Roles Speakers Play






When I’m asked to give a speech the first thing that comes to mind is “What am I going to say?” Then I remind myself to back up several steps because there are more important questions to be answered.

You’ll be better qualified to research, organise and write your speech if you have defined your speaking role first. Will your audience expect you to be an expert on your subject?  Are they wanting to be informed, entertained, motivated, inspired or a combination of these?

Do some audience analysis, what are the demographics, the general age, gender, education levels, political or religious affiliations etc. How many people will you be speaking to and what audio visual aids will you need or use? What about the venue, will you be speaking on a stage, a podium, in an auditorium, what time of day, and how should you be dressed, casual, smart-casual, or business professional?  Will there be other speakers and what will they be talking about? Will you be expected to answer questions from the floor?

A speaker needs to define both role and purpose before preparing a talk for the same reason a salesperson needs to have complete product and market information before attempting a sales presentation. No one can operate effectively in an information vacuum. Content, language and style of delivery are basic components of any speech. Each is significantly affected by the speaker’s role and purpose. For example,

Content – The information you include in your speech is based almost entirely on your role. An expert will present the facts on an issue, good or bad. An advocate will tend to minimise or omit unfavourable points. A speaker honouring a retiree will tell humorous anecdotes and praise or thank him for his contribution to the organisation or company, and will not make any negative remarks about this guest of honour. A speaker trying to inspire the audience will concentrate on the view from the mountain top, not on the difficult climb it’s going to take to get there.

  Language – The English language is the most expressive in the world. A speaker can express shades of meaning impossible to many other languages. A speaker who wants only to inform the audience uses neutral words while an advocate will use words with connotative meanings that are biased in his favour. An inspirational speaker often chooses abstract words appropriate to the subject.

Style of delivery – An inspirational speaker can legitimately pound on the lectern and exhort the audience. The after dinner speaker is expected to be witty and entertaining even when the topic is serious. An informative speaker will have a calmer delivery. A persuasive speaker usually will project dismay, anger, or other more dramatic emotions in an attempt to move the audience. Although style of delivery depends partly on the speaker’s personality, a good speaker also varies his style to suit a particular role or subject.

The time you spend determining role and purpose will save you time you might otherwise spend developing inappropriate material.

  A final check-up Before you agree to accept the task

Why were you chosen to speak, are you the right speaker for this topic and audience, in other words, are you speaking from experience and are you qualified to give the people booking you exactly, or more than what they are looking for? Perhaps you are speaking for free, however, if you are charging a fee, establish and agree on the amount, confirm in writing and ask for payment before the event, or on arrival

Prepare and send your bio to the person who will be introducing you to the audience, keep it brief and answer the questions, Why this speaker, (You) Why to this audience. Why at this time. And should you feel that you are not the right speaker, or that this is not the right audience, not relevant or any other reason that things don’t fit, then decline, for your sake as well as for the audience and people wanting to book you.

If it’s all systems go, then remember the 5 P’s, Proper Preparation Produces Powerful Presentations and enjoy the ride.

To your success

Martin E Louw



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