From the July 2014 GPS Speaking Tips newsletter, free monthly tips on public speaking and presentation skills. Click here to sign up.
As my public speaking business has continued to grow, I’ve been spending more and more time on airplanes. Whether I’m traveling to Boston, Belfast, or Buenos Aires, my travel time has become sacred: time for myself when I can be proactive instead of reactive.
Planes are great places to write and practice a speech. The act of detaching from our constant online distractions – push notifications, email messages – gives us time to focus on one single thing, which is essential for both the right-brain writing and left-brain editing process.
Here are nine ways to use your plane time to prepare for a speech:
1. Outline the speech. One you reach cruising altitude, take out a sheet of paper or start a new Evernote note or Word document and start answering the following questions:
-Who is your audience?
-What’s the goal of your speech?
-What’s the main message?
-What main points do you want to make?
-Why you? Why is this subject important to you?
2. Write the speech. Once I’ve outlined the speech, I like to dive in and write in a stream-of-conscious style without stopping to edit. This is a great plane activity.
3. Edit the speech. If you’ve already written the speech, then sitting on a plane is a great place to edit. Either print the speech out in advance or open up your laptop and start editing on the screen.
4. Reduce the speech to bullet points. If you’ve already written the speech and practiced it out loud, reduce it to bullet points. This process can take a lot of time as you decide what to include and what to let go – perfect plane activity.
5. Practice the speech. You might not be able to speak the entire speech out loud, but you can think through it while reading, making sure that when you look at the outline, the words come easily to you. Or if you have a sympathetic seatmate, you can try out your speech on him/her.
6. Design the slides. If you’ll be using PowerPoint or other presentation software in your speech, give yourself time to think creatively about how to most effectively use it to enhance your message.
7. Edit the slides. Sitting on a plane is a great time to go through the PPT you’ve already created and – just like you did for the speech – edit it for messaging and consistency. Are you consistent in your font size, style, and color? Does each slide flow from one idea to the next?
8. Practice breathing. Sitting on a plane is a great place to practice diaphragmatic breathing. I close my eyes and focus on my stomach: feeling it expand as I take in breath and contract as I let out the breath. I do this a few times, then breathe “normally”, then repeat. If you’re doing this for the first time, it might feel awkward but it shouldn’t hurt – so if you feel any discomfort during this process, just stop and breathe the way you normally breathe.
9. Practice mental rehearsal. One of my favorite tools to reduce nerves is to practice mental rehearsal. I close my eyes, breathe deeply, and imagine the room where I’ll be giving my speech. I imagine the introduction and the applause as my name is called. I imagine myself walking up on stage and smiling out at the audience. I give my speech – word for word – in my head, and focus on my breathing throughout. Finally, I imagine the thunderous applause and the feeling of relief and accomplishment when I’m done. This is a great plane activity and especially helps distract you during turbulence.
Remember, writing and practicing a speech is an iterative process, so don’t try to do all the above steps at once, even on a long flight. Your mind needs time to rest and process – so let yourself stop and look out the window from time to time.
One of the most important elements of public speaking is preparation, and sitting on a plane can provide the perfect place for reflection and practice.
Where do you think I wrote this newsletter…?