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  • Writer's pictureKathy O'Brien

When You Don’t Have Time to Prepare

We all know preparation is key for a successful spotlight moment. Assemble great content, practice your delivery, and reap the benefits as you step onstage.

But sometimes, we simply don’t prepare the way we should. We know what to do, but the pace of life saps our time and suddenly the day has arrived.

Maybe it’s a panel you agreed to or a townhall you’re leading. Maybe you’re a last-minute stand-in at an industry conference. Sure, you know your subject matter; but is that enough for you to turn this opportunity into a successful ‘spotlight moment’?

The answer is yes. And the key is not, as you may be thinking, to suddenly memorise a bunch of facts or study your speech intensively.

One step to dramatically boost your chance of success is to step into the mindset of the audience. Do a mental walk-through (better yet, an out-loud talk-through) of what this audience wants, expects and cares about. Form complete statements. For example:

  • My audience is concerned about diversity & inclusion.

  • They want to know how to bring more D&I to their senior management teams.

  • They’re under pressure from investors, employees and regulators to do the right thing.

  • They need tangible steps they can enact quickly.

  • They want to hear specific examples of D&I successes.

  • There’s a lot of information at this conference, so they want to hear stories they can remember easily.

These statements consciously guide you to sync up with your audience. In so doing, you channel your entire physiology to speak to this audience.

Here are some examples of speaking to the audience:

  • You’re a consultant working with many industries. For a conference of Thai accountants, you select examples of clients who are also Thai accountants, or perhaps finance professionals in Thailand, or accountants working for a Thai company abroad.

  • As the CEO leading a townhall, you recall praiseworthy behaviour you observed among frontline team members.

  • In a panel on digital innovation, you cite your company’s most recent innovations and emphasise how technology contributed to success.

  • To a group of lawyers, you consciously say ‘your firm’s client engagements’ instead of ‘your company’s customers’ to match the audience’s nomenclature.

Now that you’re in sync with this audience’s concerns, needs and expectations, you will tap your deep database of insights to share authentically. Your primed mind will access the best data in your database for this topic and this audience – naturally.

You can do this exercise with the absolute bare minimum of time. Even if you are already en route to your appearance, you can complete this audience mindset walk-through in less than five minutes.

Of course, with more time, you can go farther. Plan your opener to seize the audience’s attention from the start. Choose specific vignettes you’re keen to share. Craft a few soundbite-y statements that the audience will quote. Prepare a closer that will echo in their minds long after you step off the stage.

Retain the confidence that your brain will continue this constructive pattern once you go into presentation mode. And stay focused on speaking to this audience.

A final note to ensure this just-in-time process serves you well. At the very start of this exercise, take a deep breath and let it out very slowly. At the end of your mental walk-through, take another deep breath. And as you exhale, picture yourself succeeding. Freeze frame. And go.


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