Article Category: Speechwriting

Speech Preparation #1: How to Prepare a Presentation


Proper Presentation Prevents Presentation PredicamentsProper preparation prevents presentation predicaments!

Speech preparation is the most important element to a successful presentation, and also the best way to reduce nervousness and combat fear.

The Speech Preparation Series is a series of articles examining each of the six steps which are necessary to properly prepare for a speech.

These steps are briefly introduced here, and investigated in more depth in later articles:

Speech Preparation Series

1. Select a speech topic

This may seem like an easy task, but there are infinite public speaking topics. How do you choose the right one? How do you select a topic which is a perfect fit between you and your audience?

Your topic leads to your core message — the entire presentation aims to deliver this core message to your audience.

The second article in this series focuses on selecting a speech topic.

2. Create a speech outline

Your speech needs structure. Without structure, your audience will either wonder what your core message is or they will lose interest in you entirely. Sadly, this step is often skipped to “save time.” A planned outline is vital.

The third article in this series shows how to craft a speech outline and provides several examples.

3. Write the speech

Speech writing is an iterative process which begins with your first draft. Writer’s block can handicap speakers at this stage. The fourth article in the series discusses how you can avoid that trap to write your first speech draft.

Once the first draft is created, speech writing involves iteratively massaging your speech into its most effective form. Keeping your ego in check, you are wise to edit mercilessly. The fifth article in the series shows you how to edit your speech for focus, clarity, concision, continuity, variety, and impact.

Remember that speeches should be written for the ear; adopting figures of speech will keep your speech from sounding like an essay or legal document. The sixth article in the series shows you how to add impact and beauty to your speech with rhetorical devices.

4. Apply gestures, staging, and vocal variety

At this stage, the words are ready, but that’s all you have — words. A presentation is not read by the audience; it is listened to and watched.

The seventh article in the series explains how to choreograph your speech with vocal variety, gestures (micro movements), and staging (macro movements). These elements should seamlessly complement your words and punctuate key phrases.

5. Practice and solicit feedback

Great speakers seem natural when they speak, almost as though they are speaking the words for the first time. Nothing could be more wrong. Rehearsing your speech makes you a master of the content. Soliciting feedback and acting on it gives you confidence that your presentation will be a success. The eighth article in the series explains how to achieve maximum benefits from your rehearsal time.

6. Self-Critique: Prepare for the next speech

Although listed as the final step in the process, it’s really the first step in preparing for your next speech. After you’ve delivered your speech, examine your performance objectively. This will solidify lessons learned as you prepare for your next speech challenge.

The ninth article in the series provides examples of questions to ask yourself as you critique your own speech.

The article series concludes with advice aimed at preparing to win a Toastmasters speech contest.

Tree - Face the WindSee the Six Steps in Action

Throughout this series of articles, I’ll be showing you how I applied these steps when preparing for one of my own speeches. My hope is that these practical examples will help you apply the techniques to your own personal presentation.

The speech I’ll reference is an inspirational speech I prepared and delivered for the Toastmasters International Speech Contest in 2007 titled Face the Wind.

Watch it now, and then read the articles to see how a short conversation with a friend months earlier led to this speech.

YouTube Preview Image

I would like to thank Chuck Denison for allowing me to use the Face the Wind video for this article series. Chuck has been the videographer for all recent Toastmasters District 21 contests. Videos are produced by Golden Memories Video Productions and available from him [email]. Chuck provides services to speakers who wish to produce a video to enhance their marketing strategy. On top of all that, he’s very friendly and professional.

Speech Preparation Series

Join the conversation. Share your experiences and describe what you do to prepare for a speech.

Next in the Speech Preparation Series

The next article examines how to select a speech topic which is the perfect fit for you and your audience.

This is one of many public speaking articles featured on Six Minutes.
Subscribe to Six Minutes for free to receive future articles.

Comments icon9 Comments

  1. Cassie Crocco says:

    Great job~! I love the video. That speech is fantastic. Keep up the good tips.

  2. Madelyn O'Brien says:

    This is a wonderful video. It held my attention the entire time.

    Thanks so much.
    Madleyn O’Brien

  3. Joshua Howard says:

    This is a great speech and a great article. I would love a version of this article in PDF format that I could download and share with my English class. This is perfect for them.

  4. Nice speech!!! I am learning MUCH from your articles. Dale

    Ps. I appreciate your effort.

  5. This is an excellent series of articles. Thank you for providing them to us.

  6. John Mark says:

    I am very much interested in this topic as I do a lot of speeches in my church. This gives me opportunity to learn more appropriate way to prepare a speech to meet its occasion.

  7. There is one more thing that person can do to get the ideas for speech. While speech can be written by a single alone, if you have your friends with you they can help you brainstorm the ideas. I think one of the steps to create a speech that makes an impact is do discuss with 2 or 3 people before you write it down. What do you say?

    1. Andrew Dlugan says:

      Yes, getting feedback from others is a great idea when planning your speech message. A thorough guide to selecting a topic is given here: The Secret of Choosing Successful Speech Topics

  8. Structuring a speech is always difficult for us all. I think it’s one of the things that really distinguishes an outstanding speaker, particularly at organisations like toastmasters where so many speakers are already good deliverers. As Andrew recognises, the best speeches are often a cooperative effort, involving help from many other people.
    Jakub Pawlowski, Great Britain and Ireland speech finalist recently wrote his own blog entry on how to write a winning speech. A point he makes and I support is it often helps to involve other people. I know his success was partly founded on involvement from others.

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