Sunday, February 2, 2014

Speaking with a Clear Purpose

It is imperative that every time we step in front of an audience we have a clear sense of our purpose.

Our goal should be articulated in one clear concise sentence along the lines of "to persuade my audience to purchase my product" or "To inform my audience about our new webpage" .

The best way to formulate it is based on the outcome you desire from your speech. Post speech, how will your audience be different? Will they know more? Be inspired to take action? Be entertained?

Your purpose drives everything. It crystallizes what you hope to accomplish into one simple sentence. The Specific Purpose Statement has three key elements: the general purpose, the target audience, and the topic focus.

The general purpose usually falls into one of three options: to inform, to persuade, or to entertain. Since each of these options dictate a different approach, it is essential that we are clear on it. There are obviously grey areas, e.g., you provide information  in a persuasive speech or your informative speech may be very entertaining, but your overriding goal must be clearly focused on one outcome which takes priority.

Your target audience is the most important part of your purpose, because the audience is the reason you give a speech. It's all about them, not you. By including it in our specific purpose statement we are always reminded to focus on this unique audience and do the necessary audience analysis.

For this reason it may be advantageous to be more specific than "my audience". It might be "the members of the Elks lodge in attendance" or "the Human Resources department of __________". The more specific you are the more you are reminded to take into account why they are there and thus what you need to give them to satisfy them. Their presence is a gift to any speaker, and as such you owe them something in return. You need to deliver the goods, so that they will benefit as a result of your talk.

The topic focus is, well, your topic. It should be something the audience has an interest in, whether they know that at the outset yet or not. One of your early goals is giving them a reason to listen..

Your topic must also be significantly narrowed to be adequately covered in the available time frame. Never try to fit more information in than you have time for. Audiences hate when you go over your allotted time and you invariably wind up rushing and not doing justice to the material. Less really is more. No one ever complained about a speech being a little shorter than expected, while running too long can tarnish an otherwise fine presentation. Folks resent it, and rightfully so.

Remember though, that the real purpose you give a speech is to change your audience. It's all about increasing their appreciation of your topic, changing their mind-set, or inspiring them to take action. Your speech is about them not you.

That's all for today folks. Be well, speak well, and as always thanks for reading! If you are interested in learning more about Dan Leyes' consulting work, visit Semiosphere Consulting.