When you are asked to speak, it is incredibly important that you have an idea of where and how you will be speaking. It's really great if you can visit the venue beforehand, but sometimes you may not have that opportunity.
Here are some questions to ask before your talk and why they are important.
1. How will the audience be seated?
Your audience could be in rows like in a theater, they could be sitting at round tables in a ballroom, or maybe they'll just be sitting around a boardroom table. It is important to know not just the size of your audience but also how they are seated. You need to think about how you will or will not be able to move around the stage and what kind of contact you will be able to make with the audience.
2. Will I be sitting or standing for my presentation?
Usually you will stand for your presentation, but you might find a situation where you speak on a panel and could be seated. You will need to think about your delivery style a bit differently if you are sitting down to speak. It's harder to use gestures and body language to emphasize your points.
3. What kind of microphones will be available?
The first question should probably be whether there will be a microphone available at all, then what kind exactly. Will you be forced behind a speaker stand with an attached mic? Will you need to hold a microphone or will they have a clip-on mic available?
4. What kind of AV equipment will be on hand?
If you are planning on using a PowerPoint presentation, you need to be sure that the venue has the appropriate audio-visual equipment or you will need to make your own arrangements. You'll need a computer, projector, screen, remote clicker (to change slides) and a laser pointer (if you like to use one - I personally don't). If for example, the venue or organizers aren't supplying a clicker, you'll need to bring your own, or you'll need to prepare the appropriate notes or signals with another person to change your slides. Make sure that you check and double check that all your equipment is in order before your presentation.
5. Who can I contact if I have any problems?
This is probably the most important question to ask, but the one everyone forgets. If you know beforehand who is in charge of the lighting, the air conditioning and the speakers for example, you will save a lot of time when you're on site and need a helping hand.
You might think that being a good public speaker has to do with preparing a good presentation, but there is a lot more involved than just that. The best public speakers remember to ask the right questions and are are always prepared for every situation. Never be caught off-guard.