Why Preparation is Overrated

I'm feeling spicy this morning, so allow me to make a blasphemous claim about my industry:

When it comes to public speaking, preparation is good, but technique is better.

Now, am I saying you should wing your TEDTalk? Absolutely not. 

But, I do think most of us are over-emphasizing the importance of “preparation.” (Or, at the very least, we’re defining “preparation” wrong. 

You’d be amazed how many times a week I play out some version of this scene: 

Future Client: I’m not bad at public speaking, as long as I have time to prepare.

Me: Okay, great! How often do you feel like you’re given adequate time to prepare? 

Future Client: …almost never.   

And therein lies the problem with relying on “preparation” when it comes to public speaking. 

If you define “preparation” as spending hours outlining, drafting things out word for word, memorizing, and rehearsing in front of a mirror, you’re severely limiting the amount of opportunities you can say “yes” to. 

Think about it: If the key to your public speaking success lies in the hours you spend rehearsing, what are you going to do when offered a last minute opportunity to speak in front of your ideal audience? 

And here’s the thing, the more you move up that corporate ladder or grow your business, the more those sorts of opportunities are going to pop up. 

Preparation isn’t scalable –Technique is. 

This is why I encourage all my clients to spend less time memorizing, and more time honing the impromptu speaking skills needed to be effective on the fly. 

To spend less time practicing a particular speech in front of a mirror, and more time learning the foundations of voicework and body language that they can apply to any upcoming speech.  

To spend less time writing multiple drafts of the same ineffective story, and more time learning the science of story, so they can reliably craft a persuasive story at a moment’s notice. 

You don’t need to practice more. You just need to practice more effectively. 

When you start focusing on building technique instead of rote preparation, an amazing thing starts to happen. Not only do you spend less time preparing, but you actually end up feeling more prepared

Summer is almost here. Here’s hoping we can all find ways to be more efficient about our professional development goals, so we can spend more time soaking in some summer fun! 

If you’re ready to make the shift from preparation to technique, but don’t know where to start, I encourage you to set up a complimentary Public Speaking Strategy Session with me! I have a couple spots remaining on my summer coaching roster and I’d love to save you one if you’re ready to work smarter, not harder. :)

Photograph of Sara Glancy on stairs
Headshot by Jessica Osber.

Sara Glancy is an NYC-based actor and public speaking coach and the founder of Speak Masterfully, a service that helps professionals take the stage with less fear and more fun! 

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Apply this basic outline to any speaking engagement to feel twice as prepared in half the time

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