Updated: Feb 16
Set yourself up for success leading up to your speech
Chances are almost all of us will have to give a momentous speech at some point during our lives – 21st birthdays, weddings, at work… yet how many of us have to write speeches so often that it is a cinch? Not many of us. With little to no experience, it can be a big challenge to write, practice and deliver a speech well.
Fortunately, we have the know-how and experience to put together a guide on what to do leading up to your speech. Now – you may not have as one month to start preparations, but that’s OK. Choose your starting point and we will let you know how to scale up your preparations to suit your event.
Remember – the purpose of preparing your speech is to get comfortable with delivering this speech publicly, happy you deliver it with the right level of passion and excitement, and to know it well enough to not have to spend the whole time reading from your notes. The purpose is to engage your audience and have them feeling and thinking you how want them to. And, there is no reason why it can’t be fun to do a great job at delivering your speech.
Let’s the preparations begin.
Related speech writing guides
4+ Weeks Out
Start thinking about your speech
Start preparing your speech if you are unsure about where to start
Consider enrolling in a public speaking course for a big boost in confidence and experience
Depending on how comfortable you feel about preparing your speech, giving your speech some thought well ahead of time will ease any stress. Feel free to start working on the 2 – 4 Weeks Out points earlier. If you are particularly uncomfortable with the thought of speaking in front of a crowd, and while you have plenty of time, a great way to build confidence and skill in a friendly environment is through enrolling in a public speaking course. We recommend Toastmaster’s SpeechCraft Course (Google it in your local area). Not only will this help towards your upcoming speech, it will help you with public speaking and generally communicating with confidence. You could even deliver your speech during the course to get a “close to the real thing” experience.
2 – 4 Weeks Out
Start to write your speech to give you enough time and mental space for ideas and edits
Include techniques on how to best deliver your speech within your speech content
Seek support if you’re struggling to get creative or understand what to write in your speech
Start to casual rehearse.
By then end of this period – ideally, the foundation of your speech is complete. And, you are reading it and visualising your delivery two or three times a week or as often as you need to feel comfortable
Whether this is your starting point, or whether you have already been preparing – at this point, we recommend that you start or continue to write your speech and begin to casually rehearse.
You’re probably thinking “wow, this is preparation overkill” by starting this far out. Think about how much this speech means to you. Will delivering a great speech make you and your audience happy? On the flip side, how would you feel if it did not go down well? Then, why not give yourself the time to make sure you are happy with it. Also, this allows time for you to have an “epiphany in the shower or the toilet” moment (it happens to all of us), and these ideas will help to continually build something great. You may also hit a “writer’s block” wall when writing your speech, or you may periodically add and change stuff over time. This starting point allows you to avoid the stress of limited time, and it gives you the time and space to edit your speech constantly until you are happy.
When writing your speech, picture yourself delivering the speech and write it like you’d say it. It’s super easy to write something very formal and unenergetic when simply writing without imagining what it would sound like at the time. One technique that may help you with this is a technique used by pro speakers, which is to write techniques into the speech. You may wish to use capital letters to tell you to SPEAK LOUD when saying particular words. You could bold or italic words that you wish to really emphasise. Depending on what notes you use when actually delivering your speech, you could include these font edits or simply use them in a copy to rehearse with. If you need any support with the structure of your speech, ideas on what to write, or pre-written template content that already has these techniques included, check out the Guides or the Speech Hubs linked at the top of this blog, or use our Speech Generator to build your speech.
Start to rehearse. The recommended action to take here is to read your speech often, make casual attempts to record it to memory, and visualise yourself delivering this speech at the event. This type of rehearsal will help you to know your speech inside and out. It will make you feel generally more comfortable with the speech and your ability to deliver it at the event. Recording some or all of it to memory not only helps you to engage your audience more spend more time focusing on them instead of your notes. It also helps you to concentrate more on your delivery instead of the words.
1 - 2 Weeks Out
At the end of this period – ideally, your speech is 95% completed and you are rehearsing once or twice a week. We recommend using rehearsal techniques once every day or two until you feel comfortable, and then rehearse every so often to keep your skills and memory up.
If this is your starting point – write your speech as per 2 – 4 Weeks Out. But, you want to prioritise and work on it daily or every couple of days to ensure it is not left to the last minute, adding unnecessary pressure to what is already a challenging task. You too should use rehearsal techniques once every day or two until you feel comfortable, and then rehearse every so often to keep your skills and memory up.
By the end of this period, we recommend you have your speech 95% done. This will leave you with one week in which to add some finishing touches and to focus on rehearsal. Also, having a close-to-finished product will help to ease any anxiety and give you plenty of time to practice. If you are starting at this point, we recommend you start and complete your speech within the next few days to give you as much time as possible to rehearse and to change your speech as you think of new ideas. If you are stuck for ideas on what to write, visit our guides at the top of the blog, or create your speech using our Speech Generator.
Consider ramping up your rehearsal at this stage. Whatever you do – do not expect that you will get it anywhere near right during this period. We like to think that the aim is to get speeches “90% right” during the real thing, so it is a bonus to even do OK during this initial rehearsals.
We have listed a bunch of ways to rehearse below. If you are reasonably comfortable in your ability to speak, perhaps only a few practice sessions will be enough. If you are dreading the thought of giving your speech, you may wish to use one or more of these techniques daily until you are comfortable. Pick which works best for you. If you want more information on rehearsing, visit our Resources Hub.
Write rehearsal notes and techniques into your speech (refer to 2 – 4 Weeks Out).
