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Own the Spotlight: Five Key Concepts of Public Speaking

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4. Define your goal

One question on the application to take my class asks applicants why they want to take the class. Some say that they want to be less scared of public speaking. Some tell stories of having messed up big-time at some point and wanting to make sure that never happens again. Many people make the goal of their speech to just finish without making mistakes.

However, setting a goal of such limited scope often inhibits us from harnessing the true power of public speaking. As Ralph Waldo Emerson puts it, “Speech is power: speech is to persuade, to convert, to compel”. Public speaking is about obtaining buy-in from your audience, whether it’s buy-in to your ideas or buy-in to your interests. Great public speakers, like Cynt, generate so much buy-in from their audience that their audience connects with the speaker and even connects with each other over the shared experience of hearing the same speech. That’s the power of speech.

Rather than seeing public speaking as a necessary evil and having an unhealthy fear of making mistakes, define a goal for your speech. What is it that you want your audience to walk away with? Having a defined purpose empowers and strengthens you to work toward that goal rather than to dread the experience. Most importantly, setting a goal forces you to work with the audience – after all, you can only accomplish your goal if your audience gives you the buy-in you are seeking.

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