Stand and Deliver Resources

Part B: Preparing a talk

B.5 Being honest about preparation

When you get up to speak, here is one thing that we probably shouldn’t say:

‘Well, I haven’t really prepared anything, so…’


‘So I didn’t really know I was doing this until yesterday so I’m just going with the flow…’


‘Okay, so I haven’t really planned anything for this but…’

We usually say this out of nerves, which is understandable. But if we say this, there are two options: either it is true, or it’s not true. Neither is great! 

If it’s true: If it’s true that we haven’t prepared, it’s not a great thing! Remember, while there will be the occasional moment when we have literally no time to prepare, most of the time we do. If we have had the opportunity to prepare (even if only briefly!) and we haven’t taken that opportunity, what does that say to our audience? How might it make our audience feel to know that we are asking for their time and attention but we haven’t considered how to use it? If we really haven’t prepared, best to just take a deep breath, say "Holy Spirit, help!" and do our best.

If it’s not true: If it’s not true, we may be saying it as a bit of a nervous ‘filler’ phrase to help lower expectations so people don’t judge us too harshly for our speaking! While this is understandable (and of course, very forgivable!), it’s not ideal to start off with an untruth! After all, there may be people in our audience who know for a fact that we have had time to prepare, and maybe they even saw us prepare! Rather than try and fill the space with a nervous phrase about not preparing, best to just take a deep breath, say "Holy Spirit, help!" and do our best.

For better alternatives for dealing with nerves rather than saying you haven’t prepared, check out section A3. Dealing with nerves.