verbatim and deliver it with plenty passion and emotion
Remember when you are preparing your speech that your goal is to inform, educate and entertain. I pride myself on nobody ever falling asleep during my presentation. I am currently recording a new radio program called “Success if Your Birthright” for the Broadcasting Corporation of The Bahamas and it’s only 60 seconds. After I had recorded five programs, the producer said, “Wow, this sounds like a live broadcast, it does not sound like you are reading.”
Now if you are using visual aids in your presentation, you need to know your material. I was a Yellow Pages sales consultant for BATELCO Yellow Pages in The Bahamas and I was taught to learn my presentation binder with all of the facts about the Yellow Pages, to the degree that I could read it upside down and then present it without actually reading from the binder. I did this with a client in the wholesale produce business and the general manager was so impressed that he wanted to hire me on the spot.
Yes, I cannot emphasize this enough… know your material.
The same thing applies if you are using Power Point. Things go wrong and the computer may cut out or stop working and then you are finished if you don’t know your material.
Finally, like Andrew Diugan says, “Proper preparation prevents presentation predicaments.” Speech preparation is one of the most important steps in public speaking. I invite you to plan, prepare and then execute a memorable speech that will have your audience panting for more