Talk Checklist

This is a checklist I started 2011 to use whenever I prepare a talk, and to update after I learned something new. If you have ideas for further improvements, let me know. Just keep in mind that it should be kept as a checklist, details must live elsewhere.

For a comprehensive guide, check out


  1. Draft talk outline, have it reviewed – see Content section below for details
  2. Prepare demos, if any, and rehearse the talk based on outline and demos
  3. Creates slides to fill the gaps
  4. Rehearse in front of mirror! Especially if you’ve never done this before. Repeat as necessary.
  5. Rehearse with slides (and demos) and record yourself
    1. first at home
    2. if your goal is a big conference: find a local meetup to do a “test run” (don’t tell them)
  6. Listen to recording, check for things, then try to avoid or add them on the next run
    1. things to avoid: aaaaams, uhms, awkward pauses, pronouncing “w” as in german (windows, wikipedia)
    2. things to do:
      1. emphasize important stuff (like count bullets in a list, instead of just reading them)
      2. go down at the end of a sentence
      3. point at slides and mention when there’s something interesting: “as you can see on the slide…”
  7. Iterate! Go back to 1, 2 or 3


  • Must have beginning, middle and end
    • beginning
      • Introduce as much as necessary – if someone is going to introduce you, don’t repeat that
      • Minimum: Name, Topic, Length
    • middle
      • Try to focus on three points to make
      • Must have problems, solutions, discussion
    • end:
      • Introduces itself, invites the audiences to the stage, and acknowledges receipt.
      • Reminds everyone what was actually important.
      • Says one more thing!
      • Share contact info, invite audience to ask questions
  • Must have a theme to hold it all together, make it entertaining


  1. Tech check – you really don’t want tech to fail two minutes before you start
    1. meetup: Before talks start, even if you aren’t first
    2. conference: the day before or early in the morning
  2. Ask a friend to pay attention to every detail (to give you feedback later)
  3. If you want to make a nice recording of your talk, buy ScreenFlow and recording yourself and the projector.
  4. While talking, think of the audience as the five year old cousin that you’re explaining Angry Birds to: Be calm and smiling!
  5. Do it!
  6. Ask the friend for honest feedback. Other people won’t tell you what sucked.
  7. Make notes to improve next run or talk, help improve this checklist.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

No more comments.
  1. Alex

    I would add the following (from science perspective of course ;-)):

    – Try to use as less text as possible
    – Make every graph or picture you have as big as possible
    – Avoid details, if they are not really helping out the audience to get what you want to say.
    – Bring things to the point: dont go like “well, we did this and this and this and blabla”, just think how you could possibly interest your audience and what they expect to hear, when attending your talk. Start with an initial question and then go like “well at first we thought it was like this, but then BAM (a graph, picture) it actually turned out that…(or something like this)
    -be dynamic in your tone (I know thats though for some people, including myself, but it helps you to not loose your audience)

    My 5 cents to presentations 😉