How I Prepare for Speaking Events

By Laura Greenwood


How I prepare for big and small speaking events, interviews, exams…has changed over the years.


I used to be a huge perfectionist.  I used to like to be in total control.  To feel like I had done anything in my power to be good enough, because of course on my own merit, without running myself into the ground with preparation I wasn’t in my mind.


Of course, preparation to an extent is important.  But what I used to do was over prepare and burn myself out in the process.   At university I would often work all day, usually without food breaks, revising for exams.  Come home.  Usually eat something quick and easy, before going again all night.  Sleep.  Repeat.


I totally, completely burnt myself out.  To the point where during one exam, I remember reading the question.  A question I had prepared so much for I could recite the whole essay should my brain have been online…but in that moment, I just couldn’t.  I simply froze.  I knew I knew the answer and my body and brain literally did not have the capacity to find it.


Thankfully after spending 5 minutes composing myself, I managed to complete the exam, but without a doubt I know that my over preparation in the attempt to gain perfection, negatively impacted on my exam performance.


Reflecting now, I know that my over preparation in an attempt to be perfect, actually meant I did not work to the best of my ability.  Although I didn’t know that at the time.  I did not know any other way.


I missed out on a first at university by 1% and despite having achieved a very respectable 2:1, I was devastated! All I could focus on was that 1%, rather than the 69%.  Total negativity bias in action and activation of the simply “not good enough” belief…clearly should have tried harder.


What is different now?  


Well, I have done A LOT of personal work on overcoming perfectionism.  On recognising, I am, and have always been good enough, just as a human being walking this planet.

Now, I know I do my best work when I am rested and I take care of myself, physically, emotionally, mentally.


My best creative ideas of how to speak directly to an audience comes in times of stillness, not busyness.


But this has taken time to both recognise and give myself the opportunity to learn this is the case, by doing it! By embracing imperfection.  By knowing I am good enough just as I am, regardless of how the event goes.


I have met many a functioning perfectionist.  I was one for many a year.  We learn to overcome it, only when we are ready to and usually when the downsides of the perfection outweigh the good.  When perfectionism no longer serves a useful function.  Causes more harm than good.  Welcome Motherhood for teaching me to embrace the messiness, imperfection, and uncertainty!


So now lovelies.  My preparation involves carving out some time in my diary to write notes on what I want to cover.  This is usually done well in advance, so I have time to reflect and ponder over it as I find moments of stillness in my day.  Walking is when I do my best reflection! My phone is full of random notes related to different speaking events.


Now I am boundaried about the time I give to preparation.  I can physically feel when my brain has had enough and is no longer working to its optimum capacity, and this is when I rest.  Even if I haven’t finished! Because I know, the answer is not going to come to me the more I push through.  I trust that it will come to me eventually.  When it is ready to.


I value the other parts of myself that are important and give time to those too.  All work and no play and all that!  I rest, rest, rest…in whatever way I need to beforehand.


Finally, I complete a visualisation mediation up to a week before and daily if I can.  Imagining myself coming across in the way that I want to.  Seeing myself speaking, being, exactly how I want to be.


Repeating to myself:


I am calm


I am confident


What I have to share matters


I share what needs to be shared for the greater good of all


It sounds woo woo right?!


Well, I tell you what, this woo woo stuff is based on science and it bloody works.  The brain does not know any difference between whether you are doing it in reality or imagining yourself doing it.  We use this is EMDR all the time.


I can also tell you it works from personal experience!


During my JAAQ social media mental health platform filming.  I filmed well over 100 questions, without needing them to be refilmed.  A record that JAAQ believes will never be beaten.


My podcast recording with Susanna Kenyon-Muir…she sent me no information about the questions she would ask beforehand, so I could not prepare at all! I remember at the time considering, should I ask her for some? I decided to use the experience as an experiment to see how I managed without knowing anything in advance.  If my old perfectionist self could see me now, she would be in total disbelief at that! The only preparation was the visualisation beforehand.

Hands down, this was the best podcast recording I have done.  I spoke from the heart and my experience.  It was more than good enough.  As a woman, mother, mental health expert and entrepreneur.


So, lovelies.  If perfectionism sill has a strong hold on you, I totally understand how debilitating that can be.  Know it developed in your life because it served you well.  Also know, if that is no longer the case, and perfectionism is burning you out, preventing you from reaching your full potential and recognising your true worth, overcoming it is possible.  I know that professionally.  I know it personally.  Recovery from this is ready for you when you are ready to embrace imperfection and uncertainty.


A scary place at first…but I promise you one day that fear can turn into excitement!


Laura x

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