There’s little doubt that public speaking can be nerve-wracking. Even famous speakers openly confess to having butterflies when they’re preparing for an event, so it’s totally understandable and acceptable that we would have them too. After all, we want the same thing all those big-time speakers want… for our time on stage to go off without a hitch. To accomplish that, we know we have to plan ahead. We also know that if we do a good job of planning, things are less likely to go wrong and we won’t be as stressed.

Having a plan is strategy—trying to create a plan that addresses everything and anything that could go wrong is not. That’s called worst-case-scenario thinking, and it can get in the way of being able to think logically. What kinds of worst-case-scenario thoughts do speakers have? How about:

  • I’m going to forget to bring _____________! (Feel free to fill in this blank with the list of things you’re usually afraid you’re going to forget.)
  • Great… people are paying more attention to their cell phones than they are to me!
  • My host’s technology failed, which means I can’t use my PowerPoint, which means I’m stuck talking to the audience without my outline!

With very little effort, we could probably create a hefty list of worst cases, but we could never list them all because we all have our own unique fears, quirks, and bug-a-boos when it comes to speaking. The trick is striking the happy medium between setting ourselves up for success by addressing things that could go wrong and ourselves down with worry about things that could take us down. The easiest way to manage that balance is with checklists.

I know, I know… you’ve heard this before. But do you use them? Right now, there’s a lot of talk in circles of successful people about how following a purposeful morning ritual gets their day started in a way that makes the rest of the day go as smooth as silk. Well, isn’t that what a speaking checklist does? It’s a purposeful and meaningful list of things to do that will help ensure that your speaking engagement as smooth as silk.

If you’re already using a checklist, are you using more than one checklist, or is one enough? For example, do you have a specific checklist for packing up everything you need for your presentation? Do you have a timeline checklist to make sure you’re connecting with all the right people right up until it’s time to step on stage? How about a comfort-zone packing checklist for things like an extra pair of socks or shoes, or a clean shirt or blouse for those just-in-case scenarios?

No need to go overboard with creating a bunch of lists though. Figure out the perfect number for you, and then let them relieve you of all the unnecessary stress you’d be feeling without them. Besides, even with a hundred lists, things that wouldn’t be on anyone’s list are going to happen. Customize your list(s) so that they relieve worry of not being prepared to deal with situations you do have control over. The better prepared you are to handle the easy situations that pop up, the more prepared and resourceful you’ll be at handling those out-of-the-blue situations.

May 8, 2018


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