“4-Hour” Guide to Preparing for a Public Speaking Engagement

Tim Ferris’s is the author of the “4-Hour” book series (those would be Work Week, Body, and Chef). I’ve learned a few tricks from him and love his intention, which is essentially doing things efficiently.

My conferences are peer-driven, which means that the ideal speaker is a corporate leader sharing a case study or insight that comes from experience. As a result, they aren’t always professional speakers. But that’s OK, because the value my events deliver is based primarily on education and networking, with entertainment being a value add.

If this is you, Ferriss’s tips on public speaking – listed as one of 24-skills you can learn in 48 hours – may be useful.

Truth be told, I don’t think I’m that good at public speaking. Tons of speakers crush me in presentation, poise, and general lack of F-bombs. Granted, I was born and raised on Long Island, but the smooth delivery doesn’t seem to be a natural skill. Here are the ground rules I developed for myself to compensate, and I’ve been able to jam with some fun audiences as a result (paragraph 5 here), including the EG/TED, fancy schools, Fortune 100 big ‘uns, CIA/NSA, and tech gigs:

1) I won’t focus on being a “public speaker”. I’ll focus on being a teacher from the stage. What I might lack in delivery, I’ll make up for with actionable takeaways.

2) It’s fine (oftentimes good) if some people dislike you or disagree with you, but no one should misunderstand you. Everything you say should be clear.

3) It’s totally fine if you get nervous and stammer a bit, drop F-bombs where needed, or generally feel like a nervous wreck. If you give good actionable, clear advice, people will forgive it all.

4) Have fun and laugh at yourself whenever possible. Beating the audience to the punch makes it much less fun for them to slam you.

5) Have one 16-oz. Diet Coke 45 minutes prior to speaking and another about 20 minutes prior to speaking. Pee before getting on stage or you will look like a squirmy kid at a spelling bee. Yes, Diet Coke will give you hairy palms and insomnia, but this caffeine dosing has proven perfect for me for taking the stage. Could be as much placebo effect as anything else.

Now, if you are one of my speakers, I hope you’re not waiting until 48 hours before the event to prepare your presentation (we should be going out for a pre-game drink the night before the event, not scrambling around to finish presentations) but if you can deliver, that’s all that counts.


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