Last Saturday, I finished my fourth talk in four days. It wasn’t easy because three out of the four talks were about different topics.
Although, I get invited to speak fairly regularly, I’m not a full time professional speaker. But last week, I felt like I was. And so I have the utmost respect for my friends who are pro speakers and do this day in and day out. You know who you are. 🙂
Yesterday, my wife asked me how my talks went. I told her what my client told me and what my client’s boss told her.
“Yey! So the client was very happy!” Said Miriam.
“Yes, they were. I think I’m finally getting the hang of this public speaking thing,” I told her with a smile, acting like I was joking. But I was serious.
I think I have a system that’s working for me and just want to share as some of you are young aspiring speakers.
Most of what I’m going to share is how I prepare for a talk. I believe that in speaking, 80% is in the preparation.
So, off the top of my head, this is how I prepare for a talk, whether it’s for one or four talks in a week.
1. Theme. I think about the theme of the event and the talk. What is the event for? I try to visualize the audience and the venue.
2. The details.
So I send a questionnaire to my client and ask all the details about the event. And what they envision to achieve because of this talk.
I also ask why they chose me to speak at their event.
3. I email, call or meet with the client. And get more information: I ask about their core values, what their needs are, why they are organising the talk… And I watch out for catch phrases, statements or stories that I can incorporate into the talk.
Hopefully there’s at least one month or minimum of one week before the talk itself.
4. Two weeks before the talk, I start making notes or a quick draft outline of the talk. I usually mind map my thoughts and then choose which ones get in…
It only takes ten to fifteen minutes for this step, but it’s important because it helps crystallize my thinking.
5. Pray. By this time I’ve already prayed for wisdom, but if I’ve forgotten , it’s here that I also pray that I’ll be able to add value to the audience, inspire them through the stories that God impressed upon me to share, and for divine appointments. I pray that I’ll have the courage to speak truth and life into the lives of people.
6. I’ll do another mind map outline and write down the time allocated more or less for each talking point. More ideas come in and I’ll make notes to include these.
7. Slides. I’ll copy or duplicate my most previous talk or a talk with similar points and slides as my template. I’ll start creating my title slide and new talk template.
8. I’ll look at my outline and start creating or copy and pasting, or revising slides according to the talk outline that I’ve mindmapped.
9. Priming the pump.
Sometimes I’ll Watch YouTube or Ted talks of speakers that I admire, to get inspired while I work on the slides. Speakers like Francis Chan or lately I’ve been watching Steven Furtick and Christine Cain. I’ve also been watching a lot of the winning speeches of the past years winners of toastmasters international speaking competition. Only seven minutes per speech but so packed with inspiration.
10. The preparation of the slides takes the longest (minimum 3-5 hours or more if from scratch or one hour if just revising) but I also enjoy it. It’s a creative process for me choosing the images and designing the slides. But be careful, it can actually distract you from preparing your heart and mind for the talk if you’re not careful. You can also end up adding more and more material from past talks and before you know it you have to cut down half of your talk.
11. No power point? Sometimes I’ll pray and ask myself “what if? What if I don’t use slides na lang?”
There were several times when I felt that my talk would be more personal and powerful without power point.
One of the best or well received talks I did before was at an awards night for a life insurance company. I just had my mindmap with me and shared stories I knew from my heart.
Sometimes, I’ve also preached at several churches without using power point. And my wife and others have told me that it was powerful.
There’s a joke that goes around, I think it originated from Steve Jobs, who said that speakers who use power point usually have no power, and no point. Hahaha.
12. I’ll rehearse and go over the slides or mindmap while talking in my mind.
Or I’ll type and write the script of my talk in the notes section of my slides. I don’t actually use this during the actual talk but it’s good to unload what I’m thinking of saying in the notes section. For reference also for a future talk.
13. Rehearse, Rehearse. The night before my talk, I’ll rehearse again. I’ll click through each slide and do some revising if a slide doesn’t look good or fit ..
I’ll make sure that I know th sequence of all the points and slides so that even if the presenter view doesn’t work or if the venue doesn’t have a speaker monitor, I’m okay.
14. Dream your talk. To ease any anxiety, I’ll pray again and when I go to bed, I’ll visualize myself speaking with a smile and the audience smiling too.. I’ll rehearse in my mind and I’ll fall asleep doing that. I think I dream my talk in my sleep.
15. Trust your God given, designed brain.
One of my mentors, the late Tony Buzan, who created the mind mapping thinking system, told me that when you speak, don’t refer to your notes anymore. (Just your mindmap, if ever).
You just have to trust that your marvelously powerful brain remembers what it created. No one knows if you’ve missed a sentence or added anything. So chill.
16. Testing, testing. Right before the talk, I’ll spend an hour or half hour just making sure that all the equipment is working. From the mic, to the projector, to the clicker.
When everything is in order, I’ll walk through the room and say hello or chat with people. I don’t like isolating myself in a holding room that an organizer might have prepared for you.
18. Get your blood pumping!
Sometimes, I’ll stretch my legs, do push ups, hop around, shadow box, and do some vocal calisthenics. I’ll exercise my vocal cords by singing la, le, li, lo, lu or by moving my tongue all around. This is only if I’m backstage .. I won’t do this if I’m seated in front with the hosts hehehe.
19. I’ll whisper one more prayer. “Lord, I’m nothing without you. I need you. Please help me”. Then I’ll take a couple of deep breaths.
I once asked a mentor and friend, an international speaker, if he still gets nervous speaking even after all these years. He said “yes! I would be nervous if the day comes when I speak and I’m not nervous. Because that would mean I’ve become overconfident.”
Simon Sinek says that the trick is to reframe the nervousness and call it “excitement.’ so instead of saying, “I’m nervous” say “I’m excited.”
20. I’ll run to the stage or walk very fast almost skipping once I’m called. Be careful not to trip or fall though.
21. Look for friendly smiling faces in the crowd. At the front back and sides and ..then let it rip! Let out your biggest smile . Have fun, enjoy yourself as you let God shine and speak life through you.
Hope this helps! God bless!
Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen.
1 Peter 4:11 NLT