Before you put pen to paper or start practicing openings in the mirror, it’s important to know what it is you want to achieve when giving a speech. Hari Patience-Davies explains how identifying your target will help you decide what content or data to include in your presentation.

One of the first things I ask when someone comes to me for presentation or speech coaching is “what do you want to achieve here?” It’s a simple question but it rarely receives a simple answer. Often people waffle, naming three, five or double digit numbers of things they want. Sometimes they share a goal that can’t possibly be delivered by the speech in question (“I want world peace!”).

I don’t say this to mock them – it can be hard for any of us to zero in on a single objective – which is why I suggest that people should have two; a practical goal and an emotional goal.

Your practical goal is what you’re hoping to get out of this speech. Do you want to win more business with this client, or new business with new clients? Do you want to encourage people to buy your book or visit your website? Are you looking to be recognised as an expert in this field to win grants or funding? All of these are practical objectives – and to what extent the speech in question can help you achieve them is dependent on your audience, content and performance.

The emotional goal is how do you want the audience to feel at the end of your speech. Do you want them to feel inspired? Proud? Miserably shocked and determined to make the world a better place?

The emotional and practical objectives are linked but they are not the same. However, you should be able to combine them in a single sentence, such as:

I want my audience to enjoy my speech so that I am invited back to speak again next year.


I want the audience to have empathy for the victims of this crisis so they will donate money to my charity to help us fix it.

Or even:

I want the decision maker to be so impressed and inspired by the work we’ve shown that they select us as the winners of the pitch.

Once you know your goals you should immediately write them down. If you’re working alone this should be on a post it or note that you put somewhere in eye shot so it’s there as a constant reminder while you work on the speech. If you’re working in a team, work with the team to refine a version everyone agrees on, and get them up on the wall of your team space – or in the case of remote working you could create a custom zoom background and get everyone on the team to use it for your team meetings or project calls.

The key thing is to have a goal that everyone knows and works towards, because then you can ask yourself “does this story” work for that goal. Does it help advance the audience on their journey towards that goal – or is it a distraction? If it doesn’t ditch it and find one that does. If you can keep your goals front and centre while planning, preparing and practicing your speech then the messages you want to deliver should be clear to the audience – and hopefully will reach your desired goals.

So next time you need to prepare a speech – even if it’s just a short introduction to a meeting – consider what you really want to achieve and how your want your audience to feel, because if you don’t know your goals, how are your audience supposed to?


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