I’ve found there are three steps to delivering an effective speech. First is understanding the organization and audience so I can get to an interesting topic. Second is preparing the speech. Third is practice. Having done this for a long time, I’ve found these steps are critical in preparing and delivering a presentation with lasting impact.
“Would you speak for us on May 8?” Carel, the incoming president of the Kennesaw Business Association, asked in an email in December of last year.
May seemed a long way off, so I quickly accepted. Then, all of a sudden, it was May.
Yikes! How time passes!
I went to my calendar reminder for May 8, hoping I had saved his email. I vaguely remembered the email exchange had a recommended topic. The topic was “Move: The Three Secrets of Successful Entrepreneurs.”
I sent Carel an email and asked him where he got this topic. He wrote back, “It is your free ebook giveaway at paparelli.com.” That was embarrassing.
My next step was to download my own ebook and read what it said. I could have easily made this into a decent talk, but I thought it wise to go through the process of getting to a topic which best suited this audience.
Here’s What I Did
To get to a topic, I always research the organization and its leadership. The web makes this easy. I dig deep in three areas. After answering three questions, I am confident I will arrive at a relevant topic.
- What is the mission of the organization?
- What is the theme of the conference or of the current president’s strategy?
- Who is the audience?
The Organization’s Mission
At the highest level there is mission. I am a big believer in mission and purpose. These are organizational must-haves that drive every goal, strategy, and tactic…and my speech.
If I am being asked to give a presentation, I need to know why the organization exists. A clear mission statement quickly puts the person asking me to speak, the organization, and me on the same page. We will be in alignment, and this will give me added confidence in my preparation and delivery.
The Mission of the KBA: The members of the Kennesaw Business Association devote their efforts to improving the business conditions and community in the Kennesaw area by promoting higher business standards and better business methods.
What Is the Theme?
While the organization’s mission is the guiding principle, the theme is the application of that principle. Every conference and association meeting, whether in Africa or Atlanta, has a theme. The theme is the filter that narrows the choices for topics I might use.
The theme for the KBA this year is “Business Reimagined.” Here is what I discovered in the letter from the President, located on their website: “May 2018 be the year you reinvigorate your business by reimagining the way you do business.”
Make Your Audience the Priority
Public speaking is a big opportunity for me to share my life and business experiences. But not all of my experiences are relevant or interesting to every audience. I believe my first priority as a speaker is to make my audience my first priority.
I need to know who they are and what they are interested in learning. Every audience is making a choice. They are coming to hear me speak because they expect something of value. They are giving up their time by traveling to the venue when they could very well stay at home.
They are giving me their attention for the time I will be speaking. Instead of listening to me, I am sure they have a whole lot of other things they could be doing with their time. Everyone’s life is busy.
My job is to know them. To picture what they look like. To understand where they come from. What experience do they have? What are they seeking? What do they hope to leave with?
I am looking for a way to connect to the audience. The better I know the audience, the easier this is to accomplish.
To this end, I connected with last year’s KBA President Dave Persson. Dave owns a business called The Schoolbox. He has retail stores in several locations.
We talked for close to an hour about the KBA members, my audience. I kept asking questions until I started to get a picture in my mind of who these people are and what they are about.
My goal was to understand their opportunities, goals, and struggles in business and in life. As the picture became clearer, I became more and more comfortable and confident.
Discovering My Topic
Armed with the organization’s mission, the theme for the year, and a deeper understanding of the audience, I began formulating topics.
My approach to topics is simple. Speaking topics are answers to the questions the audience is asking. I picture myself in a room with some of the audience. I envision a conversation with them. I begin writing down the questions they have. In this case, what questions might they be asking around this theme of reimagining their business?
I review the questions over a period of days and pray for a relevant topic to surface. I begin to get ideas about how to answer some of these questions.
Then I choose the question which I feel most qualified to answer, the question which is answered with my real life experiences. These experiences have taught me something new and made me better at what I do.
The question I settled on answering was “How do I reimagine my business?”
I found my topic: “Reimagine your life and your business: The Three Secrets of the Reimagining Process.”