While teaching a Fundamentals of Public Speaking course at Wilberforce University for the last two years, I have developed a checklist to help me to grade students’ speeches.

Below is an expanded version of that checklist that can be used by speakers to prepare for their presentations. There are 32 items to be aware of.

Getting Organised for the Speech

  • Prepare: the speaker should have plenty of materials so that they have enough to talk about.
  • Research the audience: they can customise and adapt the speech for that audience.
  • Check the venue: the speaker should check the room for sound acoustics, microphone hookups, seating arrangement, etc. before the speech.
  • Find out: what the group organisers need from you. Do they need you to teach the audience a key concept? ask the audience to contribute to a project? etc.
  • Outline and practise the speech: the speaker should prepare a good outline of the speech and practise it several times so that they can deliver it effectively.

Delivering the Speech

  • Attention: the speaker commands the attention of the audience throughout the speech. They are able to change the pace of the speech, change their voice inflection or ask for feedback if they notice that the audience is not paying attention.
  • Introduction: it is often best to ask the leader of the group you are speaking with to introduce you, since this adds credibility to your presentation. Be sure to write a strong introduction.
  • Body language: the speaker uses natural movement, strong eye contact and natural gestures throughout the speech.
  • Complex information: the speaker can present complex and technical data so that it is understandable to the audience.
  • Confidence: they appear in command and control throughout the speech. They can deliver to any size audience with confidence.
  • Credibility: the speaker explains how their education and practical experience makes them qualified to speak on that subject.
  • Filler words: they minimise the use of filler words – ummmm, wellll, etc.
  • Impromptu: the speaker is able to deliver impromptu and extemporaneous remarks effectively.
  • Improvement: they continuously improve their presentation skills by learning new techniques and also by learning from their recent speeches.
  • Logical: the speaker displays an ability to present views logically so that it makes sense to the audience.
  • Main points: they explain the main points of the speech in a clear and persuasive way.
  • Natural: the speaker communicates with ease and with a natural style that connects with the audience.
  • Persuasive: they use voice, body language and logic to effectively convince and persuade.
  • Positive tone: the speaker maintains a positive tone throughout the speech and minimises their frustration with technology issues, hostile questions from the audience or other factors.
  • Pronounces clearly: they speak in a well-modulated voice and are able to enunciate effectively.
  • References: the speaker uses citations and references to add credibility to the content.
  • Spontaneous: they memorised enough of the content so that they did not have to read much of the speech.
  • Stories: the speaker uses anecdotes and teaching stories to add to the speech’s quality.
  • Time: they keep the speech within the allocated time. They are able to lengthen or shorten parts of the speech to fit the time they have left to speak.
  • Understandable: the speaker uses language that is concise, clear, relevant and meaningful to the audience.
  • Visual aids: they effectively use visual aids and displays without relying on them.
  • Vocabulary: the speaker has a well-developed vocabulary, but makes sure to use words that are understandable to the audience.
  • Voice: they are able to clearly modulate the volume, pitch, and rhythm of their voice.

Finishing the Speech

  • Transition: the speaker lets the audience know that they are about to finish.
  • Summary: they briefly go back over what they have talked about. (You can make the summary as long or as short as necessary to fill in the exact time that you have been allocated.)
  • Call to action: many speeches have a “call to action” in the summary, where the audience is asked to support a cause, practise a skill, vote for a specific candidate, etc.
  • Q&A: the speaker is prepared to handle a variety of questions from the audience.

My Biography

Speaker’s Checklist for Success

Rick Sheridan

Rick Sheridan is an assistant professor of communications at Wilberforce University in Ohio, USA. Rick also works as a journalist.

His news and feature articles have been published by several well-known newspapers, including the Chicago Sun-Times, St. Petersburg Times, New Orleans Times-Picayune, etc. Rick has a doctorate in communications, and he has been teaching and lecturing for 18 years.

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