Public Speaking Tips
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Speech Text Length

For a 5-7 min speech, the text copy should be about 2 pages longs, double-spaced, 12 point font. That’s the equivalent to 1 single spaced page.

Speech Notes

If you plan on using a printout of your speech for notes to look at during the delivery, you may find it helpful to increase the font size to 16 or even 18 point. This will make your notes readable from a distance or even leave them on the lectern, so you don’t have to hold them. If you simply print out the speech in its original format, you may find it harder to refer to when you’re standing and you moving your eye focus back and forth from the audience to the printout.

Practice Notes

It’s a good idea to practice your speech with the actual notes you’ll use during the delivery. If they are 18 point font, as opposed to the 12 point in the standard text document, then use the final 18 point one. The brain’s visual memory registers the position of the words on the page and makes a mental roadmap of the speech through its progression. So, when the time comes to flip the page over to the next one, you’ll know what’s on the next page and won’t have to look for that content all over the document.

Presentation Decks

How Many Slides?

I’m always tempted on include more slides than I need. there’s always so much interesting information to share, right? Especially, if you’re passionate about the subject. I’ve found that 10-12 slides are the optimal number for 5-7 minute speech. It’s certainly possible to pack 20 slides into the deck and still cover them, but I’ve gotten multiple complaints of “too much information”. What may work in professional keynote presentation, where most folks in the audience are on the same page with you and speak the same language as what’s on the deck, it’s very different for people who are exposed to this information for the first time.

Size of Slides

Remember, that deck you are building on your laptop will have to be viewable from 20 feet in the back of the room. Choose your graphics and size of font appropriately. Don’t be afraid to use 18 or 20 point font for the slides text.

Laser Pointer

The extendable pen is a bit of an old school tool and can be distracting as you swing it around during the presentation. By contrast, a laser pointer is quite inconspicuous and can point to any part of the projected screen without having to move your own position around it.

Slide Changer

This is by far my favorite toy and one of the reasons I look forward to my slide deck presentations. I’ve been carrying my Keyspan around for 5 years now (and still running the same battery) ever since Michel Meeks as San Francisco State University let us into the secret of changing slides remotely with a cool little gadget.


How to prepare for a 5-7 min speech?

In very general terms, this depends on how familiar you are with the topic and how familiar your audience is with it. If this is something you talk about every day, at home or at work, then it'll only be a matter of organizing your thoughts, structuring the speech and maybe rehearsing it a couple of times, so you can become more comfortable hearing your own voice out loud. And should be good to go. If, however, this is something new to you you should budget at least 2 or 3 times more time to study, research and understand your topic, before you are ready to organize all the information into a speech. After you've done this a few times with different speeches on different topics, you will like need a lot less time. Here are a couple of sample preparation steps and times.


1. Resarch (1 hrs)

2. Organize and structure information (0.5 hr)

3. Prepare presentation (0.5 hr)

4. Write speech (1 hr)

5. Read speech a few times (0.5 hr)

6. Rehearse speech with presentation (1.5 hrs)


Again, this depends on how much you know about the subject matter before you start preparing and it will certainly change with practice. When I don't have time, I just do steps 1 and 3, which sometimes is enough to get me ready to talk the next day. More often than not though, the amount of time I spend in research, rehearsing and general speech preparation is directly proportional to the quality of the speech and the audience's reaction. So, there's no magic formula and if there were, it would be different for everybody. Let's keep in mind that for many people who join Toastmasters, the ultimate goal is to be able to deliver impromptu speeches - without any preparation at all. But until we get there, the above timing breakdown is a reminder of the time and effort you should plan on making before the speech.