An effective speech hits the target
How to hit your target

Have you ever listened to a speaker or sat through a presentation and thought “why are they telling me this” and “why do they think I care”?  Just as we need a destination for a journey we need a goal to make an effective speech.

One common piece of advice is to write down the purpose of your speech so that you are clear on your goal before you start; this the purpose statement for your effective speech. It’s a great plan and maybe you do that, but what do you do next? Study it carefully and then forget it, look at it from time to time and carry on, or do you keep it and use it? Here are just some ideas on how to use it as you write your speech.

Avoid contradictions

Have you ever found that you’ve talked someone into something, kept going, and talked them right out the other side again?  Get your purpose statement and take a second look at your content; is there anything that does not support your purpose, does it outright contradict it? Too much information, particularly if it doesn’t support your intended outcome, can confuse your audience and stop them from hearing your message. An effective speech not only needs the right content, but it must also avoid the wrong content. If it doesn’t help in some way it will hinder so remove it.

Effectively demonstrate what you mean

I once sat through an hour-long IT security briefing. The presenter listed rules and regulations, their history, potential fines and consequences for breaches. Near the end, he gave an example of a high profile incident; he talked about the reported cost to the company and effect on people’s jobs. Suddenly I felt the room waking up, it was clear to me that more of us would have engaged with the entire presentation and it would have been a much more effective speech if this had been the opening.

Once you’ve taken out the parts that don’t support your purpose check you have enough to support and illustrated it. Anecdotes and examples can illustrate in a way that bare facts cannot and are far more memorable. Sometimes they need to be your star content.

Make connections

Consider what connections you are making between your ideas, will your audience make those connections on their own or do they need help? For an effective speech, you need the audience with you all the way. Anecdotes can be useful but sometimes you just need to state what you are thinking. In a persuasive speech that connection may be your call to action. Don’t just tell them how great your product is, ask them to buy it, tell them how, where and when.

Deliver with purpose

How effectively your content works depends to some degree on how it’s delivered. If no-one can hear what you say then it doesn’t matter what you say. Words delivered in a totally flat monotone voice may leave your audience struggling to stay awake.  These issues are best overcome with practice.

Create the right tone

It also helps to ensure that your words match your intentions. Review your intended words and phrases, their strength and tone. For example, the phrase “it’s best that you use a strong password” carries less weight and gravitas than “it’s imperative that you use a strong password”. Either phrase may be right for you; it depends on whether you are aiming to entertain, inform or persuade. Using a three-part phrase such as “we can, we must, we will…” can be powerfully persuasive. A similar technique with a twist can be used in a lighter speech; “I wanted money, respect and a nose job”.

Your purpose statement can be the most powerful tool you have, keep it and use it well.

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