Chapter 5: Presentation Organization
32 Purpose and Central Idea Statements
Speeches have traditionally been seen to have one of three broad purposes: to inform, to persuade, and — well, to be honest, different words are used for the third kind of speech purpose: to inspire, to amuse, to please, or to entertain. These broad goals are commonly known as a speech’s general purpose, since, in general, you are trying to inform, persuade, or entertain your audience without regard to specifically what the topic will be. Perhaps you could think of them as appealing to the understanding of the audience (informative), the will or action (persuasive), and the emotion or pleasure.
Now that you know your general purpose (to inform, to persuade, or to entertain), you can start to move in the direction of the specific purpose. A specific purpose statement builds on your general purpose (to inform) and makes it more specific (as the name suggests). So if your first speech is an informative speech, your general purpose will be to inform your audience about a very specific realm of knowledge.
In writing your specific purpose statement, you will take three contributing elements (shown in figure 5.3) that will come together to help you determine your specific purpose:
- You (your interests, your background, past jobs, experience, education, major),
- Your audience
- The context or setting.
Figure 5.3. You, your audience, and your context (Tucker & Barton, 2016)
Putting It Together
Keeping these three inputs in mind, you can begin to write a specific purpose statement, which will be the foundation for everything you say in the speech and a guide for what you do not say. This formula will help you in putting together your specific purpose statement:
To _______________ [Specific Communication Word (inform, explain, demonstrate, describe, define, persuade, convince, prove, argue)] my [Target Audience (my classmates, the members of the Social Work Club, my coworkers] __________________. [The Content (how to bake brownies, that Macs are better than PCs].
Example: The purpose of my presentation is to demonstrate for my coworkers the value of informed intercultural communication.
Formulating a Central Idea Statement
While you will not actually say your specific purpose statement during your speech, you will need to clearly state what your focus and main points are going to be. The statement that reveals your main points is commonly known as the central idea statement (or just the central idea). Just as you would create a thesis statement for an essay or research paper, the central idea statement helps focus your presentation by defining your topic, purpose, direction, angle and/or point of view. Here are two examples:
Specific Purpose – To explain to my classmates the effects of losing a pet on the elderly.
Central Idea – When elderly persons lose their animal companions, they can experience serious psychological, emotional, and physical effects.
Specific Purpose – To demonstrate to my audience the correct method for cleaning a computer keyboard.
Central Idea – Your computer keyboard needs regular cleaning to function well, and you can achieve that in four easy steps.