THE POWER OF PREPARATION

January 3rd, 2011

TED curator, Chris Anderson, has a fascinating article in the January 2011 issue of WIRED magazine, entitled “Film School,” where he discusses how online video is encouraging powerful “crowd accelerated innovation.” His second example reinforces a point that is very relevant for speakers.

“When we decided to post TED talks free on the web four years ago, something unexpected happened: Speaker behavior changed. Specifically, they started spending more time preparing for the talks. The slots were 18 minutes long, but in many cases the speakers had crammed weeks or even months of preparation into those 18 minutes.

“For example, Jill Bolte Taylor, whose memorable talk describing her own stroke has attracted more than 7 million views, told me that she wrote the talk over several months and then spent an entire month rehearsing it. It showed. Jill Bolte Taylor’s stroke of insight

“Indeed, the quality of talks across the board (as measured by audience rankings) was rising. It seemed that posting the talks online had done two things: It gave speakers a library of examples of what constituted a great talk. And it gave them more reason to shine.

“This was empowerment plus motivation, a significant one-two. And as speakers continued to innovate and improve, they attracted larger audiences, raising the bar each year (but also adding to the toolkit available to the following year’s speakers.”

Granted, Anderson’s point is not about the importance of preparation, but the example reinforces a crucial truth. It takes a lot of work to make something look easy. Not everyone cares enough to make that investment. And not everyone knows how to prepare well. But every great speech starts with great preparation.

“If you are an artist who loves excellence and integrity…. Go the extra mile. It’s a lot of work, and no one holds a gun to your head to do it. But why deliberately aim at mediocrity by saving effort, by being “efficient?” —David Ball, Backwards and Forwards: A Technical Manual for Reading Plays