Part of the problem with a scenario like this (regardless of whether you’re just starting out or are a seasoned pro) is that sometimes it’s hard to know exactly why they want you to speak. Do they want you? Or do they want your topic? Obviously, your topic plays some sort of role in this, but if you’ve been given carte blanche, it means they’re putting their trust in you to make the right decision for their audience. Double yikes!!
Still, it’s an opportunity you definitely want to make the most out of, so don’t let a speaking scenario like this have you wandering off the path of best practices when it comes to preparing for a speaking engagement. Instead, start with the same 3 steps many accomplished professionals use when they prepare.
1) Gather as much information as you can about the audience before you choose the focus of your presentation. The more you know about the people you’re going to be speaking to, the easier it will be to figure out which aspects of your topic are most likely to interest, entertain, inspire, and/or empower them. Using the dinner scenario again, think about how much better it would be to find out you were going to be cooking for vegetarians ahead of time.
2) Make sure that the amount of content you’re going to share, and the amount of time you have to share it are equal. If you try to cover too much material and run out of time as a result, both your audience, and the person who booked you are going to be annoyed. If you run out of content before you run out of time, you’re going to end up standing there scrambling for something else to add. Neither of these situations is any fun to experience. The way to make sure it doesn’t happen to you is to practice, out loud, again, and again, and again. Keep practicing until you’re confident you can comfortably deliver your content within the time allotted.
3) Remember that audiences are more likely to stay engaged when they’re listening and learning about things that are relevant to them. Your own story might be very interesting, but in general, audiences aren’t there to hear about you. They want to hear about how they can make some aspect of their own life better. So take a hard look at the presentation you’re preparing. Have you given your audience something worthwhile to think about? Have you given them something actionable to do when they leave? If you give the members of your audience something that is both relevant and of value to them in return for the time and attention they’ve given you, then you’ve done your job well.
Following these three steps will help ensure that the intentions of your next presentation are always in the right place – to improve or enhance someone else’s life.
'Til we speak again,