Be prepared

Back in the early days of Bill Clinton’s presidency, I came home and found my ex all jazzed up after watching Hillary give a speech on TV. “She was wonderful!” my ex gushed. “And she wasn’t even speaking from notes!”

“No notes is not a good thing,” I responded. “What do you think pays our mortgage?”

I’m a speechwriter so, yes, I may be a bit biased here. I would never step in front of a group of people without prepared remarks. (Knowing more about Secretary Clinton all these years later, I’m betting she wouldn’t either.)

But no speech, no matter how well-written, will do its job effectively if you don’t rehearse. And a big thank-you to Chris Anderson, the Curator of TED Talks, for saying that loud and clear.

Anderson calls lack of preparation exactly what it is: Rude. The people in your audience have taken time out of their busy day to hear you; the least you can do is spend some of your valuable time to give them a well-reasoned, well-delivered speech.

The best client I’ve had in over 25 years of writing speeches takes rehearsal very seriously. He wants his speeches locked two weeks in advance. Two weeks! Other speechwriters turn green with envy when I tell them that.

Many speakers press for changes until the last minute—and if you’re dealing with a hot-button issue or a current event, that constant updating may be justified. But it takes a very skilled performer to incorporate new language on the fly. So pursuing perfection on the page often leads to imperfection on the stage. Which is more important to you? To your audience?

That kind of behavior doesn’t fly with the TED folks. Unprepared, unrehearsed speakers don’t get to climb on their iconic black stages.

Of course, TED has the clout to enforce that rule; most speechwriters don’t. So let’s get this message viral. Share this post or the linked article with your networks: #preparedspeakersrock

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