“I will do all I can to help you understand, and you must strain every nerve to follow what I am saying.” Plato – Symposium
It is an unfortunate fact of public speaking that many people worry terribly about such things as being nervous; organising their ideas; and adding energy and excitement to their speeches. Of course, these are very important aspects of public speaking and they need careful consideration; but there is one real aspect that often gets overlooked – and that is the simple question of ‘Why are you giving this speech?’
If we do not know the answer to that question, then all the other things we focus on are of little relevance.
We know that Effective Business Presentations are given for three main purposes, to Inform; to Instruct and to Inspire – often we cover all three in one presentation.
But a public speech may have other more flexible purposes in mind.
Of course, there will always be the Speech to Inform; sharing new ideas and information is a basic need, and the best way to inform a number of people at one time is by a public speech.
To be effective the Information Speech needs to provide the listeners with the credible facts and enough material so that the audience can evaluate its accuracy. It also needs to provide enough substance that they can form their own assessment of how it all fits together. So you structure your speech to bring new ideas to the group for them to accept and integrate it into their existing knowledge.
Another purpose for standing up to speak in public is to highlight a problem and sometimes to suggest solutions.
If you want your audience to adopt your proposed solutions then you will have to make the problem relevant to them or their interests. So we need to not only inform but also to persuade. And If we have a number of proposed solutions then we may need to clarify and inspire them to select the most appropriate.
So the purpose of this kind of speech will be very different from one that merely needs to convey information. We will not achieve our purpose if we finish our speech only to find that our listeners fully understand the problem but can’t see why they should be interested in the solutions. So to be effective we need to find the relevance which will engage their active interest.
Then sometimes we give speeches with the firm intention of reinforcing the normal practice, or affirming accepted beliefs. The purpose is for the listeners to feel more strongly about the topic; and intensify their existing agreement.
So, to be effective we cannot merely restate the obvious, we need to find new ways of making it relevant to our audience, our time frame and our circumstances. If your aim is to reinforce something, then you need a good idea of where the audience already is. What do they know about your topic? What level of connection do they have with it or with you? And what values do they share with you?
For example, commemoration speeches which extol virtuous and brave actions are a way of reinforcing the idea that bravery and virtue are highly desirous traits to be emulated by the listeners.
And finally, public speeches are given to persuade others to our point of view, to change their opinions, their thoughts and even their actions.
It is not as easy as some would have you believe! People do not easily change their core values or their strong opinions, and in some cases all you will be able to do is to obtain a grudging admission that ‘you have a point.’
Even to gain that little change needs some real hard facts and some emotional connection that your listeners identify with. Too often a speaker aiming to achieve this change will overcompensate on one aspect of these two requirements.
If they focus on the rational and logical, the audience might see the logic but reject the ideas. However, going over the top on the emotional connection can make listeners to feel cheated when they wake from the powerful appeal to their emotion only to find they are very short on facts or logic.
Understanding the real purpose behind your speech should lead you to organise your material in different ways to achieve the different results.
Which is why you stand up and say what it was you said!
Michele @ Trischel