I’m giving the keynote speech at a conference for college students Friday night in Boston. 

It’s easy to think of the effort of giving a speech as the 30-60 minutes it takes to stand and deliver the talk. But, for me at least, I spend many hours mulling ideas, putting the structure together, designing slides, and rehearsing.

Here’s my office whiteboard from earlier this week when I was trying to make sense of all the ideas I was considering for this keynote: 

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And here’s a screenshot from today of the slide sorter view in the Keynote app as I neared completion of my slide design:

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I’m not satisfied yet. I’ve rehearsed it out loud twice, and I like where it’s heading. But it hasn’t completely clicked yet. 

I’m afraid I’m trying to include too much, and I’m inclined to cut as much as a third of it when I review it again on the flight up tomorrow. 

This is a lot of effort for 45 minutes in front of an audience, and there are no guarantees my presentation will be well received. 

I do get absorbed in the best way, though, when I plunge into preparing for a new talk.

Much like signing up to run in a race weeks from now focuses your commitment to your fitness, committing to give a speech focuses your mind on ideas. My brain has been in a more aware and alert mode, scanning for relevant information and making connections and discoveries I otherwise would have passed by. 

Regardless of how the actual speech is received by the audience, the time spent in preparation has been a worthwhile commitment of my time and my creative energy.