Part of the reason that even experienced speakers feel a bit nervous before a speech is that there is a lot that must be done before you even walk on stage. If you don’t have a pre-speech checklist, here are some things for you to do before your speech in chronological order:
For shorter speeches (such as a Toastmasters speech or other speeches under 20 minutes), I recommend practicing the entire speech at least three times. For longer talks, practice it in pieces and practice the parts that you struggle with several times.
2: Check your facts:
If your talk has information, figures, facts, quotes or stories that doesn’t come from your own work or experience, you want to make sure that you do your due diligence. A classic example of this is the story of a study of the Yale Class of 1953 which states that the three percent of graduates with written goals out earned the 97% without goals. The story, which has been used by hundreds of speakers (including bestselling authors), is untrue — no such survey was ever conducted.
3: Get your clothes ready:
An hour before you need to leave your home is a horrible time to realize that you have nothing appropriate to wear for your talk. Give yourself at least a couple days to make sure you have something that fits properly, is in style and clean. If you’re not sure how to dress, check out this article.
4: Confirm the date, time and location:
This isn’t always necessary for an event with a regular meeting place and time, but it’s still good practice in case there’s a last minute change. For other events, you want to confirm all the details including when to arrive, any check-in procedures and anything else you may have requested. It only takes a few minutes but it can save you a lot of trouble.
5: Confirm your travel arrangements:
If you’re traveling far, make sure that there are no issues with your lodging or transportation. If you’re driving, make sure you have directions, money for tolls & parking and that you allow enough time to get there.
6: Print out your introduction:
I highly recommend bringing at least two copies of your speech introduction with you. Yes, you can email it ahead of time but you run the risk of the person misplacing or forgetting it. Why two copies? It’s possible that the person introducing you might lose it between when you gave it to them and when it’s time to introduce you.
7: Pack your props and handouts:
You went through all the trouble of creating handouts and working props into your talk so it would be a shame if you left them at home. Make sure everything is packed together including laptops, projectors, extra bulbs, etc…. It’s best to fit it all in one package (such as a carry-on or small suitcase) so there’s less to forget or leave behind.
8: Check out the room:
If you’re familiar with the room and its setup, then you can skip this step. Otherwise, you’ll want to check out the room ahead of time to make sure you know the layout and can plan your speech accordingly.
9: Visit the restroom:
Between and 15 and 30 minutes before your speech, you should visit the restroom. The first reason is obvious; you don’t want to add any additional discomfort for yourself while giving your speech. The second reason is that you want to give yourself a final once over to make sure that your hair and clothing look okay.
10: Do your relaxation techniques:
Right before it’s time for me to go, I take a deep breath and quickly imagine myself being a success with my talk. Depending on your own situation, you might want to listen to music, stretch, do breathing exercises or go through whatever relaxation routine that you have.
So there you have it — ten things to do before you give your speech. If you’re at all nervous before your talks, this will help cut down on some of it. If you’re an experienced speaker, this could prevent you from having a bad experience. Remember that a little preparation up front can help prevent a lot of trouble down the road.
If you’d like a one page checklist that you can print out and use, then please feel free to download my Pre-speech Checklist.