Preparation Is Everything

by Stephen Boyd | February 15, 2005

You can have the greatest topic, be speaking to an enthusiastic audience, have material that this specific audience needs to hear, and be excited about your topic, and yet not be successful. Why? Because you lack proper preparation.

Preparation is the single most important part of a successful speech. One of the difficulties with preparation is that it may be hard to determine when you are really ready to speak. Often, when coaching people in their speaking, I will hear, "Well, I thought I was ready, but I wish I had prepared more."

How can you insure proper preparation before you speak?

  • To keep from being rushed, you must start preparing well in advance of when the presentation is to be delivered. You simply cannot "cram" for a speech. If you start preparing the speech a day or two before you have to deliver it, you are doomed! With significant speeches, you may want to begin preparing several months in advance.
  • Spend major time mulling over your message to your audience. Read all you can on your topic. Practice on your friends and colleagues some of the material that you plan to include. Ask people what they think about some of the ideas you hope to present. Remember that you can revise up until the time you speak. Keep thinking, "How can I make this better?" All of this takes time.
  • Probably most critical to preparation is practice time. You need to practice a speech at least three times before you deliver it to your audience. Speak it out loud. Time it. Simulate the speaking situation as much as possible. Find an empty room and stand at the front and deliver it as though you have a full room of people.
  • After each practice session, take a moment to review what you said. This is one of the best revision times in your preparation. Some of your most creative moments in improving the content will come immediately after practicing aloud. Even if you have delivered the speech before, you need to practice parts of it before every presentation.

Remember, if you do not practice your speech, then your actual presentation is a practice session. You have too much at stake to allow that to happen.

About the Author

Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D., CSP, is Professor Emeritus of Speech Communication, College of Informatics, Northern Kentucky University, near Cincinnati. He presents keynotes and seminars to corporations and associations whose people want to speak and listen effectively. See additional articles and resources at To book Steve, call 800-727-6520 or email him through his website.

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