What’s your objective when you speak?

During the hundreds of Toastmasters meetings, I’ve attended since joining in 2013, I’ve witnessed over a thousand speakers delivering speeches on pretty much any topic. Nevertheless, only a minority of speeches stand out in my memory as memorable speeches. Those that do have one powerful characteristic in common, the speaker had crystal clear objectives in mind for his or her speech.

What do you want to achieve with your speech?

Answering this simple question will go a long way in creating basic objectives for your speech. This is especially crucial if your speech is delivered in a professional situation. It can be your “make or break” if you are looking to establish your credibility as a leader or subject matter expert while you speak. One of the most memorable speeches I saw in Toastmasters was a speech on Champagne delivered over two years ago. The speaker clearly sought to share his passion for the subject with us it showed through. Using descriptive language and storytelling to personify Champagne as a hero did the trick in meeting his objective.

What do you want your audience to do?

The objective of a speech is action-orientated and the burden of the action is placed on audience members. You’re in charge of choosing what action you want your audience to take (or not!) following your speech. It could be to buy a product or service or simply to know more about a particular subject and see it differently. The best way to determine this is to think for yourself “after this speech my audience will …”. However, there is more to this than that, which is why I always spend a good chunk of time focusing on this during my courses.

What’s your message?

This is the thing that a lot of speakers end up getting wrong. The message of a speech must be distillable down to a single sentence or two sentences at the most. Your message is your central idea and what makes your speech unique. Very often I see speakers, including some experienced ones moving from topic to topic in their speech without coherence. I’ve also made this mistake myself, most memorably during the 2017 YGN Public Speaking Competition. Lack of clarity in your message means that your objective won’t be clear and that your audience will be confused and unable to act on your message.

A great example of a speech with a clear objective, clear audience actions and a clear message, is the admittedly fictional speech by Tyrion Lannister during the Battle of Blackwater Bay in Game of Thrones. This is a speech that we’ll study in more detail in a subsequent blog post.

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