My process for preparing for public speaking hasn’t changed much in 30 years.
First, I make sure I know what I’m talking about in general. It seems like lots of people skip this step, but I try not to end up in situations where I’m required to pontificate at length about topics of total ignorance for me. I truly enjoy speaking in front of groups, but I keep it to topics where my knowledge is both broad and deep.
Next, I bullet out my major points. Just to keep me on track, I make sure which core concepts I want to cover. If I want a reminder of a particular anecdote or analogy, I’ll jot one down, but usually I don’t write more than that in advance.
Then I’ll put down time blocks for each concept; how long to talk on each point before moving on.
Sometimes, right before a talk begins, I’ll get this small pang of anxiety – “What if my preparation was insufficient, and I’m not able to think of enough to say?”
I have this moment of anxiety despite the fact that this has never once happened to me in 30+ years.
The exact opposite problem is frequently the case. I have to check myself to make sure I don’t run over, ramble or digress. Despite the fact that this is something I almost always have to actively plan against, I have never once felt anxious about it the way I sometimes feel anxious about a problem that has literally never manifested.
I wonder why that is? Are my anxieties reflections not of what I think is likely to happen, but of what I haven’t prepared for?