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You Can't Deliver What You Haven't Developed


“If you wing it, success is improbable. If you work for it, success is inevitable."

-- John C. Maxwell

Today's communication law is the Law of Preparation, which applies to all areas of life, not just how you communicate.

One of the things that I tell my clients (and myself) is that success and fulfillment come when we live and work on purpose. However, most of us live by accident -- there is little to no preparation to reach our potential, goals, and dreams. But "spectacular performance is always preceded by unspectacular preparation."

We often want to skip the preparation because, as John Maxwell stated, it's unspectacular; there is no glory in the preparation itself, and it takes time, intentionality, and hard work. But in communication, preparation is the glue that holds you to your subject matter and your audience and vice versa. As Benjamin Franklin is attributed with saying, "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail."

Preparation is More than Subject Matter

In communication, preparation is more than just designing your speech or article, and I'm not here to tell you how to formulate your communication (i.e., introduction, body, and conclusion). But John gives four powerful questions to help you connect your audience to your message:

  • What do I want them to see?

  • What do I want them to know?

  • What do I want them to feel?

  • What do I want them to do?

These questions can (and should) be asked for every communication, and the answers don't have to change every time. In fact, Maxwell says that these questions help him stay on his "Big Message," meaning the one he communicates every time he speaks, regardless of the subject matter.

Preparation Furthers Personal Development

Malcolm Gladwell points out that "practice isn't the thing you do once you're good. It's the thing you do that makes you good," and in life and communication, there is always room for further development. John Maxwell likes to say that you're dead when you stop learning and growing; you just haven't made it official yet. But preparation that fosters learning, growth, and development begins by asking powerful questions that help you:

  • Familiarize yourself with your message.

    • Do I know what I want to communicate?

    • Do I feel what I want to communicate?

    • Do I live what I want to communicate?

  • Evaluate your effectiveness while speaking.

    • Am I comfortable and confident?

    • Is my audience leaning in?

    • When am I, and when am I not connecting with the audience?

    • Are they engaged?

  • Prepare for the opportunity.

    • Did I communicate what I wanted to (i.e., the Big Message)

    • Did I communicate the subject matter well?

    • Did I inspire the audience to take action?

    • How can I make the message better?

And these are just a few questions you could ask to grow yourself through preparation!

"All great speakers were bad speakers at first." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Preparation Multiplies Talent

Talent is your natural ability, but it won't develop into a strength or a skill unless you intentionally use it well (preparation) and often (consistent practice).

  • Low Talent + Low Preparation = No Skill

  • Low Talent + High Preparation = Average Skill

  • High Talent + Low Preparation = Limited Skill

  • High Talent + High Preparation = Great Skill

  • High Talent + Consistent High Preparation = Unlimited Skill

Preparation Doesn't Stop

Because you should always be learning, growing, and developing into the best version of yourself, preparation doesn't have a finish line. Even an expert like John Maxwell, who has spoken more than 13,000 times and sold more than 20 million book copies, will tell you that he still gets up every day and prepares for the communication he has to do. "Preparation and practice will never stop if you want to be at the top of your game. The higher you climb in proficiency and public acceptance, the greater the need to practice. Excellence is a result of many practices." As Brian Tracy says, "Your success will be in direct proportion to what you do after you've done what you are expected to do."

This week, answer these questions:

  • What is your Big Message?

  • How can you improve your preparation to get the results you want?

  • When will you implement these preparation strategies?

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