Whatever your reason for standing in front of an audience, it is important to identify your objective before you even outline your material. What is your primary goal? Are you being requested by your boss to give a report on your latest sales presentation? Are you taking a course in public speaking and it is your turn to deliver a speech? Maybe you are interested in pursuing public speaking as a career.
Some professional speakers will tell you that there are 4 reasons for public speaking: to inform, to persuade, to inspire, or to entertain. On the other hand, most college texts on public speaking will tell you there are only 3 reasons. They do not include speaking to inspire because that category will fall into either the informative or the persuasive category. (Public speaking as a means to entertain is not covered in this article because it is a topic unto itself.)
With the informative presentation, you may be teaching your audience about something, you may be talking about a death-defying experience, or you could be describing your business to your leads group. Whatever your subject, your primary goal with the informative is to deliver a speech or presentation that is descriptive. Your objective is not to sell anything or persuade anyone, it is merely to teach or inform.
The informative presentation can have a number of main points, although most books will suggest that you should limit your main points to 5. (Tell that one to Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People!)
With the persuasive presentation, on the other hand, your reason for speaking is to persuade your audience to agree with you. While this category may deal with an idea, a theory, or a product, your objective is to have your audience understand and agree with your point of view. You could be a lawyer giving the closing statement for your client. You could be a politician running for office. You might be an insurance broker explaining the value of life insurance. Or, possibly, you are a motivational speaker with an inspirational message.
In a nutshell, the persuasive presentation has the objective of selling something. As a persuasive speaker, you want your audience to agree with because you need their support. You may be trying to convince your audience of global warming or trying to explain to them that global warming does not exist.
Whatever your motivation with the persuasive presentation, it is of utmost importance that you are convincing. Your success will be determined by how effectively you can sway your audience to see the story your way. In addition, you may have books, CDs, workshops, or other product at the back of the room that you intend to sell.
You will be much more successful in public speaking if you know your objective and accomplish your goals the next time you stand in front of an audience.