There’s an old adage among professional speakers that says “The brain can only absorb what the behind can withstand.” This means that the longer you talk, the less information your audience tends to remember. When a speaker covers too much information, it all tends to run together and cancel itself out in the listener’s mind.
Worse, rushing through a ton of content sends a signal that you’re more concerned with covering your material than trying to help the audience. In essence, you generate an emotional cue that says, “I’m more concerned about myself than helping you.” Unless you’re a popular celebrity with rabid fans, this selfish approach will hinder the power of your presentation.
The reality is that most people can only retain about 5 – 15% of what they hear when listening to a speech. Therefore, your job as an author is to concentrate your message in a way that allows you to control what part of your speech you want people to remember. This point is crucial, because if the focus of your message wanders, then your audience will wander away. Thus, if you want to use public speaking as a springboard to build a platform or increase book sales, you would be wise to create a concise presentation with one main point.
Some people will argue that a speech with one material point doesn’t cover enough material to convince people to buy your book. In certain cases, that may be true, such as when you’re giving a day-long seminar where people specifically attend to learn as much information as possible. Those situations are less frequent than a typical keynote presentation, where you have 30 – 45 minutes to motivate a large group of people. Assuming that you’re not giving a full-blown seminar or workshop, let’s discuss how to create a powerful, one-point message that can make your book appealing to the masses.
The hallmark of a great speech is when the audience actually takes action in their life based on what the speaker says. Therefore, it’s better to develop a speech that focuses on the end result you want the audience to experience, rather starting with the opening story you want to tell. Build a new speech starting from the end and work to the front. The following list of 10 questions will help you create an outline for a presentation that keeps your material focused and memorable. Start with the first question and work your way down the list in order:
- What specific action do you want the audience to take after your speech that you know will help generate a positive result in their lives?
- What story or example can you tell at the end of your speech that will inspire the audience to take action and follow your recommendations?
- What application step can you ask the audience to take that applies the solution of your message? (If the audience likes your solution, they’ll think, “What can I go do about it?”)
- What hurdles might prevent the audience from employing your solution? Provide an answer for each hurdle or misconception. (Remove the mental walls that may prevent action.)
- What is the solution to the problem that you will raise at the beginning of your speech?
- What are 3 – 4 examples you can share that describe how various groups in the audience are struggling with the problem? (Your goal is to make people feel the frustration, create tension, and build a desire for your solution.)
- What examples from your own life can you share that show how you’ve personally wrestled with the problem? (This step helps build credibility with your audience.)
- What major problem is your audience facing that you can help them overcome? (You need to define why your speech is necessary.)
- What is the main point for your message that ties everything together and makes your speech easy for the audience to remember?
- What visual objects or interesting images could you show from the stage to keep your audience engaged and help your main point stick in their mind?
By working backwards to construct a speech, you can build a presentation that leads your audience into life-change. When they experience the power of your message, your book or other products you want to sell become an attractive resource for follow-up or a souvenir from the experience. In addition, people are more likely to spread word-of-mouth when they believe the author expressed genuine care for the audience.