Tuesday, August 25, 2009

a checklist to prepare the whole speaker

Too many of my trainees focus on preparing the speech and not the speaker...and those who do focus on preparing themselves often zero in one just one aspect of what they need to do to really be ready to speak in public, whether it's a small meeting or a large assembly. But to succeed as a speaker, you need to prepare the whole speaker for your presentation, not just one or two parts of yourself.

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.


  1. Do I know what the audience wants from me?

  2. 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?

  3. What do I want to get out of this speaking experience?

  4. What do I need to learn from the audience? How will I find out?

  5. Do I intend to engage the audience? Do I just want them to listen? Do I intend to get them to act on something?
  1. What do I need to include or exclude to meet my intentions and those of the audience?

  2. How can I put my facts across persuasively? What are my data, ideas, proofs?

  3. What emotion or personal experience can I add to the mix?

  4. Is there content the audience can contribute? Am I comfortable with them sharing their insights?


  1. Am I focused and ready? Do I feel prepared?

  2. If not, what am I anxious about? What's the worst thing that could happen? How will I deal with it?

  3. What are 3 successful things I've done before that I can use again this time?

  4. What are 3 things I'd like to improve this time, based on previous speaking experiences?

  5. How and where will I fit those into my presentation?

  6. Am I prepared with breathing exercises or other ways to stay calm?

  7. What will help me relax and focus?
  8. 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?

  9. Am I ready to roll with whatever situation arrives, with calm and good humor? Or am I going to get impatient and angry?
  1. Have I taken care of the basics? Am I rested, fed, hydrated, stretched out, relaxed?

  2. Do I need to spend 10 minutes before the speech attending to breathing and stretching?

  3. Am I wearing clothes and shoes that are comfortable enough to help me stand and move as needed?

  4. If I don't feel well, what do I need to change to get through my speech successfully?

  5. 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?

  6. Is my posture straight but relaxed? Are my shoulders hunched? Am I centered at my core?

  7. Am I inadvertently clenching anything--teeth, hands, shoulders, neck? Why?


  1. Are my clothes clean, pressed and mended? Do they fit me?

  2. 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?

  3. Am I using color to my advantage? Will it help me stand out in the setting?

  4. Is there anything about my outfit that will distract me? Distract my audience?

  5. If I plan to gesture, have I removed rings and bracelets?

  6. If I'm standing behind a lectern, have I focused attention near my face? What from my outfit will be seen in that setting?
Technology and the unexpected
  1. Do I know how my own technology works?

  2. Do I have any adapters, cords or batteries I may need? Am I making the mistake of assuming there will be technical help?

  3. Can I give my presentation even if all the technology fails? Can I speak without my slides?

  4. Do I have plans B, C and D ready?

  5. Have I seen the room and the available technology ahead of time, or do I need to show up early to do that?

  6. 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

When the speaker needs to catch her breath

4 things to remove before speaking

Wardrobe tips from an audio guy

Wear blue for your audience

Do you overprepare for speeches?

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.

1 comment:

Cindy Downes said...

Thanks for the Checklist. I am printing it and hanging in my office!