Here's a checklist I like to use to make sure my own preparations are complete before I speak. How many of these preparations are on your checklist? Do you have any to add that you find helpful? Leave a note in the comments section.
- Do I know what the audience wants from me?
- Is that what I'm going to give them? Do my goals match theirs? If not, why am I speaking to them? How will I reach them?
- What do I want to get out of this speaking experience?
- What do I need to learn from the audience? How will I find out?
- Do I intend to engage the audience? Do I just want them to listen? Do I intend to get them to act on something?
- What do I need to include or exclude to meet my intentions and those of the audience?
- How can I put my facts across persuasively? What are my data, ideas, proofs?
- What emotion or personal experience can I add to the mix?
- Is there content the audience can contribute? Am I comfortable with them sharing their insights?
- Am I focused and ready? Do I feel prepared?
- If not, what am I anxious about? What's the worst thing that could happen? How will I deal with it?
- What are 3 successful things I've done before that I can use again this time?
- What are 3 things I'd like to improve this time, based on previous speaking experiences?
- How and where will I fit those into my presentation?
- Am I prepared with breathing exercises or other ways to stay calm?
- What will help me relax and focus?
- Have I thought through events that may challenge all my assumptions about this speech? Do I know what I'll say and do if no one agrees with me, or if someone gets angry?
- Am I ready to roll with whatever situation arrives, with calm and good humor? Or am I going to get impatient and angry?
- Have I taken care of the basics? Am I rested, fed, hydrated, stretched out, relaxed?
- Do I need to spend 10 minutes before the speech attending to breathing and stretching?
- Am I wearing clothes and shoes that are comfortable enough to help me stand and move as needed?
- If I don't feel well, what do I need to change to get through my speech successfully?
- Have I thought about how I will gesture, move, sit or stand during the course of the presentation? Are those movements planned or random? Do they help underscore my points?
- Is my posture straight but relaxed? Are my shoulders hunched? Am I centered at my core?
- Am I inadvertently clenching anything--teeth, hands, shoulders, neck? Why?
- Are my clothes clean, pressed and mended? Do they fit me?
- Will my wardrobe allow me (if needed) to do things like crawl under a table to plug in a cord or reach high to point at a chart? Have I rehearsed my movements while wearing my intended outfit?
- Am I using color to my advantage? Will it help me stand out in the setting?
- Is there anything about my outfit that will distract me? Distract my audience?
- If I plan to gesture, have I removed rings and bracelets?
- If I'm standing behind a lectern, have I focused attention near my face? What from my outfit will be seen in that setting?
- Do I know how my own technology works?
- Do I have any adapters, cords or batteries I may need? Am I making the mistake of assuming there will be technical help?
- Can I give my presentation even if all the technology fails? Can I speak without my slides?
- Do I have plans B, C and D ready?
- Have I seen the room and the available technology ahead of time, or do I need to show up early to do that?
- Is the room too hot, cold or noisy? Have I asked the facility staff for help fixing that before my talk?
Related posts: All our tips for the healthy speaker
UPDATE: I'm happy to say that Andrew Dlugan included this post in his weekly review of the best public speaking articles in the blogosphere. His weekly roundups are a wonderful way to stay up-to-date on tips for your speaking progress.