Speaking Success: Start with Objectives

by Derek Featherstone

When you're planning and creating a talk, there's a critical step that many people skip or miss because it is so simple, it seems almost like it isn't worthwhile. But these starting points are what lead to success and leave your audience wanting more because you deliver **value**, and there are clear takeaways from your talk.

You have been asked to speak to a group of people at a conference or workshop or other networking event. Here's the cool part: you said "Yes!"

So, now what?

There's a lot you can do to make sure you succeed with your talk. You'll get past the nerves. Make sure you can answer the question: Why do they want you to speak? I mean, think about it -- you're delivering a talk for a reason, right? You have a topic that is really important to you, and you're going to get that message across.

But... how?

Starting points

When I'm planning a talk, and I've figured out why I've been asked, I usually do a mind map of all the content that lives in my head. I just get it out -- usually on paper, but sometimes digitally, or even by recording audio. And once I've done that, it is time to go to work to craft that talk.

This step is really simple. So simple that you might even be tempted to skip it. But please, don't. Your audience will thank you, and you will thank yourself, because your talk will have a purpose.

Ask yourself 2 questions:

  1. What do you want people to know?
  2. What do you want people to DO?

That's all there is to it. When you're done the talk or workshop, what new knowledge and skills do you want them to have? In other words, you don't want anyone leaving the talk saying "What was the point of that?"

Here's some examples from a virtual seminar I'm working on right now on designing and building maps that are more accessible to people with disabilities:

I want them to know...

  • some of the accessibility limitations of current map implementations
  • the impact of inaccessible map solutions with respect to different disabilities

I want them to...

  • fix examples of bad code with sample maps
  • analyze several maps and create alternative, more accessible designs
  • write code that uses the Google Maps API

It is really straightforward, but a great exercise to help you figure out EXACTLY what knowledge and skills you want to get across in your session.

Give it a try!

Next time you're getting ready for a talk, take some time to really think about what you want them to know and be able to do by the time you are done with them.

Write down your objectives. The act of doing so will likely reveal some other worthy objectives that you hadn't even thought of.