May 1, 2007

The secret to productivity . . . and public speaking?

I was reading Jason Kotecki's blog post yesterday about "the childlike secret to productivity." As I read along, it occurred to me that those are also important keys to successful public speaking.

First, Jason talks about planning. He talks about how kids make plans: they talk about what they want to be when they grow up; they plan for their next day's activities, like building a Lego fort.

I don't think I have to explain in depth how planning helps one become a successful speaker, but the basics of planning include researching your audience so you know what their needs are, visiting your speaking venue in advance, organizing your thoughts and putting them into a useful format for speaker notes. You might also want to check your zipper and make sure you don't have spinach in your teeth. And if you're using technology, you will want to make sure it's working!

Then Jason says, "But don't over-plan."

"The secret that kids can teach us is that they have a definite idea of the MAIN thing they want to accomplish during a day (the thing that will make the most difference), but they leave a lot of air in their schedule for the unexpected things that come up."

As a speaker, this is also relevant. It's important to know what your main points are and to have your knowledge of the topic securely packed away in your brain. Have your opening and closing memorized so you know exactly how you're going to grab your audience and exactly how what you're going to leave them with when you're done.

It's that middle part that ends up being dreary if over-planned and memorized. What if your audience decides they want to go a different direction? What if something amazing comes up in discussion that begs to be addressed? Go there!

Follow your audience's lead and they will tell you where they want to go. If you have a solid foundation of knowledge and experience in your topic, you will find that you're still able to share the information you wanted to share, but you will also meet the needs of your audience, which is the whole point of any presentation.

Finally, Jason says, "Mind your passion."

"Kids mind their passion. They do things that excite them, things that are interesting, and fun. Being a 'grown-up' means we sometimes have to do things that aren’t always pleasant, but it doesn’t mean we have to chuck our passions out the window."

As a speaker, if you're not passionate about what you're doing, you will not succeed. Your audience won't connect with you or relate to you, your material will lie there, flat and lifeless, and your presentation will be forgotten shortly after the audience leaves the room. It doesn't matter if your topic is highly technical or full of financial data - what are you trying to accomplish?

Every speaker is trying to get their audience to "do" something. And every audience wants to be persuaded. Maybe you're trying to get them to change a behavior; maybe you're trying to get them to invest in a project or an idea; maybe you want them to feel good about something they've already done. Your passion and enthusiasm for helping your audience get where they already want to go is what should drive you, and it's what will inspire them.

Take Jason's advice to heart: "The BEST way to be truly productive is to be working on something that inspires the heck out of you in the first place." Apply these suggestions to your speaking and you will find yourself both productive and effective!

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2 comments. Please add yours! :

Rowan Manahan said...

Yes, yes, yes!

The combination of throw-yourself-into-it-with-headlong-abandon passion that kids bring to just about everything; along with their egoless ability to change tacks in an instant and dump an approach that isn't working as well as it might.

If only adults could bring that glorious freshness to their lives more often - especially when standing in front of an audience.

You just can't fake twinkly eyes ...

Lisa Braithwaite said...

"egoless ability to change tacks in an instant and dump an approach that isn't working as well as it might" . . . that is so true!

Something I learned in grad school, actually: be prepared, but also be prepared to throw everything out the window if the audience wants something else!

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