Stating Your Objectives

by Speaking Tips | May 10, 2004

Seasoned presenters will generally determine their objectives as the first step in the preparation of their speech. Conversely, novice or occasional speakers may spend many hours revising and reorganizng their material and never realize they have omitted this first step. Objectives provide a road map to your speech's or presentation's final destination.

Having a clearly defined set of objectives helps a speaker determine the kind of speech they should prepare (to inforrm, persuade or entertain), create an appealing title, organize your material and select appropriate props and visual aids. Knowing your objectives is essential for effectively publicizing your presentation.

For example, If you have been asked by your boss to give "a status report on...," "a technical briefing", or "highlights of the conference you just attended", you know you will be designing a speech to inform. The audience already appreciates the utility of the topic. Concentrate on facts and examples. Organize your material for easy comprehension by the audience. Handouts and visuals may make the information more useful.

Selecting Your Objectives

There are two distinct phases to formulating objectives. First, you must understand your audience. This will require you to research facts and demographics as well as their opinions and levels of prior knowledge of your subject. Try to find out what their likely bias, both personal and professional, may be or if any group has a vested interest (and what this is) in the outcome of your speech.

If you are speaking in your natural habitat to a group that you know, you may have the answers to these questions already. But be careful about the assumptions you make. The outlook of professionals can vary significantly depending on what kind of organization they work for, their status in the organization and their level of experience.

There are numerous ways to gather an audience profile. How effective these methods are and which you choose will depend, in part, on whether you are presenting from inside an organization (usually your employer or an association of which you are a member) or the outside.

It's particularly important to understand the organizational context. For example, when presenting to a company understand their products and services and research their industry to locate current news, issues and trends. Find out who their competitors and their major clients are. Look at the company's website and, where possible, speak with the C-level officers or other senior people. What is the company's philosophy, business plan, growth strategy?

One of your best sources of information will be the person who has invited you to speek. Find out what the occasion is and if there is a program theme. Are there other speakers and what are their subjects? Ask this person for copies of the organization's newsletter or other relevant publications. Perhaps the most important questions of all to ask and understand are "What is the group's interest in the subject?" and "How do they plan to use the information". In other words, what are their objectives in asking you to speak

The second phase of formulating your speech objectives is to use the facts you have gathered about your audience to write out an objective statement which clearly states what you intend to accomplish in a way that both you and your audience will identify with. It has been suggested that one of the best ways to articulate a presentation objective is to use a simple formula, connecting what the presenter will be doing with the desired audience outcomes. The speaker simply fills in the blanks ...

"During my talk I plan to... [verb and noun] so that ...[noun and verb]." By the end of my talk, my audience will... [verb and noun]"

For example ... "In this seminar, I will demonstrate and compare the most common technologies used for online training so that you will know your available options. By the end of the seminar, instructors should be able to evaluate these online learning tools, such as chat sessions, email and discussion groups, for your specific online training environment."

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