This may sound like an elementary question, but you would be surprised how many speakers try to prepare a talk before clearly defining their subject. Often, a presenter can give you a general idea of their topic, but not a specific one; it is this absence of a clearly defined subject that is the root cause of many subsequent problems. Here are just two. First, a fuzzy subject makes doing research difficult and, therefore, much more time consuming. Second, it creates confusion when you are trying to determine the goal of your presentation. Developing a clearly defined subject is so important that Chapter 3 is devoted entirely to this topic. For now, suffice it to say that the sooner you know the subject of your talk, the better.
Once you decide on a subject, make sure you can say it in simple terms. Speakers should be able to articulate clearly the reason for their talk in just a few words. Below are some pithy titles that leave little need for explanation. They pack a punch and make the subject matter clear to the casual observer:
How to Sell Sports Tickets on the Internet
Three Missteps that Will Get You Fired
Keys to Survival on the Battlefield
Why Forgiving Can Extend Your Life
What Not to Put in This Year’s Budget
The Top Four Reasons Businesses Fail
The Attitudes that Will Get You Promoted
The Best Way to Save Money on Hotels
Why Worrying is Dangerous
Three Vacation Destinations You Will Not Forget
Now suppose you got a bonus at work and decided to take a well-deserved vacation. While thumbing through the local newspaper, you notice an advertisement promoting a seminar titled “Three Vacation Destinations You Will Not Forget.” The day of the event you show up ready to hear about these must-see destinations, but at the end of the forty-minute talk, you realize the presenter has talked about everything except what you came to hear. You walk away feeling like the seminar’s advertised title was a gross misrepresentation. This kind of thing happens more than you might think. Sadly, even when some presenters have a clear theme, they refuse to stick to it. They get sidetracked and lose focus on the subject at hand. Speakers who are guilty of this error damage their reputations and disappoint their audiences.
If you publicize that you will be speaking about “The Meaning of Easter,” don’t talk about Santa Claus.
It is essential that we know what we have come to say, and that we do our best to say it. The more we deviate from the central theme, the more we dilute the subject. Perhaps you have heard it said, “If there is a mist on the podium, there is fog in the seats.” In other words, a little ambiguity on the presenter’s part can grow into mass confusion by the time it reaches the audience. Listening audiences depend on presenters to be true to the title and subject they advertise. Failure to do so violates the listener’s trust.
Gary is committed to helping aspiring and active speakers improve their presentations skills. This is accomplished through Purpose Centered Public Speaking Workshop and personal one on one mentoring. He also offers a free public speaking phobia test and monthly newsletter to those who visit his website.
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