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Every Speech Needs Something You Are Probably Leaving Out

Help your speaker do an even better job by including a page or two of details about the event itself.


I don't sail often, but when I do, I'm terrible. We’re not talking about a guy who zig-zags through the marina or drags sails in the lake. I’m bad. I-once-flipped-a-catamaran bad. Flipped-it-in-dead-air bad. That kind of bad.
 
But I have one thing going for me: before I set sail, I always check the weather and my gear. I'm weak on skills, but at least I'm prepared to do my best.
 
Speakers and speechwriters should follow suit with their work. Many do not.
  

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When we sit down to write a speech, we think about what we have been asked to  address and what we would like to say about it. But the quality of a presentation depends on more than that. The speaker has to know what he or she is getting into.

That's why a speech text must be accompanied by a spec sheet – a page or two of specifications and details about the audience, the venue, the occasion, and anything else that might be useful to know.

Put yourself in the speaker’s position. You’d like to know, for instance, how many people are out there, because there’s a difference in how you speak to fifty people and how you speak to two-hundred-fifty.  You’d like to know if they’re sitting at tables or in theater chairs, and if the talk takes place right before lunch or first thing after the invocation. And on it goes.
 
When you prepare a speech, prepare a spec sheet, too. How to write a good one? Here are a few ideas:
 
Make it easy to read. Use a layout that’s visually easy to follow. For instance, when scanning for details, remember that columns are clearer than paragraphs.
 
Describe the physical layout of the venue. What kinds of chairs will people be sitting in? Will they be at round tables that require some people to turn around to see the stage? Will people be spread out among empty seats or clustered together?
 
Write down the run-of-show. List the minute-by-minute order of events up to the speaker’s presentation and after. Let your principal know exactly what his or her cue will be. There’s not much worse for a speaker than wondering when it’s your turn.
 
List people in the audience who ought to be acknowledged. If it’s not already in the text, this gives the speaker a choice. If it’s in there already, the reminder is helpful.

 

 
This only scratches the surface. The best approach to populating a spec sheet is, in the early stages, to write down anything you think might be useful. Don’t edit yourself, and don't trim it until you’re creating the version that the speaker will see. Ask yourself what you, as a speaker, would like to know besides the text, then do the research and send it along.

 

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