Prep v spontaneity

Having set out to write a book about speaking and presenting without being fake, I have made a bit of a mistake – and I want to admit it now, so that I can leave it behind and find a better way.

Here’s where I went wrong: I slipped into thinking that avoiding fakery must mean to rely entirely being spontaneous – as if any reliance on technique, or planning, might corrupt.

Obviously, that’s not true.

How did I come to recognise the mistake?

First, I talked to a woman I respect enormously. As it happens, this woman has seen me speak from the heart, spontaneously, and given me reason to suppose she found my words useful and inspiring.

But in her day-to-day work this woman helps professionals to speak and present. Sitting in the atrium at her gleaming office, she told me she always expects individuals to prepare carefully beforehand – to decide what they will say, and how they will say it, if not necessarily to learn it verbatim.

Afterwards, she sent me a link to a blog post reproaching people who assume, arrogantly, that they can turn up before any audience and say whatever pops into their heads.

Opening this, I flinched a little. I’ve always thought I was admirably free-spirited. I thought: I know what I’m doing, because I trained fairly extensively in theatrical improvisation.

More to my credit, I might even occasionally argue that by sharing what’s in my mind and my heart, spontaneously, I can almost deliver something spiritual.

But having thought about this matter carefully, I’ve concluded that my resistance to prep may sometimes have been merely arrogance.

That wasn’t all.

Another thing happened this week to shatter my false idea that spontaneity is always best.

But I’ll write about that in my next post.

In the meantime, if you have relied on spontaneity, or seen others do that – how did it work out? Please leave a comment. I’m truly curious.

Thank you for reading. JP

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