What’s the Point? Creating an Objective-Focused Speech

What’s the Point? Creating an Objective-Focused SpeechA New York Times best-selling author came to our area to discuss his book with leaders in our business community. Based on the brilliant insights in the book , many audience member had cleared their calendars for the morning and were eager to bring back concrete ideas for their companies. He spoke for an hour, and at the end of that time everyone’s experience was summed up by one man’s comment on the way out: “That’s an hour of my life I’ll never get back.”

I work with professional speakers, and that comment makes me shudder. It’s a chilling condemnation and recognition that the speaker had failed to fulfill his basic responsibility. He did not give his audience value in exchange for their time. He had the knowledge and experience to write a valued book, but he flopped onstage. What was the problem?

The speaker committed a common error, especially among those who have extensive expertise in their subject areas. He did not have a clear objective. Without an organizing objective, presentations become muddy, overstuffed, and pointless.

If you want to have your audience feel their time with you is a smart investment, craft a strong objective. Then, let it shape and define your speech. Here are the steps to follow:

Create the Speech Objective

Nick Morgan, author of Give Your Speech, Change the World, suggests crafting one sentence that answers the question “What do I want my audience to do differently as a result of my speech?” Almost every presentation we do is a form of persuasive speaking. Even if you are simply reporting on 3rd quarter results, you’re conscious of shaping your listeners’ opinion about what they’re hearing. If you are explaining a new process, whether it’s the phone system or a sales enablement strategy, you are trying to influence your audience to learn and adopt the procedure. If you truly are only passing out information, then send it by email. Don’t waste everyone’s time gathering them if you are not trying to influence.

When you ask yourself “What do I want my audience to do differently as a result of my speech” you are shifting your attention to action and application. When they leave that room, how will their behavior change—and what will you do within your presentation to encourage that behavior change? The objective keeps you focused on results, not just your performance in the moment. You must have this objective clearly in mind and identified exactly what you want the audience to do. If you don’t know, how will they ever figure it out?

Research the Master Subject

As part of your preparation, you will make yourself an expert on your subject. This could take a few hours of research, or years of study, depending on your topic. Now is the time when you are gathering all relevant information, stories, examples, statistics, projections, and so forth. By the time you’re done, you may have enough for several speeches—or a New York Times bestseller. But you will certainly have far more than you can use. The temptation will be to cram as much of it into your hour as you can. Resist! Remember the danger of becoming overstuffed, muddy, and pointless? This is where you avoid that landmine, and you do it by coming back to your objective. Everything that supports that specific objective belongs in your speech. Look at your material: what will move your audience toward the desired behavior change? Keep it. Anything that doesn’t—no matter how entertaining, or brilliant, or convincing—goes back on the shelf to be used in another speech, another day. It’s still good; it’s just not good for this speech. The more you take out, the more clearly your objective will be heard. Simplification results in amplification.

Craft Your Speech

Now, gather and organize your selected material and create a road map. This will help both you and your audience know where you’re going and where you’ve been. How do the main principles logically follow each other? What are the critical two or three points you want your audience to remember (that’s a bit optimistic—if they walk away with one or two you’ve done a great job. But we can dream). Focus your best stories and most memorable moments on those key takeaways. You want to be the one who selects what your audience will remember, so pull out all the stops on key points. The stories should be brief and anchor your point—stories are effective in creating an emotional connection with your audience, illustrating a concept and making it memorable, but the story should nail a main point, not just entertain for no apparent reason.

Your road map is a summary of your key points. It can be helpful to your audience’s understanding, retention, and application for you to preview those key points in the beginning, take them through one by one, pausing at the transitions to remind them of where you’ve been and what comes next, and then recap near the end of your speech. This organization will be replicated in the working and long-term memory of their brain and will make it easier to remember the information you share.

Call to Action

By the end of your speech, you will have created some energy in the room (if not, call me). Don’t let that energy dissipate as people leave the room and start checking their messages. Issue a call to action as part of the conclusion of your speech. How can they put your ideas into action, and what will that look like for them? This is where your objective begins to pay off in behavior change and results.

If you are asked to speak to a group of 50 people, you have 50 life-hours in your trust. These are hours that could be used to create a new product, court a new client, or play with the kids. Honor that trust by giving your audience rich recompense with a thoughtful, focused, memorable, and useful experience.

Meghan Decker

Meghan Decker

Meghan Decker holds a BA and MA from Brigham Young University where she taught analytical writing. Meghan a communication consultant, presentation skills coach, and freelance writer who covers topics ranging from sales enablement to mobile app development. Meghan works with clients to help them find their voice and design, develop, and deliver outstanding presentations.
Meghan Decker

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