I learned a *long* time ago that there were no substitutes for preparation for any presentation in which I was to be engaged. This habit of being prepared started in High School, in speech tournament preparations and music rehearsals. Preparation is essential. So is research. Thorough research. And yes, thorough preparation takes time and requires effort.
This need for in-depth preparation continues today, perhaps more now than ever before. How many times in the news media are we given conflicting reports, some of which are downright incorrect or positioned to sway opinion and not deliver truth? Just recently an author of ours questioned: who and what can you believe?
If you are a writer who is considering publishing your work, we can all agree that preparation is essential, because it is. In the case of a writer, prep activities often include researching:
- Your desire must be anchored in Truth.
- People sources, personal and written
- Desire to get them correct: “Just the facts…” they have to be accurate in context, dates, and contents.
- Embellish only if you tell your readers you are doing this … exercise honesty.
- If you quote *anyone* or reference *any* quote, be sure to not steal or plagiarize; obtain written permission from a person or publisher.
- Set a higher standard for accuracy.
- Following Scripture, “speak the truth in love.” (Ephesians 4:15; NIV or KJV)
- Concern yourself with the details, because generally no one will be as concerned about your work, at least at first, as you are and must be.
- Part of research is presenting your findings with correct grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Be a stickler for doing it right.
And the list doesn’t stop there. You get the idea.
A true story: in my first speech tournament in High School, as a freshman, I learned a life lesson that has stuck. Backstory: I had some natural talent, had been complimented in Junior High, and began my freshman year with high hopes. In my very first speech tournament at Palomar City College in San Diego County, I was able to win two first place trophies. That kind of victory appeared unique, and I basked in the moment. That is until I came in on the Monday following the Saturday tournament and walked up to my speech coach’s desk with the two trophies: one in each hand. His one and only comment at first set me back: “You’re not that good.” Silence. Yes, on the surface it hit me hard. On reflection, however, the coach was 100% right. Coach Plum, who was a master communicator himself, had nailed it even though I didn’t realize it at the time.
I resolved to work hard, and did. In fact, I prepared and strove diligently to become better from that time forward. Thank you, Dick Plum, for this life-changing life lesson!
What did this resolution mean? Hard, time-consuming labor, taking the God-given talents I had and earnestly trying to perfect these through four years of High School. The efforts worked. In my sophomore year, 1968, when I was 16, I won the Optimist International Oratorical Contest out of 40,000 entries nationally, all boys. The finals were held in Louisville, Kentucky.
An important point: in my first year entering the Optimist International Oratorical Contest, 1967, at age 15, I made it to the semi-finals (Portland, Oregon) and bombed. A red phone was used to allow me to call and inform my sponsoring club (La Mesa Optimist) that I still had one more year of age eligibility, and I would try again. That choice, of course, meant starting completely over. So, I did.
This tournament had iron-clad requirements:
- A speech could be no more than five minutes.
- It has to be memorized.
- A contestant had to win first at each level to remain as a competitor.
Then in 1970, my senior year, I entered the Lion’s International Speech Tournament and took first place nationally out of about the same number of entries, girls and boys. Same requirements as above.
An important part of this story has to be inserted, as well. In my junior year (1969), my older sister, Joan, committed suicide; it was a drug-induced addiction that finally took her life. She had “blown her mind” on speed (the vernacular of the time). This was a roller coaster set of circumstances, to say the least; in fact, that expression doesn’t begin to describe the full range of emotions we endured, especially those of my dad. For me: from an ecstasy in winning, to a tragedy in death, Joan’s passing was sandwiched in between markedly pivotal years of High School. Yet, sorrow, as deep as it was, and even still is today in memory, would not be allowed to derail appropriate ambition.
The point? There is no need for accolades here; wisdom will say, instead, that greater desires for good and fulfilling a God-given work ethic, while accepting the finality of losing a family member, should build character and resolve in the long run. We don’t ever deny sadness; we won’t let it consume us.
In all of this, preparation could and shall never be assumed. Ever. If a goal is set, you and I must prepare, then prepare some more.
How much preparation is needed? I have generally found that the amount of prep effort required is at least three times the effort in performing an actual presentation, be it in person, or in print, including performances in music.
Be encouraged in your pursuits. Mine is just one story. No victory comes minus sacrifice. Every victory absolutely requires hard work, no matter what. These efforts are not just for the presenter; rather, they are really for those who will receive. How much must we care about our audience?
Question: how willing are you to work hard for something for which you believe God has gifted you? If you possess an opportunity to achieve, especially an achievement for His glory and honor, give it your all.
Just for the record: the Optimist Speech title: “The Golden Opportunities of Youth.” The Lion’s Speech title: “Generation Gap: Fact or Fantasy?” The titles seemed appropriate for the time.
Your titles and contents of books and presentations carry important weights and responsibilities today. Strive well to prepare and present.
You are worth it. So is your audience.