A great talk of any sort — a speech or presentation — requires preparation. No surprise there. It takes time and effort to plan and craft an effective presentation.
I’ve written about strategies and techniques for preparing a presentation elsewhere. Check out How to Prepare a Presentation or How to Plan a Speech or How to Plan a Technical Presentation or even How to Plan an Oral Proposal.
But that type of preparation — the kind you undertake in hours, days, or weeks before your presentation — is just one phase or, more accurately, the final phase of speech preparation.
There are actually three phases of speech preparation:
Phase 1: Prepare Yourself to be a Person Worth Listening To
Even though you are not and should not be the focus of your speech, you are the message. Everything about you — everything you are and do and say — shapes what people hear when you speak.
Your personal qualities — your character, personality, experience, expertise, knowledge, values, insight, thoughtfulness, sensitivity, and even your sense of humor — determine the quality of your speaking.
Do you want to prepare a good speech? First, make yourself a person worth listening to.
Phase 2: Prepare Yourself as a Speaker
Speaking is a complex skill, requiring knowledge (how do you prepare a speech) and expertise (how do you deliver a speech). And like any complex skill it requires study, coaching, and practice.
You can’t simply throw something together, stand up, and speak. (Well, of course you can do that. Many people do it all the time. But the result will be an awful, embarrassing mess.)
You can’t simply take a one- or two-day training course. That’s a good start, but it’s only a start.
You have to learn the basics of speaking (both the theory and the practice), practice what you’ve learned, and get effective coaching. (That’s one reason I recommend Toastmasters.)
Here’s something else you might want to consider. Start collecting material now that you may use later in a speech or presentation. I keep a collection (on my computer and in a box of 3 by 5 cards) of stories, anecdotes, interesting facts, references, citations, studies, and quotations related to the subjects I talk about.
Do you want to prepare a good speech? Make yourself a good speaker.
Phase 3: Prepare the Speech
I won’t go into details here, since so many others and I, myself, have developed so many resources to help you. (See above.) But remember, the adage “Failing to plan is planning to fail” applies to speeches and presentations in spades.