Why Your Speech Has To Have Purpose
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve attended a special occasion and listened as the speaker rambled on and on, jumping from thought to thought without ever getting to the point. I often look around the room to see if other people are struggling to connect the dots, sometimes even making a game out of counting the confused looks, the eyebrow raises and cringing expressions. When there are more bewildered faces than smiling ones, it’s a sure sign that the speechgiver has failed to make his/her point.
One of the most important rules of speechwriting is that you must have a clear purpose. Defining your purpose will not only help you stay focused when you write and deliver your speech, but it will help you forge a stronger connection with your audience. When it comes to most special occasion speeches, there are two main purposes: to inform and to entertain. While you may ultimately achieve a mix of the two, focusing on one will help make sure that your main points hit the right notes.
Inform If your main goal is to inform your audience, keep in mind that relaying pertinent and appropriate information is key. For example, if you’re the father of the bride, focus on 2-3 key anecdotes that paint a picture of your daughter and new son-in-law. You don’t have to bring the audience up to date on every moment of the couple’s lives, from birth to present. If you’re toasting your parents on their golden anniversary, focus on giving your guests the flavor of your parent’s relationship, not a laundry list of the top 10 moments.
Informing means sharing information that will be relevant and interesting to the audience, regardless of age, culture, or gender. Pick and choose wisely.
Entertain If your goal is to be more entertaining, think about the type of humor you wish to incorporate. But remember, being entertaining isn’t the same thing as roasting. For example, if you’re the best man it’s completely fine to poke fun at the groom so long as the ultra embarrassing stories and inside jokes don’t get lip service. And when it comes to talking about the bride, remember that your job is to make her (and the groom) look good. You can share funny memories of the couple without making anyone feel uncomfortable.
Being entertaining can still mean being tasteful and complimentary.
When further defining the more specific purpose of your speech, try asking yourself these questions:
Why am I here?
What can I do to impact my audience?
What does my audience not know?
What do I want to share with my audience?
How do I want my audience to remember me and my words?
One of my favorite quotes is, “A good speech is like a pencil. It has to have a point.” I hope this post will inspire you to find yours in time for your next speech.