How to become a confident, powerful, world-class speaker by following the PREPARATION principle

Presentations ,

Step 1: P – It’s at the start for a reason

It may be a multi-million pound sales pitch to a few key people; a monthly departmental update to 30 staff; or an inspirational speech to an audience of 300 — to ensure your presentation or speech is an unqualified success a great many aspects and angles of the talk need to be assessed.

You often hear phrases like “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail” or “Hope for the best, prepare for the worst”, even “Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance”!

But what does Preparation involve? What are the things we need to prepare for? Where do we start?

It’s not something people generally tend to do everyday; preparing and delivering an effective presentation, so it often strikes fear into even the most experienced business executive.

However, anyone can learn to become an entertaining and effective public speaker. In fact that is exactly what public speaking is: a learned skill. All it takes is a little knowledge, training, dedication and perseverance. Follow the 11 steps of the PREPARATION principle and start to develop a new and powerful skill that is respected and needed by all major organizations throughout the world.

So let’s start at the beginning of the PREPARATION principle. Not all of the letters will appear in a logical, chronological fashion but most do and they ALL contain tips, techniques and great advice on how to enable you to become the best speaker you can possible be.

P = Pitch, or Point, or Particular reason for the presentation.

There are three elements to consider here:

  1. the reason YOU have been selected to deliver a presentation;
  2. the reason you WANT to speak;
  3. the business reason for the speech being delivered.

1. You find yourself in a position where a presentation has to be delivered. Why you? Did you volunteer? Have you been asked to do it and can’t back out? (more of this later) Are you replacing someone who can’t now make it? Are you part of the team delivering and you have to play your part? Or is it just a part of the job you find yourself in, having to deliver regular updates?

Any of these reasons could be true, you might think of a few more of your own. If someone has asked you it is probably because they trust your ability to deliver effectively. Don’t underestimate the belief others may have in you. Why might this be? Think back to when you have done a good job in the past, this may help allay any nerves you may initially feel.

2. Why do you WANT to deliver the presentation? After all, it is supposed to be the most feared activity we could face, above that of divorce, moving house or even death. Why do we personally want to get involved in an activity that carries so much, err, risk? Risk? What risk? Standing to deliver some information to a group of people all at once rather than try to tell everyone exactly the same thing one at a time or via the written word.

Not much risk really is there? We’ll explore confidence building later when we discuss fear and anxiety. So our personal objective can be as simple as, “It’s part of the job and I have to deliver”, or: “I want to further my career prospects and become a better public speaker”.

3. Now we’ve got that out of the way we have to know, or set a business objective for our talk, a goal if you will.  What is the reason you have been asked to speak, or need to deliver a presentation? There has to be some objective for it doesn’t there?

I often ask what the objective for a presentation is and get the response, “It’s to deliver an update to the department”, or to, “Share the latest monthly sales figures” or maybe, “Address the company on future strategy”. While these reasons may doubtless be true and factually correct, are we trying to achieve anything else over and above this? Quite frankly these reasons could have been the subject for a memo being distributed to be read at the recipients’ leisure. Or an email, or a blog or posting on the company website.

When it comes down to what we are really trying to achieve, it is often far greater than simply to let the audience know a few facts. A major part of the presentation you are going to deliver will be to inspire, motivate, engender trust, shake them up, not forgetting that all the while you’ll be entertaining them. Bob Monkhouse famously stated that when you rise to speak to an audience “you’re in show biz”, whether it’s delivering a comedy routine or a presentation for a business audience.

A major objective as part of your delivery must be to keep your audience engaged – otherwise they will not hear the dynamite messages you have for them. Everyone switches off at some stage of a presentation so we need to minimize that possibility.

Consider the SMART objective-setting system as a place to start. Begin by loosely establishing a Specific objective, then go on to how you may Measure the success, or otherwise, of the presentation. Agreement from interested parties helps you to focus and get stakeholders on board. Is the objective Realistic given the resources you have available, the time you have to speak and the power you have over the outcome? Finally in measuring the success of your delivery must be Time bound. Give yourself a realistic timeframe in which to achieve your objective.

In the end you will have a long sentence outlining exactly what you want to achieve from your presentation and, if you’re careful, a process for measuring its success.

Once we know what we want to achieve from a presentation it becomes a lot clearer for us to understand what we need to fill it with and what we need to prepare for.

Understanding our objectives gives us a clue as to the language we’ll employ, the visuals we may use, hand outs we'll end up creating, the style of delivery, even the way we dress may be dependent on what we wish to gain from this presentation.

A truly powerful and effective presentation starts with a clearly defined and understood objective. The Pitch is the key to success.

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