to determining what to talk about when doing public speaking will be found in
the convergence of two critical factors:
What your audience wants from the
What your organization wants from
Know What Your Audience
Knowing your audience is critical when doing any talk. What
are they looking for? Why are they there in the first place? What do they want
to get out of hearing you speak?
The answer will depend on the group.
If the group is a business networking group such as Rotary or Civitan, audience
members may want to learn something to help grow their business. They may want
to learn more about the community overall, about how things fit together. They
may want to always be in the know, on top of whats going on,
both to benefit their business, and because they are involved people to begin
with. They may want their community to be a better place to live, as that will
enhance both their business and their lives! And so on.
If the group is a church
womens auxiliary, the answer will be quite different from the business
networking group. The women in that group may want to know whether or not your
work fits in with their values, to help them make other decisions re:
volunteering or offering support. They may want you to energize their group, so
they can accomplish more on your behalf. They may want just a great feel-good
afternoon, learning about all the great things that are being done to help
people in their community. They may already care about your cause, and want to
take action as advocates in a legislative capacity. And so on.
And if the group is elementary
school students, you can bet the answers will be different again! First, it is
likely these students are not listening to you by choice, but because the
teacher or Student Council or PTA has brought you in. Even aside from their
age, then, their motivation will indeed be different from the church group or
the networking group, simply because they may not have chosen to hear
The students may just want to get
out of class. They may want to be entertained. They may want to learn more, as
part of a particular issue they are studying in class. And so on. (And
lets not forget the motivation of their teacher or the PTA, for bringing
you there in the first place!)
The more you understand the
motivations of your audience - the reason they are in that room in the first
place - AND the more you can meet their needs in your speech, the easier it
will be to meet your own goals.
Know What Your Organization
Why are you doing this speech in the first place? If the
answer is, To get the word out, then its time to go back to
the drawing board. What good is getting the word out? What do you
really want all this speaking to accomplish?
Do you want the business networking
group to be aware of your good work at funding time? Do you want them to
directly participate in your programs - perhaps attend a theater performance,
or perhaps seek help for addiction, for themselves or a family member? Do you
want to motivate individual audience members to advocate for your cause with
the state legislature? Or to change their own opinions and
Do you want the church womens
auxiliary to provide financial support? To volunteer? To help advocate for your
after school program as an option for church families?
Do you want the elementary school
students to learn that one is never too young to volunteer? Do you want them to
collect pennies to support your cause? Do you want to educate them about an
issue that might affect their families directly - perhaps nutrition or yes,
even perhaps child abuse? Do you want them to participate directly in your work
- perhaps through an arts program?
Crafting Your Speech
The juncture at which your desires and your audiences
desires meet is paydirt. If you want the elementary school kids to volunteer,
and they want to be entertained - well you now know what topics to cover, and
how to cover them!
If the church auxiliary wants to
know how your work fits into their values, and you want them to provide
financial support for your work - you now know what topics to cover, and from
If the networking attendees want to
grow their business prospects and you want them to support your theater group,
you now know what topics to cover, and from what angle.
In articles at this site and in our
books, we note repeatedly that Public Speaking is one of the three most
effective ways to engage community members in your mission. By finding the
point at which your audiences motivations meet your motivations, you will
be crafting a speech that is aimed at true engagement - a conversation about
what matters to both parties.
For tons of ideas to engage the
community in your work (including great ideas for public speaking),