When Other Speakers Are on the Program

When you are not the only speaker on the program, you have a new dynamic to consider in preparing for your presentation. A nightmare we all want to avoid is to give the same example or make the same point as a previous speaker. You can almost feel the discomfort of the audience. Certainly at times that faux pas cannot be avoided, but here are some guidelines that may prevent that from happening.

Ask the program chair if there are other speakers before you and what their topics are. You might even contact them if the topic seems very similar to your own. A topic I often present is effective listening. If there are other speakers on the program who have a communication-related topic such as interpersonal skills, I want to find out if they are including listening and perhaps what their listening points may be.

Another way to avoid saying what has already been covered is to attend the presentations of those who precede you. I find this helpful under any circumstances. Not only do you know specifically what the content is, but you also have a better understanding of the audience and how you can adapt your content more effectively. I have sometimes been able to make a reference to something the previous speaker said. If the speaker did an excellent job, I am connecting myself to a very credible source from the standpoint of the audience.

A third way is to go to the other speaker’s website and find what his or her topics are. There may even be a video clip you might watch or simply listen to. You may find overviews of the speaker’s content. If an idea looks very similar to your own, you could contact that person and find out specifically if he or she will include that point in his or her presentation.

Another benefit of taking the time to learn about other speakers on the program is that I am better prepared overall for that particular audience. I may find out valuable information that I would not have learned from my normal program questionnaire.

So much of a speaker’s success is determined by careful preparation; knowing about preceding speakers gives more depth to your preparation. An axiom that I try to follow is that the more I know about my audience, the more effective I will be as a speaker. A corollary of that statement might be “the more you know about the preceding speaker’s content, the more effective will be your own presentation.”

Steve Boyd
Steve Boyd
Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D., CSP, is Professor Emeritus of Speech Communication, College of Informatics, Northern Kentucky University, near Cincinnati. Steve won the Toastmasters International Speech Contest in 1970 and was chosen Outstanding Professor of the Year at NKU in 1984, among other awards and honors. Since retiring, he volunteers with nonprofits, spends time with family, travels, preaches occasionally, and enjoys reading and writing. Contact Steve at (859) 866-5693 or at steveboyd111@gmail.com.

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