As I stepped away from the microphone and walked back toward my seat, the room was booming with boisterous laughter, and every eye in the room followed me back to my seat.
“My face hurts from laughing!” I heard a voice say.
I quietly settled into my chair and took a sip my drink, and rather sheepishly looked out around at the audience, quite amazed at their reaction.
I had just delivered the speech of a lifetime. I’ve given plenty of speeches, but I’ve never considered myself a leave ’em rolling in the aisles kind of guy. On that day, however, that’s exactly who I was.
The reason my speech went so well? I was exceptionally well prepared. Not well practiced, mind you. In fact, I barely had time to rehearse leading up to the event. There is a big difference between practice and preparedness. Here’s how I define the two:
Practice is the repetition of an activity with the goal of reaching and sustaining a higher level of performance or competency.
Preparedness is the act of anticipating a set of circumstances and establishing a plan of action to be followed at the moment when those circumstances are encountered.
Preparedness makes you better equipped to impress your audience, whether you’re speaking to a room full of people, or having a one-on-one conversation with a potential client.
Why Preparedness Matters to Solopreneurs
Say you’re asked to give a speech for an important event. You could so what a lot of people do, which is to write one speech, practice it to death, get up to the microphone, deliver it, and sit down.
Or you could prepare enough material to fill two speeches, and have the luxury of pulling out some of this bonus material based on the circumstance you encounter. In this case, the mood of the audience you’re addressing.
When I addressed that audience, I encountered a crowd of people who were listless and tired as a result of the day’s proceedings. They needed a wake up call and, because I had so much bonus material prepared, I decided on-the-fly to dip into this extra material and pull out a humorous and ridiculous story to lighten the mood. Preparedness saved the day.
Most of the time, however, we practice too much and prepare too little. Look at the “elevator pitch” for example. As a solopreneur, you’ve been told countless times how important it is to create an elevator pitch and hone it down until you’ve got a perfectly polished gem of a 30-second commercial.
And there’s actually nothing wrong with that advice, except that it’s incomplete. Honing your elevator pitch is really just step one. But we often forget step two.
Step two is to sit down and anticipate the myriad of possible follow up questions that people will ask you after you deliver that pitch.
Questions could pertain to any number of things… your track record, how your products or services are priced, typical outcomes your clients enjoy, your process for engaging with clients, etcetera.