PSU Insight

Speak with Power and Passion

Can You Answer These Important Questions?

Whether you're giving a prepared speech word-for-word or you're "winging it" by making it up as you go along, it's important that you organize your thoughts ahead of time. Answering these questions will make your presentation far more effective.

Before you write your first word of your speech (or utter your first word, if you're winging it), there are some important questions that you need to answer —

  • Who am I speaking to?

    I was approached by a salesman the other day who was trying to sell his service to me. Actually, it was unnecessary — I had already decided that I needed his service, so all he had to do was "close the deal". Unfortunately, he launched into what was obviously a memorized sales pitch, without any regard for my particular needs. End result — he walked away empty-handed, and I purchased the service from someone else.

    Whether you're selling something, teaching someone, persuading someone, entertaining someone, or whatever... it's vital that you know your audience (even if your "audience" is only one person). Only then can you answer the other questions —

  • What problem(s) do they have?

    Everybody has problems. Maybe they're major or maybe they're minor, but there's one thing you can be sure of — everyone has problems. And when you know what their problems are, you have an opportunity to help solve their problem.

  • How will I solve their problem(s)?

    It's not enough to know what their problems are — you need to be able to help solve their problems. Now "solving" their problems doesn't necessarily mean providing them with a solution. Maybe they're bored; if so, you can entertain them. Maybe they're lonely; if so, you can provide companionship or compassion. Maybe they're insecure or doubtful of themselves; then you can support, motivate, or inspire them. Maybe they just need a sympathetic ear; listening to them can accomplish miracles.

  • What's my long-term objective?

    It's important to solve someone else's problems, but what about your problems? What's your long-term objective in giving your speech or having a conversation? Even if you just want to enjoy the good feeling that comes from helping someone, it's important that you know what you're getting too!

  • What single step do I want them to take next?

    Action is power. You certainly want your audience to listen to you, but you also want them to take some action as a result of what you're saying. What do you want them to do?

There are other questions that you can ask yourself, but you get the general idea. These questions may seem somewhat obvious, but if you just start communicating with someone without understanding what you’re trying to accomplish, your presentation may be "perfect", but it will also be unfocused and ineffective.

On the other hand, if you answer these simple questions — and keep the answers in mind as you prepare your speech — you’ll find that your presentation will become more effective and persuasive… almost without trying.