Keep the Audience on Your Side

I cannot emphasize often enough the value of ongoing professional development. Successful executives understand the need to enhance their knowledge, skills, and competence on a continuing basis. This applies to many areas, including public speaking abilities.

Let’s examine the value of Preparation – the first of the Three Keys to Great Presentations™.

Legendary comedian W.C. Fields may have best summed up the need for preparation: “Always carry a flagon of whiskey in case of snakebite and furthermore always carry a small snake.”

Before you begin drafting your remarks, you need to consider some issues. For starters, when an organization invites you to speak, is it an engagement you should you accept? Why or why not?

Think strategically. If you are leading a new endeavor—anything from a new business service to a fundraising drive for a local charity—your high profile may attract a host of speaking requests. Or you may get invitations from groups that simply need a speaker; they don’t particularly care who it is, they just need someone in front of the room.

The first step in your preparation is to decide which speaking invitations to accept. Your calendar is likely too full to allow you to speak everywhere you are invited. So make Plan aheada conscious decision on which opportunities make sense for you, your business, and its current communications mission.

One central question will help you come to a quick decision on whether or not to accept: Is this an audience I need or want to reach? Let me give you an example. In the course of offering presentation skills training workshops, I sometimes collaborate with public affairs and public relations agencies. If I am invited to address a roomful of those executives, it makes sense for me to say yes. On the other hand, even an engraved, hand-delivered invitation from the neighborhood garden club would offer little attraction.

Here’s another tip that can help you sort the wheat from the chaff. Develop a presentation request form. I keep mine basic: What are the logistics? Who is the contact person? What do they want me to talk about? Who is my audience? Will my presentation be open to the media? Asking these questions up front—before you accept or decline—will help you define whether or not this is an invitation that can help you achieve your goals.

Once you have drafted your speech request form, be sure to use it faithfully. It can go a long way in helping you take ownership of the first of your Three Keys to Great Presentations: Preparation.


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