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5 Myths about Preparation

If you want to be world-class at something, everyone knows that you need to prepare. Yet in business, preparation seems to be overlooked too much.  Here are some ideas about why this is so…

1. It will take a long time…

Good preparation is not like revising for an exam. It does not take hours. If you know what you need to prepare it can take minutes. Start with the outcome in mind. What do you want to achieve? Along the way what could happen? How will you react? What are the key points you want to get across? What is the overarching narrative or image that you want to create?

2. It will appear weak…

The perception that you should be able to just walk into a room and ‘do your thing’ is a mirage. Anyone who appears like they are a natural, they most likely prepare behind the scenes.  And you never see the work behind the natural skills.

In a macho environment, there is a pretence that being well-prepared is a sign that you can’t do it naturally. In reality anyone who wants to make progress, does so with quiet, self-confident humility knowing that they need to get ready to be their best.

3. It can be done the night before, or in the lift on the way to the meeting…

The more time you give yourself before the event, the more your brain has the chance to come up with creative ways of describing the messages. The more time you get to practice and think through all scenarios, gather many points of view and garner support from others.  Starting a small amount of preparation as soon as possible leads to more success.

4. Thinking it through is a good form of preparation…

Wrong!!  Thinking is strangely unhelpful, because in your thoughts is also your inner critic, unhelpful and negative. If I think about going to the gym, can I get any stronger? No.

Practicing is the primary form of preparation. That means ‘out loud’; articulating what you want to say. With another person or with yourself, by speaking aloud you will hear how it sounds, find your natural word patterns and edit out what doesn’t make sense.

Visualising is a good form of thinking through a scenario. It involves really taking yourself there mentally and physically. That is a reasonable way of preparing but it is easier once you have practiced.

5. I don’t want to over-prepare…

You cannot over-prepare. But you can over-think and over-plan. Preparation involves getting ready for the freestyle of the situation. That things may turn in unexpected ways, and you have prepared your response.

Over-thinking and over analyzing are certainly ways in which people tie themselves in knots and it can diminish confidence. That is because they are preparing incorrectly. Practicing and rehearsing avoids this, but practice for clarity.

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