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Monthly Archives: February 2014

So You’ve Got Your Topic…

With the general topic determined and the overall purpose decided, it is time to delineate the objectives. The dictionary defines an objective: “something toward which effort is directed; an aim, goal, or end of action; a position to be attained or a purpose to be achieved.”[1] Objectives in a speech are specific learning goals to be accomplished by the speaker. They indicate knowledge, skills, or attitudes a learner should exhibit following instruction. Objectives should flow out of the purpose and be described in specific, measurable terms. They should guide the presentation of information and the application of material.

In a public speaking class for women, the purpose of the course might be to provide information, observation, and application of public speaking techniques to enhance the communication skills of women in life and ministry. The objectives could include the following:

  1. The student will understand basic principles of the total communication process.
  2. The student will learn public speaking techniques for a variety of contexts.
  3. The student will practice various aspects of public speaking.
  4. The student will assess the public speaking of others in order to improve personal communication.

Specific objectives guide the course of instruction. These four objectives flow directly out of the purpose statement. Information will be presented by the teacher and from the textbook about the basic principles of communication. Observation will occur during classroom presentations and outside speech evaluations. Application of speech principles will be offered through student presentations in class.

The four objectives are specific and measurable. Students will be graded on their knowledge of the basic communication process through a book review of the required textbook as well as a final examination. They will learn about different types of presentations in classroom discussion and in the presentations of their classmates. They will practice various types of public speeches when they read a Scripture aloud, make announcements in class, introduce a student speaker, and give a personal devotional. These four public presentations will be evaluated by the professor and all class members. The students will submit their assessment of classroom presentations and complete a speech evaluation outside of class. These course requirements will help the student fulfill the course objectives.

In a biblical message, the objectives should also flow out of the purpose and be related to the topic. I (Rhonda) have a message entitled “Mary, Martha, and Me.” It focuses on the narrative account in Luke 10:38-42. The purpose of the message is to challenge Christian women to worship and work. The three objective are to inspire the listeners to…

  1. worship like Mary;
  2. work like Martha; and
  3. worship and work like Me (Jesus Christ).

When a message flows from Scripture, the objectives can be connected to the purpose with greater ease. So, the next step in preparing your speech and before outlining your message is to identify the objectives!


            [1] “Objective,” http://www.thefreedictionary.com/objective (cited 19 March 2013), American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th ed. (Houghton Mifflin, 2009).

Pinpointing the Right Topic: More Tips!

Last week our blog post was about identifying the purpose of your speech in order to be guided in the right direction when choosing a topic. This week, we have more direction for you on “pinpointing the right topic”!

The topic of a speech will give it direction and focus. A topic should also appeal to the audience and be memorable. Once the purpose of the speech has been determined (in accordance with the theme of the event), the speaker can begin carefully praying about the topic or topics for her presentation. If the speaker has multiple sessions, the topics should be related.

Pastor Andy Stanley shares insight about how he determines the topic for a sermon series. He tries to answer five questions in order to provide information, motivation, application, inspiration and reiteration for his congregation.

  1. What do they need to know? (information)
  2. Why do they need to know it? (motivation)
  3. What do they need to do? (application)
  4. Why do they need to do it? (inspiration)
  5. How can I help them remember? (reiteration)

The decision about a topic is the most important decision a speaker will make. In Speak Up with Confidence, Carol Kent emphasizes the importance of choosing the best topic for a speech. Speakers should ask specific questions about potential topics. Answer these questions as you determine the topic about which you will speak.

  • What do I know a lot about?
  • Do I have an urgency to speak about it? Do I feel enthusiastic about sharing my ideas with someone else?
  • Does anyone want to hear it?

Ideas for topics are everywhere! Keep your eyes open. Notice billboards and bumper stickers for relevant phrases. Skim magazine covers for catchy titles for speeches. Advertisements on television and in print material often reflect audience interest and would be appropriate topics for talks. Keep a SWIPE file – or folder of possible topics – for future talks. Tear out the article or page from the magazine to keep for future reference. The millions of dollars spent each year by marketing firms could help determine an appropriate topic for a speech.

