I’ve heard it said that people fear public speaking more than dying. I’m inclined to think that is a bit of hyperbole . . . maybe a lot of hyperbole. At the same time, when people are asked to speak, it isn’t uncommon for palms to sweat, hearts to race, and legs to wobble.

As noted in a recent article by a CEO of a food company, leaders must learn to be good communicators and public speakers. The venue can be a board room, a small office, or a large lecture hall. Leaders need to communicate their ideas and do so with clarity.

For those without the benefit of a speech writer, use three questions to make a speech that has both clarity and direction: who, what, and why. Although these provide only the basics of a speech, they are the skeleton that allow you to pile on the muscles of content.

Who Is My Audience?

Think about who you are talking to: co-workers, supervisors, clients. Each audience demands something different. Convincing a group of doctors to invest in your cancer research and convincing cancer patients to invest in the same research could demand a different approach. In the first case, medical details are more likely to persuade the doctors while in the second stories of other cancer survivors who’ve undergone the treatment may be the most persuasive.

What Is My Topic?

Some people freeze up at the thought of public speaking because they don’t know what to say. Deciding on a topic may bring back memories of English classes when asked to write an essay: “What do I write about?” This is a big step. Getting the main idea focuses the speech and allows the speaker to develop the important details related to the topic. The topic may be assigned to you or it may arise out of a business situation. Once you have your topic, with a little more thought the details fall into place.

Why Am I Giving this Speech?

This is the because of your speech, the reason you are presenting the information. All communication has a purpose. There are three main reasons for a speech: persuasion, entertainment, enlightenment. The three can and often are intermingled but one usually predominates. Persuasion seeks to change the audience’s mind. Entertainment provides laughter, joy, even compassion. Enlightenment seeks to tell them things they didn’t know.

Once you answer these questions, a speech begins to form. Standing before an audience certainly takes more than writing the speech, but these three questions give a speech its content and direction. Once they’ve been answered, it’s up to the speaker to breath life into them. Though stage fright still looms, answering these goes a long way to give any speaker confidence.

© 2024, Robert Weber, Words Done Right LLC

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