Speak for Yourself

Claire Duffy's blog about public speaking and communication (in real life). Speak well, do well!

What’s your point?

Before you begin any presentation, you need to know what you want it to achieve. Many people are tempted to skip this step, but a vaguely-defined aim up front will leave you without a well-defined outcome, and then your whole communication will be unclear and flabby.

I promise you this, so please, don’t skip this part of the preparation.

It sounds easy but there could be lots of options.  It isn’t enough to have the goal “communicate the findings of my research.”  Or “wish Jared a happy birthday”.  You need to think through your purpose much more closely, and further define what exactly it is you want to happen as a result.

Aim to express your core purpose in a single sentence. If you cannot do this, you need more clarity.

Ask yourself three questions:

1. What is most important/special/ memorable about this issue/topic/occasion?

2.  What is the main thing that the others attending should know /feel/understand?

3. What should happen as a result of my talk?

  To get to the bottom of question 1, think about your own response to the issue or occasion.  Ask yourself what YOU realised, were moved by or interested in. Think back to when the subject was new to you too.

  1. What surprised or interested you most ? Why?
  2. What do you understand now that you didn’t before?
  3. Is there a new or unexpected element that leads to your point of view?
  4. Were there any lightbulb moments or funny episodes that stick in your mind? These can liven a speech up and focus attention.
  5. Pretend you were talking about it to a friend. What would you tell them?  What would they ask you?

Write these points down to help you be clear about your focus.

Everything you say needs to support  your purpose  somehow. You may be right up front and  use it as the hook that gets them in. Or it might be the spine, or invisible idea that holds the whole speech together. It could be the ‘inner compass’ or unspoken direction guiding your speech.

It doesn’t have to be stated explicitly, although it might be. For instance if you want to motivate people not to smoke, your purpose is  ‘Encourage people to quit smoking’.  You could say why not smoking is healthy, and that if you don’t smoke you’ll live longer. Your purpose emerges as you make those points.  If you want to be direct about it you could say  it straight up. “Smoking is going to kill you. I’m talking to you today because I want you to live”.


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This entry was posted on 18/02/2012 by in Preparing a speech, Presenting a speech.

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