Friday, August 27, 2010

A checklist to prepare the whole speaker, annotated for introverts

My checklist to prepare the whole speaker is one of this blog's most popular posts of all time.  But many readers have asked me whether they need to do anything differently because they're introverted speakers.  I think they do, so I've remodeled the checklist just for them. Some questions are the same, and some have added considerations for introverts; I've also created a special section on audience interactions, because those often don't allow the planning that makes introverts more comfortable. The principle behind it remains the same: To succeed as a speaker, you need to prepare the whole speaker for your presentation, not just one or two parts of yourself. 

This type of preparation is great for all speakers, but utterly essential for introverts to feel more comfortable when speaking, be it in a meeting or a major speech. Introverts, 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?

Do I intend to engage the audience? Do I just want them to listen? Do I intend to get them to act on something?

Can I "fake it until I make it" when it comes to projecting confidence?


What do I need to include or exclude to meet my intentions and those of the audience?

Have I allowed extra time in advance to plan my content and practice it so I'm more comfortable?

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? Am I comfortable sharing this publicly? 

Is there content the audience can contribute? Am I comfortable with them sharing their insights?  Should I welcome others talking so I don't always have to?


Am I focused and ready? Do I feel prepared?  If I'm telling myself I won't succeed, can I silence that voice?

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?  Have I considered the advantages that introverts have because of the way they "think first, talk later?"

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?

Audience Interactions

Can I be comfortable handling Q&A without feeling challenged whenever a question is asked? Have I reviewed the 17 reasons to welcome audience questions?

Can I find out what I need to learn from the audience in a way that makes me comfortable? Does that mean getting questions submitted online, or standing at the door so I can greet people one-on-one first, rather than "meeting" them all at once?

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 setting myself up for more probing questions or challenges from the audience that will make me feel uncomfortable or under attack?

Am I ready to roll with whatever situation arrives, with calm and good humor? Or am I going to give up, get scared or withdraw?

Will I feel more comfortable during Q&A if I can walk up to the questioner, so it feels like I'm speaking one-on-one? Will that be possible, given the room setup? Can I make that happen?

Do I know how to use time-buying phrases and an active listening stance during Q&A so I have a little time to think about my answer?

Should I plan to spend more time talking to audience members one-on-one after my talk, rather than take most questions from the stage, if that would feel more comfortable?

Have I planned some down time after the presentation, so that I can regroup and recover without others around?


Have I taken care of the basics? Am I rested, fed, hydrated, stretched out, relaxed? 

I need to spend 10 minutes before the speech attending to breathing and stretching. Can I find a convenient stairwell, hallway or restroom where I can do that in private?

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?  Can I get over the fact that I'll be standing out and noticeable?

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?

Technology and the unexpected

Do I know how my own technology works?

If I'm soft-spoken, do I have an adequate microphone and sound system to help me?

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?  Since extemporaneous speaking may not be my strong suit, what's my backup plan--written notes? more practice?

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?  Am I prepared for how it feels to be on that stage, with that large or small an audience?

Is the room too hot, cold or noisy? Have I asked the facility staff for help fixing that before my talk?

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Andrea Wenger said...

In my experience, here's the biggest difference between introverts and extroverts when it comes to public speaking: extroverts who aren't adequately prepared can speak extemporaneously, whereas introverts can't speak extemporaneously unless they're thoroughly prepared. It's an oxymoron, I know, but introverts have to have the script memorized in order to go off-script. Thinking and talking are two different things for introverts, while extroverts think out loud.

eloquentwoman said...

In fact, Andrea, introverts are on to something: The more you practice, the more effortless you sound! I think the other big difference is that extroverts gain energy from crowds, while being around a big group drains energy from introverts--hence the need to retreat before and after speaking.