- Preparation 1 — What to Do When We’re Not Prepared
- Preparation 2 — Learning to Decline When We Can’t Deliver or Delay
- Preparation 3 — Delaying When We Can’t Decline or Deliver
- Preparation 4 — Preparation Defined
- Preparation 5 — What Being Unprepared Looks Like
- Preparation 6 — Being Over-Prepared
- Preparation 7 — We Can and Do Prepare Poorly
- Preparation 8 — Thinking Forward vs Thinking Backward
- Preparation 9 — Our Beliefs about Our Preparation Are Part of Our Preparation
- Preparation 10 — There’s a Rhetoric to Preparation
- Preparation 11 — The Best Preparation Is Staying in Practice
- Preparation 12 — The Big Picture of Preparation
Table of Contents
A Common Question about Preparation
One of the most common things I’m asked about regarding Rhetoric is preparation. In many ways, shapes, and forms, I’m asked what tips, tricks, and tactics we can use before we enter into an engagement that’ll give us a leg up, keep us from getting down on ourselves, and avoid many variations of ‘failing’ that we’ve all experienced, but few of us enjoy.
The only people that ever ask me about this in Rhetoric are those that don’t know what Rhetoric is or what it entails, so it’s a good place to start from in service to getting a better perspective on preparation, and Rhetoric’s role in it before, during, and after our affairs.
I frequently find myself ill-equipped and unprepared for things like speeches, meetings, negotiations, and presentations. If you could only pick one tip or tactic to use in situations like that, what would it be?
Before I go into that, if you’re frequently unprepared for something, it sounds like you have bigger problems you’re not dealing with. That’s like asking “what should I do if I keep running out of gas while driving in heavy traffic?” There are all manner of things you can do once you’re in that situation, but your being in the situation is the bigger problem if it’s happening all the time. We all get blindsided from time to time, but if you’re blindsided daily, and you’re not legally blind, you need to open your eyes a bit to why that is and deal with it before you hurt yourself and those around you.
That said, a good rule I teach is:
When you can’t deliver, decline or delay.
Like all good rules, it’s worth unpacking it before applying it so we can appreciate why it was made, how it works, and most importantly, the limits of it. It’s accessible enough that we can still use it in the meantime if we’d like, but the results of that can’t hope to approach what we get out of taking the time to more carefully consider the larger context that it’s being put into practice in, which we’ll examine as we reach the limits of this rule and what we can do to best prepare.
As we’ll come to, the height of preparation is practice1, making the best way to deal with being unprepared being to live in such a way that we can handle any of the Rhetorical challenges that come our way — whether we see them coming or not2.
Until we get there, however, our first option that not many of us consider when we feel we’re doomed is simply learning to decline3 our seemingly inevitable demise. Even prepared and at our Rhetorical best, sometimes it’s still the most effective choice we can make.
Footnotes, References, and Citations
He enjoys learning, making, and teaching things. Though he works internationally, he's based in the Bay Area, trained and operating by the University of California, Berkeley. He's considered a leading authority on the topic of Rhetoric.
Latest posts by SRhyse (see all)
- Preparation 12 — The Big Picture of Preparation - 2015-10-09
- Preparation 11 — The Best Preparation Is Staying in Practice - 2015-09-10
- Preparation 10 — There’s a Rhetoric to Preparation - 2015-08-06