Preparation Makes Up for a Lack of Talent

I got the latest issue of SUCCESS Magazine the other day.  As usual, it is filled with great information on what it takes to succeed in your life and career.  As usual, I read it cover to cover as soon as I received it.  If you’re not already a subscriber, I suggest you log on to and subscribe right now.

Dynamic communication skills are one of the keys to success that I discuss in Straight Talk for Success.  If you want to become a dynamic communicator, you need to master three important skills: conversation, writing and presenting.

This month’s SUCCESS column, “Starting Points for Achievers” features Scott S. Smith’s advice on presentations.  The tips are from his book The Everything Public Speaking Book: Deliver a Winning Presentation Every Time.

Here are some of the common sense bits of advice in the article…

  • Be prepared.  Preparation can be the perfect cure to calm your nerves.  Know your topic better than your audience does.  Research and rehearse.
  • Think positive thoughts to boost your confidence, and don’t feed into your nervousness.  Avoid negative thoughts like, “My hands are shaking” or, “I feel my heart beating faster.”  Reprogram your mind with thoughts that provide comfort and confidence.
  • Tape-record your speech before you do it.  Listen to yourself.  Make improvements to your voice, enunciation and pace.
  • Don’t mistake blank faces for apathy.  Some people don’t smile when they are concentrating.
  • Get a good night’s sleep prior to doing a big talk.
  • Take care of your voice.  Don’t smoke, avoid smoky places prior to your talk.
  • Dress appropriately for your audience and presentation.
  • Take a few deep breaths just before you begin to speak.
  • Keep a bottle of water nearby.  Take small sips to enhance your vocal clarity.
  • Be proactive.  Volunteer to do a talk.  Avoiding getting up in front of people makes your fear of presenting worse.  You have to speak to groups if you’re going to improve your presentation skills.

I love Scott’s first point – be prepared.  One of my first bosses always used to say, “Remember Bud, preparation makes up for a lack of talent.”  He was right. 

The common sense point here is simple.  The more you prepare for presentations, the better you’ll do.  I say all of my talks out loud at least two or three times the evening prior to giving them.  I practice with my slides.  I want to be sure that I’m as prepared as I can be.  Scott Smith suggests recording your talks before you give them in order to listen to and watch yourself.  This too, is great preparation.  When you listen to and watch yourself giving a talk, you will pick up all sorts of things on which you can improve.  When it comes to doing dynamic presentations, preparation truly does make up for lack of talent.

That’s my take on the importance of preparation for presentations.  What’s yours?  Please leave a comment telling us what you think.  Share your triumphs on the podium and your horror stories.  We can all learn from one another.  As always, thanks for reading.


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  1. Bud, For years I was a horrible public speaker…I would get incredibly nervous and I HATED getting in front of people to give a presentation. Lately I came to the realization that I am not good at “winging” it. I need to prepare and rehearse and actually know what I am going to say.
    This past weekend my wife (A college grad and high school teacher) and I (USMC Veteran, no college degree)gave a presentation at a conference. Prior to the conference my wife commented that I was being “anal” about my preparations. I made notes, copied my notes, practiced and practiced and knew that I would do a fine job. Needless to say, the presentation went off without a hitch.
    I had some nervous jitters before hand because of my previous experience of not doing so well, but once I began speaking I knew that I was so prepared the jitters went away. I just began to look at the audience in the eyes and told them my story.
    It was a great feeling knowing that I succeeded, where as in the past I had failed.
    You have helped me overcome one of my “fears” (if that is the right word), and I thank you. I will continue reading your books, blogs and notes. Fantastic as always, sir.

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