When you are called upon to speak whether it is to deliver a toast at a wedding or a keynote address, you need to consider each as a special occasion and review the who, what, when, where and why of the event.
Let’s start with “who”: your audience. What do you know about them? Are they family and friends, an industry or professional group? Find out as much about the audience as you can. The level of familiarity you have with them, and they with you may dictate the tone, manner and content of your presentation. What does this audience expect from you? Knowing this allows you to tailor the message for their needs, and that brings us to the “what” of the presentation.
What is the occasion? Does the event itself suggest a topic or guide your remarks? Or, were you given a topic? Consider this, as well as what you want to talk about and what you have the expertise to address. Is there controversy surrounding the issue? Is there a problem to which you can offer a solution? Could you clarify a topic that may be cloaked in secrecy or that is misunderstood? All these elements should be pondered as you plan the presentation.
The “when” can cover a lot of territory. Is the presentation for a special event, or on a holiday? Will you be the emcee, the warm-up act, a panelist, or the keynote speaker? At what point during the event will you speak: first, or the last of 20?
“Where” refers to your physical environment, from macro to micro. Perhaps you are speaking outside the United States. It pays to know something about the culture as actor Richard Gere discovered when he kissed a female actress during an event in India. Will you be inside or outside, in a cavernous space or an intimate setting? Are you able to control the lights, the temperature, the technology? A dress rehearsal on site is often a good idea to make sure that you have command of the space.
Now, let’s think about why you are speaking. Sometimes speakers motivate or inform. Other times they persuade or entertain. What do you want the audience to believe or think once you have finished your presentation. Your purpose will direct the manner in which you approach your topic.
Who, what, when, where and why have been covered. But how are you speaking? If you follow the above guidelines and you practice, practice, practice, I think you’ll speak just fine.
Ty Boyd, CEO of Ty Boyd Executive Learning Systems, is in the Broadcast Hall of Fame and the Speakers Hall of Fame. He has taught public speaking and presentation skills to Fortune 1000 executives in more than 40 countries. His Excellence In Speaking Institute celebrates its 27th anniversary in 2007.