I imagine you feel more comfortable improvising because you know your subject very well and you don’t want to sound stiff or wrote. Does this sound right? I get it. But hear me out… I am a seasoned improviser and performer who teaches public speaking and presentation skills and I am here to tell you that, “practice, practice, practice” is about the best advice you can get and about the best gift you can give yourself when it comes to putting together that presentation or pitch.
I felt compelled to write about this subject because a few weeks ago I had the honor of delivering a talk for a wellness summit hosted on Clubhouse — an audio app where you gather in a room in real-time with folx from around the globe. It’s a pretty magical app when it comes to a diverse reach and making genuine connections. It also has its shadow side, but this is not that article.
So, I did that thing. You know, the procrastination game where I waited until the last minute to put my talk together. Why, because I am a confident improviser and speaker with a lot going on and, unfortunately, my “busy” schedule and yes, ego, unconsciously got the best of me!
There I was, just minutes away from speaking with a somewhat fleshed-out story, a few key points, and no real end in mind.
But I am an expert in my field so I should be fine, right? Wrong.
When the moderator of the room called my name, I did a warm welcome and then began. I started with my story about a time when I experienced severe anxiety on stage all while pacing back and forth in my bedroom as I spoke. Words kept pouring out of my mouth as I tried to tie everything together into a pretty little speech bow that never quite came together. Was the talk a failure? No. Was it impactful? Who the heck knows? Were my objectives clear? Not really.
What I failed to do was give my talk the attention it needed to serve my audience in a way that they deserved.
It is our job as experts in our field to add value, to inspire, to motivate, to educate, and to serve those that have taken the time to show up and listen. So the next time you have a talk or presentation to give, please don’t rely on your improv skills or the slides that accompany your presentation. Yes, you may know your subject really well but that does not mean you can necessarily deliver it in a way where the audience will walk away feeling inspired or informed. I often share with my clients, “The tighter the container, the more room there is for formlessness.” Meaning, it is hard to connect and be adaptable when there is no clear, understood, and practiced structure in place.
My invitation to you and for myself — the next time you have a presentation to give, take the time to learn and know your material remarkably well so you can spend more time connecting with your audience, providing value, and delivering the talk they deserve.
👉If you would like resources for how to practice for your next presentation, please don’t hesitate to reach out. I am happy to share.