9.4 Outlining


  1. Explain the principles of outlining.
  2. Create a formal outline.
  3. Explain the importance of writing for speaking.

4. Create a speaking outline.

Think of your outline as a living document that grows and takes form throughout your speech-making process. When you first draft your general purpose, specific purpose, and thesis statement, you could create a new document on your computer and plug those in, essentially starting your outline. As you review your research and distill the information down into separate central ideas that support your specific purpose and thesis, type those statements into the document. Once you’ve chosen your organizational pattern and are ready to incorporate supporting material, you can quote and paraphrase your supporting material along with the bibliographic information needed for your verbal citations into the document. By this point, you have a good working outline, and you can easily cut and paste information to move it around and see how it fits into the main points, subpoints, and sub-subpoints. As your outline continues to take shape, you will want to follow established principles of outlining to ensure a quality speech.

The Formal Outline

The formal outline is a full-sentence outline that helps you prepare for your speech. It includes the introduction and conclusion, the main content of the body, key supporting materials, citation information written into the sentences in the outline, and a references page for your speech. The formal outline also includes a title, the general purpose, specific purpose, and thesis statement. It’s important to note that an outline is different from a script. While a script contains everything that will be said, an outline includes the main content. Therefore you shouldn’t include every word you’re going to say on your outline. This allows you more freedom as a speaker to adapt to your audience during your speech. Students sometimes complain about having to outline speeches or papers, but it is a skill that will help you in other contexts. Being able to break a topic down into logical divisions and then connect the information together will help ensure that

you can prepare for complicated tasks or that you’re prepared for meetings or interviews. I use outlines regularly to help me organize my thoughts and prepare for upcoming projects.

Outlining provides a scaffolding, or structure, that will help ensure your speech is logical, coherent, and organized.

Source: Photo courtesy of Tup Wanders,http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Scaffolding_Berlin2.jpg.

Principles of Outlining

There are principles of outlining you can follow to make your outlining process more efficient and effective. Four principles of outlining are consistency, unity, coherence, and emphasis.Warren C. DuBois, Essentials of Public Speaking (New York: Prentice Hall, 1929), 104. In terms of consistency, you should follow standard outlining format. In standard outlining format, main points are indicated by capital roman numerals, subpoints are indicated by capital letters,

and sub-subpoints are indicated by Arabic numerals. Further divisions are indicated by either lowercase letters or lowercase roman numerals.

The principle of unity means that each letter or number represents one idea. One concrete way to help reduce the amount of ideas you include per item is to limit each letter or number to one complete sentence. If you find that one subpoint has more than one idea, you can divide it into two subpoints. Limiting each component of your outline to one idea makes it easier to then plug in supporting material and helps ensure that your speech is coherent. In the following example from a speech arguing that downloading music from peer-to-peer sites should be legal, two ideas are presented as part of a main point.

1. Downloading music using peer-to-peer file-sharing programs helps market new music and doesn’t hurt record sales.

The main point could be broken up into two distinct ideas that can be more fully supported.

  1. Downloading music using peer-to-peer file-sharing programs helps market new music.
  2. Downloading music using peer-to-peer file-sharing programs doesn’t hurt record sales.

Following the principle of unity should help your outline adhere to the principle of coherence, which states that there should be a logical and natural flow of ideas, with main points, subpoints, and sub-subpoints connecting to each other.James A. Winans, Public Speaking (New York: Century, 1917), 407.Shorter phrases and keywords can make up the speaking outline, but you should write complete sentences throughout your formal outline to ensure coherence. The principle of coherence can also be met by making sure that when dividing a main point or subpoint, you include at least two subdivisions. After all, it defies logic that you

could divide anything into just one part. Therefore if you have an A, you must have a B, and if you have a 1, you must have a 2. If you can easily think of one subpoint but are having difficulty identifying another one, that subpoint may not be robust enough to stand on its own. Determining which ideas are coordinate with each other and which are subordinate to each other will help divide supporting information into the outline.James A. Winans, Public Speaking (New York: Century, 1917), 407–8. Coordinate points are on the same level of importance in relation to the thesis of the speech or the central idea of a main point. In the following example, the two main points (I, II) are coordinate with each other. The two subpoints (A, B) are also coordinate with each other.Subordinate points provide evidence or support for a main idea or thesis. In the following example, subpoint A and subpoint B are subordinate to main point II. You can look for specific words to help you determine any errors in distinguishing coordinate and subordinate points. Your points/subpoints are likely coordinate when you would connect the two statements using any of the following: and, but, yet,or, or also. In the example, the word also appears in B, which connects it, as a coordinate point, to A. The points/subpoints are likely subordinate if you would connect them using the following: since,because, in order that, to explain, or to illustrate. In the example, 1 and 2 are subordinate to A because they support that sentence.

  1. Downloading music using peer-to-peer file-sharing programs helps market new music.
  2. Downloading music using peer-to-peer file-sharing programs doesn’t hurt record sales.

1. John Borland, writing for CNET.com in 2004, cited research conducted by professors from Harvard and the University of North Carolina that observed 1.75 million downloads from two file-sharing programs.

  1. They conclude that the rapid increase in music downloading over the past few years does not significantly contribute to declining record sales.
  2. Their research even suggests that the practice of downloading music may even have a “slight positive effect on the sales of the top albums.”

2. A 2010 Government Accountability Office Report also states that sampling “pirated” goods could lead consumers to buy the “legitimate” goods.

The principle of emphasis states that the material included in your outline should be engaging and balanced. As you place supporting material into your outline, choose the information that will have the most impact on your audience. Choose information that is proxemic and relevant, meaning that it can be easily related to the audience’s lives because it matches their interests or ties into current events or the local area. Remember primacy and recency discussed earlier and place the most engaging information first or last in a main point depending on what kind of effect you want to have. Also make sure your information is balanced. The outline serves as a useful visual representation of the proportions of your speech. You can tell by the amount of space a main point, subpoint, or sub-subpoint takes up in relation to other points of the same level whether or not your speech is balanced. If one subpoint is a half a page, but a main point is only a quarter of a page, then you may want to consider making the subpoint a main point. Each part of your speech doesn’t have to be equal. The first or last point may be more substantial than a middle point if you are following primacy or recency, but overall the speech should be relatively balanced.

Sample Formal Outline

The following outline shows the standards for formatting and content and can serve as an example as you construct your own outline. Check with your instructor to see if he or she has specific requirements for speech outlines that may differ from what is shown here.

Title: The USA’s Neglected Sport: Soccer General purpose: To persuade

Specific purpose: By the end of my speech, the audience will believe that soccer should be more popular in the United States.

Thesis statement: Soccer isn’t as popular in the United States as it is in the rest of the world because people do not know enough about the game; however, there are actions we can take to increase its popularity.


Attention getter: GOOOOOOOOOOOOAL! GOAL! GOAL! GOOOOOOAL! Introduction of topic: If you’ve ever heard this excited yell coming from your

television, then you probably already know that my speech today is about soccer.

Credibility and relevance: Like many of you, I played soccer on and off as a kid, but I was never really exposed to the culture of the sport. It wasn’t until recently, when I started to watch some of the World Cup games with international students in my dorm, that I realized what I’d been missing out on. Soccer is the most popular sport in the world, but I bet that, like most US Americans, it only comes on your radar every few years during the World Cup or the Olympics. If, however, you lived anywhere else in the world, soccer (or football, as it is more often called) would likely be a much larger part of your life.

Preview: In order to persuade you that soccer should be more popular in the United States, I’ll explain why soccer isn’t as popular in the United States and describe some of the actions we should take to change our beliefs and attitudes about the game.

Transition: Let us begin with the problem of soccer’s unpopularity in America.


1. Although soccer has a long history as a sport, it hasn’t taken hold in the United States to the extent that it has in other countries.

1. Soccer has been around in one form or another for thousands of years.

  1. The president of FIFA, which is the international governing body forsoccer, was quoted in David Goldblatt’s 2008 book, The Ball is Round, as saying, “Football is as old as the world…People have always played some form of football, from its very basic form of kicking a ball around to the game it is today.”
  2. Basil Kane, author of the book Soccer for American Spectators, reiterates this fact when he states, “Nearly every society at one time or another claimed its own form of kicking game.”

