Speakers, Having Trouble Deciding What All to Talk About?

As a public speaking coach, I often hear presenters say, several days prior to their next scheduled talk, “I’m not sure yet what all I’m going to talk about on the topic.”

This can be a crippling moment that, if it persists, buries a speaker in a hole of frustration. Looking at their indecisiveness, any speaker in this condition knows their planning and rehearsal process is delayed. Their adrenaline stirs, their frustration builds, the clock ticks and butterflies multiply. How do they move forward?

Has this ever happened to you? It has to me, and it happens to most of us speakers as well.

Honing our message is hardest when we are the material expert or extremely attached to our message. In these cases, everything is important to us. Cutting out material feels like dismissing a critical piece. This can lead us to, instead, cover everything we know. And any time we face piles of message content we are naturally overwhelmed with how to organize the pieces and give it a natural flow. This feeling of overwhelm leads us into inaction with planning and practicing aloud our message. And if it overwhelms us

Break down the barriers of overwhelm

We need to let go of the shovel – stop digging. Digging just uncovers more dirt, more pain in deciding what to focus on. Instead, ask yourself, “Why is this important to me?”

Whether we are a speaker or employee, a parent or a friend, we often get buried by dirt of our circumstances. Unreasonable working conditions, detestable duties, last-minute urgency or lack of awareness. Asking ourselves why our role or focus is important helps us put down the shovel, so-to-speak, and reflect on what’s most important.

What’s the importance of any message? From a listener’s point of view, it’s relevance. So after we speakers ask ourselves why a topic is important to us, we then are beholden to think of our listeners and ask, how could what’s important to me be important to them?

All of a sudden, the dirt piled around us begins to shift, and instead of looking at the overwhelming barriers of indecision, we see an opening in the planning process.

What can we now do?

1. Get clear about which aspects of our content are important enough to keep. Scrap the extra and unrelated. Stick with the material that addresses what is most important to us.

2. Provide time and space in your message to address your listeners. Tie what’s important to you to what you believe is important to them.

That’s it. Now we have the substance of our message. It’s in a simple form which gives us a straightforward plan. With a straightforward plan we can readily rehearse our thoughts aloud, observe any holes, and tweak the content.

Easy? Maybe not, if it’s not what you’re used to doing. But will it simplify your planning process? Most definitely. And it will also keep you moving forward, on schedule, giving you the time you want to plan, rehearse and feel good about your message.

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