A talk without a purpose
is like a compass without a direction!
Dale 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.” 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 ___________________”. 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.
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.
 Steven R. Covey, The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People (New York: Fireside, 1989), 98.
 Duane Litfin, Public Speaking: A Handbook for Christians (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1992), 96.
 Kent, Speak Up with Confidence, 53.
 Littauer, Communication Plus, 106-109.