For every 1 minute of a presentation, one should spend at least 1 hour to prepare, well that is the going consensus.  So only having 3 hours to create that is no small feat.


I was requested to deliver a training session for an organisation this week who were hosting a conference in Blackpool and wanted their 14 interns to deliver a 45 minute presentation in front of around 150 partners and contributors.

We only had three hours to craft, prepare and practice the presentation.

Upon close inspection, it was clear that we really needed to start from scratch, well nearly, (the group had a loose structure).

planning a discussion for lots of speakers at a conference

Now crafting a speech is really a creation, and if you know the creation process, it can get a bit messy.

So what do I mean by messy?

When you are creating a speech, with so many people involved (15 of us) there are lots of moving parts.  I felt as if I was a conductor of an orchestra and at times the noise emitting from the orchestra doesn’t sound let’s say, harmonious.

During the creation process, it can:

–  look very messy
–  seem like it is not working
–  feel really uncomfortable (especially to analytical people)
–  seem unstructured

that is, until the end, when of course it all comes together.

First Things First

Just like a building, first things first is to establish the Message.  The foundation to your speech.

building blocks and planning

Luckily for these interns they were showcasing the amazing work they were able to do within various organisations, so that was sorted easily enough.


Just like a building, one needs to create a structure. Something that is simple for the speakers to follow but most important, it is for the audience’s sake.  Just like the structure of a building, if this is not secure, then the whole thing can come toppling down.

Thirdly, timing.  With so many people involved, timings allocated to the intro, each speaker and then the outro needed to be worked out and stuck to by each speaker.  A good idea to have somebody at the back holding up timing cards, so that the whole group, could be kept on track.

Fourthly, you have to test out each moving part, listen to each of the speakers’ short 2-3 minute presentation as a whole to see if it worked.  Don’t be shy to step back and ponder, does it feel right, is it engaging enough.  Is it too repetitive?  We fixed that by having the speakers come up in three sections. Each section was introduced by a narrator who explained why the three sections and what they represented.  This broke up the presentation into bite size chunks and gave the audience time to reflect on the stories they had heard and the impact each intern had made in their organisation and in their own life.

Lastly, listen from the perspective of the audience, ask yourself, does it work or does it not?  This is the most important part.  Because no matter how much you prepare and practice, if it doesn’t work for the audience, then you might as well not have spoken at all. This is where feedback from a professional is king and queen of speaking.   Feedback from somebody who has that experience to know what an audience wants and what it takes to move them.

In the creation process, just play around with things, ask for suggestions from others.  “Many hands make light work.”

Eventually, time ran out for us, three hours is not long, but luckily the foundations had been put in place.

I left the orchestra, handing over the reigns of conductor to the two people doing the intro and outro, feeling secure knowing that their structure was in place; the intro and outro were being worked on and the talks were to be delivered in three sections.

thumbs up

Lessons to Learn

–  The only way to see if your speech works is to deliver it and get feedback.

–  The feedback should come from the perspective of the audience listening to it.   If you were the audience, would the talks hold your attention? Is it easy to listen to? Is it engaging, informative, inspiring?

–  It is ok to be uncomfortable when in the mess of speech creation.

–  Lastly, nothing can replace having enough time to prepare, prepare and then prepare some more and you will be victorious.

Until the next time.

Keep on Unleashing Your Speaking Greatness.

Elaine signature