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Preparation as Process

How do you prepare? The traditional answer—taking notes and memorizing them—is just a small part of it. Real preparation means digging something out of yourself; it means gathering and arranging your thoughts, nurturing your ideas, and finding a unique way to express them. A speech needs time to grow; don't try to manufacture one in a hurry. Select your topic as soon as you can but don't rush to write down your speech. Start a speech file as soon as you know you will be speaking and put everything that comes to mind in this file: thoughts, quotations, and topics. Let the thinking process go on for a long time—at least two or three weeks—depending on your subject and the length of the speech. Sleep on it; dream about it. Let your ideas sink into your subconscious.

Then bring your evolving speech out of hiding. Make it a topic of conversation at the dinner table. Ask yourself questions about your topic. Write down your thoughts and the examples that come to you. Once you have the pot cooking, keep stirring it and adding new ideas and illustrations. Examples will pop into your head at random times—jot down as many of these inspirations as you can.


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