I devote a whole chapter on how to prep when speaking in Climbing the Ladder in Stilettos. It’s an easy formula that anyone can use and it honestly works every time.
The #1 key is knowing your audience — who they are, what their needs are relative to your topic, the stories you have that will most resonate and relate to their life, desires and needs.
It’s tempting to focus your preparation on your talk. What should I say, how will I say it? But over and over I’m reminded that the more I get into their heads, the better my talk gets into their hearts.
If you’re a person of prayer, then pray for your audience. Listen and let your spirit get a sense of what they need at the deepest levels. You will get insights and sensings that help you tailor what you’ll share to be life-giving and even at times life-altering.
I work hard at being relatable and real, not just telling the good endings but freely sharing the struggles I’ve endured in my life and career. People can read about principles all day long, but hearing someone’s personal journey and what they learned is why you want to listen to a speaker. Someone once said, “We lead through our strengths but connect through our weaknesses,” which is certainly true between a speaker and their audience.
This morning I’m speaking at Dave Martin’s Ultimate Life Conference in Orlando, attempting to practice what I preach while addressing business leaders, many of whom are qualified to be on the platform themselves. It’s the kind of audience I always find a bit intimidating. What do I have to share with them that they don’t already know? But here we go as I trust for a word in due season and some tools they can use as they lead their own teams.
Focusing on my audience helps the nerves, because it becomes less about me and more about them. Many times, regardless of how much I prepare, once I’m on stage and looking in their eyes I’ll switch up a story or deviate from another aspect of my notes, because I’m sensing what they want or need by seeing their faces. It’s one of the rewards of speaking, realizing even though I may be doing the talking, their listening makes it a conversation.
Speaking is an art everyone can master over time. And focusing on others is what makes it an experience to deeply enjoy.