A Public Speaker's Checklist

As public speakers, we should be focused on our audience and the material. The last thing we want is to be distracted because we’ve overlooked a logistical detail. Set out below is checklist of 50 things that public speakers need to remember before speaking.

A few things to note about the list:

  • It is restricted to matters of a logistical nature. A separate list would be needed for things to remember about the speech or presentation itself.
  • The list is designed to be comprehensive. It is unlikely that you will need to remember every single item each time you speak.
  • Your host will probably have many of the items. However, even when I am told that certain equipment and material will be available, I still bring along some back-ups. If I do not need them, so much the better, but I’m happy to have the extra insurance. And it has saved me on more than one occasion.

A Public Speaker’s Checklist

  1. Location of, and directions to, the venue.
  2. Date and time of the presentation.
  3. Estimation of time to get to the venue (accounting for traffic at that time of day).
  4. Full tank of gas, if driving.
  5. Location of nearest parking lot.
  6. Bus pass / métro pass or change for fare if taking public transportation.
  7. Up-to-date bus / métro schedule if taking public transportation.
  8. Location of nearest bus / métro stop.
  9. Money for taxi.
  10. Local currency, if in a foreign country.
  11. Passport, if in a foreign country.
  12. Telephone numbers of contacts at the venue.
  13. Cell phone (fully charged).
  14. Watch or other timing device.
  15. Eyeglasses, especially as a back-up if you wear contact lenses.
  16. Eyeglasses cleaner.
  17. Eyedrops.
  18. Laptop computer.
  19. Laptop power cable.
  20. Soundcheck of microphone and sound system at the venue.
  21. Small speakers as back-up if your presentation has sound.
  22. Multi-socket electric power bar.
  23. Converter plugs for electrical equipment if speaking in a foreign country.
  24. For Mac users, an adapter to enable you to connect your computer to a beamer. The standard one is the Mini Display Port to VGA Adapter, but there are others, so be sure that you have the right one.
  25. USB with back-up copy of presentation. (NB: For Mac users, if your presentation is on Keynote and your computer freezes, Keynote will not work on a PC. Consider having a PowerPoint version as well, if practicable.)
  26. Remote control for your slide presentation.
  27. Extra batteries for your remote control.
  28. Speaking notes, if needed.
  29. Hard copy of presentation slides (or key ones) in case equipment fails.
  30. Hard copy of thumb nails of slides for quick reference.
  31. Written introduction for the person introducing you to the audience.
  32. Props.
  33. Coloured markers for a flip chart.
  34. Coloured markers for a white board.
  35. Notepad.
  36. Pens / Pencils / Highlighters.
  37. Post-It Notes.
  38. Reference material. If you get a question at the end of the presentation and do not know the answer, you might be able to find it after the session and speak to the person who asked the question.
  39. Background material from your host (programme, list of participants, etc.)
  40. Handouts related to the presentation.
  41. Promotional material for your company / organization.
  42. Samples.
  43. Business cards.
  44. Small bottle of water.
  45. Bananas or other preferred energy food.
  46. Aspirin or other medication if needed.
  47. Spare shirt and tie or blouse if giving a speech after a meal. (You never know when you are going to spill something.)
  48. Umbrella.
  49. Video camera and stand if filming yourself.
  50. A positive frame of mind! Even though you have lots to remember, don’t let it detract from your commitment to be fully engaged with your audience.

So there you go, a whole bunch of things to remember for your next presentation. But there could well be more. What have I overlooked? Please comment and add to the list for the benefit of others.

UPDATE

Many people have kindly taken up my offer to add their own ideas to the list. So that we can all benefit from these ideas, I have created an addendum to the the Public Speaker’s Checklist which you can read here.

UPDATE No. 2

To put these ideas into a more practical format for you, I have reworked the checklist into a single-page PDF file. Items are grouped by category and there is space for you to add your own. As well, there is space at the bottom to add the title of your presentation, your audience, the venue and date of the presentation.

To get your copy of the Public Speaker’s Checklist, please click here.

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16 Replies to “A Public Speaker's Checklist”

  1. Hi John
    Only 50?
    I must admit that I’m paranoid when it comes to checking details.
    I’m totally with you John – write out your list and check them off one by one by one.
    In the old days I would have added… spare bulb for the projector but most of your readers won’t know what a projector is. LOL

    1. That the thing with lists, Keith – you can slice them and dice them pretty much any way you want. If a given speaker’s list only has 15 things and it works for her, then more power to her.
      Thanks for the commment.
      John

  2. I have a digitech slide advancer with a timer on it. Even though I typically do the same presentations over and over again, I like to take questions from smaller audiences. The timer really helps keep me on track! And it is less obvious than me checking my watch.

  3. This comment would be for those who are experienced Toastmasters, speaking outside the club, but still working on their educational/leadership goals. Have another Toastmaster evaluate your speech.

    1. Hi Monika,
      Good one! As a man, this is clearly something that is off my radar, so thanks for adding it. I can see how spare nylons (tights) could be very important.
      Cheers!
      John

    1. That’s a good one, Bart. Thanks for sharing it. A speaker should always try to find out as much as possible about his or her audience in advance. Having a standard form is a great idea. Of course, each speaking opportunity will present its own unique set of issues, but there are certain common issues that will be relevant for all occasions.
      John

    1. Gracias, Martiña! A great suggestion for the list. (And one that I should have added, given that I have done lots of speaking in the Middle East with simultaneous interpretation.) Another thing to add would be notes or a glossary of terms for the interpreters so that they can be sure to convey the right words.
      Thanks again!
      John

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