What’s the point of your speech

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I heard a truly awful speech recently


It was from a civic leader who has been around the block but seems not have learnt anything about public speaking.


The person just rambled on and on with no discernible aim on show. At the end the audience gave a limp clap and no one really learnt anything.


What was the point of that speech?


One of the most neglected areas of public speaking is speech purpose.


For some reason people think “I have to make a speech” so they come up with words to fill the time slot they have been allocated. This rarely works well. Before you start to craft a structure, before you begin to use metaphor and other oratorical devices, and long before you even think about delivery you should ask yourself one question. What am I trying to achieve? What do I want to say?


Everything should stem from what you want the speech to achieve. How do you want to affect the audience? What is your speech’s purpose?


If you can’t think of anything you want to accomplish as a result of making the speech, then you probably shouldn’t make the speech.


Speaking is a medium for carrying a message. If you haven’t got a message, then you haven’t got a speech Click To Tweet


The kind of things that you may want to achieve from your speech might vary considerably. Let’s look at three situations you might be in and what kind of speech purpose might suit them.


Tell people about something


You may find yourself at a community event and you need to tell people about something your council is doing. Or you may find yourself at a council event and you need to tell them something that your community is doing.


The first thing you should do is think about the one thing you want people to remember from your speech. They may remember more than that but if your clear about the most important thing then they’ll leave with that in their mind. Don’t be afraid of repeating yourself, make the point, make it again, then make it once more for luck.


Make people feel good about something


You may find yourself at an event that is celebrating something positive in your community. Or may have been introduced to an organisation that has really impressed you. Your aim with this speech is to give people a warm glow, to make them feel that they’re going in the right direction.


Be positive in everything. Don’t even make negative comparisons, in fact try not to use words like don’t, can’t or shouldn’t. Keep the language 100% focused on the good stuff. Also try to be as inclusive as possible, speak about the whole organisation rather than just a bit of it. Talk about everyone, let them all share in the glory.


Make people do something different


This is the kind of speech you may need to make in a tough situation. Maybe you need to tell people how to change the way they access services. Maybe you’re facing objections to a change forced on people by your council. Either way you’re going to have to persuade people to do things differently.


The most important thing is to appeal to their emotions first. You’ll need to back it up with a logical argument but start with an emotional appeal. Try to focus on the result the change will bring and spell out the benefits for people in clear terms. Finish with a rallying cry urging them to change their behaviour.


Get to the heart of it


Before you start developing your speech you should be able to sum up its aim in a single sentence. This may be something like, “I will inform the community committee about the successful events program run by another council” or it may be, “I will persuade the council to adopt a new social media program”.


Whatever your purpose it is important that you have it clearly in mind before you start. Once you have the purpose try to keep it at the forefront as you develop the speech. Everything in the speech should derive from and support what you are trying to achieve. If it doesn’t support your message it will weaken it.


Begin with what you want to achieve and your speech won’t just ramble, it will achieve.

Duncan Bhaskaran BrownWhat’s the point of your speech

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