public speaking podcast
public speaking with peter george podcast

QuickBite: How Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Presentations

What do you think about preparation?


Well, I don’t know about you, but I wasn’t a fan. Why? Oh, let me count the ways …

  1. It’s time consuming … I have a lot to do, and preparation for those things takes up precious time.
  2. It’s not fun … Let’s face it. It can be pretty boring.
  3. It’s not the sexy part of anything, especially public speaking … I want to get to the exciting part of things, and preparation just isn’t it!


I remember exactly where I was when I first heard the assertion, “Proper preparation prevents poor performance.” Nothing but a cute tongue-twister,” I thought.


Nope … I had no use for preparation. And, just like the gambler who speaks often of their winnings, but doesn’t share the amount of money they lost at the blackjack tables, I could rattle off several times when I had been successful without first preparing. But what I wasn’t quick to admit were the times when my lack of preparation left me far short of the success I was striving for.


And when I’m speaking to a group, what is it that I am striving for? Perhaps it’s to inform them, challenge them, inspire or motivate them. It really depends on the particular audience. But before I can decide on any of these purposes, I need to do some research.


This research includes speaking to the organizer of the event and even to some of the expected attendees. I want to know what they want and need, the kind of presentation they expect (as in more formal or lighter), what their experience was with a previous speaker.


I might also want to know the demographics, the culture of the organization, how much information is too little or too much.


It’s only after I’ve done the appropriate research do I begin the next step of preparation, crafting my presentation. And crafting my presentation is not the end … not … even … close. I then decide if I’m going to use slides or props. And only after those are set do I get to rehearse, revise, and repeat.


Yes, things have changed over the years. I now embraced preparation and have tremendous respect for it.


If you’re not sold on the value of preparation, take it from Ken Haemer who summed it up nicely when he said, “Designing a presentation without the audience in mind is like writing a love letter and addressing it, ‘To Whom It May Concern.’”