2. Despite this history, the United States hasn’t caught “soccer fever” for several different reasons.

1. Sports fans in the United States already have lots of options when it comes to playing and watching sports.
a. Our own “national sports” such as football, basketball, and baseball take up much of our time and attention, which may prevent people from engaging in an additional sport.

b. Statistics unmistakably show that soccer viewership is low as indicated by the much-respected Pew Research group, which reported in 2006 that only 4 percent of adult US Americans they surveyed said that soccer was their favorite sport to watch.
a. Comparatively, 34 percent of those surveyed said that football was their favorite sport to watch.

b. In fact, soccer just barely beat out ice skating, with 3 percent of the adults surveyed indicating that as their favorite sport to watch.

2. The attitudes and expectations of sports fans in the United States also prevent soccer’s expansion into the national sports consciousness.

. One reason Americans don’t enjoy soccer as much as other sports is due to our shortened attention span, which has been created by the increasingly fast pace of our more revered sports like football and basketball.

. According to the 2009 article from BleacherReport.com, “An American Tragedy: Two Reasons Why We Don’t Like Soccer,” the average length of a play in the NFL is six seconds, and there is a scoring chance in the NBA every twenty-four seconds.

a. This stands in stark comparison to soccer matches, which are played in two forty-five-minute periods with only periodic breaks in play.
a. Our lack of attention span isn’t the only obstacle that limits our appreciation for soccer; we are also set in our expectations.

. The BleacherReport article also points out that unlike with football, basketball, and baseball—all sports in which the United States has most if not all the best teams in the world—we know that the best soccer teams in the world aren’t based in the United States.

  1. We also expect that sports will offer the same chances to compare player stats and obsess over data that we get from other sports, but as Chad Nielsen of ESPN.com states, “There is no quantitative method to compare players from different leagues and continents.”
  2. Last, as legendary sports writer Frank Deford wrote in a 2012 article
    on Sports Illustrated’s website, Americans don’t like ties in sports, and 30 percent of all soccer games end tied, as a draw, deadlocked, or nil-nil.Transition: Although soccer has many problems that it would need to overcome to be more popular in the United States, I think there are actions

we can take now to change our beliefs and attitudes about soccer in order

to give it a better chance.
2. Soccer is the most popular sport in the world, and there have to be some

good reasons that account for this status.
1. As US Americans, we can start to enjoy soccer more if we better

understand why the rest of the world loves it so much.
1. As was mentioned earlier, Chad Nielsen of ESPN.com notes that American

sports fans can’t have the same stats obsession with soccer that they do with baseball or football, but fans all over the world obsess about their favorite teams and players.

. Fans argue every day, in bars and cafés from Baghdad to Bogotá, about statistics for goals and assists, but as Nielsen points out, with the game of soccer, such stats still fail to account for varieties of style and competition.

a. So even though the statistics may be different, bonding over or arguing about a favorite team or player creates communities of fans that are just as involved and invested as even the most loyal team fans in the United States.

2. Additionally, Americans can start to realize that some of the things we might initially find off putting about the sport of soccer are actually some of its strengths.

. The fact that soccer statistics aren’t poured over and used to make predictions makes the game more interesting.

a. The fact that the segments of play in soccer are longer and the scoring lower allows for the game to have a longer arc, meaning that anticipation can build and that a game might be won or lost by only one goal after a long and even-matched game.

2. We can also begin to enjoy soccer more if we view it as an additional form of entertainment.

1. As Americans who like to be entertained, we can seek out soccer games in many different places.

. There is most likely a minor or even a major league soccer stadium team within driving distance of where you live.

a. You can also go to soccer games at your local high school, college, or university.

  1. We can also join the rest of the world in following some of the major soccer celebrities—David Beckham is just the tip of the iceberg.
  2. Getting involved in soccer can also help make our society more fit and healthy.
  1. Soccer can easily be the most athletic sport available to Americans.
  2. In just one game, the popular soccer player Gennaro Gattuso wascalculated to have run about 6.2 miles, says Carl Bialik, a numbers expert

    who writes for The Wall Street Journal.

  3. With the growing trend of obesity in America, getting involved in soccerpromotes more running and athletic ability than baseball, for instance, could ever provide.

. A press release on FIFA’s official website notes that one hour of soccer three times a week has been shown in research to provide significant physical benefits.

a. If that’s not convincing enough, the website ScienceDaily.com reports that theScandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports published a whole special issue titled Football for Health that contained fourteen articles supporting the health benefits of soccer.

4. Last, soccer has been praised for its ability to transcend language, culture, class, and country.

1. The nongovernmental organization Soccer for Peace seeks to use the worldwide popularity of soccer as a peacemaking strategy to bridge the divides of race, religion, and socioeconomic class.

2. According to their official website, the organization just celebrated its ten- year anniversary in 2012.

. Over those ten years the organization has focused on using soccer to bring together people of different religious faiths, particularly people who are Jewish and Muslim.

a. In 2012, three first-year college students, one Christian, one Jew, and one Muslim, dribbled soccer balls for 450 miles across the state of North Carolina to help raise money for Soccer for Peace.

5. A press release on the World Association of Nongovernmental Organizations’s official website states that from the dusty refugee camps of Lebanon to the upscale new neighborhoods in Buenos Aires, “soccer turns heads, stops conversations, causes breath to catch, and stirs hearts like virtually no other activity.”


Transition to conclusion and summary of importance: In conclusion, soccer is a sport that has a long history, can help you get healthy, and can bring people together.

Review of main points: Now that you know some of the obstacles that prevent soccer from becoming more popular in the United States and several actions we can take to change our beliefs and attitudes about soccer, I hope you agree with me that it’s time for the United States to join the rest of the world in welcoming soccer into our society.

Closing statement: The article from BleacherReport.com that I cited earlier closes with the following words that I would like you to take as you leave here today: “We need to learn that just because there is no scoring chance that doesn’t mean it is boring. We need to see that soccer is not for a select few, but for all. We

only need two feet and a ball. We need to stand up and appreciate the beautiful game.”


Araos, C. (2009, December 10). An American tragedy: Two reasons why we don’t like soccer. Bleacher Report: World Football. Retrieved
from http://bleacherreport.com/articles/306338-an-american-tragedy-the-two- reasons-why-we-dont-like-soccer

Bialik, C. (2007, May 23). Tracking how far soccer players run. WSJ Blogs: The Numbers Guy. Retrieved from http://blogs.wsj.com/numbersguy/tracking-how- far-soccer-players-run-112

Deford, F. (2012, May 16). Americans don’t like ties in sports. SI.com: Viewpoint. Retrieved

fromhttp://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2012/writers/frank_deford/05/16/Americ ans-do-not-like-ties/index.html

FIFA.com (2007, September 6). Study: Playing football provides health benefits for all. Retrieved

fromhttp://www.fifa.com/aboutfifa/footballdevelopment/medical/news/newsid =589317/index.html

Goldblatt, D. (2008). The ball is round: A global history of soccer. New York, NY: Penguin.

Kane, B. (1970). Soccer for American spectators: A fundamental guide to modern soccer. South Brunswick, NJ: A. S. Barnes.

Nielsen, C. (2009, May 27). “What I do is play soccer.” ESPN. Retrieved fromhttp://sports.espn.go.com/espn/news/story?id=4205057

Pew Research Center. (2006, June 14). Americans to rest of world: Soccer not really our thing. Pew Research Center. Retrieved
from http://pewresearch.org/pubs/315/americans-to-rest-of-world-soccer-not- really-our-thing

ScienceDaily.com. (2010, April 7). Soccer improves health, fitness, and social abilities.ScienceDaily.com: Science news. Retrieved fromhttp://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/04/100406093524.htm

Selle, R. R. (n.d.). Soccer for peace. Wango.org: News. Retrieved fromhttp://www.wango.org/news/news/psmp.htm

Soccer For Peace. (2012). Kicking across Carolina. SFP news. Retrieved fromhttp://www.soccerforpeace.com/2012-10-03-17-18-08/sfp-news/44- kicking-across-carolina.html

Examples of APA Formatting for References

The citation style of the American Psychological Association (APA) is most often used in communication studies when formatting research papers and references. The following examples are formatted according to the sixth edition of the APA Style Manual. Links are included to the OWL Purdue website, which is one of the most credible online sources for APA format. Of course, to get the most accurate information, it is always best to consult the style manual directly, which can be found in your college or university’s library.


For more information on citing books in APA style on your references page, visithttp://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/08.

Two Authors

Warren, J. T., & Fassett, D. L. (2011). Communication: A critical/cultural introduction. Los Angeles, CA: Sage.

