The 5 “W’s” (& and “H) of Public Speaking.

Every time I have to speak in front of a group, there are certain question that I ask myself before I go onstage. Do I have my notes? Will my introduction capture their attention? Do I have on cool socks (it is a must!)? And while these questions are (mostly) important, they pale in comparison to the most important question, “is the audience going to benefit from the information?” In any presentation, there are basic pieces of information that an audience should receive from you. You are touting yourself as a problem solver, presenting a solution that they will benefit from, and they are paying you with their most valuable commodity, their time. To ensure that my audience is well compensated for their time, I make sure that I ask myself these following 6 questions about my presentation : who, what, when, where, why and how.

By preparing your presentation with these 6 questions in mind, not only will your presentation have clarity, but you will also ensure you are presenting tremendous value to your audience (and hopefully getting some fans from it).

" Is the Audience Going to From the Information?"


 When you address the “who” of your message, you are better able to relate with your audience. You will begin speaking directly to them. When your audience feels that you have connected with who they are, they are going to give you their attention. You need to answer questions like, who is your audience made up of? Who do they think you are? Who is their target audience (if your speaking to other business owners and entrepreneurs)? Do they have any preconceived notions about your material? Displaying that you truly understand your audience will win them over.



  The “what” in your message is the backbone of your presentation. It is your purpose of your message, the reason you are speaking and also the reason people come to hear you. What would they like to know about regarding your presentation? What are their concerns? What is the message you want to communicate? What are their challenges? What are the solutions? By answering “what” you are positioning yourself as their source of solutions as these questions help you to give the audience exactly what they are looking for. 


Knowing the “when ” of your audiences challenge, also helps to build credibility. You want to know when you should say certain things and when you want your audience to take action. You should also have a sense of urgency in your presentation, giving your audience at least 1 actionable step they can start immediately, and then some follow up steps for them to complete. By giving them actionable items that happen at a precise time, you keep yourself relevant long after the presentation, and even reinforce the idea that you know who they are and their issues. If you can accomplish this, who do you think they will reach out to the next time they have an issue? You can only achieve these long lasting results if you understand when your audience faces the challenges you are tackling in your presentation.


Knowing  “where” in a presentation can be tricky, as the answer can be “all over the map” (both literally and metaphorically). You need to know a lot of “where” questions, to understand the way to reach your audience the best. Where are you physically located? You would present very differently to an audience of entrepreneurs in San Francisco, than you would a group of college students in Omaha, even if the topics were similar. Where is the problem located? Is it an internal or external problem? Where can your audience find the help they need? “Where” signifies direction, and you can only know this direction if you did a good job of answering “who” above. This leads your audience somewhere in your presentation. Where would you like to take them? You can also use “where” statements, to create authority in your presentation. Common “where” statements include “across America today”, “in college campuses nationwide”, “in the construction industry”, and “in families in California”.


 Not only do you want them to listen to you, but you want your audience to take action on what you’ve said. Remember, action items and takeaways create a residual effect of authority in your speech. The main focus of answering “why” is to inspire and motivate your audience to take action. Why are they sitting in front of your right now? Why did they pay to get to this venue? Why do they think you can help them? Why are the solutions your presenting what’s best for their particular situation? Why should they spend the resources to carry out your action plan? You want to somehow improve their lives and honing your message on the “why” is a critical necessity. 


This is where the real teaching of your message happens. This is the “how-to” section telling them how they can easily improve their situation. By utilizing this section as an easy-to-follow, even possibly step-by-step, guide your audience will be able to get real value out of your message. Things you need to consider are; how can they respond to your message? How can they take action based on what they’ve heard? How can they start ASAP? How can they contact you if they are stuck? By giving them an easy how, based on your understanding who who they are, what their challenges are, and why they are here, you will become invaluable to them.

Try It For Yourself

Next time you are tasked with speaking in front of an audience, make sure that you think about the questions mentioned above. Of course, there is much more information that you will want to present, but as you answer the questions outlines above (and some of your own) you will begin to have a great amount of information and insight to bring value to your audience.