Speaking in Seconds: How to Prepare for Public Speaking

Okay, maybe not seconds, but pretty close to it. Here's how you can quickly organize ideas into a coherent speech.

Apparently, the little-bits-of-paper-all-over-the-floor trick also works really well when you're preparing speeches. I needed to cram two speeches in less than seven days. "Procrastination" was my entry in the Toastmasters Humorously Speaking area-level contest last Thursday, and "Social bookmarking" was the talk I delivered today and yesterday. I've used this technique to prepare for talks in five minutes, too. =) Good stuff, and quite a lifesaver.

Here's how you can use paper to quickly brainstorm and memorize a speech:

  • Cut paper up into roughly equal-sized rectangles that are the right size for keywords or short quotes.
  • Go through all of your material, scribbling stuff that you might want to include in your speech. Write down one idea per rectangle.
  • Arrange the ideas on the floor or on another large horizontal surface. Move things around until you come up with an outline. Feel free to add or remove ideas.
  • Run through the speech, discarding redundant ideas and adding new ones. Practice until you're happy with the content and organization.
  • (Optional) Reduce the level of detail by covering or keeping some of the rectangles. You may need to add a new rectangle that summarizes three or so rectangles. Keep practicing your speech and reducing the level of detail until you've memorized everything.

I find that physically moving ideas around makes it easy for me to organize speeches. I also love being able to jot down random ideas during the brainstorming phase. I can do that with a computer-based mindmap, I guess, but paper feels faster and freer.

You can do this with little sticky notes as well. Paper is cheaper, but sticky notes are perfect for brainstorming speeches on the road. My favorite portable speech cramming kit consists of a pad of small Post-its and a folder (either a hanging folder or a normal file folder). It's easy to open the folder up and stick Post-it notes all along the inside. This also doubles as your speaking aid. If you peel topics off as you talk about them, then you won't forget to mention anything in your speech--the Post-it notes will remind you!

Good luck with your next speech, and don't forget to have fun!

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Or use Powerpoint...

This is very similar to mys method, only that I usually put one thought on one powerpoint slide and move them around until my speech is ready. Since I usually do speeches and presentation either with an overhead projector or a beamer anyway, this saves me quite a lot of time.

When not near a computer I like to use PocketMod, especially when there's already a list of items I can refer to.

Hope this makes sense.

Moving things around on

Moving things around on paper is far easier for me than moving things around in Powerpoint. Besides, I can go wonderfully non-linear (or even non-hierarchical!) shuffling bits of paper on the floor... =) I find it easier to storyboard on paper, too.

Using the computer too early makes me focus too much on my slides instead of the story I want to tell. Paper works very well for me because it keeps things fast and loose. Turning the scraps of paper into a presentation is quick and easy because I already know the structure of the entire presentation. I can just focus on formatting the presentation nicely. =)

Social bookmarking

Since you delivered a talk about social bookmarking, I thought you might like to check out our new site www.blinklist.com. If you have time to play around with it I would love to hear your thoughts. Mike

The discovery pages are

The discovery pages are pretty cool, and it's certainly much prettier than del.icio.us. =) I'll definitely try this out!

Public Speaking preparation at short notice

I think this is a great tip on how to quickly put together a speech. I like the flexibility of being able to add more detail and aspects with new pieces of paper.