How To Prepare For A Speech With Little Or No Previous Speaking Experience

Embarking on a TEDx Talk with no prior experience can be daunting. This article explores the technical and mental preparations needed to excel in public speaking. It covers selecting a passionate topic, mastering delivery with confidence, and presenting both authentically and effectively.

How To Prepare For A Speech With Little Or No Previous Speaking Experience


When I was recently asked if I would like to give a TEDx Talk, I thought it was a scam at first because I had no speaking experience in that type of environment. I remembered a past experience where I had almost passed out trying to train close to 20 people. My mouth had gotten parched, and I kept needing water as I watched all the eyes on me that day. And I sweat a lot. It felt like I was training them while I was standing in a hot sauna.

Even though I feared speaking in front of people, I still said yes and made fear the topic of my speech. After saying yes and speaking with the organizer, I immediately wondered how I would overcome my fear of speaking on stage, even though I would receive help preparing. I didn’t want to get on stage and see all the people in the audience, then have my mouth dry up and be unable to speak.

I did a lot of mental preparation on my own outside of the training I received to prepare myself to speak in front of people. I even did an extremely tough workout with a friend of mine that had me sore for a good part of the week leading up to the talk, so I felt like I had already done the toughest thing of the week.

I’m going to first go over the technical things I recommend you do to prepare for a TEDx Talk or similar speaking opportunity, and then I’m going to go over what I did to prepare mentally.

Technical Preparation

You want to choose a topic to speak about that you have experience in and are passionate about; otherwise, it will be more difficult for you to prepare, and you may end up not sounding authentic when you give your talk.

If you choose a more technical topic, you must research and ensure everything you say is fact-checked. For example, before quoting statistics on the stage, you want to make sure those stats are accurate and know the source you found them from. Don’t be like some of these people who throw around "99% of men X" or "9 out of 10 women X" because there is no real way to quantify that.

Your delivery is everything, so you'll want to practice that. I suggest practicing your tone with certain parts of your talk, how you pace yourself and even your body language. Even if you don’t feel confident, you want to look and sound confident.

Mental Preparation And The Role Of Confidence

Before your speaking opportunity, ensure you get plenty of sleep and fulfill other basic human needs such as hydration and eating—especially the day before. And make sure you arrive early to familiarize yourself with the venue and stage you’ll be speaking on.

Lastly, step on stage and give your best talk as you had visualized yourself doing.

I learned that preparing to speak on a stage is not very different than preparing to speak on a podcast or for an important meeting with a potentially big client. All three situations require you to mentally prepare yourself for the day and ensure you’re walking in confident enough that others can tell you’re confident. Confidence has to come off of you as soon as you step on stage, the studio or the place where the big meeting will take place.

Anything you do in public speaking or business requires you to have confidence in yourself. Confidence comes from preparation. We practiced marching every day during boot camp in the Marine Corps, where I first learned that when you practice something until it is second nature, it’ll come naturally to you in the moment. They had us do that with everything, including on the rifle range and learning how to clear out houses.

Preparing for a big speaking opportunity requires you to practice until you get it right and then to keep practicing until you can’t get it wrong. The same principle can also be applied to business, whether it’s cold calling and knowing how to pitch your product or service or learning how to tell your story in a captivating way that makes people want to reach out to you when you’re speaking on podcasts.

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