How To Give A Talk In One Month

Approximately 3 out of 4 people are afraid of public speaking.

In terms of phobias, public speaking also ranks #1, higher than death and spiders.

Even with these statistics, I know quite a few people who want to speak on stage. Strangely enough, it's often the people with the phobias who want to do it. 

Why is that?

I've been lead to believe that people are often scared of the things they want to do most. Asking that girl they like out, trying to workout for the first time, or even being honest to a parent about their feelings.

I was also scared of public speaking, but I knew I had to get over my fear if I was to ever be a person who could lead his own company.

I made my decision in December and practiced to give the talk in January. It was a nerve-wracking experience, but well-worth the effort and sense of accomplishment I felt after. I'm going to draw out for you the exact steps I took to crafting out my first talk from beginning to end.

This is the framework:

Week 1: Write the outline of your draft, answer these 4 questions, then pitch.

So you want to give a talk, huh?

Well first things first, you're going to need to decide what you're going to talk about. This is the first time you get to deliver value to tens or hundreds of people at the same time. So make sure you take the time to understand why you're giving the talk in the first place.

Answer these questions:

  1. Who is your audience?
  2. What do they want?
  3. What information do you have that would help them?
  4. What would happen if you didn't give this talk?

These questions draw out your purpose.

Now, you're going to want to find an organizer or leader of your audience. Maybe this is a high school teacher if your audience is 14-18 year olds, or a start-up event organizer if your audience is young entrepreneurs. You're going to use the answers of these questions to frame your pitch.

It's much better if you already know this person, as trust is established.

If you don't know this person, you're going to have to make sure you hammer down the benefits and value you'll be providing for the leader's audience. Make it very clear that this is a win-win for everyone involved.

Once you get the yes, it's time to work on crafting the actual talk.

Weeks 2-4: Practice, practice, practice.

The most unsexy part, I know.

Read the book Steal the Show, by Michael Port to prepare. There are many great insights in there.

Here's the process you'll want to go through, with editing in between every step:

  1. Write out the whole speech word-by-word or using bullet points.
  2. Table read to yourself.
  3. Practice read with movements.
  4. Practice in front of a friend.
  5. Practice in front of a small group.

You'll use these insights and feedback to get better and better.

Don't think you can just ad-lib it -- while improv is a good skill to have, you owe it to your audience to practice if you respect them enough.

End of Week 4: Give the talk, go buy yourself an ice cream.

The big week is here.

You're about to give your talk. Do something calming before your talk, drink water, and acknowledge that your weeks of practicing have helped you get far. Conditions can change, but you are adaptable enough to take whatever life throws at you.

At the very worst, you'll end up with people who are disinterested in what you have to say. At the very best, you incite the imaginations and awaken the hope of many people.

Whatever happens on stage, relish the moment.

Buy yourself an ice cream afterwards. If your talk was successful, have someone else buy you an ice cream.

Either way, you win (but really, buy your own ice cream).

* * *

I hope that clarified how to prepare for your first entry into public speaking. All it takes is one month.

It's a super scary thing, but so rewarding if you know the idea you want to spread is important enough. You don't have to be a startup founder or anyone important to warrant time on a stage.

You just have to be someone who's courageous enough to share a new idea.