How to prepare for Public Speaking

It's a household word: - preparation is key. But how do we prepare ourselves? 

The first thing I want to say is - we have to find out what works best for ourselves. Whatever I will say might be relevant to you now - or not - so just pick up what helps and forget about the rest! 


 
A long time ago, when I was just beginning to get on stage to tell stories, I was very nervous. So I learned by heart, at "Happy Birthday" level. 
When you sing "Happy Birthday..." you know the lyrics so well that you can sing and do other things at the same time - like filming the birthday girl blowing out the candles, waving at a latecomer, etc - without losing the thread.  

To learn that well costs time and energy. 

The good news is that if we have written down the text, it represents our logic and style so it is easier to remember. 

Learning by searching actively for connections between the different elements of our speech is the way adults learn best. Children have a strong automatic memory, but adults need to structure mentally to improve their memory performances.

In the writing process, the first draft usually becomes much better after cutting out about half of it. For instance, in this newsletter's first draft, the previous sentence was followed by a full paragraph of explanations!
 
Of course, the speech needs to be well-structured, with a single and clear purpose and obvious transitions between its parts.
 
A general principle is: 
1. Introduction: Tell them what you are going to tell them
2. Development: Tell them
3. Conclusion: Remind them of what you have just told them

So I invested a lot of time and energy in getting to know my stories at Happy Birthday level, and I knew not only my text, but my intonations, my silences, when I would make a face, etc.

And thanks to all this hard work, I accumulated success and felt more and more confident.

But then I met purists of the art of story telling who said: "What you do is not real story telling! You shouldn't say anything by heart! A real story teller knows the general structure of his story and improvises the details as he goes along!" 

This concept can also apply to public speaking, especially when we don't have enough time to prepare at Happy Birthday level (as they would ask us to do if it was a TED talk).

When we know our subject well enough to trust ourselves - and when we have had enough experience of public speaking to know we can handle our nerves - we can take more risks and succeed. 

I have done a few speeches recently without writing anything apart from a general structure made up of key words. 

I rehearsed in my head waking up in the morning or walking in the street. I started to prepare one or two weeks in advance - so that new ideas or better ways to express them could come up.

Once on stage, I had just a few notes at hand as a safety net but I didn't use them and I improvised, knowing only a simple structure by heart. 

In music that's what jazz musicians do. 

This way allows you to give a conversational tone to the speech and to answer questions as you go along. The result might be a little bit messier but it's also livelier.

I love rehearsing mentally and this leads me to one last big point - you should love giving the speech in your imagination. 

Audiences feel how we feel when we speak and if we love talking to them, they will love being talked to!  



 Updates: The next Organic Speaking workshops in Willesden Green (North West London) are scheduled on Sundays evening, every other week, possibly more according to demand. There are a few free tickets to grab. (First timers only) Find out here 

 See you there, with great pleasure! 

 Jean-Marc Pierson 

The rewards will be great!

Dear known and unknown friends

  I am a sensitive perfectionist. I have a tendency to believe that a good Speed Public Speaking training session can only be a session where the magic operates full time, going crescendo from the beginning to the end. I am a bit deluded. I want peaks without troughs! I don’t like to feel the energy slowing down when it happens. I dread these moments. I feel it’s my fault, I feel I have done a bad job. I have a tendency to be too harsh on myself.

As leader of Speed Public Speaking sessions, I could play safe. I know how to get an audience or a training group on a high and keep it there. Of course, it’s never granted in advance, but there are ways. Let me tell you the recipe: as I keep repeating at the beginning of almost every session, it’s all in the way we deliver our speeches, and the formula is:

  Delivery= Energy + Engagement + Structure.

 Energy comes first. When we jump on stage like a jack out of the box, when we amplify our body language and project our voice powerfully, when we dare taking as much room as we can, we feed the audience with good healthy dynamic energy and everyone enjoys it. Smiles, laughter and excitement quickly happen. It’s a bit challenging for you trainees, but the rewards are immediate. When you feed your audience with good energy, they love you. They send energy back. You dare more…a virtuous circle of energy is on... It’s great fun!

 Second round:  After "Energy"comes "Engagement" It’s all about taking care of the relationship side of the communication process. We make eye contact, greet, thank, compliment the people gathered here in front of us. We are human beings, we love being loved, we need acknowledgement, validation and warm welcomes. Again we give,  they give back the same quality of energy-engagement, multiplied by as many pairs of eyes as they are. This part of the training touches our hearts, and the rewards are immediate as well. We feel warmth, we feel connected…  

 You know what? If I wanted to play safe, we would work on energy and engagement from the beginning to the end of every session. We would spend the whole time freeing ourselves from the emotional straightjackets we have become used to wear in our everyday lives. This feels so good, it’s fun, it’s regenerating!

 But but but… Here we are. Third round. Let’s work on "Structure" now! 
To be clear and memorable, just being ourselves, friendly and full of good energy is not enough. We need a clear structure, for instance an introduction, a development with three distinct parts and obvious transitions between them; A conclusion at the end to recap and call to action… a bit of intellectual focus is required now...

 After freeing ourselves, working on structuring our content might feel as if we had to put on a straightjacket again. This is work. The rewards will be great, but they are not immediate. Just like artists, musicians, sport men or any craftsmen , we need to discipline our efforts with perseverance before being able to get on stage looking as if it was easy… 

 Public speaking is an art. You may not aim at becoming great masters, but even to acquire basic skills, there are efforts to be made. It’s not my fault. It’s life. Sometimes we reach summits, sometimes we open our wings and fly, and sometimes we are confronted with the necessity of making efforts and persevere. These times are not as enjoyable as others, however, they are the moments when we build our strength and strengthen our skills. I would be dishonest if I spared you these moments. 
 
  I love you. Yes, I really enjoy your company. I love listening to your speeches. I wish to see you progress and progress. So let me tell you a last thing: when the energy levels are going down in the middle of a session because of some difficulties to confront, I wish to see you giving more of your own energy, whether as active listeners or as speakers.

You know, those who provide more of their own energy instead of getting disengaged when the dynamism of the group slows down  have learnt one of the most fundamental lesson we need to learn to face an audience and take them with us wherever we want… It’s what leading is about.

 When we reap the fruits of our efforts, we know it was worth it…
 
 Good luck on your journey! Don't forget to sign up to the next sessions in Willesden Green or Clerkenwell. For details visit the What's on sections on http://jeanmarcpierson.com

 See you soon!