How to Quickly Prepare for any Presentation

This morning I received an email:

“Oren, we want to hire you to speak next week at the Federation of Swiss Watch Makers annual conference in Geneva, Switzerland.”

Hell yeah, let’s do this!

Keep in mind, my usual 6am email goes like THIS:

“Go to Baltimore today. We need $5 million in the next 30 days for that terrible deal we got ourselves stuck in. Have fun. Seriously though, don’t. Just get the money.

So, YES …  it’s an exciting time to be in business where at any moment you can be asked to give a presentation you’re not really prepped for.

In practice, when asked to give any speech on short notice, the correct answer is: “Sorry I’m not available, ask John to do it.”

(What!! John is at mindfulness training, again??)

So, like the rest of us, it might not be today, but soon you will be called on to speak and present. 

Maybe to get in front of a new customer, talk to the media or speak at a funeral — your day is coming.

Let me help you prepare.

Over the last few years, I’ve been forced into many last minute presentations and here are some important lessons.

(you can get a lot more info on all this here)

1. Jokes

On the day of your presentation, don’t come up with a “hilarious” joke in your morning shower, then try to use it in front of live humans an hour later. Need evidence? Here’s one I just heard:

… long before I was VP here at Xerox, I worked in a pizza shop. It was my final summer in college, and at the end of a long hot shift, a Buddhist came in, ordered a single slice. 

I took $20 from him and looked away.

He asked me, “Brother, where is my change?”

I told him, “Brother, change comes from within.”

Queue uncomfortable sIlence. Chairs shuffling.

2. Memorization

Ever wonder how “actors memorize lines?” These methods are made for 23 year olds in West Hollywood, and using them will get you fired from my company.

Here are the actual methods taken from the Internet:

– memorize one paragraph and then immediately take a nap

– spend an afternoon with friends at a coffee shop reading each other’s lines

– don’t bother knowing lines, you are there because you’re good looking

– just breath

It may help to know, Dustin Hoffman takes about 1-hour to memorize 6-minutes of material.  You’re going to need longer.

3. Index Cards

Yes! DO use index cards. These are great for keeping you on track. They are called INDEX cards for a reason. It’s ok to look at your cards while speaking, this looks professional (flipping through a stack of papers trying to find your place looks amateur.)

Those are some quick suggestions.

Let’s discuss methods:

When you are speaking or presenting, you have three main options or “methods.”

Method 1. FREESTYLE aka Winging it

If you are some kind of Debate Club Hero, then you have the option of completely winging it. And with no planning required, you can just “be yourself” and let ‘er rip potato chip. I feel this is much like “running out of underwear” and deciding to just “go commando” on the basis that “no one will notice.”

Think of every rock star interview ever as the definition of FREESTYLE:

[INTERVIEWER]  Joe, Who inspires you?

[LEAD SINGER]  … so I just made a shake with radiator coolant and don’t tell anyone but I married my pet snake, totally legit in Kentucky where I hide my rock star income from taxes and my Russian lady friend manages my civil war stamp collection, oh yeah I really love Yoda he is sensual in a very interesting way don’t you think?

THAT’s usually the result of going full freestyle.


In this method, you memorize a basic outline and a few key detailed points, but it isn’t all scripted or written out. This is the kind of presentation that sounds a little different every time you give it, but the same basic message is delivered. With broad topics, you remember the basic story and use your experience to fill in the color and detail.


You might think this method would make you sound robotic, slick and inauthentic. It does. Watching a canned and memorized presentation makes us nervous and edgy as we’re waiting for you to miss a line, look at the ceiling and sadly say, “oh darn, I knew this part earlier today.”

All above methods have benefits and some merit – so which is the best?

I’d suggest a combination of the all three techniques, as follows:

First step is to MEMORIZE THE OPENER.

I do not recommend you start your intro using Freestyle, Commando, or any other “winging it” method. Intros need to be strong, crisp and clear. This raises your status, captures attention and gets people in your swim lane.

It will also calm your jitters and allow you some confidence in the first few minutes. I would do it like this: Make your opener and Big Idea about 2-3 minutes. (It takes professional actors one hour to memorize 6 minutes, you should invest 3 hours to memorize 3 minutes.)


After the intro, you’re going to get a little loose (you have now used up all your memorized material) so it will be time to roll freestyle. Reverse Freestyle is when you make a list of all things you are NOT going to say when you cut loose. My list looks like this

– limited — or better yet — no F bombs

– don’t say anything bad about the competition

– don’t laugh at your own jokes before you’ve finished telling it

– don’t ask the audience, “does that make sense?” just to see if they’re still paying attention



In total, for a 30-minute speech/presentation, I will memorize about 9-minutes of material:

Intro – 3 mins memorized

Transitions from major section to major section – 1 min each memorized

Close – 3 mins memorized

NEXT: If you want to use my methods to put together a pitch, speech or sales presentation, this is the best way to get access to me:


– Oren

Don’t hesitate to grab another copy of Pitch Anything here

Next: send this to a friend. Best if a Congressman, Fortune 500 CEO or Nobel Prize winner, but “Tim in Marketing” will be ok too

And: I’m hiring! Need sales and business development and management consulting professionals. email

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