Want to be a Better Public Speaker? Don’t Shirk the Work

Eleni Kelakos presentation skills training, public speaking training, speech coaching

In the space of one week, three of my presentation skills training clients gave critical, public, high-stakes presentations.  After they delivered those presentations, they emailed, called or texted me, triumphant. “I killed it!” was the basic theme of each of their messages.

I was thrilled that they’d had such success with their presentations. But I wasn’t surprised. Because each of them had done whatever it took to be fully prepared to give their presentations.

They didn’t shirk the work.

Client number one, a high-level sales executive and budding motivational speaker, worked with me on turning his harrowing but victorious battle with cancer into a powerful, moving and effective signature keynote.  We worked on fashioning and honing his presentation for the better part of nine months (yes, nine months).  Once we nailed down the foundation and flesh of the presentation, we focused on his delivery.  An extraordinarily busy guy, my client managed to get up at 5am on weekday mornings to rehearse his presentation so he could get to the point where he could ditch his notes and give a relaxed, relatable performance at the big, international conference he spoke at last week.

Client number two, the owner of a very successful line of businesses, worked with me for at least a dozen hours over multiple sessions putting together and rehearsing a TedX talk that told her unique story compellingly and authentically. In between our meetings, she worked on her presentation, finessing draft after draft, and walking around her office speaking it out loud.  Even when she experienced the inevitable challenges of the creative process, she soldiered on, experiencing breakthroughs that made her presentation even more powerful and effective.

Client number three, a passionate, visionary, building developer was suddenly slotted to give a five-minute talk at an event his company was chosen to host on behalf of a high-level politician. Due to the last-minute nature of the event, my client had less than a week to put together one of the most important public speeches of his life. Seeing this as a positive challenge, he leaped into sessions with me, spending multiple hours massaging together five powerful, inspiring minutes.  Together, we finessed the theme and content of the presentation; and then he rehearsed it over and over and over again, until he knew it inside out.  As a result, he was relaxed and ready, his passionate delivery even moving the high-level politician to exclaim “how could that speech not get you excited?”

These three speakers understood that creating and delivering an effective presentation is heck of a lot of work.  And though they might have been tempted to shirk the work– to avoid the time and effort it takes to get a presentation right (or, more specifically, to not get it wrong)– they understood that there is no short cut to excellence. And so they jumped into the process and gave it everything they had.

What about you?  Do you take the process of creating and delivering an important presentation seriously, giving it the time and attention it deserves? Or are you constantly looking for ways to squiggle out of doing the hard, focused work your presentation needs to be truly effective?

If you really want to knock your talk out of the park, don’t shirk the work.  Do what it takes to build, rehearse and internalize your presentation, so you can honor your audience with the best of you.