Public Speaking: What is Your Message?


All too often, speakers deliver more information than even the most dedicated audience can remember. In the business domain, executives stand up annually to deliver 50-minute set pieces on “Strategic Directions” for their companies. Most of these are forgotten before the next coffee break, let alone the six months or year ahead. 

Before you stand and speak to any audience, make sure your message is well-defined. Your message - to be clear - is your overall aim, objective and purpose. The key thing you want to deliver, what you want the audience to remember and – crucially – what you want the audience to do. That is your message.

The mistake that is made repeatedly is to focus on content rather than action. Of course content is important but what do you want the audience to do about it? How do you want them to feel? What action would you like them to take?

Understanding why you have been booked to speak is important. Being crystal clear about your message will help you truly understand this. When asked what their message is for a specific presentation or speaking engagement, all too often clients respond with something like: “To give a general introduction to our products.” This type of response is indicative of a disaster waiting to happen. And here’s why:

Firstly, the message is nowhere near specific enough. Plus, in 2014, it’s quite possible to access general introductory information from multiple online resources; the company website, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, professional associations, third-party review websites, etc.

The second problem with a “general introduction” is that achievement is only measurable by an inappropriate metric, with no real definition of quality. It’s quite feasible, for example, for you to give an introduction to your company’s products and for the audience to take no action whatsoever. While the main objective will have been achieved, you couldn’t really call it a success.

An action-driven message allows you to objectively assess the impact and success of your presentation/sales pitch/speaking engagement. Measuring the action people take that they would otherwise not have taken can be extremely helpful.

Say your focus was on a particular product or service and sought audience engagement through offering a free trial. This is a very clear, tight objective – and very measurable. Answering the question "how many people took advantage of the free trial?" gives you an immediate handle on the success of the presentation.

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