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Getting Ready to Speak

Every speech must begin with an idea, but coming up with ideas can be difficult, and turning those ideas into a well-constructed speech can seem complex, but, with practice, anyone can do it.

First, three questions need to be answered:

Every speaking situation fulfills some sort of professional, social, or relational function, and that function determines what is or is not appropriate behavior in he speech. Knowing the purpose of your speech will allow you to decide on your persona and attitude that you want to present, as well as the content of your speech itself. The following are some examples:

      • Speaking for professional reports:
        • Your words need to be informative and accurate; not including very much of your own opinion.
        • Your information needs to be very clear and direct, without any distraction from the main idea.
        • You need to dress in professional attire, looking organized and clean.
      • Speaking to pitch an idea or product:
        • Your words are a friendly argument in favor of your product or idea. Your opinion is welcome as long as you have facts and examples to back it up.
        • It is still good to be direct, but it helps to tell a story in which your product or idea is the star.
        • Dress as nicely as the best-dressed person in your audience.
      • Speaking at family events:
        • Your words need to provide the comfort or affirmation that your family needs. You are with family, therefore you need to show emotion that matches the audience.
        • Your family’s culture will determine acceptable it is for you to be informal and/or opinionated in public display.
        • Depending on the event, once again: Dress as nicely as the best-dressed person in your audience.
      • Speaking to train or teach others:
        • Choose words that are understandable and culturally familiar to your audience, and as much as you can, give them more than one chance to understand your points.
        • In your speech and dress, provide the example that you want your audience to imitate.
      • Speaking in a public speaking class:
        • The golden rule for speech classes: Do what your teacher tells you.
        • Remember that speaking in a class gives you the opportunity to get rich feedback from your teacher and your classmates. Make friends in your class, and work with them to build everyone up.

Audience analysis allows you to make decisions about your topic and how you will present it by considering your current audience’s motivation for listening to you. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Will most people in this audience agree or disagree with me, and should I care?
  • Are the people in this audience interested in the same things I am? If not, what can I define and emphasize in my speech to make it understandable and fun for them to listen?
  • What ages, genders, occupations, and cultures are represented in my audience? Am I being sensitive to them, and addressing their needs?
    What level of formality and presentation style are they used to? Do I need to explain my points using numbers, pictures, or objects?
    You normally should not answer these questions using instinct alone. It is highly beneficial to analyze your audience by doing the following:

Research the location and people. What has happened in their recent news? What are some examples of their public opinion?
Observe members of your audience in conversation and make casual conversation with them before your speech.
If necessary for the particulars of your speech, such as determining the most valuable point in a political speech or assessing what is needed in a training speech, you might make time to send out a survey.
Find a person, usually an authority figure, who is representative of your audience, and converse with them about the main points of your speech topic to see what fits and what does not.

Before you speak, talk to authority figures or event planners to determine the following:

  • What is a good length for the speech?
  • Where will you speak, precisely where will you stand, and precisely when should you arrive to get ready?
  • What equipment (such as microphones, screens, etc.) do you need? It is especially wise to test your equipment in the speech venue beforehand.
  • If handouts, slides, or anything else is needed, to whom do you give it? Who can assist you?
  • What words or topics are taboo for this audience or occasion?

After the answers to these questions are understood, you can begin the process of topic choice and development, which determines what you want to say as well as what you think the audience needs to hear.


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