Subject Matters: Why speaking publicly is all about preparation

When you think of public speaking, chances are you feel a little flustered. You start to get sweaty palms and you want absolutely nothing to do the idea of standing in front of an audience, whether you know them or not, and deliver a speech that needs to knock them dead, when that’s exactly what you’d rather be when it comes to public speaking.

Fear not, however, as even the most exceptional public speakers don’t deviate from one golden rule as it relates to that ability, just the way a person who hasn’t done it or isn’t good at it whatsoever.

That is preparation and subject matter, and how they work as one to achieve the best possible speech, even if you’re not in your wheelhouse of comfortability.

If you’re tasked to speak publicly, the first question you want to ask if who your audience is. Are you speaking to colleagues in the same department that you work in? Is this an audience of your superiors, who want to know how the latest and greatest project is coming along? Is this a group of people who you’re trying to sell on a product, service or merger.

Knowing what you’re walking into makes the structure of the speech and speaking engagement all the more relevant to the subject matter and how you’re going to frame what you’re saying.

If you’re talking to people you don’t know and you want to sell them in your direction as a company, you might want to steer clear of industry jargon or interoffice jokes. No one cares if Ted is a chatty, water cooler talker; that might be a better joke for the speech that happens with your peers.

The trick to the speech itself is not going to far overboard with the laugh factor, but not having a droning, uninteresting speech because your topic matter is there but you lack examples or anecdotes that help draw conclusions for whomever your audience might be.

Finally, if you’re not practicing, you’re not trying, and that goes for everyone who has to speak publicly. Whether you’re standing in front of a mirror or just go over your note cards in the privacy of your own home, in the office or just before you go out to speak, the practice element is often overlooked because you might know your subject matter and audience, and decide that practicing won’t make perfect.

That thought, along with ignoring preparation in total, is only going to lead to a poor performance and more trepidation the next time public speaking is brought up.