Jeremy Zawodny describes his method for preparing talks and asks:
If you end up speaking in front of audiences on a semi-regular basis, is your preparation experience anything like mine?
My process used to be what Jeremy describes — composing slides — but now it’s turned into something completely different and quite surprising to me. As I discussed here, I’ve finally trained myself to use dictation effectively. I’ll go out for a long walk, like two or three hours, and dictate a rough draft of the talk. I’m not able to do that continuously, I have to stop and think and start again, but I turn the recorder off during the think time so when I’m done I’ve got something approximating what the talk will be. Then I go for another long walk and listen to what I recorded, making notes about what slides to use. For last week’s talk I didn’t take those notes in audio form, I scribbled them down while walking, but next time I’m going to go back to audio capture. If you distill the long narrative down to short titles or phrases, it’s quick and easy to listen to a spoken distillation and write down the titles which become the armature for the slides.
The obvious reason why this works is that speaking out loud is good practice for speaking out loud. One of the subtler reasons is that exercise and fresh air really help. Another is that when I’m away from my office and can’t fiddle with a computer or look things up on the web, I have to literally think on my feet.
As I acknowledged here, I’m indebted to John Mitchell for suggesting this technique to me. According to him, it dates back to “the BBC WW2 radio correspondents, and then Edward R. Murrow.” Thanks again for the tip, John, it’s been really helpful.