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Two words: Research and Practice

Once you have your topic selected and have laid out your preparation time schedule, get busy on your research. It may be that you start out with a broad look at a particular subject and through your research cycle you narrow it down to a portion of what you were originally considering to give it depth and keep within time limits. This is often a good approach to take. You will want to complete your research and then do a rough outline of your talk on paper so you can get a good look at it. Leave enough space to go back and insert whatever you need in various places to beef it up. Then transpose your outline onto index cards. You will use these cards extensively for practice and then take them to the podium when you make your address as a security blanket or a crutch. Do not plan on using them extensively as you talk. This just indicates that you are not properly prepared. Avoid extensive use of statistics and quotes. Used sparingly they can give your talk credibility. Used extensively they can be very boring to your audience. An anecdote or short story and a little humor, if appropriate, can maintain interest. Just prepare yourself so as not to be emotionally destroyed if no one laughs at your attempted humor. It may have been enough to make them smile on the inside.

Once you have your topic narrowed down and your research complete, the over-riding and dominant concern should be practicing your talk. Lock yourself in your bathroom or bedroom and rehearse in front of a mirror. You'll feel very stupid and self-conscious at first, but you'll come along. If this kind of practice really bothers you, go find a remote place in a park or somewhere where you can be alone and practice without the mirror using your note cards until you can talk through your presentation without long pauses and frequent stops to look at your notes. Confidence comes from knowing your subject and your notes so well that you don't need to use them much. When you reach this point you may want to go back in front of the mirror and work on it some more. Taking the time to practice talking through your presentation over and over builds your confidence and settles your nerves. It works.


Last Updated: 08/20/2013

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