• Tim Herrera

The quality of your speech is determined by the planning you put in ahead of time

I’m sure you’ve had the misfortune of sitting in an audience while the speaker at the podium drones on and on, making little sense. You occasionally hear snippets of useful information, but you feel like the speaker is all over the map, which usually means the speaker started without a map.

Please don’t be THAT speaker.

Tim Downs and Dr. Tom Barrett – who host the Communication Guys podcast – say having a plan is essential to giving a good talk: “Every chef knows that it helps to have all the ingredients at hand before you start a creative new recipe, and preparing a great presentation is no different.”

If you were taking a long trip, you would not travel without a trusty map or a GPS system. If you were going grocery shopping, you would not go without a detailed list. So, you would not make a speech or presentation without having a plan.

If the audience doesn’t get your point that means you did a shabby job of presenting. And the main reason that might have happened is that you went in without a road map or a shopping list. By that, I mean you went in without a plan. You didn’t do a good job of mapping out what you wanted to say, or maybe you did no mapping.

Here are some easy to follow steps to stay on-point with your presentation:

· Identify the topic of your speech and work from an outline.

· Make sure that all aspects of your presentation point back to that topic. Don’t stray far from your point.

· Identify the supporting points you want to make. It’s usually three to five points depending on how long you are being asked to present. Stay focused.

· Focus on your audience. Make sure the information you are giving is pertinent and remains relevant.

· Be clear and concise in your delivery.

· Remain relevant throughout your talk. Your audience will thank you later and probably shower you with warm applause.

Finally, plan on telling stories. People like stories but make them about you. Don’t tell hackneyed yarns where you insert your name and expect people to believe you. Author and speaker Peter Khoury once wrote, “Be yourself. Interject anecdotes that support your talk.”

If you are going to give a speech, know what you will say and how you will say it. A few gifted speakers can stand in front of a group and give an incredible off-the-cuff speech, but that doesn’t work for the average person. Have a plan.

(Tim Herrera is the author of Public Speaking: Simple Steps to Improve Your Skills and several other books on communications.)

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