Are you ramping up for a return to in-person speaking? There’s nothing quite like standing in front of an auditorium of attendees and engaging them with informative, thoughtful, and humorous discourse.
As your speaking date nears, the prep work should start. Organizing your notes, collecting relevant anecdotes, and getting your timing down are musts. The rest of it, such as obsessing over optics and how you come across? Not so much.
You want to be ready when it’s your turn at the lectern, but overpreparing does no one any good going into an important presentation. Here are four staples from your speaking-prep routine that you should drop:
1. Obsessing about your appearance.
Although the information people share gets them in the room, many presenters spend just as much time — if not more — on their “look” than the actual speech. But when prioritizing one over the other, focus on authenticity instead of aesthetics.
Link your facial expressions with what you’re saying. If it’s a sad anecdote, sell it with your face. If it’s a joke or a funny story, smile! As for clothes, hair, and makeup, keep things simple. Cosmetic Solutions director of marketing, Courtney Regan, spoke on the emergence of “skinimalism,” a movement focused on streamlining skincare routines.
“Skinimalism is all about loving the skin you’re in rather than trying to cover any imperfections,” Regan writes. “That puts a focus on lightweight products that let skin shine through (think tinted SPF and glowy serums).”
2. Memorizing your material.
Think macro instead of micro when it comes to your speech’s content. Focus less on memorizing every word, comma pause, or sentence of your speech and more on the substance and intent.
The ideas and big-picture takeaways are what listeners will remember most, not that you said “a” instead of “an” or used too many “ums.” Stumbling over a word or two here and there is fine. In fact, it’s a way to help you reset and make yourself more relatable to your audience.
Memorize the intended impact of your speech. Once you do, a few flubbed words won’t be so detrimental.
3. Leaving your lane.
What expertise are you bringing to the discussion? Is the chat on graphic design? Then put together a killer slide deck with evocative imagery. If you’re a programmer, however, that step isn’t necessary.
In a bigger sense, don’t prepare to bring something to the table that’s totally out of your wheelhouse. That’s only going to overwork you during the prep process and distract you from the focus of the entire presentation.
Superfluous add-ons like using a T-shirt cannon or choreographing a TikTok dance shouldn’t concern you. Save the time you’d devote to such ideas by doubling down on what you do well and letting it shine through your speech.
4. Trying to seem too poised.
Some people wear the distinction “all business” as a badge of honor.It paints wearers as someone who is always up for the task and never has to get ready because they stay ready.
That level of poise can be invaluable. But understanding the need to show a human side matters even more. Because while the audience will remember your words, the feeling you leave them with is just as lasting.
It’s one of the reasons I ask my son to greet the audience at the end of my talks. It allows me to focus on the substance of my presentation without interruption, then enables me to end with a personal touch for those in attendance. That peek into my private life shows there’s a three-dimensional person behind the presenter.
In-person discussions are a prime time to connect with an engaged and inquisitive group of listeners. As you ready yourself for your next encounter, don’t overdo it. Stay focused on what you do well and put it across in a credible and consistent manner. That’s something your audience won’t soon forget.