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Why Do You Speak? Is Your Speaking Accomplishing Your Purpose?
By Chris King

This week, I have attended a plethora of daytime and nighttime meetings, along with an all-day technology trade fair. The trade fair offered three seminars - all of which I attended - and each of the meetings had a speaker and/or several speakers.

Some were excellent and powerful presenters, some were OK presenters, some were lacking in presentation skills, and many had lost sight of their reason(s) for presenting in the first place. In this article, I am going to share some ideas with you about making sure that you know why you are presenting and ways to ensure that you achieve your purpose(s).

There are as many reasons for making a presentation as there are presenters. Some of the obvious reasons are:

  • You have been asked by your boss and/or company to make a presentation about a project or the company.
  • You have volunteered to lead a meeting and/or workshop for an organization or association to which you belong.
  • You have been asked to share some topic about which you are knowledgeable with another group (either for free or for a fee).
    You are involved with some activity (political, charitable, developmental, etc.) that others want to know more about, so you are asked to be a presenter (often part of a panel) at a special meeting or gathering of those interested in the activity.
  • You are a professional speaker, either full or part time, or aspiring to become a professional speaker.
  • You are part of a speakers' bureau for a college, a group or an organization that wants to get the word out about what they do or some special project.
  • You are trying to market yourself, your business and/or your products and/or services.

I know that there are other reasons for presenting, however, my focus in this article is on whether or not your reasons match your presentation and planned outcome - why they will and why they won't.

The first step is to write down your purpose for this presentation. If you don't know, your audience members won't either or may even be turned off by your purpose - especially if it isn't what has been advertised as the purpose/topic to be covered.

The next step is to ask yourself how you can approach your presentation from a foundation of "giving" to the audience rather than what you will be "getting." For example, at the trade fair the first seminar dealt with privacy issues and was presented by an excellent, on-target speaker/lawyer who was ready to answer any questions we had and give us all sorts of information with "no strings attached." Yes, he was hoping, I am sure, to sell his services, but we didn't feel that way, and I have kept his card so that if I need a lawyer in the future, I will contact him. The next trade show seminar dealt with security issues. It was put together well and yet the feeling that was projected was that the speakers (there were three) just wanted to get through it, so they could sell us their firewall system. Only one was a half decent presenter, so he was the one chosen to brag about the product. The final trade-show seminar - a panel of five - concerned Secret Service and how we could use their "Best Practices." This should have been fascinating. The problem was that out of the five, two were good presenters. The others droned on and on, which defeated their purpose of telling us what they were all about. Most people in the room tuned them out and took a nap.

If you are using presentations to market yourself - and this can be an effective way to accomplish this - plan what you can give to your audience. What helpful information can you share that they can use to advantage? If you are a professional speaker - or aspiring to become one - what action steps and inspiration can you bring to your audience to motivate them to change? They will remember you and suggest you to others as a speaker in thanks. If you have a cause that you are passionate about, ask yourself how you can instill others with your passion so they want to become involved with or volunteer to work for that cause. If you are presenting for and/or at your company, how can you give so much value that you will be known as a "rising star?" Good communication skills rate at the top of the hiring list of skills today for almost all positions.

Along with an attitude of giving, and thinking through your purpose and how you can achieve it, there is the importance of preparation. Yes, I am back to that. I experience so many presenters who could be excellent and do have the passion for what they are presenting, but who have the audacity to think that their audience isn't clever enough to realize that they are just "winging it." Well, people do know. They aren't just sitting there waiting for us to make a mistake or forget something - we all know that nobody's perfect. But they know right away if we didn't care enough to prepare properly. (And there are plenty of articles on this site that tell you all about that.)

Proper preparation includes:

  • Preparing a presentation that stays within your given time slot.
  • Have a plan.
  • Providing helpful handouts that are worth keeping.
  • Knowing where and when you will be speaking and arriving in plenty of time.
  • Realizing that if you want to sell and/or market something, listeners must be excited by WIIFM ("What's In It For Me?").
  • Prepare much more material than you will ever use, because the more you know about your topic and field, the better. It establishes you credibility.

Just be sure that you know why you are speaking. If you don't have a good reason or are not passionate about your topic, then don't. But if you do have a worthy purpose and are excited, prepare, have fun and give out your purpose to others.

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