Know What to Say to an Audience

By | October 30, 2022

[October 30, 2022]  If you plan to talk about something, you must know a lot about your topic.  And, no, this is not common sense.  You need to know at least three or four times as much as you’re going to speak about it.  This means doing the proper background research (and sometimes analysis).  You must know what to say to an audience.

Most important, you must have multiple stories at hand that you can use to illustrate your point.  And, of course, you have to have a point.  You have to organize what you’re talking about around a problem.  Before you go in front of an audience or a group of people, sit down for a few minutes and think about a problem, theme, or idea you want to talk about.  What is it?

You must know what the core of what you will discuss is.  That core serves as an organizing principle.  And then use this to build a dozen stories around it into some thought to a journey or hierarchy that circles the core idea.  This gives you a way to think about it and helps develop what you will say.

Plot out little stories that are associated somehow with the core.  Then you can talk to an audience, allowing you to talk about what you know.   Use your personal experience, and that is something you can master.  You can bring in outside material, but it has to be tied to the real world through your own experience.  Otherwise, it’s not real.

It is also necessary to speak directly to the audience, to the individuals in the audience and focus on a few of them and talk to them just like you would have a conversation with someone.  That way, you can see if they’re following along.  And listen to the audience.  And if this is a large group, the thing you want to hear from them is no noise at all.  Silence.  If the audience is dead silent, you know you are on the right track.

If you’re telling stories, every fact you relate or every set of facts must be tied to a story.  There has to be a meaningful output, such as, “Why is it important to your life that you know this fact?”  “How is it related to how you will conduct yourself moving forward or how you will see the world?”  “How does this fact change the way you perceive the world or act in the world?”  This is the essence of meaning.

Facts without meaning are dull.

You need to tell the truth.  That’s a must!  Tell the facts in the most truthful way that you can manage.  Let yourself speak freely.  That is itself an adventure; you don’t always know where your talk is going.  That very idea also hooks the audience because they are along for the ride.  The talk is like a journey, and you’re taking the audience along.

To do it this way, it’s the same when you’re reading a novel.  A great novel is not precisely plotted out from beginning to end.  The author takes himself (or herself) on an intellectual adventure through the main character’s development.  And the characters have to be allowed to live and express themselves, and the novel needs to unfold.  There is a sort of play or exploration along the way.

You also don’t want to deliver an over-prepared talk.  Or, at least, that’s not how it is best done.  You want to have a theme, you want to have a body of knowledge from which you can draw, and then you want to be actively exploring the idea in front of the audience.  And that’s very gripping for everyone, including you.

You should learn something from the talk, as well.  It’s an opportunity to think on your feet.  This is like a trapeze act without a safety net.  And that is what makes it gripping and exciting, and adventurous.  Yes, there is a probability of failure too.  For any performance that’s going to be gripping – on the edge of your seat gripping – there has to be a probability of failure.

If you speak with notes, which you may have to, if you’re a beginning speaker, you cannot fail because you can always read the notes.  And there is a net for beginners; you might fall, but you won’t die.  But you will never do anything spectacular.  So, if you are going to be spectacular, you have to take the risk.


Please read my books:

  1. “55 Rules for a Good Life,” on Amazon (link here).
  2. “Our Longest Year in Iraq,” on Amazon (link here).
Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I provide one article every day. My writings are influenced by great thinkers such as Friedrich Nietzsche, Karl Jung, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Jean Piaget, Erich Neumann, and Jordan Peterson, whose insight and brilliance have gotten millions worldwide to think about improving ourselves. Thank you for reading my blog.

18 thoughts on “Know What to Say to an Audience

  1. Pink Cloud

    Very useful article. I’ll be using some of these tactics in the future and get back to this article to let everyone know how well or not it went.

  2. ant man

    Hi “folks” ….. just like Gen. Satterfield says … this is a great article giving us some advice on speaking before a group of people. I took home some good pointers.

  3. Eric Coda

    Learn to speak clearly, quote from Gen. Satterfield. But also think, think, think.

  4. USA Patriot II

    Got it!!!!! A new way to give a lecture. Maybe my old history teacher in HS should read this. He was sooooo borrrrriiiing.

    1. osmodsann

      Really! We all had those boring history teachers but today ALL teachers are BORING. They are scared of offending anyone so they just bore them to death.

  5. Max Foster

    “You should learn something from the talk, as well. It’s an opportunity to think on your feet. This is like a trapeze act without a safety net. And that is what makes it gripping and exciting, and adventurous. Yes, there is a probability of failure too. For any performance that’s going to be gripping – on the edge of your seat gripping – there has to be a probability of failure.” Gen. Satterfield quote and one that is really interesting. I never thought of a talk to an audience (or any group of people) as an “adventure.” That way of thinking is something I”m going to have to try out.

  6. British Citizen

    Cheers to all my American mates. Just to make you feel better on a Sunday, at least your president – as lost as he is – at least you have a leader. Cheers!

    1. Emma Archambeau

      BC, not really. Our president is a doddering old fool who doesn’t know where he is. He is operating on old habits, like any dementia patient would. What is terrible is that we don’t know who is really in charge because it certainly is NOT slow Joe.

      1. Wild Bill

        Got that right Emma, pow! Yep, you could have pulled any old person out of a home for the elderly and done so randomly and we would be better off.

      2. Yusaf from Texas

        Right but no need to beat a dead horse, unless of course it is for a laugh. Oh, I forget the Democrats don’t like humor.

  7. Bryan Z. Lee

    Gen. Satterfield, thanks. I just wanted to say that I’m enjoying your newest book out, “55 Rules for a Good Life.” In my opinion, it should say for a “great life” and not just a good life. Hey, keep up the great work you are doing on this leadership website.

    1. The Northeast

      We all need it occasionally. I found this article extremely helpful. In the past I always used extensive notes and often read literally my notes to an audience. How boring is that!? Now, I’m going to try out this new style and see it I can deliver my messages better and more interestingly. 😎😎😎😎

  8. corralesdon

    Gen. Satterfield, please write an article to go with this one about what NOT to say to an audience.


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