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Checklist for Speakers

This checklist for speakers and speechwriters will help you polish your remarks. Obviously these points do not work in every situation -- euologies at funerals or announcements of bad news, for example. This checklist works best for speakers and speechwriters preparing for a business presentation, talk to a civic group or a tribute at a celebration or retirement party.  

Can I sum up my key message in one sentence?
Defining exactly what message you are trying to convey will help you focus your speech, keep you from rambling and ensure that all parts of your talk enhance your central message.

Does my attention-getter make my audience want to hear more?
Except for the conclusion, this is the most important part of a speech. You have only a few seconds to gain the audience's attention and if you miss this golden opportunity, you may ne
business speakerver catch up. Some of the most common openers include
  • Telling a story.
  • Using a memorable quote, 
  • Telling a joke.
  • Giving a surprising statistic or interesting piece of data,
  • Asking a question -- real or rhetorical.
  • (Note: an effective opening question is not, "How are you all doing today?" Ask that if you must but then give your audience something else.)
Do I state my key message in the first minute or two?
That does not mean the first words out of your mouth should be "Today I'm going to talk about...." That is a boring opener.  You are taking listeners on an audible trip so let them know the destination or purpose of your speech in the first couple of minutes.  

Can I refer to some people in the audience?
Mentioning someone in the audience by name is guaranteed to draw attention to what you are saying. A good a technique is to work in references to listeners in the middle of your speech when minds tend to wander. 

Can I enhance my points with examples, facts and stories?
You must paint a verbal picture to keep your audience's attention. Sharing a personal story helps you develop an emotional connection with your listeners. 

Is my delivery energetic with appropriate pauses, hand gestures and movement? 
Practicing is the only way to become comfortable with your natural style. We all know how deadly unenergetic speakers can be. Rehearsing is the only way you can get beyond your self-consciousness about being animated. Stay within your comfort level and adapt your style to the situation but show the audience some enthusiasm. 

One final thought: When you see speakers such as Steve Jobs who appear just to walk out on stage and speak off the cuff, don't be fooled. They've practiced hours to achieve that nonchalance.

Are my visual aids such as PowerPoint adding to my message?
Let PowerPoint supplement your message with good visuals and variety. Whatever you do, don't turn around and just read from the screen. Guy Kawasaki has a useful 10-20-30 rule for PowerPoint presentations that keeps presenters from killing their audiences with bullet points. 

Do I use repetition effectively?
A key phrase repeated in your speech, especially at the conclusion, will give your talk unity and make it memorable. The greatest speeches always employ repetition. 

Can I deliver my conclusion in a smooth, confident manner?
Treat your conclusion as a separate speech and practice it repeatedly so that you don't have to think about it. Your final words are your chance to tie everything together and have an impact on your audience. Make those closing words memorable.

microphone for speaker

Tips for toasts and speeches


Retirement speeches

Wedding speeches

Speaker resources 

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