Public Speaking

Jezra Kaye (who once helped me prepare for a presentation at PC Forum) quoted Churchill: “I’m trying to confrim that the following quote truely is attributed to Winston Churchill – If you want me to speak for two minutes, it will take me three weeks of preparation. If you want me to speak for thirty minutes, it will take me a week to prepare. If you want me to speak for an hour, I am ready now.”

I have not forgotten these words or the effort that was needed for me to give that 2-minute talk at PC Forum in March 2006. In the past two weeks, I have had to give two short talks as part of panels I have been on. And for both, I ended up spending quite some time preparing.

The approach that I followed in both cases was to create a written talk and an accompanying presentation which helped move the story forward. I then read my talk during my allotted time, moving the slides forward as I spoke. I had to go through multiple drafts to make sure things came out just the way I wanted and I stayed in the time band given to me.

Reading a talk does take away some of the spontaneity but it helps me stick to the script and make sure I cover points without deviation and in the time window given. Over time, I hope to be able to do away with the paper in front of me also, but I think it will take me a few years to get there. (I saw John Chambers of Cisco once — he is indeed the gold standard.)

Of course, I could have just talked in front of the audience as others do — it would have meant more eye contact and appeared more natural. But I have decided that telling the story right and in sequence is more important, especially when one has limited time. That’s why the script and the preparation.

I have to give a keynote next week at a Magazine conference in Mumbai. I have 40 minutes. That should be easier!

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