7 Speech Tips for the Procrastinator

You’ve got a speech to give, but you’ve procrastinated. Not to worry, the Public Speaker tells you how to give a great presentation even if you waited until the last minute to prepare. 

Lisa B. Marshall
5-minute read
Episode #242

Tip #4: Think of Good Stories, Examples, or Evidence

I always say that the best way to engage your audience is to tell a story. If you’re short on time to prepare, the next step is to think of stories that support the points you’ve just selected. You’ll also want to think about possible examples and evidence too.  Again, give yourself a time limit and once you’ve listed everything that comes to mind, choose one story or example for each point—the one that is best for this audience.  If you're deciding between different options, keep in mind that some people are influenced by logical evidence while others prefer inspirational stories—try to include both. 

Run through them in your head. If you have a few minutes, make each of the points separately with a coworker to practice. Make sure it’s authentic and is something you’re familiar with enough that you can tell it without a lot of preparation. The idea is to run through each point and example as if it were a separate mini-presentation.

Tip #5: Write an Outline and a Few Notes

Since you’re short on time, you won’t have a chance to write out your entire speech or memorize what you’re going to say. That’s OK – in fact it’s a good thing. If you write out your speech, you’ll be tempted to read it. Reading your speech is the quickest way to lose your audience. If you memorize, you might sound like a robot or get flustered if you lose your place.

Take 5-10 minutes to write out a basic outline and a few supporting notes. Be sure to think of something to say at the start and at the end that grabs attention and introduces and summarizes the main idea. Using a very brief outline will help you stay focused on your message, but gives you the flexibility to ad lib.

Tip #6: Arrive Early

Arrive at your speaking engagement a little bit early. If the room is open, go in and familiarize yourself with your surroundings. Where will you sit while you wait to speak? How do you get up to the stage? Where will you be standing? If there’s time, walk up to the stage and look around from that vantage point. Seeing where you’ll be will put you more at ease, even if you’re not completely prepared. If there’s a white board or flip chart, you may want write out  the main idea and the supporting main points. 

Tip #7: Visualize Yourself Giving a Successful Speech

You may not have time to practice much or record yourself, but you can steal a few minutes just before to do a little deep breathing and to visualize yourself delivering a successful speech.  Be sure to be as detailed as possible—imagine the room, the audience, where you’ll stand, and even people telling you how much they enjoyed your talk!   

Finally, if you feel you haven’t prepared as much as you’d like, no one else needs to know. Being prepared is always the best solution. If you take the time to prepare, you can take advantage of technology and practice. You’ll be able to record yourself and make improvements. But if it’s too late for that, the suggestions I’ve given here will help you make the most of the little time you have.  Procrastinators can still delver a good presentation!

For more expert tips on giving engaging presentations, check out my book, Smart Talk: The Public Speaker's Guide to Success in Every Situation.


About the Author

Lisa B. Marshall

Lisa B. Marshall Lisa holds masters with duel degrees in interpersonal/intercultural communication and organizational communication. She’s the author of Smart Talk: The Public Speaker's Guide to Success in Every Situation, as well as Ace Your Interview, Powerful Presenter, and Expert Presenter. Her work has been featured in CBS Money Watch, Ragan.com, Woman's Day, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, and many others. Her institutional clients include Johns Hopkins Medicine, Harvard University, NY Academy of Science, University of Pennsylvania, Genentech, and Roche.