Think Before You Speak

I read recently of a husband who cleaned a living room fan with bleach. When he turned on the fan, bleach sprayed all over the room and spattered the blue sofa and curtains. The divorce was final three months later. Evidently his thinking was turned off when the fan was turned on.

          Sometimes we make mistakes in presentations simply because we aren't thinking. Over the years on different occasions, I have left my jump drive, notes, and props at home simply because I was not thinking. One way to insure your success in speaking is to think ahead about what the speaking situation requires of you.

          Think about the people you will meet. Go through in your notes the names of key people for you to talk to or touch base with when you arrive. If you are not sure of some of the leaders and positions they hold, go to their website and find those names and titles. Check pronunciation of unusual names by calling the information number of the organization and asking the person who answers how to pronounce the specific name.

          Think about directions to the speaking site. Even if you are speaking in-house, check to make sure you have the right room specified in your notes. Consider rush hour traffic if you are driving through a major city; if there is more than  one flight per day  to your destination, avoid being on the last flight out.

          Think about material that you stumbled over in preparation and perhaps review it again. Check to make sure you have the latest data if it has been a while since you spoke on that topic.

          Think about questions audience members may ask you. Look through your notes and check for material that may elicit questions and practice answering them. For example, when I talk about the importance of focus in paying attention, a question from the audience often concerns the role of multi-tasking.  I may check internet sources to see if there is a new piece of research on the relation of multi-tasking to paying attention that might help me have a relevant and recent answer.   

          Think about expectations as a result of your presentation. Do you have the same expectations as your audience or program chair?  If there is doubt, call the chair and compare thoughts.          

           Finally, if you think before you speak, you may omit something that will save you embarrassment. As Solomon said long ago, "Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues.”

Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D., CSP, is Professor of Speech Communication, College of Informatics,  Northern Kentucky University, in the Cincinnati area. He presents keynotes and seminars to corporations and associations whose people want to speak and listen effectively. See additional articles and resources at To book Steve, call 800-727-6520 or email him through his website.

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

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