Preparing your speech or presentation

It’s OK.  The speech is ages away.  There’s nothing to worry about yet.

You may be absolutely right, but there is no substitute for preparation even if you are an accomplished public speaker.  Take the politicians who finesse and practise their first speech in office long before the election is won (or lost!).

prepare speech

If you are beginning to think about a spring or summer work presentation or wedding speech, I’d suggest that you do the hard work now and create time for practise nearer the event.  This doesn’t necessarily mean writing a first draft, but simply pulling together all the information you’ll need and starting to think about the potential shape and structure of your speech.

This period is the equivalent of a sportsman’s pre-season training.  It will enable you to maximise the chances of hitting the ground running once the speech draws near.

Many of these tips won’t take you long, but they’ll save you time and stress nearer D-day.

  1. Contact others for background information. If you are a Best Man, it’s never too early to start contacting the Groom’s family for anecdotes.  If you are giving a business speech its worth asking the organisers what the audience will be expecting from you.
  2. Create a master document into which you dump all your thoughts along with everyone else’s. Even if it doesn’t seem so at the time, this process can end up being extremely useful in creating an overview and structure when it comes to writing the speech itself. At this stage don’t worry about what’s interesting, what’s funny, or what’s off limits. Put everything down!
  3. Keep an ear out for quirks, quotes and snippets of potentially relevant information and jot them down in your overview.
  4. If you’re using photos, diagrams or props, start thinking now about what you need and where you can get them.
  5. Take some time to start sketching an outline of your speech or presentation. This will begin to create the context to judge which of your stories and ideas fit well together.
  6. Be prepared to write a number of drafts before you get it just right.
  7. Enlist the help of a colleague or friend off whom you can bounce ideas and eventually practise delivery.  Ask them to be critical and so anything that passes through you both is likely to be worth saying.
  8. Find out about the venue in which you’ll be speaking.  Where will you be standing.  Will there be a microphone?  Will you have a lectern?  This information will all come in useful when you start writing and practising.
  9. Check who is speaking before and after you.  What are they likely to say?  How might they refer to you?  Start thinking about ways to link your speech to theirs.

None of this is rocket science.  Quite the opposite in fact. But it does show that there’s plenty to be getting on with early on.  A speech is nothing without content or context.  And they are best achieved through careful planning.

Please feel free to call me with any speech or presentation-related question on +44 (0)207 118 1600.

Thanks, Lawrence


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