As a public speaker who coaches newcomers to all types of public speaking (informative, inspirational, educational, etc.), I have seen time and time again that public speaking is an art that you can master with practice and dedication. In this post, we going to look at what I consider to be the key public speaking goals for your speeches.
The aim is to inform your audience of a certain piece of information, idea, or argument. This type of speech is the most common form of public speaking.
Your aim is to influence your audience to carry out an action or adopt a different based on the arguments in your speech.
One of the most commonly heard forms of public speaking, your aim is to inspire people to do something – often an act they wouldn’t normally indulge such as writing a book, climbing a mountain, giving a public speech (yes, some people do need some inspiration to achieve this goal), etc.
Breaking Down the Goals of Public Speaking
We’ve covered three of the most common forms of public speaking and also know it’s a powerful tool that can be used to inform, persuade, and entertain an audience. But we also need to consider this: the goals of public speaking can vary depending on the context and the speaker’s (that’s you) intent. Here are a few more common goals of public speaking (which can be applied to just about every type of speech you give):
Informing: The primary goal of informative speaking is to convey information to the audience in a clear and concise manner. Informative speeches can be used to educate the audience about a particular topic or to provide new insights into a familiar subject.
Persuading: Persuasive speeches are designed to convince the audience to take a particular action or to change their beliefs about a particular topic. Persuasive speeches often use emotional appeals and logical arguments to persuade the audience.
Entertaining: Entertaining speeches are designed to engage and amuse the audience. These speeches can be used to tell stories, share personal experiences, or deliver humorous anecdotes.
Other public speaking objectives
But what if you’re public speaking goal, or goals, don’t align with that list? Don’t worry, here are a few more example objectives:
Commemorating: Commemorative speeches are delivered in honour of a person, occasion, or event. These speeches can be used to celebrate achievements, remember important moments in history, or pay tribute to someone who has passed away.
Educating: Public speaking can be used to educate the audience about a particular topic or to provide new insights into a familiar subject. Educational speeches can be used in academic settings, business meetings, and social events.
Inspiring: Inspirational speeches are designed to motivate and inspire the audience. This type of speech can be used to encourage people to take action, overcome obstacles, or pursue their dreams.
Your Personal Goal or Objective
One of the most common omissions public speakers make is this: they forget to set goals, or objectives for themselves. Let me explain… the most important people in the room are your audience because without them you’re talking to no one, but your needs are also important. As public speakers, your primary goal should always be to improve on the various elements of a good speech (see below for details of each), and your audience provides the feedback you need to further develop your skills and progress in your speaking career.
In no particular order, here are the key skills every public speaker must develop:
Okay, I take back what I just said. Being able to tell a story in a way that keeps your audience hooked on your every word is the most powerful skill you can learn. Stories engage your audience in a way no other presentation type can and a good speaker knows how to use tales to take people on amazing journeys. The most amazing part is this: you can tell a story of your personal experience of the world and it transforms a talk from bland and generic to moving and memorable. Stories make the personal universal because that’s how we make sense of the world around us.
At the heart of every public speaking engagement, or presentation, is audience engagement – if your initial hook fails, or you lose their attention during your speech your message will not be heard and any corresponding action you want to be performed will not happen. So how do you speak in a way that engages? Stories!
A good story connects humans. People can’t help being drawn into tales of intrigue, suspense, love, etc and you should always attempt to add a story to any informative speech you give. For example, imagine you’re demonstrating a product and you’re looking for investors. When you speak, you could explain the months of research and sleepless nights you put into creating the perfect product, or the tale of how a major catastrophe led to a design breakthrough.
Stories are an amazing way of achieving your speaking goals. Use them.
One of the core communication skills we learn from a young age is how our hands can enhance the words we speak and how those movements can convey information should be a key objective, or at least one of your main goals.
As a speaker, your voice is the powerhouse pumping out the information you share, but it needs to be complimented and the second most powerful public speaking skill at your disposal is the use of body language, facial expressions, and pauses. Learn to combine this skill with effective storytelling and you can pretty much win over any audience. A speech lacking poise or expression will sound boring irrespective of how good the content is. Well-executed body language will help you outperform a speaker who simply stands in the middle of the stage, stiff and not moving, no matter how good their story is.
