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Purpose vs. Subject: The Impact Of An Unclear Purpose In A Presentation.

By Jonas Ezeanya.


“During the course of most speeches, the audience, as a rule, can figure out what the speech’s subject is, but not the object [purpose].”



A well-thought-out purpose is so elemental it’s often overlooked. Have you ever sat in an audience and asked yourself when the speaker was going to get to the point? Or heard a speech just drift—along with the audience? The subject may be compelling, the speaker even charismatic, but without determining a clear purpose, the speaker fails to lead the audience.

In front of an audience, speakers are leaders, in charge of moving that audience from one point to another. And you can only be a leader—and attain the power that goes with leadership—if you have a clear purpose in mind. No one should be in doubt for long as to your purpose unless you’re saving some shock for the end, and even then, you had better make sure your audience can follow along.

The purpose of your speech is what you want to leave in the minds of those in your audience and what you want them to do as a result of hearing you. I pondered this issue. Why is this fault so prevalent? I realized that most speakers confuse the purpose with the subject. For example, when I ask my clients about the purpose of their presentations, I hear things like, “I’m going to talk about the new marketing program” or “the new guidelines for hiring.” In other words, they tell me about the content of their presentations—not its purpose.

What does the speaker want his audience to do after hearing his presentation on hiring guidelines? He doesn’t just want to give the audience information; he wants his listeners to hire the best people for the job.

In fact, every talk needs three elements: a title, a subject, and a purpose. For example:

Þ     Title— “Buckle Up and Live Longer”

Þ     Subject Automotive safety

Þ     PurposeTo make more people wear seat belts


Notice from this example that the purpose is stated in clear, common English. That is because you want the audience to remember it as best they could. Throw out the temptation to use “official” language. The best way to make that happen is for you to condense the purpose of your presentation into a single sentence that can be restated in plain, conversational, English. Again, don’t forget, purpose is not the same thing as subject. There’s always a real-life, practical, tone to purpose.

So what is the impact of an unclear purpose in a presentation? Well, it’s simple: you leave your audience wondering what it is exactly that they have learnt from you.



About the Author

Jonas Ezeanya is an Executive Speech Coach and Facilitator of the LiveSpeech Training Programme, Lagos-Nigeria. He works with organisations and companies who want to train their members and staff to become better presenters for personal and professional success. He also works one-on-one with individuals / executives and hosts periodic training workshops for the general public. He can be reached on 0818-972-0737, by email at or through his website at


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