Toastmasters Speech 3: Get to the Point

A good speaker has knowledge of what he’s going to talk about and an intense desire to tell it to other people. The real test of a speaker is not ‘did he stand straight?’ or ‘did he make any mistakes in grammar?’, but rather ‘did the audience get the points he wanted to put across? – David Schwartz in The Magic of Thinking Big

Speech Objectives

  • Select a speech topic and determine its general and specific purposes.
  • Organise the speech in a manner that best achieves those purposes.
  • Ensure the beginning, body, and conclusion reinforce the purposes.
  • Project sincerity and conviction and control any nervousness you may feel.
  • Strive not to use notes.

Time: Five to seven minutes

The third Toastmasters speech project emphasises the importance of clearly identifying your main objective, and then maintaining focus to achieve it.

This speech project requires you to state the purpose of your speech succinctly, and be sure that every part of your speech supports your goal or purpose.

However, how would you describe a speech without a purpose? Awful? Wasted? Babble? In short, it is fair to infer that such a speech would not elicit great reviews. No speaker wants to leave the audience perplexed at the end of a speech – that is, not understanding the point of the speech. There is often a general and a specific purpose to a speech.

A general purpose is the broad intent of a speech. There are four most common general purposes of speech, namely:

  • Inform
  • Persuade
  • Entertain
  • Inspire

The specific purpose is a one-sentence statement that narrows down the general purpose and describes what the speech will accomplish. That one-sentence statement should be:

i. Worded from the audience’s viewpoint: What do you want the audience to be able to do after listening to your speech?

ii. Specific: The wording is precise.

iii. Attainable: The specific purpose should be realistic and possible to achieve. There is this joke about the once popular Mars Mission Project in which a volunteer asked the coordinator/speaker: “How are we going to survive in Mars?” The coordinator responded, clarifying that the purpose of his speech is not about surviving in Mars but how to get there. The point was that a talk about how to survive in Mars would be unrealistic, if not impossible!

A well-organised speech is more likely to achieve its purposes and will help the audience perceive you (the speaker) as convincing, enthusiastic, sincere, and even spontaneous – these qualities give a speaker credibility. When a speaker is perceived as credible, the speaker gains traction with the audience and the speech purpose is easily conveyed and understood.

Here’s a useful quote by Toastmasters Founder Ralph C. Smedley:

Your life is much like a speech, in that to be a success, it must have a purpose and a plan. If the year 1962 is to be a useful, satisfying, happy one for you, there must be both a purpose in your mind, and a plan for carrying out that purpose.”

A speech might seem to have two purposes – for example, an informative speech that was also entertaining because the speaker told some funny stories. But the speaker must be careful to stay on point, especially when informing an audience about the fire procedure!

Keep it Simple

Unless you are Martin Luther King, speeches are almost immediately forgotten by audiences. What is left is an impression. In this light, simplicity is logical or sensible.

If you really want to get to the point as a speaker, here are four important tips:

  1. Ensure the beginning, body and conclusion reinforce the purpose of your speech. By the time you conclude the speech, the audience should be able to state in one simple sentence the specific purpose of your speech or presentation.
  2. Always remember that an audience wants to be informed, educated and entertained.
  3. Protect your purpose; do not distract from your message before, during or after your speech.
  4. Find your purpose, make a plan, execute the plan, and you can expect to have a meaningful and successful speech.