The website Film reported last week how author J.K. Rowling organised her book with nothing more than a pen, notebook paper and a grid system. You can see how she plotted it out by chapter, title, section, plot movement, etc. (Go to the link above if you want to see the full-size version.)
I used this as an impromptu “show and tell” item in a workshop on Friday to show people the value of organising their thoughts in advance of a significant presentation or conversation. Even after we had a good conversation about how it demonstrated Rowling’s well-documented (obsessive) attention to detail, a few people in the group still doubted the need to plan out what they want to say.
One woman – the CFO – felt that was not the way to go. “Too much rehearsal would make the conversation feel stilted. It wouldn’t feel natural.”
I appreciate her point, because it’s coming from her point-of-view. She probably feels she’s being casual and natural. The problem is that’s not the impression the audience gets. Instead, it might come off as rambling. Or, there’s no focus. Or worst of all, she gives the impression she is unprepared – and more so, why should the audience listen to you?
No one is an accomplished presenter by birth. Every good presenter plans out what they want to say with (obsessive) attention to detail, then rehearses so the words are spoken as if they came to them on the spot. If a person doesn’t think about their messages, most will loose track of their thoughts, miss a key point, get nervous as a result, and possibly blurt out something they wouldn’t say if they’d given it some serious thought.
It reminds me of the famous quote by from Mark Twain: “It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.”
What have you done to organize your thoughts before a big presentation or speech?