He strides to the podium and engages the audience with riveting content as though he’s done it a thousand times. Maybe he has. But most seamless, well-structured speeches are backed by carefully-drawn blueprints.

I recently attended a conference where dozens of nationally- and internationally-known leaders took the podium. As a speaker, I was curious to assess their speaking styles. They varied widely, and most of them worked really well.   

A famous blogger stood four feet from the podium, reading her compelling script from her iPad with genuine inflection and gesturing, stepping forward regularly to swipe to the next page. A well-known athlete had a few notes on the podium, and referred to them infrequently as he gave his impassioned plea. A young leader held her iPhone, speaking and scrolling through her notes in a natural, casual way. A senior leader of an international ministry had his speech written out verbatim and read every word—engaging with the audience through occasional eye contact and inspirational content. Least effective was the national leader who memorized her speech but lacked an authentic connection with the crowd.

Pre-Speaking Blueprint

  • Stellar Content. In my view, the actual content of your speech is most important. Prayerfully pull together powerful content that engages your audience’s mind and heart, with a call to action. (Todd, please link a phrase to last week’s blog.)
  • Sufficient Notes. Over time, you’ll learn what works for you. Maybe it’s just an outline, as long as you stay on point and on time. Maybe it’s an outline with key points and quotes written out. Maybe it’s a script. I print my notes on 8 ½ by 11” paper in 22-point font. I keep phrases on one line and end sentences to the right, so I can glance at my notes instead of reading left to right. I use a 2 ½” margin at the bottom, so I don’t have to look down too far. I want to keep my head up for maximum eye contact. (See sample.) (Todd, please create link to the attached page.)
  • Sturdy Podium. Check ahead, and request an actual podium versus a music stand. I’ve had too many hairy experiences with music stands—Bible and notes sliding off the skinny edge, wobbly stands, or stands that start shrinking when you accidently lean on them! It’s great if the podium’s not too boxy so your audience can see all of you and not just your head and shoulders.
  • Solo Microphone. What I mean by “solo” is a microphone that can function apart from you holding it. Think about it – if you’re holding a microphone, you only have one hand for gesturing and page-turning. You might as well have one hand tied behind your back! A boom-mic is next best, although it restricts you to the podium. The best are lavalier or earset mics so your volume is consistent as you move your head, and you can walk around to relate more closely with your audience.
  • Supply of Water. It’s a rare occasion when I’ve needed water, but it’s wise to have some within reach. If your mouth gets dry or you get a tickle in your throat, you can easily remedy it with a sip of water.
  • Sense of Humor. The best laid plans of leaders and speakers can run amuck. If something weird happens with your mic or you lose your place in your notes—brush it off with a funny comment. The world won’t rise or fall on a perfect speech, and being human will endear you to your listeners.  

Being a well-prepared speaker is a gift to your audience. You honor them by imparting truth and valuing their time.

“Being a well-prepared speaker is a gift to your audience. You honor them by imparting truth and valuing their time.”

- Lisa Hosler

What tips have you learned for being well-prepared as a speaker? Please share your thoughts in the Comment Section below.

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