If you want to persuade, there is no such thing as ad hoc delivery
Updated: Jul 18, 2022
Have you ever been asked to do a talk/keynote/presentation, and felt like you don't have enough time to prepare properly? Or that you don't really know what to say, or how to structure it? Perhaps you sent an email to a colleague, asking for "some slides" to solve your problem?
What keeps on surprising me, over and over again, is why leaders don't take the time to prepare their message and the delivery properly. It's a wasted opportunity to really make the maximum impact.
As a professional speaker within artificial intelligence, I do quite a few talks in various formats about a handful of sub-topics. I have a structured methodology for how to plan and prepare a speech, lecture, keynote, or pitch. This is not a talent that was magically bestowed upon me by birth. On the contrary, it's a set of consciously trained skills, and anyone can aqcuire these skills with practice and focus. Here's a short summary.
Before any keynote, I think through three key questions to define my audience, purpose, and main message.
Then I start my creative process. Sometimes I need to read relevant material. I take my dog walking in the forest, and I let my brain play around with the material. I write down all ideas that are reasonably meaningful. Funny content gets special attention.
I have a structured method for creating the storyline; based on the preparatory reflections and the creative inputs, I then build my storyline according to the theory of rhetoric for persuasive messages.
For some keynotes, like the speaker contest, I write a manuscript. Basically, the shorter the talk and the larger the stage, the more efforts I put into the manuscript.
When my storyline is ready, I build my visual support, aka PPT images. But only then, not before.
MEMORIZATION AND REHEARSAL
Next step is to memorize the content. I never use notes or cue cards on stage.
Finally, I rehearse the talk. How much I rehearse depends on the context. For large audiences and short talks, I rehearse more. For small audiences and longer talks, I primarily rehearse selected components.
THE DEVIL IS IN THE DETAILS
Numerous books have been written about each of the phases above. A fair share of the theory even dates back to the Greek and Roman philisophers, politicians, and scholars. My favourite quote is from Marcus Tullius Cicero, "If you wish to persuade me, you must think my thoughts, feel my feelings, and speak my words".
Are you ready to go that extra mile to make your messages persuasive?