Here are a few examples of gestures that add to the information you’re sharing:
if you’re talking about the scope of a project or the long development process, open your arms out wide at the appropriate point;
was the project initialization a company secret? Then place a finger to your lips and make your opening line a whisper;
when you want your audience to feel close and included use your hands to indicate you want them to move closer (this really works – you’ll see people leaning forward).
Here’s a big list of hand gestures you can use to further develop your speaking skills.
I’ve added this speaking goal as a sub-component of non-verbal skills. Creating and maintaining eye contact with your listeners as this simple act creates a powerful connection between you. Literally! When you look at an audience member, or give the impression you’re looking at one particular person you give them the feeling of talking directly to them.
Some speakers find eye contact difficult (read this post for some solutions), but it’s a key tool you need to learn in order to take your public speaking to the next level.
Effective use of your voice
Speaking monotone, with no vocal variety to emphasize the highs and lows or the amazing story you’ve written will ruin your speech. Another goal you should have is to make the audience feel the emotions you’re sharing with them, but how do you do this? By using your tone of voice to amplify the words coming out of your mouth. When you want them to feel excited, speed up the pace at which you speak and talk in a higher pitch. Want them to feel your pain? Lower your tone and speak slowly.
There are many ways you add further weight to your stories, engage your listeners, and convey emotional states. Here are a few tips for using your voice:
Speak slowly: Speaking slow allows your audience to process every spoken word and absorb meanings and context. Equally important, a slow rate of speaking gives you time to think about the next part of your speech.
Projecting your voice: If you can’t be heard you might as well be speaking to the wind! Learn the skill of projecting your voice so that everyone can hear you, even if you’re in a very large room or theatre.
Articulation: Have ever listened to a speaker and wondered what they’re saying? Their words are indistinct and you find yourself losing track of what they’re saying. Don’t let this be you – learn to articulate your words clearly.
Use tonality for emphasis: Want your audience to feel a rush of excitement? Raise the pitch of your voice and talk a little faster. Alternatively, when you want to take them into the lows, lower the pitch and speak at a slow pace.
Using pauses to…: …emphasise (see what I did there?) important parts of your speech, or to give your listeners time to think about ideas or questions.
Of course, there are more skills you can learn but in my experience, these are the three most important. In fact, when you do all three well you probably won’t need any others.
You Need to do More than Speak
Public speaking is the most effective form of communication, and the best speakers are able to convey their ideas clearly and concisely while engaging their audience. You understand speaking skills can be developed through practice and dedication. But there are many elements such as rhetorical devices, which, when combined, take your public speaking gigs from good to amazing and this process takes a good deal of consideration.
What do I mean?
As a speaker, you have a huge range of not-so-obvious tools available to which will enhance your speech and create a powerful connection with your audience. Often, when approaching any professional speaking engagement, I ask myself how other techniques can be used to make the speech more interesting, or the creation simpler.
For example, a recent addition to my toolkit is reverse planning which I’ve used for a number of informational presentations. This is how it works:
Start by asking yourself what message you want to deliver at the end of your presentation (this goal = your why);
Next, get to the heart of the speech and ask yourself what information you need to give your audience (this goal = your what);
Finally, work out the information required to lead into your speech (this goal = your how).
I’ll detail the exact process with an example and link to it from here.
In conclusion, public speaking is an art that can be mastered with practice and dedication. The goals of public speaking can vary depending on the context and the speaker’s intent. Informative speaking is focused on conveying information to the audience in a clear and concise manner. By developing effective speaking skills, individuals can communicate their ideas effectively and achieve their goals.
Your Goal: Audience engagement
Here’s a summary of all the above goals for your public speaking endeavours:
Your number one goal is to create and maintain audience engagement. If you lose this connection at any point you may find it hard, or even impossible, to reconnect with your listeners and your talk will fall flat on its face.
Stories bond human beings together in a way that is impossible to define, or describe. We love stories and you need to use them no matter what type of speech you’re engaged in.
Public speaking is not a mystery or some dark art. It’s simply a mechanism for passing information and is relatively easy to learn. The hardest part is drawing people through the entire speech and getting them to carry out a specific action, but when you apply all the above techniques you’ll have them eating out of your hand.
Links to external resources referenced in this post: