Executive Education

Check your ‘personals’!

By Robin Kermode
Executive Education
Published: 16 March 2018

Ok, so you’ve written your speech, you’ve practised your delivery and now you’re ready for your big moment. But all too often it’s the smallest things that can derail all your hard work. Here Communication Coach, Robin Kermode, explains why you should always check your ‘personals’ before you get up to deliver your killer speech!

In every theatre in the land, half an hour before the curtain goes up, you’ll find actors checking their ‘personals’. Their ‘personals’ are their ‘personal props’.

If, for example, you were playing a murderer and you had to nip offstage to grab a gun for your final scene from the prop table, you’d be in deep trouble if you found the gun wasn’t there. You’d have to get inventive about improvising a new murder weapon pretty smartish! Obviously in that case, the gun would be that actor’s ‘personal prop’.

Recently, a client was in a large auditorium about to give a talk as the sound guys were wiring up his lapel mic. He asked if he could do a quick mic test but they said they’d already checked it and that all was fine.

Twenty minutes later, with the expectant audience all seated, he was up there on stage struggling with a faulty mic. It took them two long minutes to work out where the fault was while the audience squirmed. Eventually, they discovered they’d left the mic mute button on.

But he was the one looking embarrassed with egg on his face.

He shouldn’t have taken their word for it. He should have checked his personals.

So, to make sure that your speech goes without a hitch on the big day, here are my Top Ten personal checks to do before your kick off!

1. Check the platform
Check out the steps to the platform, so you don’t fall going up or down! Check how long it takes to walk from the side of the stage to the centre. The long, lonely walk to the podium can feel like forever, so check it out first!

2. Check what the auditorium looks like from the podium
It can feel a little scary when you first look out at a large group, so have a look at the auditorium from the stage – better not to be thrown on the day!

3. Check your speech
Arriving centre stage to find your speech isn’t on the lectern isn’t good, so always have a spare copy in your pocket.

4. Check your slides
Insist on running through all your slides (from beginning to end) in the room beforehand. Bring your presentation with you on a USB stick for safety. Bring every conceivable lead you have that might be useful. Computer and AV equipment is not always compatible. And print out your presentation on paper as a back up, in case the entire system goes down!

5. Check the mic
Insist on a mic test in situ. Walk around the stage speaking so you can hear yourself back, or, if standing at a podium, check that the volume level is ok – work out if you have to speak directly into the mic or not. No-one wants to be standing up there with a faulty mic, losing the audience whilst the sound team scramble around to solve the problem.

6. Check your water
Check that there will be some water should you need it. If they offer you a bottle then unscrew the top first, so you’re not struggling to open it in front of your audience. If you have a glass, it’s best to fill it yourself in advance.

7. Check you have a handkerchief or a tissue in your pocket
Sneezing in public without a tissue really doesn’t look good.

8. Check that your phone is switched off
It doesn’t look cool to answer a call from your mother when you’re giving a speech. I suppose you could always pretend it was from someone famous – but best to have it turned off. If you’re expecting an urgent call give it to a friend to answer for you.

9. Check you can see a clock
Most speakers overrun so it’s best to aim to speak just under the allotted time.

10. Finally, check your personal ‘personals’!
Have a quick last check in a mirror for unruly hair, spinach in the teeth, unzipped flies, shirts not tucked in, etc.

So, the next time you have to give a speech, don’t get derailed or fall at the last fence – check your ‘personals’!

I wish you the very best of luck!

About the author
Robin Kermode is the author of the bestselling book SPEAK SO YOUR AUDIENCE WILL LISTEN. He is a popular keynote speaker, one of Europe’s leading communication coaches and founder of Zone2, a professional training and coaching consultancy.