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Five Minutes to Prepare

What do you do when you're asked to present or speak on short notice and have little time to prepare?

During an executive coaching session last week, one of my clients began lamenting her performance when she was unexpectedly asked to “say a few words” at a board meeting.

“I ummed and uhed my way through it. I realized I was sharing more details details than I was asked to share. And I could see everyone in the room getting restless because I was taking up too much time. It was awful.”

Anyone who’s every heard me talk about the secret to speaking and presenting well has heard me say “The secret to doing it well is preparation, preparation, preparation.”

But what happens when you don’t have any time to prepare? How do you quickly organize your thoughts and deliver confidently and eloquently?

You still prepare. While you can’t prepare a specific presentation, you can prepare your strategy so you know exactly what to do when these last minute opportunities arise.

My "Five Minutes to Prepare" Strategy

Step 1. Immediately after you are asked, answer these three questions: 1) Who is my audience 2) What do they want? 3) How much time do I have to speak? This information is essential for quickly pulling your thoughts together.

Step 2. Find something to write on. I’ve scratched out notes on the back of a napkin because that’s all I could find.

Step 3. Write down the answers to the three questions from Step 1.

Step 4. Use the Speak with Impact Blueprint (below) to quickly outline the most important points.

Step 5. You won’t have time to write out every word, but you will have time to create a focused outline to keep you on point. Don’t be afraid to use it. I often say “I jotted down some notes to keep me from going down a rabbit hole.” Everyone understands that.

Step 6. Ask a friend or colleague to be your unofficial timekeeper. You want them to signal you twice: once at the halfway mark and one when you have about a minute to wrap it up. Being aware of time is difficult when you’re on your feet, so having someone signal you is really helpful.

Step 7. Finish within the allotted time. If you finish early, don’t get stressed. Audiences are never angry when a speaker finishes early.

The first few times you use these steps will feel awkward and clunky. Do them anyway. Over time, you’ll complete them more quickly and more easily and eventually, they’ll come to you automatically.

I’d love to hear how these steps have helped you when you only had a few minutes to prepare. If you need help, just click on the “Book a Call” button above to schedule a complimentary session with me.



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