Chapter from Edited Book

Mumby, D. K. (2011). Power and ethics. In G. Cheney, S. May, & D. Munshi (Eds.), The handbook of communication ethics (pp. 84–98). New York, NY: Routledge.


For more information on citing articles from periodicals in APA style on your references page, visithttp://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/07.


Huang, L. (2011, August 1). The death of English (LOL). Newsweek, 152(6), 8. Newspaper

Kornblum, J. (2007, October 23). Privacy? That’s old-school: Internet generation views openness in a different way. USA Today, 1D–2D.

Journal Article

Bodie, G. D. (2012). A racing heart, rattling knees, and ruminative thoughts: Defining, explaining, and treating public speaking anxiety. Communication Education, 59(1), 70–105.

Online Sources

For more information on citing articles from online sources in APA style on your references page, visithttp://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/10.

Online Newspaper Article

Perman, C. (2011, September 8). Bad economy? A good time for a steamy affair. USA Today. Retrieved from http://www.usatoday.com/money/economy/story/2011- 09-10/economy-affairs-divorce-marriage/50340948/1

Online News Website

Fraser, C. (2011, September 22). The women defying France’s full-face veil ban. BBC News. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-15023308

Online Magazine

Cullen, L. T. (2007, April 26). Employee diversity training doesn’t work. Time. Retrieved


Government Document or Report Retrieved Online

Pew Research Center. (2010, November 18). The decline of marriage and rise of new families. Retrieved from http://pewsocialtrends.org/files/2010/11/pew-social- trends-2010-families.pdf


Kwintessential. (n.d.). Cross cultural business blunders. Retrieved fromhttp://www.kwintessential.co.uk/cultural-services/articles/crosscultural- blunders.html

The Speaking Outline

The formal outline is a full-sentence outline that helps as you prepare for your speech, and thespeaking outline is a keyword and phrase outline that helps you deliver your speech. While the formal outline is important to ensure that your content is coherent and your ideas are balanced and expressed clearly, the speaking outline helps you get that information out to the audience. Make sure you budget time in your speech preparation to work on the speaking outline. Skimping on the speaking outline will show in your delivery.

You may convert your formal outline into a speaking outline using a computer program. I often resave a file and then reformat the text so it’s more conducive to referencing while actually speaking to an audience. You may also choose, or be asked to, create a speaking outline on note cards. Note cards are a good option when you want to have more freedom to gesture or know you won’t have a lectern on which to place notes printed on full sheets of paper. In either case, this entails converting the full-sentence outline to a keyword or key-phrase outline. Speakers will need to find a balance between having too much or too little content on their speaking outlines. You want to have enough information to prevent fluency hiccups as you stop to mentally retrieve information, but you don’t want to have so much information that you read your speech, which lessens your eye contact and engagement with the audience. Budgeting sufficient time to work on your speaking outline will allow you to practice your speech with different amounts of notes to find what works best for you. Since the introduction and conclusion are so important, it may be useful to include notes to ensure that you remember to accomplish all the objectives of each.

Aside from including important content on your speaking outline, you may want to include speaking cues. Speaking cues are reminders designed to help your delivery. You may write “(PAUSE)” before and after your preview statement to help you remember that important nonverbal signpost. You might also write “(MAKE EYE CONTACT)” as a reminder not to read unnecessarily from your

cards. Overall, my advice is to make your speaking outline work for you. It’s your last line of defense when you’re in front of an audience, so you want it to help you, not hurt you.

Writing for Speaking

As you compose your outlines, write in a way that is natural for you to speak but also appropriate for the expectations of the occasion. Since we naturally speak with contractions, write them into your formal and speaking outlines. You should begin to read your speech aloud as you are writing the formal outline. As you read each section aloud, take note of places where you had difficulty saying a word or phrase or had a fluency hiccup, then go back to those places and edit them to make them easier for you to say. This will make you more comfortable with the words in front of you while you are speaking, which will improve your verbal and nonverbal delivery.

Tips for Note Cards

  1. The 4 � 6 inch index cards provide more space and are easier to hold and move than 3.5 � 5 inch cards.
  2. Find a balance between having so much information on your cards that you are tempted to read from them and so little information that you have fluency hiccups and verbal fillers while trying to remember what to say.
  3. Use bullet points on the left-hand side rather than writing in paragraph form, so your eye can easily catch where you need to pick back up after you’ve made eye contact with the audience. Skipping a line between bullet points may also help.
  4. Include all parts of the introduction/conclusion and signposts for backup.
  5. Include key supporting material and wording for verbal citations.
  6. Only write on the front of your cards.
  1. Do not have a sentence that carries over from one card to the next (can lead to fluency hiccups).
  2. If you have difficult-to-read handwriting, you may type your speech and tape or glue it to your cards. Use a font that’s large enough for you to see and be neat with the glue or tape so your cards don’t get stuck together.
  3. Include cues that will help with your delivery. Highlight transitions, verbal citations, or other important information. Include reminders to pause, slow down, breathe, or make eye contact.

10. Your cards should be an extension of your body, not something to play with. Don’t wiggle, wring, flip through, or slap your note cards.


  • The formal outline is a full-sentence outline that helps you prepare for your speech and includes the introduction and conclusion, the main content of the body, citation information written into the sentences of the outline, and a references page.
  • The principles of outlining include consistency, unity, coherence, and emphasis.
  • Coordinate points in an outline are on the same level of importance in relation tothe thesis of the speech or the central idea of a main point. Subordinate points

    provide evidence for a main idea or thesis.

  • The speaking outline is a keyword and phrase outline that helps you deliver yourspeech and can include speaking cues like “pause,” “make eye contact,” and so


  • Write your speech in a manner conducive to speaking. Use contractions, familiarwords, and phrases that are easy for you to articulate. Reading your speech aloud as you write it can help you identify places that may need revision to help you more effectively deliver your speech.


  1. What are some practical uses for outlining outside of this class? Which of the principles of outlining do you think would be most important in the workplace and why?
  2. Identify which pieces of information you may use in your speech are coordinate with each other and subordinate.
  3. Read aloud what you’ve written of your speech and identify places that can be reworded to make it easier for you to deliver.

Chapter 10

Delivering a Speech

Think of a speech or presentation you have seen that was poorly delivered. How did that affect your view of the speaker and his or her topic? Is a poorly delivered speech more bearable if the information is solid and organized? In most cases, bad delivery distracts us so much from a message that we don’t even evaluate or absorb the information being presented. In short, a well-researched and well- prepared speech is not much without effective delivery. This chapter covers important information about managing public speaking anxiety, choosing the appropriate delivery method, practicing your speech, and employing effective vocal and physical delivery to enhance speaker credibility.

10.1 Managing Public Speaking Anxiety


If you feel fear, anxiety, or discomfort when confronted with the task of speaking in front of an audience, you are not alone. National polls consistently show that public speaking is among Americans’ top fears.Graham D. Bodie, “A Racing Heart, Rattling Knees, and Ruminative Thoughts: Defining, Explaining, and Treating Public Speaking Anxiety,” Communication Education 59, no. 1 (2010): 70. Yet, since we all have to engage in some form of public speaking, this is a fear that many people must face regularly. Effectively managing speaking anxiety has many positive effects on your speech. One major area that can improve with less

  1. Discuss common sources of public speaking anxiety.
  2. Identify strategies for addressing public speaking anxiety.
  3. Employ strategies for addressing public speaking anxiety.

anxiety is delivery. Although speaking anxiety is natural and normal, it can interfere with verbal and nonverbal delivery, which makes a speech less effective. In this chapter, we will explore causes of speaking anxiety, ways to address it, and best practices of vocal and physical delivery.

Sources of Speaking Anxiety

Aside from the self-reported data in national surveys that rank the fear of public speaking high for Americans, decades of research conducted by communication scholars shows that communication apprehension is common among college students.Jennifer S. Priem and Denise Haunani Solomon, “Comforting Apprehensive Communicators: The Effects of Reappraisal and Distraction on Cortisol Levels among Students in a Public Speaking Class,” Communication Quarterly 57, no. 3 (2009): 260.Communication apprehension (CA) is fear or anxiety experienced by a person due to real or perceived communication with another person or persons. CA is a more general term that includes multiple forms of communication, not just public speaking. CA can be further broken down into two categories. Trait CA refers to a general tendency to experience anxiety related to communication, in essence incorporating it into a person’s personality. State CA refers to anxiety related to communication that occurs in a particular situation and time.Graham D. Bodie, “A Racing Heart, Rattling Knees, and Ruminative Thoughts: Defining, Explaining, and Treating Public Speaking Anxiety,”Communication Education 59, no. 1 (2010): 72. Of college students, 15 to 20 percent experience high trait CA, meaning they are generally anxious about communication. Seventy percent of college students experience some trait CA, which means that addressing communication anxiety in a class like the one you’re taking now stands to benefit the majority of students.Jennifer S. Priem and Denise Haunani Solomon, “Comforting Apprehensive Communicators: The Effects of Reappraisal and Distraction on Cortisol Levels among Students in a Public Speaking Class,” Communication Quarterly 57, no. 3 (2009): 260–

61. Whether CA is a personal trait or not, we all occasionally experience state CA. Think about the jitters you get before a first date, a job interview, or the first day of school. The novelty or uncertainty of some situations is a common trigger for communication anxiety, and public speaking is a situation that is novel and uncertain for many.

