Back in my former life as a teacher, I remember all the speakers and presenters that came and went. They would come in at the beginning of the year to bring in the next greatest and latest concept in education. Maybe it was a rehashed disciplinary technique. Sometimes it was around data or communication.

I’ll never forget, however, when one of my fellow teachers, Bridget, and I sat there one day during an in-service talking about how much it cost to bring the person in. Of course, at the time, we thought it was asinine that anyone would get paid that much to just talk for a day and present ideas! We sat there laughing, saying Why can’t we do that?! We’re just as talented as that person up there!

Fast forward to now…and I completely understand exactly where the value came from and presently comes from in all the speakers I have the opportunity to see and listen to. You see, it’s not just a body up there throwing up ideas and stories. Every bit of it is an opportunity for invaluable information and experience to be taken in and applied to help one grow, develop and move to the next level. At the time, however, I honestly just didn’t understand that. Did I try to pay attention and get something out of it? Yes…most of the time…

The other item I understand now is how much time and effort actually goes into putting together a high-quality talk, presentation or workshop. And this is on top of the experiences that one has to go through to even be able to develop the expertise around a particular area. Personally, I’ll never argue that experience is priceless!

To really break down everything and give you an idea of what really goes into a roughly 1-hour talk, I laid out my own process for the last keynote talk I developed:

August – After committing a commitment from the business, I started putting together concepts for the talk by mentally combing back through my ideas and experiences. Why? Because people connect to stories! Think of the last great talk you went to. Sure, it had great information, but it’s the stories you remember and connected the concepts to. I also started researching online to find related nuggets and thoughts around the topic to be presented. To collect even more data and optimize the presentation, I sent the organization I was going to be presenting to a survey around the agreed upon topic to see what the audience wanted to learn and hear the most about. This was a HUGE lesson I learned very quickly – know your audience and what they want to get out of it.

October – After a few months of brainstorming, I actually started to lay out the outline for the presentation. It included a roughly 6-page document of the flow of the presentation with some brainstormed ideas under each. These included everything from potential pictures, quotes, interactions with audience, stories, researched info, etc.

December – Four months after I initially began, it was time to actually begin putting together the formal talk. This included finishing up the outline and starting to build out the slide deck with pictures for the audience that also served as visual triggers for myself so that I would know exactly where I was and where I was going within the talk.

January – After roughly a month of drafting and refining the talk, it was time to finalize the presentation and being practicing. This included everything from flipping through the slide deck a handful of times per week to doing a formal presentation to a blank wall (my audience) a couple times per week leading up the actual presentation. I also would frequently record sections of my talk to evaluate my body mannerisms and tonality to get it where it needed to be.

February – It was finally time to present. One would think there’s no pressure with so much preparation in advance. WRONG. Up until roughly an hour before taking the stage, I was constantly dialing in everything from a particular sentence to making sure my changing of slides was spot on. Another big part of it was scouting out the room in which I was going to be presenting. Actually, this usually happens as soon as I can possibly swing it once I have a presentation booked. I need to know how the room is going to be set up, distances, locations of screens and particular people in the room, etc. The night before or the morning of a presentation, I try to get in the room and start a strong visualization routine as well. Like they say, if you fail to prepare, you are preparing to fail!

As you can see, it was essentially, a 6-month process from beginning to end to build out a keynote talk. And keep in mind, this is just the first time in presenting it. After this initial presentation, there are tweaks being made and changes occurring to optimize the talk and adapt it for particular future audiences.

So, the next time you get the opportunity to listen to a great speaker, remember how much truly goes into it. It’s not just information. It’s an enormous amount of time, passion and experiences that are included.

But most of all, it’s an unbelievable opportunity for you to learn and grow yourself!

Be present, pay attention, take notes and come out of it with a plan of exactly how you’re going to apply it.

Knowledge is great, but it’s the application of it where the true value comes from!


Interested in speaking? Here are some of my resources that really helped me get started:

Talk Like Ted by Carmine Gallo

7 Books That Will Help You Conquer The Fear Of Public Speaking


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