Adaptability is key. In the May issue of Harvard Business Review, veteran mutual fund executive Robert C. Pozen authored an article on “Extreme Productivity” and in it he addresses 6 principles for greater personal productivity. Principle 4 is “Prepare Your Plan, but Be Ready to Change It” … Amen, Bob!

And I quote from Pozen’s Principle 4: “Most executives must give talks to various groups. They often prepare by writing out the full text of their remarks. But that makes them feel compelled to deliver the whole speech even if the audience is not receptive. Speaking is very different from writing. You need a much clearer line of argument, and you have to connect with your listeners at a given time. They may be bored or excited – you won’t know in advance. To prepare for a speaking engagement, you should jot down on one page a list of your four or five key points and a concluding paragraph.”

Nicely put. Less wordsmithing, more dedicated focus on key points. The only part I might take issue with – and those of you who have been through my coaching will smile! – is that I believe four or five key points is too many. Sometimes it’s too many for the speaker to remember, and always it’s too many for an audience to retain. Other than that, Bob nailed it.

You may feel better having prepared a full-text script, rather than putting yourself in a position that feels a lot like ad libbing or winging it. But by being wed to your words, sentences and paragraphs once you’re at the front of the room, you risk sacrificing the real-time connection with your audience. So even if you do prefer a full-text script, be sure to also know your key points and promise yourself that you’ll remain adaptable … if the audience is fading, be ready and willing to ditch the script.

Thanks for this reinforcement, Bob. As I always say to clients, it’s not all about you, it’s all about them … the Audience!

Beth Levine