Public speaking anxiety is a type of CA that produces physiological, cognitive, and behavioral reactions in people when faced with a real or imagined presentation.Graham D. Bodie, “A Racing Heart, Rattling Knees, and Ruminative Thoughts: Defining, Explaining, and Treating Public Speaking Anxiety,”Communication Education 59, no. 1 (2010): 71. Physiological responses to public speaking anxiety include increased heart rate, flushing of the skin or face, and sweaty palms, among other things. These reactions are the result of natural chemical processes in the human body. The fight or flight instinct helped early humans survive threatening situations. When faced with a ferocious saber- toothed tiger, for example, the body released adrenaline, cortisol, and other hormones that increased heart rate and blood pressure to get more energy to the brain, organs, and muscles in order to respond to the threat. We can be thankful for this evolutionary advantage, but our physiology hasn’t caught up with our new ways of life. Our body doesn’t distinguish between the causes of stressful situations, so facing down an audience releases the same hormones as facing down a wild beast.

Cognitive reactions to public speaking anxiety often include intrusive thoughts that can increase anxiety: “People are judging me,” “I’m not going to do well,” and “I’m going to forget what to say.” These thoughts are reactions to the physiological changes in the body but also bring in the social/public aspect of public speaking in which speakers fear being negatively judged or evaluated because of their anxiety. The physiological and cognitive responses to anxiety lead to behavioral changes. All these thoughts may lead someone to stop their

speech and return to their seat or leave the classroom. Anticipating these reactions can also lead to avoidance behavior where people intentionally avoid situations where they will have to speak in public.

Addressing Public Speaking Anxiety

While we can’t stop the innate physiological reactions related to anxiety from occurring, we do have some control over how we cognitively process them and the behaviors that result. Research on public speaking anxiety has focused on three key ways to address this common issue: systematic desensitization, cognitive restructuring, and skills training.Graham D. Bodie, “A Racing Heart, Rattling Knees, and Ruminative Thoughts: Defining, Explaining, and Treating Public Speaking Anxiety,”Communication Education 59, no. 1 (2010): 70–105. In addition, it is important to address the physical manifestations of speaking anxiety.

Systematic Desensitization

Although systematic desensitization may sound like something that would be done to you while strapped down in the basement of a scary hospital, it actually refers to the fact that we become less anxious about something when we are exposed to it more often.Graham D. Bodie, “A Racing Heart, Rattling Knees, and Ruminative Thoughts: Defining, Explaining, and Treating Public Speaking Anxiety,”Communication Education 59, no. 1 (2010): 87. As was mentioned earlier, the novelty and uncertainty of public speaking is a source for many people’s anxiety. So becoming more familiar with public speaking by doing it more often can logically reduce the novelty and uncertainty of it.

Systematic desensitization can result from imagined or real exposure to anxiety- inducing scenarios. In some cases, an instructor leads a person through a series of relaxation techniques. Once relaxed, the person is asked to imagine a series of

scenarios including speech preparation and speech delivery. This is something you could also try to do on your own before giving a speech. Imagine yourself going through the process of preparing and practicing a speech, then delivering the speech, then returning to your seat, which concludes the scenario. Aside from this imagined exposure to speaking situations, taking a communication course like this one is a great way to directly engage in systematic desensitization. Almost all my students report that they have less speaking anxiety at the end of a semester than when they started, which is at least partially due to the fact they were forced to engage with speaking more than they would have done if they weren’t taking the class.

Cognitive Restructuring

Cognitive restructuring entails changing the way we think about something. A first step in restructuring how we deal with public speaking anxiety is to cognitively process through our fears to realize that many of the thoughts associated with public speaking anxiety are irrational.Mike Allen, John E. Hunter, and William A. Donohue, “Meta-analysis of Self-Report Data on the Effectiveness of Public Speaking Anxiety Treatment

Techniques,” Communication Education 38, no. 1 (2009): 54–76. For example, people report a fear of public speaking over a fear of snakes, heights, financial ruin, or even death. It’s irrational to think that the consequences of giving a speech in public are more dire than getting bit by a rattlesnake, falling off a building, or dying. People also fear being embarrassed because they mess up or are evaluated negatively. Well, you can’t literally die from embarrassment, and in reality, audiences are very forgiving and overlook or don’t even notice many errors that we, as speakers, may dwell on. Once we realize that the potential negative consequences of giving a speech are not as dire as we think they are, we can move on to other cognitive restructuring strategies.

Communication-orientation modification therapy (COM therapy) is a type of cognitive restructuring that encourages people to think of public speaking as a conversation rather than a performance.Michael T. Motley, “COM Therapy,”
in Avoiding Communication: Shyness, Reticence, and Communication Apprehension, eds. John A. Daly, James C. McCroskey, Joe Ayres, Tim Hopf, and Debbie M. Ayers Sonandre (Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press, 2009), 379–

400. Many people have a performance-based view of public speaking. This can easily be seen in the language that some students use to discuss public speaking. They say that they “rehearse” their speech, deal with “stage fright,” then “perform” their speech on a “stage.” I like to remind my students that there is no stage at the front of our classroom; it is a normal floor. To get away from a performance orientation, we can reword the previous statements to say that they “practice” their speech, deal with “public speaking anxiety,” then “deliver” their speech from the front of the room. Viewing public speaking as a conversation also helps with confidence. After all, you obviously have some conversation skills, or you wouldn’t have made it to college. We engage in conversations every day. We don’t have to write everything we’re going to say out on a note card, we don’t usually get nervous or anxious in regular conversations, and we’re usually successful when we try. Even though we don’t engage in public speaking as much, we speak to others in public all the time. Thinking of public speaking as a type of conversation helps you realize that you already have accumulated experiences and skills that you can draw from, so you aren’t starting from scratch.

Last, positive visualization is another way to engage in cognitive restructuring. Speaking anxiety often leads people to view public speaking negatively. They are more likely to judge a speech they gave negatively, even if it was good. They’re also likely to set up negative self-fulfilling prophecies that will hinder their performance in future speeches. To effectively use positive visualization, it’s best to engage first in some relaxation exercises such as deep breathing or stretching,

which we will discuss more later, and then play through vivid images in your mind of giving a successful speech. This should be done a few times before giving the actual speech. Students sometimes question the power of positive visualization, thinking that it sounds corny. Ask an Olympic diver what his or her coach says to do before jumping off the diving board and the answer will probably be “Coach says to image completing a perfect 10 dive.” Likewise a Marine sharpshooter would likely say his commanding officer says to imagine hitting the target before pulling the trigger. In both instances, positive visualization is being used in high-stakes situations. If it’s good enough for Olympic athletes and snipers, it’s good enough for public speakers.

Skills Training

Skills training is a strategy for managing public speaking anxiety that focuses on learning skills that will improve specific speaking behaviors. These skills may relate to any part of the speech-making process, including topic selection, research and organization, delivery, and self-evaluation. Skills training, like systematic desensitization, makes the public speaking process more familiar for a speaker, which lessens uncertainty. In addition, targeting specific areas and then improving on them builds more confidence, which can in turn lead to more improvement. Feedback is important to initiate and maintain this positive cycle of improvement. You can use the constructive criticism that you get from your instructor and peers in this class to target specific areas of improvement. Self- evaluation is also an important part of skills training. Make sure to evaluate yourself within the context of your assignment or job and the expectations for the speech. Don’t get sidetracked by a small delivery error if the expectations for content far outweigh the expectations for delivery. Combine your self-evaluation with the feedback from your instructor, boss, and/or peers to set specific and measurable goals and then assess whether or not you meet them in subsequent speeches. Once you achieve a goal, mark it off your list and use it as a confidence

booster. If you don’t achieve a goal, figure out why and adjust your strategies to try to meet it in the future.

