A lesson in being prepared


Last night, I spoke at a function in Cape Town, and I was almost in big trouble.

Now, I know the venue very well, and I know how long it usually takes to get there. So I left from home, planning to arrive at the meeting at least 45 minutes ahead of schedule, which would give me plenty of time to setup. But three things happened:

  • Firstly, one of the main freeways into town was closed due to roadworks. This resulted in a massive traffic slowdown on the other roads.
  • Secondly, there was another large function on at the venue, so I struggled to find a parking spot.
  • Finally, the meeting was running way ahead of schedule, so while I was expecting to arrive before their coffee a break – during which I would setup – and then speak at 9:15pm, they were already on their break at 8:40pm when I eventually arrived.

That gave me about 10 minutes to setup and test my equipment before speaking. In the end it all worked out fine. I got everything working in good time, and my presentation went very smoothly. But it was too close for my liking. I did not have time to mingle with the delegates beforehand, or to gather my thoughts.

Even though I thought I had plenty of time beforehand, I didnt. So, what did I learn?

Give yourself plenty of time to arrive and setup beforehand (at least 1 ? hours). No matter how well you know the venue/route/meeting arrangements, things can and will go wrong to derail your plans. Arrive early, and be prepared.

Become a great speaker – the best $50 you can spend


If you plan to become a better speaker, buy a digital recorder, and keep it with you at all time. A basic recorder costs about $50, but it is the best money you can spend.

Here are three reasons why:

  • Record your presentations
  • Transcribe your presentations
  • Save your ideas

The full article is on my website.

If you would like to buy a recorder, you can do so

in South Africa
, or in USA.

A lesson for speakers from Stephen King

I am busy reading Stephen King’s “On Writing”. This book is part autobiography, and part lessons for aspiring writers. Aside from giving an interesting perspective into Stephen King's life, it contains many practical skills in the art of writing.

If you speak to David Brooks, he will tell you that one of the key components of good speech writing is good speech editing, and that is where this book helps. Because, like writers of novels, speech writers need to learn the art of editing.

Here are two examples from Stephen King's school days. When he was about 16, he was employed by John Gould, writing for the sport section of the local paper. He was told by John”

  • “When you write a story, you?re telling yourself the story, when you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story.”
  • “Gould said something else that was interesting on the day I turned in my first two pieces: write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.”

Doesn't that sound like what we need to be doing with our speeches; take out what is not the speech, and leave the rest?

ps: you don't need to be a Stephen King fan to appreciate and learn from this book.