Preparation 1 — What to Do When We’re Not Prepared

Preparation 1 — What to Do When We’re Not Prepared

This is part of a presently ongoing series about Preparation. Each post has been made more or less self-contained, and refers to other portions of the series and elsewhere when helpful. They can be read in any order, though they thematically still build on one another in sequence, and I recommend reading them from the beginning. To be notified when a new entry is released, and to receive instant notifications for any other updates on the site, please head here. Feel free to give me feedback on any of them as well, either in the comments below them, or by contacting me—particularly if there is something specific that should be addressed as the series progresses.

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.

Dear Rhetor,

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?

Chronically Unprepared,

homer-stupidBefore 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. magnifying-kidIt’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

Series Navigation--|--Preparation 2 — Learning to Decline When We Can’t Deliver or Delay >>
Follow Me


Steven Rhyse has spent a great deal of time working in many colorful variations of Maker, Marketer, and Manager on a freelance and consulting basis, doing everything from editing to art on all manner of projects. His clients range from market leading companies and startups to small business owners and individuals. Designing, planning, and implementing new media solutions to business and marketing problems tend to be his primary roles, but he regularly makes use of his strong production and teaching background. Business, Entertainment, and Technology tend to be the industries he frequents most, often finding himself in the realms of Education and Health as well. He's also found great success as a private educator servicing all of the occupations and industries he just mentioned, among many others.

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.
Follow Me

Leave a Reply


Our Rhetorical abilities are entirely determined by what we know and what we do. All of Rhetoric is learned. This site is about what to know, and what to do, to become a Good Rhetor. Whether you use that power for fame, fortune, or fulfillment, ideally, you'll do something good with it.

In Need?

I get booked up pretty quickly, but feel free to contact me if you have a pressing Rhetorical concern you need solving, be it in Writing, Editing, Public Speaking, Art, Design, or anything else Rhetorically inclined.


If you're interested in receiving news about site updates, new services and classes being offered, book releases, a newsletter, and access to site content exclusive to subscribers, feel free to sign up here. It's free, can be opted out of at any time, and I dislike spam as much as anyone.