Physical Relaxation Exercises

Suggestions for managing speaking anxiety typically address its cognitive and behavioral components, while the physical components are left unattended. As we learned earlier, we can’t block these natural and instinctual responses. We can, however, engage in physical relaxation exercises to counteract the general physical signs of anxiety caused by cortisol and adrenaline release, which include increased heart rate, trembling, flushing, high blood pressure, and speech disfluency.

I liken confronting the physical aspects of public speaking anxiety to chemical warfare. Some breathing and stretching exercises release endorphins, which are your body’s natural antidote to stress hormones. Deep breathing is a proven way to release endorphins. It also provides a general sense of relaxation and can be done discretely, even while waiting to speak. In order to get the benefits of deep breathing, you must breathe into your diaphragm. The diaphragm is the muscle below your lungs that helps you breathe and stand up straight, which makes it a good muscle for a speaker to exercise. To start, breathe in slowly through your nose, filling the bottom parts of your lungs up with air. While doing this, your belly should pooch out. Hold the breath for three to five full seconds and then let it out slowly through your mouth. After doing this only a few times, many students report that they can actually feel a flooding of endorphins, which creates a brief “light-headed” feeling. I lead my class in breathing exercises before the first few days of speeches. Once you have practiced and are comfortable with the technique, you can do this before you start your speech, and no one sitting around you will even notice. You might also want to try this technique during

other stressful situations. Deep breathing before dealing with an angry customer or loved one, or before taking a test, can help you relax and focus.

Stretching is another way to quickly and effectively release endorphins. Very old exercise traditions like yoga, tai chi, and Pilates teach the idea that stretching is a key component of having a healthy mind and spirit. Exercise in general is a good stress reliever, but many of us don’t have the time or willpower to do it. We can, however, all take time to do some stretching. Obviously, it would be distracting for the surrounding audience if a speaker broke into some planking or Pilates just before his or her speech. Simple and discrete stretches can help get the body’s energy moving around, which can make a speaker feel more balanced and relaxed. Our blood and our energy/stress have a tendency to pool in our legs, especially when we’re sitting. The following stretch can help manage the physical manifestations of anxiety while waiting to speak. Start with both feet flat on the floor. Raise your back heels off the floor and flex and release your calf muscles. You can flex and release your calves once before putting your heels back down and repeating, or you can flex a few times on each repetition. Doing this three to five times should sufficiently get your blood and energy moving around. Stretching your wrists can also help move energy around in your upper body, since our huge amounts of typing and using other electronic controllers put a lot of stress on this intersection of muscles, tendons, and bones. Point one hand up at the wrist joint, like you’re waving at someone. Then use your other hand to pull, gently, the hand that’s pointing up back toward your elbow. Stop pulling once you feel some tension. Hold the hand there for a few seconds and release. Then point the hand down at the wrist joint like you’re pointing at something on the floor, and use the other hand to push the hand back toward your elbow. Again, stop pushing when you feel the tension, hold the stretch for a few seconds, and release. You can often do this stretch discretely as well while waiting to speak.

Vocal Warm-Up Exercises

Vocal warm-up exercises are a good way to warm up your face and mouth muscles, which can help prevent some of the fluency issues that occur when speaking. Newscasters, singers, and other professional speakers use vocal warm- ups. I lead my students in vocal exercises before speeches, which also helps lighten the mood. We all stand in a circle and look at each other while we go through our warm-up list. For the first warm-up, we all make a motorboat sound, which makes everybody laugh. The full list of warm-ups follows and contains specific words and exercises designed to warm up different muscles and different aspects of your voice. After going through just a few, you should be able to feel the blood circulating in your face muscles more. It’s a surprisingly good workout!

Sample Vocal Warm-Ups

  • Purse your lips together and make a motorboat sound. Hold it for ten seconds and repeat. “BBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBB.”
  • Clench your teeth and say, “N, N, N, N,” to stretch your cheek muscles.
  • Say “Mum” five times, and open your mouth and eyes wide each time yousay it.
  • Say “Puh” five times, making sure to use your diaphragm to enunciatethe h.
  • Say “Red Rover” ten times, overenunciating each r.
  • Say “Wilbur” ten times, overenunciating the w and r.
  • Say “Bumblebee” ten times, enunciating each b.
  • Say “Red letter, yellow letter” five times, making sure to distinctlypronounce each word.
  • Say “Selfish shellfish” five times, making sure to distinctly pronounce eachword.
  • Say “Unique New York” five times, enunciating the q and k. 

Top Ten Ways to Reduce Speaking Anxiety

As you can see in this section, there are many factors that contribute to speaking anxiety, and there are many ways to address it. The following is a list of the top ten ways to reduce speaking anxiety that I developed with my colleagues, which helps review what we’ve learned.

1. 2.

3. 4.

5. 6. 7.


9. 10.

Remember, you are not alone. Public speaking anxiety is common, so don’t ignore it—confront it.
Remember, you can’t literally “die of embarrassment.” Audiences are forgiving and understanding.

Remember, it always feels worse than it looks.
Take deep breaths. It releases endorphins, which naturally fight the adrenaline that causes anxiety.
Look the part. Dress professionally to enhance confidence.
Channel your nervousness into positive energy and motivation.
Start your outline and research early. Better information = higher confidence.
Practice and get feedback from a trusted source. (Don’t just practice for your cat.)
Visualize success through positive thinking.
Prepare, prepare, prepare! Practice is a speaker’s best friend.

“Getting Critical”

How Much Emphasis Should We Place on Delivery?

Before you read the rest of the chapter, take some time to think about the balance between the value of content and delivery in a speech. We know it’s important to have solid content and to have an engaging and smooth delivery to convey that content, but how should each category be weighted and evaluated? Most people

who have made it to college can put the time and effort into following assignment guidelines to put together a well-researched and well-organized speech. But some people are naturally better at delivering speeches than others. Some people are more extroverted, experience less public speaking anxiety, and are naturally more charismatic than others. Sometimes a person’s delivery and charisma might distract an audience away from critically evaluating the content of their speech. Charismatic and well-liked celebrities and athletes, for example, are used to endorse products and sell things to the public. We may follow their advice because we like them, instead of basing our choice on their facts or content. Aristotle, Cicero, and other notable orators instructed that delivery should be good enough to present the material effectively but not so good or so bad that it draws attention to itself. But in today’s celebrity culture, the bling or packaging is sometimes more valued than the contents. This leads us to some questions that might help us unpack the sometimes tricky relationship between content and delivery.

  1. Do you think worries about content or delivery contribute more to speaking anxiety? Explain your choice.
  2. How should someone be evaluated who works hard to research, organize, and write a speech, but doesn’t take the time to practice so they have a good delivery? What if they practice, but still don’t deliver the speech well on speech day?
  3. How should we evaluate a speaker who delivers an engaging speech that gets the audience laughing and earns a big round of applause but doesn’t verbally cite sources or present well-organized ideas?
  4. Is it ethical for someone to use their natural charisma or speaking abilities to win over an audience rather than relying on the merit and strength of their speech content? In what speaking situations would this be more acceptable? Less acceptable?


  • Getting integrated: Public speaking anxiety is a form of communication apprehension (CA) that is commonly experienced by many people and can be effectively managed using a variety of strategies. While we most often think of public speaking anxiety as an issue in the classroom and workplace, it can affect communication in personal and civic contexts as well.
  • Systematic desensitization helps lessen public speaking anxiety through repeated exposure to real or imagined public speaking scenarios.
  • Cognitive restructuring addresses public speaking by replacing negative thoughts with more positive thoughts, and COM therapy can help you view public speaking as a conversation rather than a performance.
  • Skills training allows you to focus on improving specific skills related to public speaking, which can increase confidence and lead to further skill development.
  • Physical relaxation exercises like deep breathing and stretching allow us to voluntarily use our bodies to address involuntary bodily reactions to anxiety.


  1. Test your speaking anxiety using McCroskey’s “Personal Report of Public Speaking Anxiety” (PRPSA). You can access the scale
    here: http://www.jamescmccroskey.com/measures/prpsa.htm. Follow the directions to determine your score. Do you agree with the result? Why or why not?
  2. Of the strategies for managing public speaking anxiety listed in the chapter (systematic desensitization, cognitive restructuring, skills training, physical relaxation exercises), which do you think would be most useful for you and why?
  3. When you take a communication course like this one, you are automatically engaging in some skills training. What are some public speaking skills that you are already good at? What are some skills that you should work on? Write out three

goals you would like to accomplish for your next speech that focus on improving your public speaking skills.

