Client: “I keep putting off working on my presentation because I just don’t know how to get it started!”
“How do I begin writing my presentation” is an FAQ I get asked all the time. It makes sense. We so want our talk to be perfect! We want to grab our audience’s attention right from the get go! But, trying to come up with those first perfect impactful words before we’ve figured out where our talk is headed? That’s the kind of pressure that can lead directly to “speaker’s block.”
Speaker’s block is basically the same thing as writer’s block… a speaker (or writer) staring at a blank page without a clue of what to write. The good news for speakers is that we have an option writers usually don’t. We can skip right over the beginning we’re not sure of yet, and begin working on what we do know.
We know what we want to talk about, which means we’re usually clear about the main conclusion we want our audience to take away from our presentation. Begin with that end in mind. Make sure you’re clear about what you want your audience to walk away knowing.
Fun fact: Working on your conclusion is a
great way to come up with a title for your talk.
Now that you’ve got your conclusion in mind, start working backwards. What 2-4 points will you baby step your audience through that will lead them directly to your conclusion? Write them down. Spend time whittling them down to the bare bones of what they need to know, and then come up with stories, analogies, and/or information to illustrate your points.
Fun fact: Stepping away from what you’ve come up with so far is going
to help… a lot. Focusing on something completely different is like
“clearing the cache” in your head. Then, when you get back to it, you’ll
be all set to review what you’ve written to make sure it works.
Now it’s time to get back to your introduction. Picture yourself in your audience. Based upon the way you’ve shaped your talk, think about how to engage your audience’s interest in hearing about your “solution.” There are many ways to do this, including: using an inspirational quote or a jarring statistic; asking a thought-provoking question; and starting with a story you can break up into parts and use throughout your talk.
Fun fact: Many TV shows begin at the end of the story and
then the show spends its time telling the story. If it works for them….
When you’ve got your talk written, it’s time to make sure your words sound as good as they read. I can always tell when I’m listening to a speaker who forgot to practice their talk out loud as if they were speaking to an actual audience. They’re clearly not comfortable with what they’re saying. For the audience, the talk lacks flow… and too often… engagement.
Fun Fact: Even a pet will work as an audience. The goal
of practicing out loud is simply to make sure that what you wrote
sounds as good when you speak it as it felt when you wrote/read it.
It’s also a way to raise your delivery confidence and comfort.
My last “fun fact” is a piece of advice I found while I was doing researching for this article: “Write it badly just to get it started.” I totally agree. Developing a great talk takes a bit of time and patience. But, if you need more reasons to accept that your first go round doesn’t have to be perfect right out of the gate, here are two:
You can always tweak your talk after you deliver it.
You can—and should—always go in and tweak it before you deliver it again.
Give yourself and your signature talk permission to grow and improve, and you’ll be proud of your end result every time you speak!