5 Questions to Ask Before You Speak
Whether you’ve been asked to give a wedding toast, a retirement party roast, a funeral eulogy or some other kind of special occasion speech or presentation, here are 5 questions you should consider before you speak:
1. What is the goal of the event?
Think about the overall goal of the event – is it a happy celebration or a sad remembrance? Do you want the audience to laugh, cry, ponder, be entertained….?
2. Who is in the audience?
What is the background of the people in the audience? How many people are expected? Are they work colleagues of the guest of honor, friends or family? What are their ages? For example, the insider jokes and industry jargon that may be appropriate for work colleagues may not make sense to family members in the audience.
3. What is your message?
What is the one point that you want people to remember from your speech? Every story and statistic you share should relate to that one core message, which should be in tune with the overall tone of the event.
4. How much time do you have to speak?
What is the time limit for your presentation? What comes before and after you? Will someone introduce you? Whatever your time limit, prepare to speak for less time and have a backup plan in case a previous presenter goes over the time limit. One of my clients prepared a funny limerick to present at a colleague’s retirement roast, but the previous speaker rambled on well beyond his time limit, so my client had to rush through his limerick.
5. What is the environment like?
What is the room size and layout? Will you present sitting or standing or from behind a podium? Is there a microphone for you to use? What is the lighting like? (I’ve seen speakers struggle to read their notes because the room is dimly lit). If you can’t practice in the room before the event begins, at least try to find a picture of it, so you can be more comfortable in the space when you present.
Asking these questions will help ensure that your speech or presentation is successful and that you convey a message that is appropriate to that audience and aligned with the overall purpose of the event.
Gilda Bonanno is a speaker, trainer and coach who helps people from all walks of life improve their communication and presentation skills.
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