10.2 Delivery Methods and Practice Sessions


There are many decisions that must be made during the speech-making process. Making informed decisions about delivery can help boost your confidence and manage speaking anxiety. In this section, we will learn some strengths and weaknesses of various delivery methods and how to make the most of your practice sessions.

Delivery Methods

Different speaking occasions call for different delivery methods. While it may be acceptable to speak from memory in some situations, lengthy notes may be required in others. The four most common delivery methods are impromptu, manuscript, memorized, and extemporaneous.

Impromptu Delivery

When using impromptu delivery, a speaker has little to no time to prepare for a speech. This means there is little time for research, audience analysis, organizing, and practice. For this reason, impromptu speaking often evokes higher degrees of speaking anxiety than other delivery types. Although impromptu speaking arouses anxiety, it is also a good way to build public speaking skills. Using some of the exercises for managing speaking anxiety that were discussed earlier in this

  1. Identify the four methods of speech delivery.
  2. Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of each delivery method.
  3. Discuss strategies for making speech practice sessions more effective.

chapter can help a speaker better manage the challenges of impromptu speaking. Only skilled public speakers with much experience are usually able to “pull off” an impromptu delivery without looking unprepared. Otherwise, a speaker who is very familiar with the subject matter can sometimes be a competent impromptu speaker, because their expertise can compensate for the lack of research and organizing time.

When Mark Twain famously said, “It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech,” he was jokingly pointing out the difficulties of giving a good impromptu speech, essentially saying that there is no such thing as a good impromptu speech, as good speeches take time to prepare. We don’t always have the luxury of preparation, though. So when speaking impromptu, be brief, stick to what you know, and avoid rambling. Quickly organize your thoughts into an introduction, body, and conclusion. Try to determine three key ideas that will serve as the basis of your main points.

In what situations would impromptu speaking be used? Since we’ve already started thinking of the similarities between public speaking and conversations, we can clearly see that most of our day-to-day interactions involve impromptu speaking. When your roommate asks you what your plans for the weekend are, you don’t pull a few note cards out of your back pocket to prompt your response. This type of conversational impromptu speaking isn’t anxiety inducing because we’re talking about our lives, experiences, or something we’re familiar with. This is also usually the case when we are asked to speak publicly with little to no advance warning. For example, if you are at a meeting for work and you are representing the public relations department, a colleague may ask you to say a few words about a recent news story involving a public relations misstep of a competing company. In this case, you are being asked to speak on the spot because of your expertise. A competent communicator should anticipate instances like this when they might be called on to speak, so they won’t be so

surprised. Of course, being caught completely off guard or being asked to comment on something unfamiliar to you creates more anxiety. In such cases, do not pretend to know something you don’t, as that may come back to hurt you later. You can usually mention that you do not have the necessary background information at that time but will follow up later with your comments.

Salespeople on home-shopping television shows are masters of impromptu speaking. They obviously have sales training and have built up a repertoire of adjectives and sayings that entice an audience to buy. But they are often speaking impromptu when interacting with a guest on the show or the customers who call in. Their ability to remain animated and fluent in their delivery with little time to prepare comes from much experience. Politicians, lawyers, teachers, journalists, and spokespeople engage in impromptu speaking regularly.

Strengths of Impromptu Delivery

  • Content and delivery are spontaneous, which can make the speech more engaging (if a speaker’s anxiety is under control).
  • It enhances public speaking skills because speakers have to “think on their feet.”

Weaknesses of Impromptu Delivery

  • It is typically the most anxiety-inducing delivery method, since speakers do not have time to prepare or practice the speech.
  • Speakers may get off topic or ramble if they did not set up some structure to guide them.
  • Speakers may be tempted to overstate or mislead an audience about the extent of their knowledge or expertise if asked to speak about something they aren’t familiar with.

Manuscript Delivery

Speaking from a written or printed document that contains the entirety of a speech is known asmanuscript delivery. Manuscript delivery can be the best choice when a speech has complicated information and/or the contents of the speech are going to be quoted or published. Despite the fact that most novice speakers are not going to find themselves in that situation, many are drawn to this delivery method because of the security they feel with having everything they’re going to say in front of them. Unfortunately, the security of having every word you want to say at your disposal translates to a poorly delivered and unengaging speech. Even with every word written out, speakers can still have fluency hiccups and verbal fillers as they lose their place in the manuscript or get tripped up over their words. The alternative, of course, is that a speaker reads the manuscript the whole time, effectively cutting himself or herself off from the audience. One way to make a manuscript delivery more engaging is through the use of a teleprompter. Almost all politicians who give televised addresses use teleprompters. In Figure 10.1 “President Obama’s Teleprompter System”, you can see President Obama’s teleprompter system.

Figure 10.1 President Obama’s Teleprompter System

Newscasters and politicians frequently use teleprompters so they can use manuscript delivery but still engage with the audience.

Source: Photo courtesy of Chad Davis,http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:20080603_Obama_Speaks_on_Nom ination_Victory_Night.jpg.

You may not even notice them, as the technology has improved to give the illusion that a speaker is engaged with the audience and delivering a speech from memory. The Plexiglas sheets on poles that surround the president during the inauguration and State of the Union addresses are cleverly hidden teleprompters. Even these useful devices can fail. A quick search for “teleprompter fail” on YouTube will yield many examples of politicians and newscasters who probably wish they had a paper backup of their speech. Since most of us will likely not have opportunities to speak using a teleprompter, great care should be taken to ensure that the delivery is effective. To make the delivery seem more natural, print the speech out in a larger-than-typical font, triple-space between lines so you can easily find your place, use heavier-than-normal paper so it’s easy to pick up and turn the pages as needed, and use a portfolio so you can carry the manuscript securely.

Strengths of Manuscript Delivery

  • The speaker can include precise or complex information such as statistics or quotes.
  • The entire content of the speech is available for reference during the delivery.
  • The speech will be consistent in terms of content and time length, which is beneficial if a speech will be delivered multiple times.Weaknesses of Manuscript Delivery
  • Engagement with the audience is challenging, because the speaker must constantly reference the manuscript (unless a teleprompter is used).
  • Speakers are unable to adapt information to audience reactions, since they are confined to the content of the manuscript.
  • Speakers may be tempted to read the entire speech because they didn’t practice enough or because they get nervous.
  • Speakers who are able to make eye contact with the audience may still sound like they are reading the speech unless they employ proper vocal variety, pacing, and pauses.Memorized Delivery

    Completely memorizing a speech and delivering it without notes is known
    as memorized delivery. Some students attempt to memorize their speech because they think it will make them feel more confident to not have to look at their notes; however, when their anxiety level spikes at the beginning of their speech and their mind goes blank for a minute, many admit they should have chosen a different delivery method. When using any of the other delivery methods, speakers still need to rely on their memory. An impromptu speaker must recall facts or experiences related to their topic, and speakers using a manuscript want to have some of their content memorized so they do not read their entire speech to their audience. The problem with memorized delivery overall is that it puts too much responsibility on our memory, which we all know from experience is fallible.

    When memorizing, most people use rote memorization techniques, which entail reading and then reciting something over and over until it is committed to memory. One major downfall of this technique is its effect on speaking rate. When we memorize this way, we end up going over the early parts of a speech many more times than the later parts. As you memorize one sentence, you add on

another, and so on. By the time you’re adding on later parts of your speech, you are likely speed talking through the earlier parts because you know them by heart at that point. As we’ll discuss more later, to prevent bad habits from practice from hurting our speech delivery, speakers should practice a speech the exact way they want to deliver it to their audience. Fast-paced speaking during practice will likely make its way into the actual delivery of the speech. Delivery also suffers when speaking from memory if the speaker sounds like he or she is reciting the speech. Rote memorization tasks that many of us had to do in school have left their mark on our memorized delivery. Being made to recite the pledge of allegiance, the preamble to the Constitution, and so on didn’t enhance our speaking abilities. I’ve observed many students whose speeches remind me of the sound of school children flatly going through the motions of reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. It’s the “going through the motions” impression that speakers should want to avoid.

Memorized delivery is a good option for people like tour guides, who need to move while speaking and be interactive with an audience.

Source: Photo courtesy of John Lambert Pearson,http://www.flickr.com/photos/orphanjones/896596938.

