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How to Prepare for Your First Speaking Gig

If you do get the opportunity to present or speak at a conference, it could end up being a breakout moment for your career or even result in additional speaking engagements. Given the fact that content spreads quickly and easily today, it’s very important to put your best foot forward. I’m currently in the process of preparing for my upcoming speech at Eye4Travel conference and I wanted to share my own tips with you on how to prepare your first speaking gig.  Although this post is about your first speaking gig, I’m guessing these tips would apply to any speaking gig.

Read Presentation Zen

This book is a must read for any person who intends to be a speaker. It’s a completely different look at how to put together a presentation. Rather than death by PowerPoint, it teaches you how to make an incredibly compelling presentation mixing principles from design and performance art. In fact  it’s a great reminder that speaking is actually a performance of sorts. I also recommend that you subscribe to Garr Reynold’s blog.

Wing it on Your First Run Through

I recommend that everybody do an initial run through of their presentation and wing it. The key here is to get all the way through the presentation. The reason this is important is that will quickly reveal the problem areas of the presentation.  Once you know the the problem areas you can work on polishing those areas throughout the rest of this process.

Write out the Speech

Writing out your speech is a tremendously useful exercise because it can give you a stronger sense of how the presentation will flow. Additionally it will give you an opportunity to make note of things you want to the audience to take away that you might otherwise have missed. It will also make you sound much more polished when you do actually give the speech.

*Note: It’s important to remember that the goal is not remember the speech and repeat it verbatim, but to use it as a guide. In fact when you’re going through your practice sessions, I recommend you practice without  the speech and refer back to it after each run through.

Practice in Front of Nobody

There’s no  question that practicing your presentation is essential if you want to knock it out of the park.  Practicing in front of nobody is a great first step because it will give you lots of insights into things you can improve. I recommend the following:

Record Yourself

I’ve had the opportunity to interview some well known speakers like Danielle Laporte, and one of the things that almost everybody recommends is to record yourself doing a presentation. The idea of seeing ourselves on camera really can make us cringe, but it also is a great way to fine tune our work. There are many subtle things that happen when we’re speaking that most of us are completely unaware of until we see them. Sometimes it’s one small adjustment that makes a huge difference.

Practice in Front of an Audience

If have access to an audience, even a roommate, practice your speech in front of them. In fact I’d say one of the best things you could do is give your speech to somebody with very limited knowledge of your subject, since they’ll be able to critique your presentation skills which is what we’re looking for here. Additionally, if you can convey your message to somebody who doesn’t know much about your topic, you’ll know it’s clear and to the point.  If you are a member of Toastmaster’s, consider practicing your speech at the next meeting. The key here is to gather as much feedback as possible and incorporate it.

Visualize Your Speech

Usually by the time I’m giving a speech, I’ve pictured it in my head several 100 times. I just realized the other day that I’m going to be in the last speaking slot of the day and people are going to be itching to get to happy hour during my speech, so I’ll of course be sure to make a joke about that.  When you have visualized giving the speech over and over, it won’t seem that nerve wracking. Believe it or not you don’t even have to set aside time each day to visualize your speech. You can actually visualize portions of it while going about your day and by the time you give your speech the words should just flow.  One thing I’ve done is actually done my speech while driving in the car, which is a great way to get comfortable without having any visual aids to refer to.

Your very first speaking gig is an exciting opportunity an you should treat it as such. Preparation and practice are essential to ensuring that you knock it out of the park at your first speaking gig.

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