What to stop and what to start doing to be a better speaker, no matter who you’re talking to.

I walked out of the conference room and straight to the hotel bar.”

Clearly, things didn’t go well for Ann.

She’s a senior VP of an employee benefits firm, self-proclaimed anxious speaker, and a recovering perfectionist.

She was venting to me about a conference she recently spoke at.

It wasn’t supposed to be a big deal; they just wanted me to talk for a few minutes. I prepped as much as I could.  I  just didn’t have time because of everything else on my plate.”

But when she got in front of the group, she lost her train of thought, stumbled over the key points she wanted to make and finally ended with a murmured “well that’s it… thanks”.

I was so deflated. I know I can do better than that.” 

So, I asked her “What did you do to prepare?”

She told me she’d jotted down a few notes the day before and ran through what she was going to say “in her head” a few times.

I’m just so busy. I don’t have time to practice.”

Sound familiar?

Happened to you before?

I’ll tell you the same thing that I told Ann, with love, prepping in your head doesn’t work.

I know… I know…you’re great at visualizing how things will go in the moment.

You can picture everything that might happen.

You can hear yourself saying precisely what you want to say.

You see yourself answering hard questions, cool as a cucumber.

I mean, technically you speak all the time, right?

But can you tell me the last time you spoke, without practicing, that everything went according to your well crafted mental plan?

(Didn’t think so.)

You’ve got to stop prepping in your head.

Look, if all we needed to was prep in our heads to be good at something, then we all should be Olympic athletes, billionaires, CEOs, etc. by now right?

If you want to be a better speaker start practicing what you’re going to say.

Out loud, in front of other people, as much as possible before you need to say it for real.

There’s no substitute.

No magic formula.

If speaking well matters to you, start practicing.

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