What questions should you ask a host or meeting planner when you’re preparing a speech?  Good research means a good understanding of the audience – and that means that you can connect with that audience.  A good connection is the basis of a great speech.  So what do you need to ask your host?

Basically, you need to know about 3 things besides your area of expertise:  the venue, the audience, and the speech itself – how it needs to be tailored.  Here’s a list of questions I’ve developed over a few years that you can use as a checklist to make sure you don’t forget anything important.  And please weigh in – what have I left out?  What do you always ask your contacts? 

A.  The Venue

When is the speech taking place?
How many people are in the audience?
What time of day will the speech be given?
How long should the speech be?
Will the audience be or have eaten?
What is the hall like?
Is there lighting?
What is the sound like?
The layout?
Are there backdrops, sets, stages, props, podia?
Are there barriers between speaker and audience?
How long is the audience’s day?
How many other speakers?
What is the nature and content of those speeches?
What kind of chair is the audience sitting in?
How long have they sat?
What is the event theme?
What is the arrangement for slides and other visuals?
How quiet is the hall?  Is there background noise?
When can we get in the hall for rehearsal?

B.  The Audience

Describe the audience
What is the age range?
Do they know each other?
Do they work for the same or difference orgs?
Describe the org?
What should my talk be about?
What is the point of the event for the audience?
How is the audience feeling?
What is the business climate?
What does the audience fear most?
What are their hopes and dreams?
What makes them laugh or cry?
What makes them worry?
What do they need to succeed?
What are their cultural references?
What is the worst speaker they’ve ever seen?
What would you like them to do differently as a result of the talk?
Who are their heroes and villains?
What are their recent successes and failures?
Why are they there?
Have you made any arrangements to get feedback?  A DVD?

C.  The Speech

Why did you pick me?
Who and what determine the success or failure of this event?
How will that be measured?
How does the idea of my speech work for your event?
Give me some audience members that are great (or bad) examples of the points of my speech?
Can I interview them?
What is the problem the audience has for which my expertise is the solution?
Is the audience expecting interactivity?
Is the audience used to Power Point?
Can I ask for volunteers?
How many of them will have read my book?
Can we arrange for a signing/sales event?
What journey do you want the audience to go on?
Why should the audience pay attention to my speech?
How will you know if they have taken something important away from the speech?


  1. Useful post Nick,
    I’ve put it in my blog and put you in mu blogroll, hope that’s OK.
    I’ve also added the following thought…
    If you’re part of that (longer) day, I think that it’s courteous and clever to ask the organisers (or the separate speakers) what the speakers before and after your speech will cover, with key thoughts and themes too. Then you can link back and forward to other speakers and their subjects by name and show that you’re ‘in sync’ with the whole event, and not just concerned with your 30 minutes of stage time…’
    I’ve also subscribed via RSS. Best regards.
    Jim Harvey

  2. Hi, Jim —
    Thanks for the comment, and useful point, which I had meant to cover with my questions, above, as “How many other speakers?
    What is the nature and content of those speeches?” But your comment about what to do with that knowledge is absolutely right.

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