In today’s New York Times, an illuminating story about multi-tasking adorned the front page.  It’s disintegrating our ability to focus, the research argues (I would personally agree!).  And indeed, checking email, texting, facebooking, skyping, webinaring- whatever the task- must all be but aside for the careful work that is presentation preparation.

I recently queried a PR manager on how her CEO prepared for a recent talk that was really well done.  She said, “There’s a lot of practice and rehearsal, but we don”t see it.”

Exactly.

I’ve also just finished excellent book called Fierce Conversations.  In it, author Susan Scott devotes a whole chapter for the need to have silence.  In fact, she claims it’s the ‘heavy lifter’ in a conversation.  In other words, it is the time you think, reflect and create your strategy, responses and answers.  Those things are hard to do with your mouth open or email on, right?

One of her core principles is that every conversation is with yourself except when it involves someone else.  After digesting that concept, think for a second about how you come to prepare for a talk. Lots of little conversations, often alone.  Reading, thinking, reviewing an idea.  All with yourself.  When you are rehearsing a talk- whether it is writing it out and reading it back, or practicing without notes in front of a mirror- it is with yourself.

But how can you even begin to achieve those conversations, that thoughtful reflective time while multi-tasking?  You simply can’t.  So as you think about your next talk, finish all of your research and then shut down everything that is plugged in. Live with the silence and your content and your presentation will reflect it.

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