Sounds awesome! But workshop it!

I’ve been spending a lot of my time lately developing my keynote. And like with all things, building it from the scratch takes a lot of time and effort. On top of that, I’m working on two versions of a keynote so that I don’t get bored delivering the same thing over and over again. (I know this isn’t the best practice but I believe the best practice is what works for you.)

One of the most popular recommendations for developing keynotes, speeches, presentations is rehearsing and practicing. And like most speakers, I hate it! (I haven’t found a single professional speaker who loves to rehearse. But all do like ‘having rehearsed’ their speeches.) That said, delivering a talk is a massive responsibility and rehearsing is the only way to deliver value while being respectful of their time.

There’s however one strategy that I personally use to practice my keynotes without putting in the time to rehearse. It’s pretty simple — I seek opportunities to speak at clubs, meet-ups, office and at any stage that can benefit from my message. Of course, I don’t get to rehearse the whole thing at one go but keynotes are modular, allowing me to practice delivering one module at at time. This tactic allows me to workshop my modules one at a time by taking in feedback and observing the audience’s reactions.

It’s a much hands-on approach than toiling hours to practice all by yourself. I’m not saying you should totally let go of that habit but to use time constructively. You can work off of your outline while practicing to ensure that you’re comfortable with the structure of your speech. But anything else is basically an overkill.

This is exactly how stand-up comedians workshop their content. They get a hang of their outlines and use opportunities (that last from 5-7 minutes, sometimes less) to refine their content. And guess what? It’s free for the audience — they get entertained (value) and don’t have a reason to complain for a free stand-up bit. What’s the worst that could happen? It’ll suck. But now that you know it sucks, you’ll work on it some more and show up somewhere else to observe how the audience reacts to the newly polished material.

Of course, this might not work for everyone. Some people want to be absolutely sure about what they’re going to say before they address their audience. Get feedback, go home, tweak their bit, practice the whole thing, and deliver the brand new whole thing again. The loop’s never-ending until they’ve got the ‘perfect’ version. I don’t find it productive for my liking because I like to keep my keynotes a little less polished because that’s what raw and authentic means to me.

This tactic, however, has worked for some of the best comics and keynoters (some of whom I know) of all time. Worth giving it a try if your presentation/keynote is due soon.

Good luck!

By Sunil Nair

Nurturing leaders of tomorrow.

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