An old academic colleague of mine recalled when he was first asked to lecture. He was incredibly nervous and spent the whole summer rehearsing. Come the day and a lecture hall full of expectant students, he walked up to the lectern plonked down his notes and began. After ten minutes everything seemed to be going OK but it was then he started to notice a murmur of laughter in the room. As he went on the giggling became louder and louder. He was about to look up and berate the students when he realised why they were laughing. His tightly gripped hands weren’t just grasping his notes but he had from the beginning of his talk been holding the entire lectern six inches off the ground.
I always think of this story when my annual lecture comes around. After twenty five or more drafts it is finally in the can. Tomorrow the world (well, OK the Great Room) will hear my ideas on how to create enlightened enterprises by using the behaviour changing potential of brands to enable people to make wiser decisions for a better world.
But I know the speech tomorrow will be much more engaging if instead of reading it I deliver it from notes, enabling me to speak with more passion and to engage the audience much better. But all my annual lectures tend to be quite dense (no, not in that way mother) and full of different points, facts and quotes. So it is very hard to learn and the risk of half learning it is that I miss out big chunks (which would be sad for me but a tragedy for the audience).
So on every occasion over the last four years I have woken up on speech day promising myself that I will take the risk and go with notes, only to chicken out as the day goes on and end up reading more or less every word.
So, dear readers, help me out. Encourage me to be brave or give me some clever tips for how to balance the security blanket of the speech with the advantages of relying on notes. It really could make a big difference.
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