Even with much practice, our memories can fail. If you do opt to use memorized delivery, make sure you have several “entry points” determined, so you can pick up at spots other than the very beginning of a speech if you lose your place and have to start again. Memorized delivery is very useful for speakers who are going to be moving around during a speech when carrying notes would be burdensome. Think of the tour guide who showed you around your college campus. As someone who used to give college tours, I can attest to the fact that we all had speeches memorized, which was a good thing. It’s already difficult enough to walk backward while facing a group of people and lead them across roads and up stairs. Think about how dangerous it would be if the tour guide were trying to hold onto and reference a stack of note cards at the same time! In summary, I only recommend memorized delivery in cases where the speech is short (only one to two minutes), the speech is personal (like a brief toast), or the speech will be repeated numerous times (like a tour guide’s spiel), and even in these cases, it may be perfectly fine to have notes. Many students think that their anxiety and/or delivery challenges will be fixed if they just memorize their speech only to find that they are more anxious and have more problems.

Strengths of Memorized Delivery

  • Speakers can include precise or complex information such as statistics or quotes (if they have put the time into memorization).
  • Speakers can directly engage with the audience without worrying about referencing notes.
  • The speech will be consistent in terms of content and time-length, which is beneficial if a speech will be delivered multiple times. 

Weaknesses of Memorized Delivery

  • It is the most time-consuming delivery method.
  • Speakers are unable to adapt information to audience reactions, since theyare confined to the content they memorized.
  • If speakers lose their place in the speech, they will likely have to start over.
  • Since everything is preplanned, it is difficult to make the speech contentand delivery seem genuine (i.e., humor may seem “canned” or corny).
  • The speech can sound like a recitation if the proper vocal variety andpacing are not used.

    Extemporaneous Delivery

    Extemporaneous delivery entails memorizing the overall structure and main points of a speech and then speaking from keyword/key-phrase notes. This delivery mode brings together many of the strengths of the previous three methods. Since you only internalize and memorize the main structure of a speech, you don’t have to worry as much about the content and delivery seeming stale. Extemporaneous delivery brings in some of the spontaneity of impromptu delivery but still allows a speaker to carefully plan the overall structure of a speech and incorporate supporting materials that include key facts, quotations, and paraphrased information. You can also more freely adapt your speech to fit various audiences and occasions, since every word and sentence isn’t predetermined. This can be especially beneficial when a speech will be delivered multiple times. The minilectures I give in my classes, for example, are good examples of extemporaneous delivery. Even though I’ve presented the basic content of this chapter dozens of times over the years, each presentation has been different, because I can vary the examples and amount of elaboration that I add to the core content that I’ve memorized. For example, I may spend more time discussing speaking anxiety with a class that has expressed more apprehension

about public speaking. I also change the example videos I show to connect to ever-changing current events or popular culture.

When preparing a speech that you will deliver extemporaneously, you will want to start practicing your speech early and then continue to practice as you revise your content. Investing quality time and effort into the speech-outlining process helps with extemporaneous delivery. As you put together your outline, you are already doing the work of internalizing the key structure of your speech. Read parts of your outline aloud as you draft them to help ensure they are written in a way that makes sense and is easy for you to deliver. By the time you complete the formal, full-sentence outline, you should have already internalized much of the key information in your speech. Now, you can begin practicing with the full outline. As you become more comfortable with the content of your full outline, start to convert it into your speaking outline. Take out information that you know well and replace it with a keyword or key phrase that prompts your memory. You’ll probably want to leave key quotes, facts, and other paraphrased information, including your verbal source citation information, on your delivery outline so you make sure to include it in your speech. Once you’ve converted your full outline into your speaking outline, practice it a few more times, making sure to take some time between each practice session so you don’t inadvertently start to memorize the speech word for word. The final product should be a confident delivery of a well-organized and structured speech that is conversational and adaptable to various audiences and occasions.

Strengths of Extemporaneous Delivery

• Speech content and delivery appear more spontaneous and natural, making it more conversational, since the speaker is using a keyword/key- phrase outline.

  • Speakers can include quotes or complex information on their speaking outline for easy reference.
  • Speakers can adapt information and delivery to specific audiences, occasions, and audience reactions, since they are not confined to the content of a manuscript or what they memorized.Weaknesses of Extemporaneous Delivery
  • Since the speech is so adaptable, it can be difficult to ensure the speech will be the exact same length each time.
  • It is perhaps not the best option when exact wording is expected.
  • Speakers must find a balance between having too much content on theirspeaking outline, which may cause them to read, and too little content, which may lead to fluency hiccups.

    Practicing Your Speech

    Practicing a speech is essential, and practice sessions can be more or less useful depending on how you approach them. There are three primary phases to the practice process. In the first phase, you practice as you’re working through your ideas and drafting your outline. In the second, you practice for someone and get feedback. In the third, you put the finishing touches on the speech.

    Start practicing your speech early, as you are working through your ideas, by reading sections aloud as you draft them into your working outline. This will help ensure your speech is fluent and sounds good for the audience. Start to envision the audience while you practice and continue to think about them throughout the practicing process. This will help minimize anxiety when you actually have them sitting in front of you. Once you have completed your research and finished a draft of your outline, you will have already practiced your speech several times as you were putting it together. Now, you can get feedback on the speech as a whole.

You begin to solicit feedback from a trusted source in the second phase of practicing your speech. This is the most important phase of practicing, and the one that most speakers do not complete. Beginning speakers may be nervous to practice in front of someone, which is to be expected. But review the strategies for managing anxiety discussed earlier in this chapter and try to face that anxiety. After all, you will have to face a full audience when you deliver the speech, so getting used to speaking in front of someone can only help you at this point. Choose someone who will give you constructive feedback on your speech, not just unconditional praise or criticism. Before you practice for them, explain the assignment or purpose of the speech. When practicing for a classroom speech, you may even want to give the person the assignment guidelines or a feedback sheet that has some key things for them to look for. Ask them for feedback on content and delivery. Almost anyone is good at evaluating delivery, but it’s more difficult to evaluate content. And, in most cases, the content of your speech will be account for more of your grade or what you will be evaluated on for work than the delivery. Also begin to time your speech at this point, so you can determine if it meets any time limits that you have.

In addition to practicing for a trusted source for feedback, you may want to audio or video record your speech. This can be useful because it provides an objective record that you can then compare with the feedback you got from your friend and to your own evaluation of your speech. The most important part of this phase is incorporating the feedback you receive into your speech. If you practice for someone, get feedback, and then don’t do anything with the feedback, then you have wasted your time and their time. Use the feedback to assess whether or not you met your speaking goals. Was your thesis supported? Was your specific purpose met? Did your speech conform to any time limits that were set? Based on your answers to these questions, you may need to make some changes to your content or delivery, so do not put this part of practicing off to the last minute.

Once the content has been revised as needed, draft your speaking outline and move on to the next phase of practice.

During the third and final phase of practice, you are putting the finishing touches on your speech. You should be familiar with the content based on your early practice sessions. You have also gotten feedback and incorporated that feedback into the speech. Your practice sessions at this point should precreate, as much as possible, the conditions in which you will be giving your speech. You should have your speaking outline completed so you can practice with it. It’s important to be familiar with the content on your note cards or speaking outline so you will not need to rely on it so much during the actual delivery. You may also want to practice in the type of clothing you will be wearing on speech day. This can be useful if you are wearing something you don’t typically wear—a suit for example— so you can see how it might affect your posture, gestures, and overall comfort level. If possible, at least one practice session in the place you will be giving the speech can be very helpful, especially if it’s a room you are not familiar with. Make sure you’re practicing with any visual aids or technology you will use so you can be familiar with it and it doesn’t affect your speech fluency. Continue to time each practice round. If you are too short or too long, you will need to go back and adjust your content some more. Always adjust your content to fit the time limit; do not try to adjust your delivery. Trying to speed talk or stretch things out to make a speech faster or longer is a mistake that will ultimately hurt your delivery, which will hurt your credibility. The overall purpose of this phase of practicing is to minimize surprises that might throw you off on speech day.