As you read your Bible, make notes in the margins and in a journal as the Lord speaks to you. Study the passage and outline some major points. Note a major topic or theme that you could share. Ask the Lord to reveal His Word to you, and pray for an opportunity to share it with others. Many Bible lessons begin with personal study which is life changing. Keeping a journal develops the discipline of writing and provides topics for speaking opportunities!

Let the hunt for the best topic begin!

Pointed Due North

A talk without a purpose

 is like a compass without a direction!

compassDale Carnegie, an expert in corporate training and public speaking, wrote How to Win Friends and Influence People in 1936. His bestseller has sold more than 15 million copies and is still popular today. Carnegie believed in the importance of a speaker’s topic and a speech’s purpose. He once said, “You cannot help but succeed, if you choose the right topic for YOU. Talk about your convictions!” A topic that fits the occasion, is interesting to the audience, is narrow in scope and focus, and is uplifting to the listeners will provide the springboard for a successful speech. So where is the best place to begin when choosing a topic? Ask yourself, “What is the purpose of my speech?”

In his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People, Steven Covey cites habit two: “Begin with the end in mind.”[1] Keeping the end clearly in mind encourages each step toward the ultimate goal. A speaker should know how to conclude before introducing the speech. A speaker should consider the aim or purpose as the speech is being developed and delivered. A purpose includes the actual goals you want to achieve in a speech. Goals may be private (known only to the speaker), or public (known to the audience as well). The goals can be short-term (to be accomplished immediately), or long-term (to develop over time). Every speech needs a purpose; a talk without a purpose is like a compass without a direction!

A speaker should ask the question: What is the precise response you are looking for from the listeners as a result of your message? Write a sentence to summarize your purpose. Carol Kent suggests that a speaker simply fill in the blank in the following statement: “As a result of this message, I want to cause my audience to ___________________”.[3] Be as specific as possible in order to communicate the aim.

Florence and Marita Littauer emphasize the importance of the purpose in their Christian Leaders, Authors, and Speakers Seminars (CLASS). The message needs to stick out in the minds of the audience like a PIER sticks out in the ocean! The acrostic P–I–E–R is used to organize the information and clarify the point.[4]

P – POINT

I – INSTRUCTION

E – EXAMPLE

R – REFERENCE

Every message should have a point or points; instruction which applies the points; examples including personal illustrations, stories, or quotes to explain the points; and references to validate the points. All elements should be included though the order may vary.


            [1] Steven R. Covey, The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People (New York: Fireside, 1989), 98.

            [2] Duane Litfin, Public Speaking: A Handbook for Christians (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1992), 96.

            [3] Kent, Speak Up with Confidence, 53.

            [4] Littauer, Communication Plus, 106-109.

Know Thy Audience

audience“Of the three elements of speech making – speaker, subject, and persons addressed – it is the last one, the hearer, that determines the speech’s end and object.” Aristotle

Public speakers quickly learn that “one size does not fit all” in audiences. Every audience and every occasion is unique. Therefore, every speech should be unique. In Speak Up With Confidence, Carol Kent suggests that a speaker answer four general questions in describing the audience: Who? What? Why? How? Ask some specific questions, such as the ones below, to gain more knowledge of the audience.

Who?

  • Can you describe the age, sex, background and nationality of the group?
  • Are there resource people, magazines, or books that could help you better understand the audience?

What?

  • What denomination or organization unites these people?
  • What topics have been addressed at their past events?
  • What speakers have they had recently?
  • What are their hopes, struggles, fears, needs, and questions?
  • What are their common interests?

Why?

  • Why did they as me to speak?
  • Am I an expert on the subject they want to know more about?
  • Why are they here? Are they a “captive audience” (university chapel), or are they here by choice?

How?

  • How will I get their attention?
  • Are there recent statistics related to their needs that will help me prepare?
  • What does the Bible say about the answers to the questions they are asking?
  • Is this group geared to visual learning (data projector, videos, power point presentations, and/or handouts), lectures/discussion, or straight lecture?
  • How much time do I have?

Answering these questions will help a speaker gain specific information about the audience. Background research is an essential step in speech preparation! What questions do you ask yourself when preparing to speak to a group? Comment below!