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The questions behind powerful speeches

There are six basic questions your presentation needs to answer. Read on to find out more.
There are six basic questions your presentation needs to answer. Read on to find out more.
Photo: Scott Maxwell, Design: Carma Spence

All presentations answer questions. Whether you are speaking to an audience of Long Beach residents or people from around the world, if you want your speech to be effective, you’ll need to answer all six of these basic questions for (and about) your audience.

Who?
Before you can craft an effective presentation, you need to know who your target audience is. Once you know that, you’ll have an idea of what they would like to know about your topic. You’ll be able to address any preconceived notions about your material. And, you’ll have a good idea of what their concerns are.

When you understand the “who” of your message, you will be better able to relate with your audience members. When you address your audience’s needs, they will feel like you are speaking directly to them and, therefore, they will give you their attention.

What?
What do you want to talk about? What is the message you want to communicate? What are the associated issues and solutions?

This is the backbone of your speech. The “what” is your purpose for speaking. It is also the reason why people came to listen to you.

Where?
Your speech presented a problem and a solution. Where can your audience find them? Lead your audience somewhere in your presentation. Where would you like to take them?

When?
Most presentations have a call to action, so you’ll need to know when the audience should take that action. Does your speech have a sense of urgency?

Emphasizing the “when” of your message is particularly important when you want your audience to take action immediately following the presentation — for example sign up for a class, sell promotional materials or implement what was learned.

Why?
Not only do you want your audience to listen to you, but you want them to take action on what you’ve said. You’ve told them what to do, now you need to motivate them to do it with your “why”.

You want to inspire and motivate your audience to act. Honing your message’s “why” is critical to accomplishing that goal.

How?
This is the educational portion of your speech. Provide specific, actionable and easy-to-understand instructions. How can your audience respond to your message? How can they take action based on what they’ve heard?

As you piece the answers to these six basic questions together, you’ll give your audience the detailed answers they are looking for. Even better, you’ll present yourself as a credible source of information.

Would you like more information about public speaking? Visit PublicSpeakingSuperPowers.com for tips, advice and plenty of videos about all the "powers" you can employ in your speaking endeavors.

NOTE: Are you a Long Beach based speaker? Do you know of an upcoming speaking event? Contact me to have an interview with you published in this column.