Have you ever heard a speech that went on for too long?
Have you ever given a speech that went on for too long?
I have...to both of those questions.
Most speakers don't ask themselves why they are speaking, they are just concerned with what they plan to speak about.
Having a topic, a story, and a lesson that you want to share is a good thing. Yet, there is a difference between knowing what you want to share and knowing what you want your audience to do about what you plan on sharing.
Asking yourself the following 3 questions before you get on stage will keep you focused on what you need to add or leave out of your speech. Not knowing the answers may result in you getting applause, but it likely won't result in the audience actually taking action. Answering these questions will set you apart from most speakers, and you will even have listeners coming up to you days and even weeks from now, saying “I applied your advice, and it worked. Thank you!”
That is a great feeling to have.
Question #1: What do you want your audience to decide?
The speech that you give should lead your audience to make a decision. And you should know what it is that you want them to decide. For example, if your speech is about goals, you may want your audience to decide to set goals. And I'm sure you have heard speeches about goal setting before. However, you need to ask yourself this question: WHY do I want the audience to set goals? Think of the compelling reason(s) that you want your listeners to set goals, and make sure that in your speech you share that with them. Without a reason, there will be no result. If you give them a strong reason to act, they will decide to do so.
Question #2: What do you want your audience to deliberate about?
Sometimes you may just want to give your listeners something to think about. You may want your audience to set goals, but as we know, most people will hear good advice, but not act on it. So sometimes you have to just make them think or deliberate. And remember this: thoughts of fear or regret cause more pensiveness than thoughts of potential positive results. So sure, share the fact that people that set goals have a much higher percentage chance of success. However, people will deliberate longer on the fact that most people never set goals, and end up dying with nothing but regret. Show your audience the negative results of NOT taking action, and they will think about that for much longer than on the positive highlights that you mention.
Question #3: What do you want your audience to do?
Finally, think about what you want your audience to do, then TELL them. Yes, this sounds easy. The speaker that talks about goal setting will tell their audience to set goals. But here is where many miss the mark – they don't give a specific next action or step to take. People are intelligent for the most part, but they still like to be hand-held. As an audience member, I want to be told exactly what to do next. Not just to set a goal, but tell me to write 10 goals in the areas of health, finance and relationships. Give an exact next step to take, and your audience will be much more likely to take action.
Think of what you want your audience to decide, deliberate and do in EVERY talk, speech or presentation that you give, and you WILL make a much greater impact on your audience, and be seen as a valuable content-rich speaker that they want to hear more from.
Kwesi Millington helps speakers 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.