Knowing the Speech Versus KNOWING THE SPEECH

There are FAQs and then there are QNDABTSA

Let’s say that one together:
Questions Nobody Directly Asks But They Still Ask

One of my favorites is:
How well do I need to know the speech?

This manifests itself through indirect questions like:
“Do you have tips for how to remember what you’re saying?”
“How much should I rehearse?”
“Should I memorize this?”
“What should I put in the notes?”

But how well should you know the speech?

Assuming this is high-stakes, here’s my answer:

When Barkley (our dog) was in puppy stage he had behavioral problems. Swallowed a sock rather than dropping it, growled at you if you dared to sit on “his” side of the couch, and generally turned most encounters into a Mexican standoff.

Here he is, in puppy stage, with a wig he carried the last 20 minutes of our walk. Because heaven forbid he release something from his mouth.

We finally reached the point of paying a trainer to correct Barkley’s behavioral problems. We’d heard glowing recommendations about this woman. I remember she sat us down to explain the process.

She told us the first step was to teach the dog to sit. Sit? Huh? I couldn’t believe it. He already knows “sit”, I told her.

“Sure, but will he sit when there’s a distraction?
Will he sit when there’s a squirrel ten feet away?
WIll he sit when you really need him to?
He needs to be able to sit no matter what.”


Y’all, that’s the level upon which we need to know our material. There is a HUGE difference between “the information exists in my brain and I can figure it out” and “I know this no matter what.”

Knowing the speech is different from being able to recall it under pressure.

We need to be in the latter category. Which doesn’t mean memorized, per se. It means having the right words and ideas dusted off at the forefront of your brain.

Don’t be the person who writes the speech, then doesn’t bother to practice. Do the work. Know the speech no matter what. Your audience will thank you, and you’ll feel awesome. That’s a good combo.


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Metaphorically speaking, a lot of us do the same when we start a speech: we make it all about ourselves. We read our resume to the audience.

Y’all. We don’t need to do that. At best that comes off as braggy; more likely it comes off as insecure. 

Don't be that guy.

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These are stories, hacks, speech critiques and recommendations. I spend an inordinate amount of time writing these.


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