This could be via either an audio or video recorder. We recommend trying this at least once. Especially if you are not hidden by a lectern during your speech, we recommend recording yourself on video to see how you move your whole body during your speech (the camera on your laptop or phone is perfect). As scary as it might be to judge yourself, it is something that has to be confronted if you wish to change things for the better. It’s always interesting to see how look and sound. Often, the concentration on what we’re saying leads us to speak in a more monotone fashion, and our body language is non-existent. Now, imagine how you look and sound when you are excited and talking about something interesting with your friends or family. Much more dramatic, right? That’s how we want to come across – like you are talking with friends about something you are excited about, because you are. Exaggerate the excitement in your voice. Exaggerate your facial expressions and how much you smile, raise your eyebrows and use your hands to emphasise what you’re saying. These techniques will make you come across like a seasoned speaker.
Read and visualise
When you have a free moment, continue to read your speech to yourself (as referred to in 2 – 4 Weeks Out) and visualise yourself delivering the speech. You will be surprised how well you learn your speech by doing this.
Listen to your recordings
An add-on to Record Yourself. If you’re on the move, eating lunch, or otherwise have some spare time on your hands, watching or listening to playbacks helps to further record things to memory and tweak or reinforce your speaking techniques.
Practice in front of others
You may have a rehearsal dinner or otherwise wish to “give it a go” in front of friends, a partner, or family. We recommend approaching this once you have already rehearsed in other ways so those listening can provide feedback on what is closer to a finished version of your speech.
We have put together some Resources that provide more information on rehearsal. During rehearsal, take note of the length of your speech. If you find it goes for too long or ends too quickly, you have plenty of time to make changes. We find that the length of your speech falls into these three categories – fast (150 words per minute), normal (130 words per minute), or slow (110 words per minute).
If you have any more ideas for rehearsal techniques, we’d love to hear about them!
1 Day Out – 1 Week Out
Make final adjustments to your speech until it is concise, covers all necessary elements, and is something you are proud to deliver.
Rehearse as per 1 – 2 Weeks Out, but ramp it up to as much as you need to feel comfortable.
By the end of this period – we want to be ready for action!
If you’re starting at this point – read the earlier sections, do your best to write your speech quickly enough so that you get a couple of days to rehearse. If you feel under pressure, relax and give yourself time to learn your speech by seeking support from the get-go.
With preparations going according to plan up until now, we are looking for a stress-free week. Rehearse as per 1 – 2 Weeks Out. Practice should be the name of the game this week. Practice as much as you need to feel satisfied you can deliver your speech as well as you hope. Make whatever tweaks you need to make to your speech. Focus on cutting out any unnecessary words (here is a good blog for that - IvyPanda) and ensuring it is sending the messages you want to send. Consider what notes you wish to use during your speech – full speech, dot-point notes, or no notes at all. At this stage, create whatever makes you most confident.
We recommend that you check out the details about where you are giving your speech. Will you have a microphone? If not, you will have to practice projecting your voice. Are you speaking behind a lectern to a big crowd? You might have to exaggerate your body language so that people can see.
If you are starting at this point, and if you haven’t finished your speech yet, best to make this a priority. It can take time to think of ideas and time for practice to be perfect, so get stuck into writing your speech as early as possible. If you need to speed up the process or are stuck on what to write, visit our guides at the top of the blog, create your speech using our Speech Generator, or have our speechwriters create your speech within only a couple of days.
Morning of – a final practice run. A quick run-through on the way to wedding, as an example, could be a good opportunity.
During the day – a quick read of your speech
Within the hour before – if you have a chance – a final practice run. If not, a re-read of your speech and/or a quick visualisation will help you to feel ready to go.
Get someone to record you to get feedback and learnings for next time
For this, we have assumed you are delivering your speech in the evening.
Congrats on getting to this point and all of the work you have put into this! If you have time in the morning, a practice run will ease your nerves and reinforce the confidence you have developed during the past few weeks. Take time throughout the day to read your speech and visualise, and use any time you get before to the big moment to read or do a final practice run. In short – depending on your level of confidence, use whatever time you have up your sleeve to use any of the rehearsal techniques referred to in 1 – 2 Weeks Out.
Depending on the occasion, you may wish to make some final changes to your speech resulting from the day’s event. These are great to include! Don’t worry about whether making changes will ruin the “flow” you have developed with your rehearsals. Trust us – these ad-hoc stories and comments resulting from the day will come naturally.
If you haven’t written your speech yet – yikes! Unless you are a quick writer, we recommend jumping on our Speech Generator platform and creating a great speech in no time. Spend as much time as you can during the day practicing and getting to know your speech.
Before you give your speech, and depending on how you feel about developing yourself as a speaker, consider asking someone to record your or make a note of what you missed. Use these or any other feedback to help for the next occasion you have to present to a crowd. And don’t forget – get confidence and satisfaction from the positive feedback. You have earned it!
Done and Done
No matter when you get started on your speech preparation, you can create and deliver a great speech. The more time you give yourself, the more of a chance you’ll have to develop your speech and your ability to deliver it to a level you are proud of. You have probably noticed that there is a lot of practice in the above! If you are a seasoned pro at speechwriting and public speaking, you may not need all of this practice. But for the majority of us, and just like with sport, getting ready for an exam, or building skills at work, practice is the only way to get comfortable and confident. Remember – the aim is to get 90% of your speech right. You will miss words or deliver something in a way that you didn’t quite want, but that’s normal! Prepare as best as you can and as much as you need to feel confident and you will deliver something that makes your audience feel grateful they were there to hear it.