Be a More Effective Speaker: Prepare!

Know the occasion. You need to know about the occasion when preparing your speech. Is it more of an informal speaking event, or more formal event? Knowing this will affect your approach, slightly. Obviously, you want to be professional at all times. There are other things you need to know when preparing for a speech.

Time Limit . Always find out how much time you have to speak, and don’t go over it. If you have five minutes, keep it at five minutes, and don’t go 20 minutes. Hint, if you see people yawning, it’s kind of time to wrap it up!

Purpose of the occasion. Make sure that you communicate with the person organizing the event about the material or topic you will cover during your presentation. Be proactive, because at times, people who are organizing the event may be stretched, thinking that everything is set and ready to go. Of course, that doesn’t always happen (been there). If you wait and wait to get the email that never comes, you will be scrambling the night before to get your speech straight; or think that the topic is set and you show up and give a speech that is unrelated to what is noted on the program. This is very disappointing for you audience, which might explain the funny looks you get while speaking. Make sure you verify this information!

Other events scheduled. Are there other events, speakers? Gather as much information about the speaking event. Not to freak yourself out, but to prepare! Again, check with your contact about not only your speech topic, but what others are speaking about. You can ask for the program to be emailed to you to verify, as well. You don’t want to deliver a speech on a topic that was just discussed. In addition, sometimes, there may be a debate format or a question and answer period that is much longer than you were expecting. Knowing as much in advance about the format and schedule of the event will help you prepare, and help you feel more comfortable and relaxed, so that you can deliver your awesome speech!

Audience Size. This is a big one for me, literally. I want to know if I’m walking into a room to deliver a speech with 25 college students, or an auditorium of 150 high school students, families, faculty, and staff. This helps you to mentally prepare, and saves yourself the shock if the ladder occurs, expecting the former. I’ve been there, and it can be a bit unsettling. Also, it helps to know if you will be using a microphone or visual aids (power point), or if the room is even set up for that. If it’s not, you need to know. Regardless, you will be expected to deliver the presentation. Having as much advance notice about the event helps you to prepare for and aids in delivering the best speech ever! OK, how about an effective speech that gets your point across. Good luck!


Hamilton, G. (2010). Public Speaking for College and Career (9th Ed.). NY: McGraw-Hill.