The most successful LinkedIn post that I have ever posted has, at the time of writing, 108,303 views, 943 likes and 101 comments. It was a post on being proactive and it resonated with a loooot of people. Hence the birth of this blog post.
Proactive Professionals Reap the Rewards
If you have ever taken some time to observe successful people, you likely would have found that those at the top of their professions have proactive personalities.
When a commercial flight prepares for takeoff, the pilot arrives two hours before departure. He meets with the co-pilot to cover operational procedure. They discuss the flight plan, weather, and review documentation for loading and fuel. Around 45 minutes before takeoff, they board the plane and carry out pre-flight checks. Passengers don’t see all this preparation, but it is essential for a smooth flight.
Athletes are meticulous planners, too. Look at Fernando Alonso, a double Formula One World Champion, and current Dakar Rally competitor. Like a pilot, Alonso’s preparation begins long before the race. Drivers undergo extensive physical training and clock hundreds of hours in simulators to memorize circuits right down to individual corners. On race day they arrive hours before the event for seat fitting, strategy meetings, and safety briefings. Without all this planning and dedication, championships would be impossible to win.
You might see public speaking as a far cry from the worlds of aviation and motor racing, but there are surprising parallels to be drawn. A public speaking event can benefit from a proactive mindset. Even the best speaker in the world needs to turn up early to ensure that they are prepared.
If you want to succeed with a keynote presentation, you will need to stop being reactive, and become proactive in all that you do.
Arriving Early Reduces Stress
Whether you are driving to a nearby event or flying across the world, there are elements outside of your control. Delays happen, and these can compromise your schedule.
If you are driving, you need to account for traffic. Why not leave early instead and save yourself some time on the road? If your presentation is scheduled for the morning, book accommodation and leave the night before.
If you’re flying, book a flight for the day before. Even with delays, you will make it to your accommodation (and later the venue) with plenty of time to spare.
This can take pressure off you and allow you to focus on the job at hand: wowing your audience and leaving them with insightful takeaways.
You Can Prepare the Room and Find Your Bearings
Carry your proactive mindset all the way through to your speaking appearance. Try to arrive up to two hours before you are scheduled to take the floor. This will allow ample time to find your bearings, look at the room, and focus on your delivery.
You will be able to get a feel for the floor plan, and if you arrive before other speakers, you will be able to walk the stage and start to visualize the audience.
Speakers that arrive only minutes before they are due to go on are often flustered and unprepared. This carries through to their presentations and the audience will feel it. Hosts also notice the lack of preparation and professionalism, and in many cases, these unprepared speakers aren’t asked to come back.
You Can Iron Out the Technical Details
Larger events have technicians to control sound, video, and lighting. Whether it’s a single technician or a whole team, arriving early will give you a chance to meet them and test out the equipment. You can try the microphone and get an idea of how the P.A. sounds. This could make a difference in how you deliver your presentation. You’ll be able to learn the microphone controls and the best placement if you’ll be wearing a lapel or headset. You could also test your presentation to get the framing on the projection screen perfect.
Building rapport with the technician will ensure that you are both comfortable when it’s time for you to speak.
If you were to arrive minutes before your talk and fumbled on stage trying to get your slideshow to work, you would look like an amateur. How can an audience take you seriously if you aren’t proactive in ironing out the details in advance?
You Can Meet Your Audience Early
One of the most important reasons to arrive early, and one of my favorite parts of any event, is being able to connect with the audience. While the room likely won’t fill up until a few minutes before the presentation starts, there will attendees who are proactive like you, and they’ll be in there long before you are due to take the stage.
You can start to build a rapport with these people early, learning about their backgrounds, professions, and maybe even their passions and aspirations. This can help when you finally start talking as you’ll already have a link to these early arrivers. If you’re relatively new to public speaking, then this could make you more comfortable and confident. It could even mean making new friends and building stronger professional connections.
Arriving early isn’t just about being punctual. It goes to the core of professionalism and proactivity. The benefits to you as a speaker will be profound. This, in turn, will benefit your audience, with your message leaving an impact at any event.