January 17, 2011

Guest Post - Public Speaking: Beginning at the End

As I'm out of town for a few days, I thought I'd offer you a guest post by Dr. Gary Rodriguez, author of Purpose Driven Public Speaking and the CEO of Leader Metrix. It speaks to one of my core requirements of public speaking: always know your objective.

Enjoy this post, and I'll be back at my desk Wednesday!

Public Speaking: Beginning at the End

Once you choose a subject, you are ready to think about the goal of your talk.
Many presenters wait far too long to think about their desired outcome, so once you know what you are going to talk about, it’s time to consider what you hope to accomplish.

Beginning at the end will foster what might be called “purpose driven talk.” However, this requires that you know your objective before you get too far into your preparation. Just as a train needs a destination and a track, so our talks need a purpose and a structure. The purpose determines our goal while the structure maps our course.

As a ten-year-old boy, I raised pigeons in the backyard of our small home in Daly City, California. I still remember building the pigeon coop and getting it ready for my first birds. When that day arrived, I discovered there was a lot to learn about pigeons, and I found out that there were different kinds of pigeons as well. Back then, I thought all pigeons were alike, but they aren’t. After careful investigation, I chose two different kinds of pigeons to take home. One breed was called “rollers,” the other “homers.” Rollers are trick pigeons that actually do tumbles in the air, while homers are unique birds that can be trained to find their way home, even from great distances.

In time, the homing pigeons won me over. They were fascinating creatures. The pigeon coop I built had a little opening that served as a door that was simply a bent-wire coat hanger. The door was designed so the birds could go in the coop but not come out of it.

The homing pigeons were trained in an interesting way. A few times a day, I held the pigeons outside the cage and then gently nudged them back into it through the little one-way door. After doing this repeatedly for a few days, I would take a pigeon out of the coop, walk a few yards away and let it go. This was a great exercise in faith for a little boy. Part of me wondered if they might not just fly away and never return. Actually, the pigeons would fly off for a while. Yet, eventually to my delight, they would return to the small perch that sat in front of the coat hanger door. After awhile, they would walk through the little door into the cage just the way they had been trained. In time, I could take them miles away, let them go, and they would miraculously return home every time.

Homing pigeons and presenters have this in common: they both need to learn where home is before they can be released. The pigeon’s home is a coop. The presenter’s home is a predetermined desired outcome, and it is this well thought-out objective that makes the presentation “purpose driven.”

Early on, presenters must determine exactly how they want to finish by deciding what they hope their audience will do in response to their talk. That is why it is so critical that you begin with your focus on the end. Without a clearly defined objective up front, you are likely to stray off course. It is no fun to climb the ladder and then realize it is leaning against the wrong wall.

Know What You Want To Happen

Suppose you were running for a public office. And let’s say you were slated to give a fifteen-minute speech. After analyzing your audience, you should be ready to decide on your desired outcome. Is it to give a good speech? (That may be good, but it is not best.) Is your goal to sell your particular political ideology? (Of course, but again, while that may be on target, it’s not a bull’s-eye.)

Ultimately, your real objective here would be “to get votes.” Once you have arrived at this conclusion, it becomes your home base, your destination, your driving purpose, your desired outcome. Knowing your true goal will help you stay focused on what you need to say and what you eventually want your audience to do — in this case, get them to vote for you.

Speaking without a purpose is pointless. It is like running a race without a finish line. On the other hand, when you have taken the time to pinpoint your purpose, your whole talk will reflect it. Your introduction, key points, illustrations, application(s), and conclusion will all support this end goal.

When you begin with purpose, passion is sure to follow!

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