As a speaker, your goal for a speech or presentation or in meetings is always the same: to positively influence your audience’s thoughts, feelings, or behavior. Accomplishing such a change among listeners may sound like a difficult task, but it really isn’t. It’s fully achievable because your audience is helping you every step of the way.
(To speak with maximum impact with stakeholders, download my free cheat sheet, "4 Characteristics of an Influential Speaker.")
Give Audiences What They're Looking For
People attend talks, lectures, keynote speeches, business meetings, employee training, product roll-outs and political rallies because they want to be positively influenced. They want their thinking and behavior to be changed. In other words, they’re looking for something valuable from you. They would like their time and effort in attending this event to be worthwhile. And they want to go away either knowing more than they did before, or feeling different through a positive change in their lives.
That means that the ultimate aim of your presentation is to point people to some positive action. The three elements named in the first paragraph above always go together: When you speak, you should (1) add to listeners’ knowledge, (2) get them to feel that what they’re hearing is beneficial, and (3) lead them to a positive change in behavior.
A problem arises however, if like many speakers you believe you job is primarily to convey information. Thinking this way can lead to a determination to get your information across no matter what happens. And then the action step you should be aiming for can get completely lost. As I say to my speech coaching clients, the bare delivery of information is among the most boring practices a speaker can inflict on listeners.
So, as a reminder of where real influence lies—and that your audience rather than information is what matters—remember this mantra:
If you truly want to influence people, know the action you want them to take as a result of your speech.
Be Clear on the Timing of the Audience's Action
Of course, each speaking situation and every audience is unique, so the timing of that action may differ. For instance, you might be trying to get people to sign a petition before they leave the room (immediate action). Or you might want a prospective business partner to agree to a second meeting concerning a project (intermediate action). Finally, you may be focused on developing a closer relationship with the people you’re speaking to today (long-term action).
Whatever the action is, build it into your goals for your speech, presentation or meeting that you decide on beforehand!
How to Quantify Success
Including an action goal for an audience is one way to quantify your speaking success. That’s important, because public speaking is not always an easily quantifiable situation.
There are ways you can help yourself toward this goal in terms of speech performance skills. For instance, you can become aware of the image you're projecting through your body language and work to achieve a more positive presence.
Also, learn the techniques for starting your presentations powerfully, for your opening is a key moment for achieving your aims. Almost equally important is the need for you to discover how to end your speeches and presentations memorably. And throughout your talks, practice leadership skills for staying fully focused when speaking.
In terms of quantifying your success: Did your listeners take the action you were hoping for (short- or long-term) following your speech? Did they show that they’re open to your ideas? Have they indicated they’re considering the steps you’ve outlined? These are all actions in the sense of changing an audience’s thoughts, feelings, or behavior.
Write Out Your Action Goal
Once you perform an audience analysis to learn how to reach your listeners, and you decide on your purpose and put together content to accomplish that purpose, you’re ready to write out an action goal of what you’re looking for from these attendees. As stated above, that's something you’d like your audience members to think, feel, or do as a result of what you’ll say.
Try it now. Think about a speech, presentation or business gathering you have coming up, and write your action goal below:
Action Goal: _____________________________________________________
It doesn’t have to be any longer than that. But it has to be there!
Get in the habit of both thinking of and writing out your action goal when you speak, and you'll be much clearer on what you want to achieve in your presentations. It will be that much easier then to measure your success in achieving that goal.
Key takeaways from this blog:
- Your goal in speaking is always to influence thoughts, feelings, and behavior.
- To truly influence people, be clear on the action you want them to take.
- Understand in your own mind exactly when you want this action to occur.
- Write out your action goal each time you speak.
- Now you can measure whether you achieved that action by your audience.