One tool for the speaker that will keep speeches fresh and current is an idea notebook. In addition to any filing system that you have for illustrations, poems, and quotations, some of your best ideas for an upcoming speech will come to you when you are not at your desk; use your idea book to capture those thoughts. You may or may not use the idea in a speech, but the mental discipline of thinking of it and writing it down will help you continually to process how to improve your next presentation.
Jim Rohn wrote this about ideas: “Rarely does a good idea interrupt you. You have to cultivate ideas.” When you get an idea, write it in your idea book. Write down punch lines from television shows. As you watch your favorite talk show or sitcom, keep your notebook nearby. Record the basic elements of great stories you hear from your friends. Write down amusing lines you see on billboards or car bumpers. A number of years ago, I was following a semi-trailer truck and saw two signs on the back of the truck. On the right side a sign read, “El Cruncho,” and on the left side a sign read, “El Paso.” I couldn’t wait to get the lines written down before I forgot. I have used that trucker with a sense of humor in many of my speeches since then.
A lot of reflecting usually happens after delivering a speech. Some of my best ideas for improving that next speech have come from the feedback I get from audience members. Keep those comments in your notebook.
I have been keeping an idea book for about the past twenty years. My book stimulates me to think more when I’m not at my desk, for I know I have a resource with me in which to record the ideas. I date my ideas; it’s fascinating to see what thoughts were important enough to write down six months ago or a year ago. Even better is to peruse my first or second idea book. It is amazing how my views on life have changed after 15 or 20 years.
Clever and thought-provoking ideas can come from children. My five-year-old grandson said to me, “When I’m big, I’m going to miss little.” And from my middle school granddaughter about being a cheerleader: “I may be a cheerleader, but guess what? You don’t have to know that much to cheer.”
Share your ideas with someone regularly. That reminds you to keep the idea book current, and when you contribute your ideas, you often get additional ideas from the person with whom you shared your thoughts.
An idea I wrote down several years ago that continues to help me when I’m not sure I’m prepared comes from Lorne Michaels of Saturday Night Live: “The show doesn’t go on because it’s ready; it goes on because it is 11:30.” And this reminds me that, unlike other areas of my life in which I procrastinate, I always have a deadline to meet when preparing a speech.