For 2017, a preparation checklist for superior presentations

Speakers, the opportunities are increasing—as are the competitors for those coveted event spots. Here’s how to step up your game and leave your audiences clamoring for more.

Speakers, what are your plans for 2017?

How are you going to prepare yourself to develop your best voice, presence and message this coming year?

It’s a great time to be a speaker; the conference marketplace has bounced back from its 2009 lows to record opportunities.

The downside is that the competition is fiercer than ever. Everyone wants to stand on that keynote stage, rock the audience and move them to action.

So, here’s your to-do list for 2017 to get you in the best presentation shape ever:

1. Do your daily prep. Speaking is a psychological torment for most speakers—wonderful when it goes well, and like a preview of hell when it doesn’t. Take some variables out of the equation by beginning each day with your own mental preparations. Get a positive mantra to tune up your unconscious mind and remove any lurking impediments to success. Run your mental movie—the one of you killing it in front of thousands of rapt audience members—every day.

2. Study great speakers. The study of great speakers should be part of your daily routine. There are no excuses now; TED makes it easy. Take a speech a day, watch the speaker go to work, and ask yourself, what about this speaker’s story and style do I like, and what doesn’t work? The idea is not to copy another speaker, but to learn from them to become the best you can be.

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3. Work with a partner. Speaking can be a lonely venture, especially the more successful you get. You’re on the road a lot, there are many nights in hotel rooms, and you’re always on the move. Think about partnering with a speech buddy: Check in regularly, helping each other with road warrior tips, critiquing each other and generally supporting each other’s vision. It might make the road much more bearable, and you might learn something.

4. Spend a day each week keeping up with your expertise. You should be constantly checking in on your field, your fellow experts and the periodicals in your field, so you can stay in touch, keep your material fresh and avoid getting stale.

5. Take time off for recharging, and take care of yourself. You need regular breaks in order to maintain focus. You have to ensure the basics, too, to keep yourself in top form: ample sleep, good eating habits, regular exercise. A few years ago, everyone was saying, “Who needs sleep? I’ll sleep when I’m dead!” Now we realize that’s a recipe for mediocrity, not greatness. The human body uses sleep to recharge, reconnect and re-learn. You can’t give your best to your audiences if you don’t have it to give.

There you are—a surefire program for success in 2017.

A version of this article first appeared on Public Words.

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