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Recognize That You Cannot Plan Your Emotions

People asked me in the weeks leading up to my daughter Allie’s wedding…

Are you ready for your Father of the Bride speech? Do you think you will cry that day?

I couldn’t honestly answer these questions because how could I possibly know? Until you experience things in life there is simply no way to know how you will react emotionally.

I remember back when our first child Brett was born. Prior to his birth people kept saying how it would be incredible how much I would love my children. I couldn’t relate at all to what they were saying. And then he was born, and BOOM I completely understood.

Anyway, for full disclosure, I cried like a baby when I first saw Allie in her hotel room in her wedding dress. No way I could have seen that coming. One second I was thinking, oh cool, I am going to see how she looks, and the next second I wasn’t thinking about anything because I was so overwhelmed at actually experiencing seeing her and how beautiful she looked. I also cried my eyes out when we did the Father-bride dance. And then I got choked up multiple times when I was delivering the speech/toast.

Typically, when I am delivering a key-note speech or doing a training seminar, I know exactly what I am going to feel like when I am doing it. I’ve done it so many times that I don’t worry about my butterflies prior to getting started, because I know that once I start, my butterflies will fly in the right direction and things will be fine. Because I always prepare to the max.

From Cowering in the Kitchen to Stages of Thousands

For you to have context for how effective what I am sharing will be for you, it’s important to know where I come from on this…

Back in 1989 I started my first business from home. As part of the blueprint I was following to build that business, doing a presentation for prospects on a consistent basis was a key piece to the build. This meant that I had to speak in front of people.

Oh my, this was about the worst thing I could have to do (aside from prospecting, which was another massive challenge for me). You see, as a natural introvert with a very low-self-opinion of myself, I had an incredible fear of speaking in public. I’m not just talking about in front of groups either…that is the obvious one. I mean ANY kind of public. If I am with people in general, aside from people I know VERY well, it is my inclination to not speak at all and this is still true right now.

Anyway, in June of 1989 I had my first “presentation.” I had my flip chart all set up in our dining room and my only attendee was sitting in the living room (our apartment was so small that this was how it had to be done). Meanwhile, I was in the kitchen cowering in fear. Sweat was pouring down my face. I couldn’t believe I was actually going to go through with this! But I did. And as horrible as it was, I lived through it.

I did hundreds of these and eventually was taking small parts of bigger presentations at event venues. And I felt the same way before all of them and struggled mightily during all of them until one day, suddenly I didn’t. Oh, I still was fearful before each one, but through facing the fear, and preparing, I eventually came to understand that once I was in the moment things would be okay. Eventually I reached the point where thousands of people would pay to come here me speak all day. Something I never could have imagined and still have a hard time believing.

You’ll Rarely Regret Over-preparing and You’ll Always Regret Being Under-prepared

I learned long ago, that the key to engaging in life, and fully experiencing things, is being in the moment. This is also true when you are addressing a group. You cannot be in the moment if you are worried about remembering what you are going to say. You have to prepare to the point where you can trust that you will say what needs to be said, so that you can be fully in the experience, and so you can also say what feels right in the moment.

You know how I learned this?

By being under-prepared once. ONCE. That was such a horrible experience for me and everyone who had to endure my babbling, that it has never happened since. Now I prepare to the degree that I am certain that I OVER prepare. And it’s worth it.

In the case of Allie’s wedding, I couldn’t tell you exactly what I said. I only know that my daughter was happy about it. I can tell you that it was the hardest talk I ever gave because it was very difficult to keep my composure, and a few times I couldn’t.

But I was as prepared as I could be. I knew whatever ended up coming out of my mouth would be from my heart and honoring because I had prepared. Even if I wasn’t sure what the actual words might be in the moment, and I can tell you (even though I haven’t seen a video of it) that I definitely said several things that were not in my prior thoughts.

Once You are in the Moment it’s too Late to Prepare

I think I have emphasized this enough, so now I’ll give you a few nuggets for how to prepare for any type of talk so that you can be effective. This will serve you in business, and may help you if you ever have to do something similar to what I just did.

Start early. Don’t wait until the week of the event to begin thinking about it. Pressure in your mind will be intense enough without adding time pressure to it. As soon as I book an engagement to speak or teach, I set a time at minimum a month ahead to begin collecting my thoughts and ideas. Typically, I book things farther in advance than that, so accordingly, I begin more than a month ahead.

Brainstorm. I do this rather chaotically on a single sheet a paper. When you do this, write down anything that may have relevance. Ideas, topics, quotes, stories, whatever you MIGHT want to use. Don’t think about whether it’s good or not. That comes later. Just get it all onto a sheet of paper or two. I usually have this page running for several days.

Create an Outline. Once I have collected lots of content ideas, I create a basic outline that encompasses the most important points I want to deliver. Important to note here…in a training session I will use notes anyway, so the preparation time will actually be less than a key-note type that is an hour or less where I will not use any notes. This outline essentially is what you want etched in your brain because once you own this in your mind, and have prepped the content inside the outline, you can freely engage your audience inside the framework of the outline and have the freedom to be in the moment, adjust to the environment, add new thoughts or tangents, etc.

Open and Close. There are plenty of guidelines out there for the beginning and end. I make this easy. I thank people for allowing me to be with them in my open, and I thank them again at the end. That’s me. There are lots of other strategies….those aren’t me. I’m not interested in dazzling you with a brilliant opening or close. I’m focused on connecting with you in the process of the event. No canned stuff. Obviously in a sales environment, there would be a more structured close, and I teach that, but that’s not relevant here.

A Few Minutes a Day. Once you have the outline and the content you want in between the main points, just take 5-10 minutes per day to go over it at first. Obviously, if your talk will be an hour, you will eventually need to do the whole talk multiple times out loud, but just visit the content daily to get it imprinted in your brain.

Record yourself and listen. For key-notes, the first time I practice out loud, I will record it on my phone. Then I will listen to it when I go for a walk or something. This helps to notice what feels right and what doesn’t and it also serves to further sink it in. If something is two months from now, my first recorded run will be about 6 weeks from the event, and I will do it again 2 more times. I do not focus in practice on anything but the core content so that I can be free to be spontaneous during the talk.

When the day comes to do your thing, give your notes a glance in the morning, and then set it aside until it’s time. Whatever event you will be speaking at, BE in the event. Feel the vibration of the people and when it’s your time to talk, trust that you are prepared and meld into the room.

You will end up speaking from the heart, experiencing the moment, engaging the crowd, and touching the audience. This wasn’t meant to be a “How-to” for presentations and speeches in general, but just to help you a little.

Depending on what type of talk or presentation you are doing there are many other things that need to be considered. This is something I consult/coach for those who need the help. However, if you are just doing something from time to time and don’t care to develop the speaking skill, then this little template will serve you just fine.

If this was helpful for you, please spread the love and share.

If you need some Coaching, or Training for your organization, reach out to me.

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Many Blessings, Todd

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