About to speak in front of an audience?
Before you step on the stage, there are 4 questions that you need to ask yourself. If you don't have these answers going into your speech, you may end up like a kite without a string – with a speech that flies away with no direction. Answer the following 4 questions BEFORE you speak in front of an audience, and your audience will not only have a clear idea of the direction you are headed in, but more importantly, YOU WILL.
Question 1: WHO
Whenever you speak, you should have a take home message or lesson that you want your audience to follow. And whatever lesson you plan on sharing, you likely learned first. So that brings me to the first question:
WHO taught you the lesson?
No one likes a know-it-all. And no one likes to learn from one either. People like to know that you have failed, fallen, and have gotten back up. People like the fact that Rocky Balboa lost to Apollo Creed and had to be trained before eventually beating him. It makes us believe that “If he can do it, so can we!” I love Mike Tyson. But more people in this world can relate to Rocky because he fell and got back up. He didn't roll through everyone like Tyson did. People respect Tyson, but they relate to Rocky. And if someone taught YOU how to get back up and become the success that you are, SHARE that story. People will relate to you more if you had to be led to the lesson you learned.
Question 2: WHAT
The next question to ask is WHAT is the lesson that you want to impart to your audience? What is your main message? What is your statement or message that you want to get across in your presentation or speech? The worse thing to listen to is a speech that has too many points, and no focus. For your next talk, think of ONE sentence that can sum up your speech – one lesson or message that is succinct and focused on what you want your audience to learn. This will let you know what to keep in your talk, and what to leave out. More importantly, your audience will be clear about what you are trying to communicate to them. Remember: a Confused Mind says “No”, a Clear Mind says “Go”.
Question 3: WHY
Once you have told your audience what the message is, you need to tell them why should they heed your lesson. Studies have shown that people are motivated to take action either by the hope for gain, or the fear of pain – and the fear of pain has proven to be a much more effective motivator. Listen, there is no lesson that is new, and chances are any message that you share has been heard before in one way or another. However, what will set you apart from most speakers is your unique spin on the message (Your Story), and how you get people to take action. And knowing that the fear of loss is a key motivator, tell your audience what will happen if they DON'T heed your message. For example, if your lesson is forgiveness, you may want to say that failing to forgive will only hurt you in the end. Or you can quote Nelson Mandela who said that holding on to resentment is like drinking a poison expecting the OTHER person to die. When you remind people of the dangers of not following your lesson or message, they are much more likely to listen to you AND apply your lesson to their own lives.
Question 4: HOW
The final question to ask yourself, then to tell your audience, is how can they implement the lesson you have just shared? Once you have told your audience your lesson, share with them HOW they can apply it. Some things appear very obvious, but the saying “Tell them what you're going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you've just told them” is popular for a reason. The best speakers clearly communicate their message to the audience, then tell them when and where to apply it.
The next time you plan to speak in front of an audience, get the answers to these 4 questions straight, before you hit the stage.
So What is Your Next Message to the World?
Kwesi Millington helps speakers, presenters and youth to connect with their audiences and master their messages using the power of storytelling in their speeches & presentations. He is a Certified Public Speaking Coach & Youth Mentor.