Writing the Speech Goal
Once you have chosen your topic and analyzed the audience and setting for your speech, you continue the preparation process by identifying the general goal you are hoping to achieve and then writing a specific speech goal.
The general goal is the intent of your speech. Most speeches can be classified as those that are meant to entertain, inform or persuade. Because speech is a complex act that may affect an audience in different ways, these headings are useful only to show that in any public speaking act one overriding general goal is likely to predominate. Consider the following examples.
Jay Leno’s opening monologue on The Tonight Show is intended to entertain, even though it may include material that is perceived as informative or persuasive. Likewise, a political candidate’s speech is intended to persuade listeners to vote for him or her even though it may include some material that is perceived as amusing or informative.
Although some public speakers give speeches solely for the purpose of entertaining, in this text we focus attention on informative and persuasive speeches, the kinds of speeches most of us give in our daily lives.
The specific goal, or specific purpose, is a single statement that specifies the exact response the speaker wants from the audience. For a speech on the topic “Evaluating Diamonds,” the goal could be stated as “I would like the audience to understand the four major criteria for evaluating a diamond.” For a speech on “Supporting the United Way,” the goal could be stated as “I would like the audience to donate money to the United Way.” In the first example, the goal is informative: The speaker wants the audience to understand the criteria. In the second example, the goal is persuasive: The speaker wants the audience to donate money. Now let us consider a step by step procedure for completing the specific speech goal.
1. Write a first draft of your speech goal that includes the infinitive phrase that articulates the response you want from your audience. Suppose Julia begins her first draft on the topic of Illiteracy by writing, “I want my audience to understand illiteracy.” With this goal statement, Julia recognizes that her goal is to have the audience understand something. Julia now has the start of an informative speech goal. Suppose instead, she had started, “I want to explain illiteracy.” Although it appears to be a reasonable goal, this statement puts the emphasis on the speaker rather than on audience response. Make sure that the specific goal begins with an expression of desired audience response.
2. Revise your first draft until you have written a complete sentence that specifies the nature of the audience response. The draft, “I want my audience to understand illiteracy,” is a good start, but “understand illiteracy” is not clear. Exactly “what” about illiteracy is it that Julia wants her audience to understand? As Julia works with the wording, she amends it to read, “I would like the audience to understand three aspects of the problem of illiteracy.” This draft is a complete sentence statement of her speech goal. Notice that it includes the desired audience response, “to understand three aspects of illiteracy.”
Now the question becomes, does the phrase “understand three aspects of illiteracy” fully capture what she will be talking about? Is Julia concerned with illiteracy in general? Or illiteracy in a specific situation? As Julia thinks about it, she sees that what she really wants to focus on is how illiteracy hurts people who are trying to function well at work. With this in mind, she revises the goal by writing, “I would like the audience to understand three aspects of the problem of illiteracy in the workplace.” Now she has the goal limited not only in number but also in situation.
3. Make sure that the goal contains only one idea. Suppose Julia had written, “I would like the audience to understand three aspects of the problem of illiteracy in the workplace and to prove how it is detrimental to both industry and the individual.” This draft includes two distinct ideas; either one can be used but not both. Together they blur the focus of the speech. Julia must make a decision: (1) Does she want to focus her talk on aspects of the problem? If so, her goal statement would be, “I would like the audience to understand three major aspects of illiteracy in the workplace.” (2) Does she want to focus on how harmful it is? If so, her goal statement would be, “I would like to prove that illiteracy in the workplace is detrimental to the individual and to industry.”
4. Revise the infinitive or infinitive phrase until it indicates the specific audience reaction desired. If you regard your ideas as useful but noncontroversial, then your intent is primarily informative and the infinitive that expresses your desired audience reaction should take the form “to understand” or “to appreciate.” If, however, the main idea of your speech is controversial, a statement of belief or a call to action, then your intent is persuasive and will be reflected in such infinitives as “to believe” or “to change.”
5. Write at least three different versions of the goal. The clearer your specific goal, the more purposeful and effective your speech is likely to be. Even if Julia likes her first sentence, she should write at least one additional version. The second version may prove to be an even clearer statement. For instance, on a second try, she might write, “I would like the audience to understand three major effects of the problem of illiteracy in the workplace.” Changing “three aspects” to “three major effects” gives the goal a different emphasis. She may decide she likes that emphasis better.
Relationship among Subjects Topics Goals and Thesis Statements
The specific goal is a statement of how you want your audience to respond. The. thesis statement is a sentence that outlines the specific elements of the speech supporting the goal statement. For example, for a speech on evaluating diamonds, Sandy wrote:
Specific goal: I would like the audience to understand the major criteria for evaluating a diamond.
Thesis statement: Diamonds are evaluated on the basis of carat (weight), color, clarity and cutting.
Notice that the specific goal clearly states what Sandy wanted the audience to do (understand the major criteria), but it does not identify the criteria for actually evaluating. Because Sandy had worked in a jewelry store, she already knew the information about criteria; she was able write a thesis statement showing the criteria of carat, color, clarity and cutting before doing any research. We mention the thesis statement in this chapter to give you an idea of the relationship among subject, topic, general goal, specific goal and thesis statement. If you think you have enough understanding of your specific goal to sketch a thesis statement, then go ahead. By specifying the focus of the speech, you give yourself even more direction when beginning research.
The first step of effective speech preparation is to determine your speech goal. You begin by selecting a subject that you know something about and are interested in, such as a job, a hobby or a contemporary issue of concern to you. To arrive at a specific topic, brainstorm a list of related words under each subject heading. When you have brainstormed at least twenty topics, you can check the specific topic under each heading that is most meaningful to you.
The next step is to analyze the audience and occasion to decide how to shape and direct your speech. Audience analysis is the study of your audience’s knowledge, interests and attitudes. Gather specific data about your audience to determine how its members are alike and how they differ. Use this information to predict audience interest in your topic, level of understanding of your topic and attitude toward you and your topic. Also, consider how the occasion of the speech and its physical setting will affect your overall speech plan.
Once you have a speech topic and have accounted for your audience and setting, you can determine your speech goal and write a thesis statement. The general goal of a speech is to entertain, to inform, or to persuade. The specific goal is a complete sentence that specifies the exact response the speaker wants from the audience. Writing a specific speech goal involves the following five step procedure: (1) Write a first draft of your speech goal. (2) Revise your first draft until you have written a complete sentence that states the specific response or behavior you want from your audience. (3) Make sure that the goal contains only one idea. (4) Revise the infinitive or infinitive phrase until it indicates the specific audience reaction desired. (5) Write out at least three different versions of the goal before deciding on one.