Writing A Presentation
Some people's speeches are like bouncing balls in a rubber room. The content and presentation is all over the place, zigzagging between different topics and ideas. A speech that's inconsistent in its treatment of material, and scattered in its presentation of solutions, has little dynamic power on an audience.
Any potentially great public speaker should early on learn the power of focus in speechwriting. A speech may be comprehensive and even complex (though it usually shouldn't be), but never confusing.
The easiest way to avoid leaving behind a bewildered crowd that's still wondering whether they were in the right room after all, is to set a simple goal for you speech and then construct and cross-check all your content against that goal.
Like the title of your talk, this goal should articulate the single biggest idea that you want your audience to take home. If there was only one thing you could say what would it be? That's the main thing for you and your audience and that's what's going to help you stay focused in your speechwriting.
I've sat through countless speeches where I left without a clue of what the speaker actually wanted to say. I'm sure you have too. When writing a presentation, many people struggle to wrap their content around their single most important idea. But great presenters know and understand the power of focusing on the 'main' thing...
"I want my audience to learn about solar energy" is weak and not specific enough. They can learn about solar energy from National Geographic as well.
"I want my audience to enjoy my talk about solar energy" is a fine telos for a comedian, but not for a public speaker. Your job is primarily to inform, entertainment is a bonus.
"I want my audience to fully understand why solar energy is a superior alternative, and start implementing its usage effectively." This telos is getting there. Its specific and direct, and very important, measurable...
At the end of your speech, you can actually measure it by taking a survey of audience members who have decided to implement and use solar energy.
The 'Main' Thing: Never lose sight of it...
Here's a little exercise to help identify, and stick to, the 'main thing' of your speech. I often use this technique whenever I'm writing a presentation:
During me tertiary education, I was taught the power of the "Telos" by some of my better professors. Telos is a greek word meaning 'completion' or 'finality'. The telos of a speech is therefore the final and ultimate idea or piece of information you want the audience grasp before your speech is over.
It's a good idea to actually write your telos out in a sentence form. For example, let's say you're writing a speech about the benefits of solar energy. What's the one thing, the main point and the most important idea you want your audience to get hold of?
Another way that I've heard this concept communicated, is using what's called the 3AM test. If you're wife was to suddenly wake you on 3AM the morning before your presentation and ask for the purpose of your speech in one sentence... would you be able to answer clearly and coherently?
Make sure your telos sentence accurately reflects exactly what you want to achieve with your speech, this is your 'vision' or 'goal-statement' of sorts. Now go back to your speech and check the contents against your telos.
If you haven't written your speech yet, you're now in the favorable position of writing a presentation with one single purpose, consistently in the back of your mind. You can now choose to have your content revolve around, and further this purpose.
Everything in your speech can ultimately be judged against this telos.
Does this sentence have a real purpose in furthering my goal for this speech? Is that joke really relevant anymore, now that I know what I want to achieve? Could this paragraph be erased completely with little or no effect on the attaining of my telos?
I guarantee that, by using this simple 'telos' exercise you'll be miles ahead of most people who start their speechwriting without a blueprint, i.e. without a cornerstone around which they wrap their content.
So keep you 'main thing' in mind when writing a presentation. And write content that reflects and furthers your primary purpose. That way you leave behind an informed audience.