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Techniques Public speaking > Parts of the Presentation > Housekeeping

Things to include | Ways to say it | See also


At the start of some presentations you may need to make what are called 'housekeeping' announcements. Here are a few suggestions to help you plan for these.

Things to include


Sometimes it is helpful to introduce people. Beyond yourself, this can include people at the back, support services and so on. If your audience is small, it can also be useful to ask each person to introduce themselves.


Mobile cell phones can be rather annoying, to say the least, when they go off in the middle of a presentation (and it is even worse if the owners decide to take the phone call!). People often just forget to silence them, so a reminder is often a good idea.

Phones are quite personal things so doing this politely is generally a good idea. You may want to ask people to turn their phones to 'silent' or even ask them to turn them off -- phones that vibrate can still distract listeners.


Sometimes, for example where confidential or copyright material is being presented, you may want to ask people not to record or photograph the session. With cameras and recorders built into phones, this can actually be difficult to police. And policing in general can also be tricky -- stopping to tell people not to take photos is unlikely to endear you to the rest of the audience.

If you are recording the presentation it can be a good idea tell people that this is happening as they may worry about cameras. If the recording will be online at a later date, you may also want to give information about this.


People like to know how long things will take so they can plan other activities, from work to comfort breaks. If you have an agenda of activities then start and stop times are important, including coffee and lunch breaks.

You can also indicate timescales within your presentation, for example by saying 'We will take a quick five minute to overview the subject before going into detail over the next half hour in the major types of human error.'

When starting a break it is usually important to remind the audience what time you will be restarting.

When people are not back in their seats when you are starting (or restarting) your talk, you have a dilemma to handle -- do you start on time or give the others a few minutes? And if they come back after you have started, do say anything or give them a quick recap? One view is to assume all take responsibility for their own action and so start on time. Sometimes you do need everyone to understand so will have to wait. It can help to politely (and privately, if possible) remind people of their obligation to others.


Point out where the toilets are, with an appropriate use of language, for example talking about 'comfort breaks' or 'the loo', depending on where you are and the culture of your audience. If in doubt, avoid humor here.


Tell them what to do if there is a fire, earthquake, or other calamity which needs them to exit safely. This usually just means pointing out the fire exits. You may have to find where these are before making your speech.


Where there are services provided, such for directions, help getting taxis and so on, the services provided and the method of tapping the them may be described. This can be a physical desk, by phone or other method.

Online conversation

It can be trendy and helpful to organize parallel online conversations, giving hashtags and other contact information to allow people across the audience to comment and connect.


If there are handouts you can describe these and tell people where to get spares. It can be a dilemma whether to give these out at the beginning, allowing people to take coordinated notes but also reading ahead, or otherwise not giving these out until the end. In particular if you want people to pay close attention, you can tell them they will get handouts afterwards and and therefore put away writing instruments.


Sometimes a security announcement is needed, such as to wear name tags or to be vigilant for intruders (such as journalists at a political rally).

Ways to say it

A Slide

A simple approach is to have a slide at the beginning of your presentation with pictures of the items in question: a phone, fire, food, etc. You can then use these as prompts to remind you what items to cover.

Another quick way is to put text messages on the slide and just say 'please read this' then waiting in silence for a few moments.


A way to provide people with this information but without intruding into the presentation is to give them a piece of paper with all necessary information on it. This may be provided beforehand, for example at registration or in papers placed on their seats.


For information about where fire exits are and where lunch will be served, a map is often much easier than a waving-arms verbal description. This can be put on paper or a slide.

Using humor

Housekeeping is a dry subject and you can enliven it a little with a little humor, for example by saying 'If there's a fire, don't follow me as I'll be panicking! It's probably a better idea to walk calmly to the nearest exits, which you will see all around the hall.


Sometimes you do not need to make all announcements at the same time and can leave them to breaks, after lunch, etc.

Someone else

The easiest way of managing housekeeping announcements is to let somebody else do it. This is typical of conferences where all you need to do is speak and everything else is managed by your hosts.

See also


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