Hundreds of hours can be put into writing and preparing a speech, but sometimes the most crucial few minutes are those spent immediately before the speaker gets up to present. How can you increase your chances of a successful presentation before you even open your mouth?
Check the venue. Are there any obvious problems with the venue? Is the lighting wrong? Is there a problem with the audience placement? Is there an issue with the microphone?
Turn up a few minutes early to take a look at everything to see if there’s anything that needs to be fixed.
There’s often an MC who will get up to introduce you to the audience. At all costs, try to have a say in your introduction! A speaker-supplied introduction is better than letting the MC do their own research. Sometimes you have no say in this, but supplying an introduction also helps the MC. A carefully crafted series of bullet points is an excellent way to help the MC.
If it’s appropriate, you may even have a humorous comment in there to get the audience on side. A nice joke to run by the audience might be something like, ‘That introduction sounded so good that even I want to hear myself talk!’
Those crucial last seconds
You may be offstage waiting to speak, but you might also just be waiting at the side.
If that’s the case – the audience is watching you!
Have no doubt that some of them are watching your every move: how you stand, how you move, your demeanor. These all work in your favor or against you. Before you speak, look relaxed, smile and stand tall. You might even want to react favorably to comments by the MC (although you don’t want to steal their thunder. Let the MC have their moment in the sun).
If you’re nervous about speaking, chat to a few members of the audience beforehand. That way you’ll find friendly faces in the crowd once you get up to speak.
Those last few minutes are vitally important before you speak.
Make them matter!