Pilots go through a methodical checklist before each flight — it’s the same one whether it’s their first flight or hundredth. Keynote speakers should have a similar habit where they are prepared for any contingency before any keynote speech.
First, check everything on the technical front before your keynote speech.
- Do you have your slides and notes backed up in three different places — a USB drive, your phone’s hard drive, and cloud-storage? Relying solely on your hosts to have your slides prepared and ready to go can doom your speech if someone forgets to send them to the right person or computer. 3 backup locations will create a strong fail-safe for lost slides.
- If you use a microphone for your talk, do you have your own that you can bring? Ask the event organizer ahead of time for compatibility with their sound system. Even if the organizer insists on using their microphone, you should still bring a backup for when the mic will inevitably fail. As an added bonus, if you are using your own you will be familiar with its idiosyncrasies and how to handle them.
- Before leaving, check with the organizer to see if you need to bring your own computer and which connectors are needed. Some projectors only have HDMI inputs whereas some computers don’t have them. You don’t want to wait until you get to the venue to find this out.
- Ask the event organizer or tech person about the bulb life on the projector. The bulb life can be found in the projector’s settings and is usually a count down rather than a count up (e.g. 1300 hours on a 2000 hour bulb means that 700 hours have already been used). You don’t want a blown bulb during your presentation. Once you get to the venue, test the connections and projector to ensure they will be working when it’s time to give your speech.
Second, move on to the logistical side.
- Do you have a hard-copy of the directions to the site and the contact information of the event organizer? Don’t depend upon your smart phone or computer for storing critical information. Batteries can die; signals can drop; electronics can be stolen. If you have critical information in hard copy you won’t have to worry about an electronics failure.
- Do you have single hard copies of any handouts you will be giving to the audience? If you have handouts, always have extras in single copy form. The ones you sent ahead or packed in your checked luggage could get lost. If you have the single pages you can dash to a copy center and get last-minute copies to ensure that you don’t leave your audience empty-handed.
- Are there any obstacles preventing easy access to the event venue? Call the day before the event to make sure that the typical route to the speaking venue isn’t blocked. You don’t want a water main break or a new construction project to take time away from getting to your speaking venue.
Third, take care of yourself.
- Do you have supplies to keep you healthy and hydrated? Pack a bag of backup prescription medicine, pain relievers, cough drops, stomach settlers. You never know when your body will decide to hate you minutes before you go on stage. Pack a bottle of water, too. It’s rare that you will have someone to cater to your needs before you go on stage and the nearest drug store could be blocks away from your venue.
Your keynote depends on more than just your performance. Problems and mistakes will happen. Mics will cut out; bulbs will blow; cell phones will die; fevers will strike. But just like a pilot, if you go through a pre-flight checklist, you’ll be prepared for any contingency.