Public speaking is a challenge for most, and it is easy to understand why. You get 20 to 30 minutes on stage, and everybody will be looking at you. Most are genuinely interested in what you have to share, but some in the audience didn’t want to attend or feel like they have better things to do. Instinctively, we’re all well aware of the possible danger involved with stepping on stage.
Public speaking has been a big part of my professional life. To learn, I studied experienced public speakers and read books extensively. I discovered a method to optimize the preparation of a talk – while making sure that it resonated with the audience.
It starts with an idea.
When asked to give a new talk, I come up with a title (often asked early so the organizers can confirm their agenda). The most straightforward trick has been to combine two concepts that I’m familiar with, for example, Happiness + Community or Startup Founder + China. That gives me enough wiggle room to find things to share. I don’t dig deeper for a little while, instead, giving my subconscious some time to absorb that new title.
Give it a structure.
By the time I start working on the presentation, I spontaneously come up with thoughts for the performance. It often comes in the middle of a conversation, in the shower, or while reading a book. These moments have always been conducive to my creativity. I would write these thoughts down and give it a couple more days. That will be the signal that I’m ready to work on the presentation.
Find the core message
The first part might seem random, but what follows is very much structured. Once I have the title and some thoughts, I would lay everything on paper and start the deep work. The goal at this stage is to identify the “one” point I want to make. It doesn’t have to be rocket science but will help anchor the rest of my presentation.
I’ve heard some speakers being frustrated to cut some of their content out. But, I’d rather leave an audience wanting to know more than having listened to too much.