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Prepare your communications. Don't swing it.
Improvised presenting is a bad idea.
People often tell me that prepared communications—a conference talk, a pitch to your boss, or a meeting summary—sound too rehearsed and feel unnatural. That’s why, the argument goes, we should just improvise what we’re going to say on the spot.
I couldn’t disagree more.
If you haven’t prepared your communication, at least one of these three things will happen: you’ll speak for too long, you won’t make your message clear, or—if worst comes to worst—you’ll lose your audience mid-way.
Unless you’re a trained expert in communication, there’s very little chance that your pitch or exposé will be effective if you just go with the flow. That doesn’t mean, however, that you need to learn each and every word by heart. No, that would surely sound dull. What you need, in its simplest form, is to prepare for a four-part structure:
Open with a catchy hook,
Explain your idea,
Illustrate it with an example,
Close the loop.
Conor, my favourite yoga teacher, starts each class with a short inspirational talk. He begins by greeting us, often with a little joke, and then explains a spiritual concept from the yogic philosophy. He always makes sure to bring the concept home with a relevant example from our daily lives. In the end, he ties it all together and closes with a call to action for the upcoming 90 minutes of practice.
It works spectacularly well.
So next time you have to explain something out loud or in writing (whether that includes data or not!), don’t count on your improvisation skills to get the message across. Prepare the structure that will be the foundation of your communication, and then let the exact words flow naturally.
If you look closely, you’ll notice that this short email also followed the four-step structure outlined above.
Happy communicating! 🧘🏻♀️
Talk next week,
Data storytelling course: new cohort 🚀
Want to learn how to turn data into narratives that inspire action? You can now sign up for the next cohort of my Data Storytelling Bootcamp. We’re keeping the group small to ensure that everyone receives plenty of customised feedback, so don’t wait to enroll: there are only 5 spots left! As a reader of The Plot, you get a 10% discount with the code THEPLOT10. See you in a few weeks!