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The 5 Things You Must Do Before Opening Your Mouth to Speak

open mouth

When invited (or ordered!) to give a presentation or a speech, most of us think that what comes out of our mouth during that 5, 10, or 45 minute delivery is the 'piece de resistance.'  Without proper preparation, what comes out of your mouth may be a disaster.

I liken good preparation to the 5 W's of good investigative work, much like good journalism. Before you even prepare that speech or presentation, it is important to know who, what, where, when & why.

1. To Whom will you be speaking? The type of group you will be addressing will affect how you will speak to them. Talking to seniors in high school is different than talking to a group of insurance brokers. Your language will be slightly different as will your style of delivery. Knowing your audience means knowing their reason for attending your presentation.

2. About What will you be speaking? While this may seem obvious, such is not always the case. Let's say for example, you are a botanist and your mother at the retirement center wants you to give a talk to her gardening club. Giving a more generalized talk about perennials and annuals, for instance, is going to be of much greater interest to these retired senior citizens than discussing plant biochemistry.

3. Where are you speaking? Knowing exactly where you are to speak is vital if you want to arrive calm and confident. Thus, when you make your arrangements, be specific when it comes to the address or to the hotel. Do you know how many Marriott hotels are in Los Angeles alone? Arriving at the wrong one is definitely not a good idea!

4. When are you speaking? It may seem obvious to arrange the correct date when settling on a day and time; however, it would be a very good idea to say the day of the week in verifying your date. Mistakes have been made simply by looking at the wrong month when negotiating this information. You don't want to miss your engagement because of poor communication.

5. Why are you speaking? Again, this may seem like a 'no-brainer', but it isn't. Is your presentation persuasive or informative? Are you there to sell something or just to inform or possibly even to entertain? Many of us in the business can switch gears at a moment's notice. But, if your audience was expecting to hear you talk about Topic A and you talk about Topic B, you will have a disappointed group of people.

There is enough to worry about in creating a good speech or presentation and then delivering it well. Arriving at the wrong place or at the wrong time or delivering a somewhat risqué after-dinner speech to a group of Baptist ministers, does not make for a likely career in public speaking.

Knowing as much as you can about your audience and all the minute details will help make your presentation that much more successful.


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