Do You Have the Will to Prepare to Win?
The legendary coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide football team, Paul “Bear” Bryant, winner of six national collegiate football championships, once said, ““It’s not the will to win that matters – everyone has that. It’s the will to prepare to win that matters.” Do you have the will to prepare to win?
The will to prepare to win. What does this have to do with public speaking in your career? Everything!
Over my long engineering career, I have seen many technical people prepare for presentations like this – develop the Powerpoint slides right up to the time before the presentation and then deliver the presentation. They then wonder why the presentation missed the mark.
They are making a fundamental mistake that the vast majority of technical speakers make. The presentation is not just the slides. The slides support the presentation, not the other way around. The delivery is the presentation because that is what the audience sees, hears, and feels.
The problem is very few technical presenters take the time to practice the delivery of the presentation which is what will have impact with the audience. The first step is realizing that you need to practice presentation delivery.
Below are three tips to aid you greatly in practicing your presentation delivery.
(1) Speak ideas and not words . Now what do I mean by this? I prepare my presentations by writing bullets of ideas instead of full sentences and paragraphs. I try to make the bullets as short as possible so I will not be tempted to read them while at the same time making the bullets long enough so I can remember the thought I want to express.
Some presenters want to start with writing complete sentences and paragraphs and that is fine as long as this is just a start. If those complete sentences and paragraphs are not turned into bullets before you finish practicing your delivery, you will be strongly tempted to recite the exact words you have written. Reciting exact words usually leads to speaking in a monotone which will be very boring to your audience.
(2) Practice your presentation delivery by yourself in front of a mirror . You may feel uncomfortable doing this, but you will quickly see first-hand all the annoying gestures, ticks, and mannerisms you do when you are presenting. Jettison these annoying parts of your delivery as quickly as you can.
Practicing your presentation in front of a mirror also allows you to practice meaningful and relevant gestures. Body language is a large part of your communicating with your audience. If you do not use gestures and other body language in your presentation delivery, you will be missing an opportunity to emphasize different parts of your speech.
(3) Now comes the part that is sometimes frightening. Practice your presentation in front of a live audience of trusted colleagues and friends . I say trusted, because you do not want them to say your presentation is great if it is not. Suggest the “sandwich” method of evaluation to your audience in this situation. Have each one of your practice audience members say something positive about your talk, something you can improve, and then something motivational to encourage you to improve your delivery.
Remember, your will to prepare to win includes practicing your presentation delivery speaking ideas and not words, practicing in front of a mirror, and, finally, practicing in front of trusted colleagues and friends.
There is no sure thing in this world, but practicing your delivery comes very close to a sure thing because the payoff of a great presentation delivery is worth it.
“If you have an important point to make, don’t try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time – a tremendous whack.”
– Winston Churchill