When public speaking and presenting, make sure that you focus on main topic or one main idea. The reality is that audiences don’t remember everything you say and to ensure they do remember what you want them to remember, focus on one main topic.
The alternative, which I am sure we have all seen on occasions, is called a “scatter gun approach” also known as “spray and pray”. This is when the speaker says lots of different things and shares ideas which are varied and don’t focus on one idea or one topic. There are a few steps that we can do to ensure when preparing a speech that we create one main topic and stay on that main topic.
- Ask yourself, what one thing do I want them to think, feel or do after I have spoken. The question will give you clarity of purpose and clarity on what your main topic or idea needs to be. As they say, “if you don’t know what you want to happen, then anything you say will do”. We generally speak for a reason and for a purpose and being clear on this helps us refine and define our main topic.
- Use your stories to illustrate and amplify your main topic. If you have a model, a theory or a process as you main topic, tell a story that illustrates this point. There is nothing more powerful than a lived experience, story or case study – in real life, that demonstrates your very topic or idea. Stories create a visceral response and are more memorable than simply facts or data. Find stories that magnify your main topic.
- Stay on topic with Questions and Answers. I have seen speakers that receive questions that are left field and off topic. What happens is the speaker then goes down a rabbit hole and off topic and the audience becomes confused. While it is polite to answer all questions always finish with a final line or statement that brings us back to your main topic and main message.
- It’s okay to touch on related topics but go back to main message. Similar to your Question and Answer session, if there is something off topic that needs to be addressed, such as a recent negative report or newspaper article (sometimes called the elephant in the room) address it, then go back to the main topic or message.
- Know your topic very well. Knowing your topic in depth allows you to relax, stay on topic and deal with difficult questions, hecklers, naysayers and any elephants that may be in the room. This includes knowing the history and origins of your main message as well as understanding trends and future directions. In the public speaking industry, we say “know your topic so well that you can plug and play”. This means the ability to answer questions, speak on topic for 5 minutes or 2 hours and be able to present without PowerPoint if needed.
- Share a strong call to action that strengthens your main message. Your conclusions, summary and call to action should all strengthen your main topic. The reveres is to end with a whimper and end with comments and remarks that have no relation to your core message. In other words, nail your ending by remaining on topic.
There is nothing worse than preparing for a presentation, getting on stage and then your audience not being clear on what you have just said. The best way to ensure this does not happen is focus on message and stay on topic.