Some “Dos” and “Don’ts” for Effective Speech Practice Sessions

  • Do start practicing sections of your speech early, as you draft your outline.
  • Do practice for someone for feedback. 
  • Do time yourself once a draft of the speech is completed and adjust the speech as needed to conform to time limits.
  • Do deliver the speech the way you want it to be when you deliver it for your audience (use the rate, volume, vocal variety, pauses, and emphasis you plan to use on speech day).
  • Don’t only practice in front of a mirror (practicing once in front of a mirror can help you gauge your facial expressions and other aspects of delivery, but that shouldn’t be the only way you practice).
  • Don’t only practice in your head (we have a tendency to go too fast when we practice in our head, and you need to get practice saying the words of your speech to help lessen fluency hiccups).
  • Don’t practice too much. It’s best to practice a few times in the days leading up to the speech, making sure to leave several hours between practice sessions. Practicing too much can lead you to become bored with your content, which could lead to delivery that sounds like a recitation.KEY TAKEAWAYS
  • The four methods of delivering a speech are impromptu, manuscript, memorized, and extemporaneous delivery.
  • Impromptu delivery evokes higher levels of speaking anxiety because a speaker has little to no time to prepare the speech; however, this method can increase public speaking skills for people who enjoy thinking on their feet.
  • Manuscript delivery entails speaking from a manuscript that contains a word-for- word transcript of your speech. This delivery method can be good for speeches that contain complex information that will be published or quoted but can be challenging because speakers may read their speech, which lessens engagement with the audience.
  • Memorized delivery entails speaking from memory. Speakers with a reliable memory will be able to include specific information and engage the audience

freely. This method is the most time-consuming delivery option and may come

across as a recitation instead of an engaging speech.

  • Extemporaneous delivery entails memorizing the general structure of a speech,not every word, and then delivering the speech from a keyword outline. Having the keyword outline allows a speaker to include specific information and references while remaining adaptable to the occasion and audience since every word isn’t planned out.
  • Practicing your speech should occur in three phases. First, practice as you are drafting the outline to help you process through your speech ideas. Second, practice for someone and get feedback and record your speech for self- evaluation. Use this feedback to make appropriate changes to your speech. Third, put the finishing touches on the speech: make needed adjustments to the content to meet time limits, become familiar with your speaking outline, and precreate the conditions of speech day for your final few practice sessions.

10.3 Vocal Delivery


  1. Which delivery methods have you used before? Which did you like the best and why? Which delivery method would you most prefer a speaker to use if you were an audience member and why?
  2. Have you ever had any “surprises” come up during a speech that you could have prevented with more effective practice sessions? If so, explain. If not, list some surprises that good practice sessions could help prevent.
  3. Using the suggestions in the chapter, make a timeline for practicing your next speech. Include specific dates and make a list of things you plan to do during each of the three phases of practice.


  1. Identify elements of vocal delivery that make a speech more engaging.
  2. Identify elements of vocal delivery that make a speech clearer.
  3. Discuss the relationship between vocal delivery and speaker credibility.

Vocal delivery includes components of speech delivery that relate to your voice. These include rate, volume, pitch, articulation, pronunciation, and fluency. Our voice is important to consider when delivering our speech for two main reasons. First, vocal delivery can help us engage and interest the audience. Second, vocal delivery helps ensure that our ideas are communicated clearly.

Speaking for Engagement

We have all had the displeasure of listening to an unengaging speaker. Even though the person may care about his or her topic, an unengaging delivery that doesn’t communicate enthusiasm will translate into a lack of interest for most audience members. Although a speaker can be visually engaging by incorporating movement and gestures, which we will discuss more later, a flat or monotone vocal delivery can be sedating or even annoying. Incorporating vocal variety in terms of rate, volume, and pitch is key to being a successful speaker.


Rate of speaking refers to how fast or slow you speak. If you speak too fast, your audience will not be able to absorb the information you present. If you speak too slowly, the audience may lose interest. The key is to vary your rate of speaking in a middle range, staying away from either extreme, in order to keep your audience engaged. In general, a higher rate of speaking signals that a speaker is enthusiastic about his or her topic. Speaking slowly may lead the audience to infer that the speaker is uninterested, uninformed, or unprepared to present his or her own topic. These negative assumptions, whether they are true or not, are likely to hurt the credibility of the speaker. Having evaluated thousands of

speeches, I can say that, in terms of rate, the issue speakers face is speaking too fast. The goal is to speak at a rate that will interest the audience and will effectively convey your information. Speaking at a slow rate throughout a speech would likely bore an audience, but that is not a common occurrence.

Some people naturally speak faster than others, which is fine, but we can all alter our rate of speaking with practice. If you find that you are a naturally fast speaker, make sure that you do not “speed talk” through your speech when practicing it. Even if you try to hold back when actually delivering your speech, you may fall back into your practice routine and speak too fast. You can also include reminders to “slow down” on your speaking outline.


Volume refers to how loud or soft your voice is. As with speaking rate, you want to avoid the extremes of being too loud or too soft, but still vary your volume within an acceptable middle range. When speaking in a typically sized classroom or office setting that seats about twenty-five people, using a volume a few steps above a typical conversational volume is usually sufficient. When speaking in larger rooms, you will need to project your voice. You may want to look for nonverbal cues from people in the back rows or corners, like leaning forward or straining to hear, to see if you need to adjust your volume more. Obviously, in some settings, a microphone will be necessary to be heard by the entire audience. Like rate, audiences use volume to make a variety of judgments about a speaker. Softer speakers are sometimes judged as meek, which may lead to lowered expectations for the speech or less perceived credibility. Loud speakers may be seen as overbearing or annoying, which can lead audience members to disengage from the speaker and message. Be aware of the volume of your voice and, when in doubt, increase your volume a notch, since beginning speakers are more likely to have an issue of speaking too softly rather than too loudly.


Pitch refers to how high or low a speaker’s voice is. As with other vocal qualities, there are natural variations among people’s vocal pitch. Unlike rate and volume, there are more physiological limitations on the control we have over pitch. For example, males generally have lower pitched voices than females. Despite these limitations, each person still has the capability to intentionally change their pitch across a range large enough to engage an audience. Changing pitch is a good way to communicate enthusiasm and indicate emphasis or closure. In general, our pitch goes up when we are discussing something exciting. Our pitch goes down slightly when we emphasize a serious or important point. Lowering pitch is also an effective way to signal transitions between sections of your speech or the end of your speech, which cues your audience to applaud and avoids an awkward ending.

Of the vocal components of delivery discussed so far, pitch seems to give beginning speakers the most difficulty. There is a stark difference between the way I hear students speak before and after class and the way they speak when they get in front of the class. It’s like giving a speech temporarily numbs their ability to vary their pitch. Record yourself practicing your speech to help determine if the amount of pitch variety and enthusiasm you think you convey while speaking actually comes through. Speakers often assume that their pitch is more varied and their delivery more enthusiastic than the audience actually perceives it to be. Many of my students note this on the self-evaluations they write after viewing their recorded speech.

Vocal Variety

Overall, the lesson to take away from this section on vocal delivery is that variety is key. Vocal varietyincludes changes in your rate, volume, and pitch that can

make you look more prepared, seem more credible, and be able to engage your audience better. Employing vocal variety is not something that takes natural ability or advanced skills training. It is something that beginning speakers can start working on immediately and everyone can accomplish. The key is to become aware of how you use your voice when you speak, and the best way to do this is to record yourself. We all use vocal variety naturally without thinking about it during our regular conversations, and many of us think that this tendency will translate over to our speaking voices. This is definitely not the case for most beginning speakers. Unlike in your regular conversations, it will take some awareness and practice to use vocal variety in speeches. I encourage students to make this a delivery priority early on. Since it’s something anyone can do, improving in this area will add to your speaking confidence, which usually translates into better speeches and better grades further on.

Speaking for Clarity

In order to be an effective speaker, your audience should be able to understand your message and digest the information you present. Audience members will make assumptions about our competence and credibility based on how we speak. As with other aspects of speech delivery, many people are not aware that they have habits of speech that interfere with their message clarity. Since most of our conversations are informal and take place with people we know, many people don’t make a concerted effort to articulate every word clearly and pronounce every word correctly, and most of the people we talk to either don’t notice our errors or don’t correct us if they do notice. Since public speaking is generally more formal than our conversations, we should be more concerned with the clarity of our speech.


Articulation refers to the clarity of sounds and words we produce. If someone is articulate, they speak words clearly, and speakers should strive to speak clearly. Poor articulation results when speakers do not speak clearly. For example, a person may say dinnt instead of didn’t, gonna instead of going to,wanna instead of want to, or hunnerd instead of hundred. Unawareness and laziness are two common challenges to articulation. As with other aspects of our voice, many people are unaware that they regularly have errors in articulation. Recording yourself speak and then becoming a higher self-monitor are effective ways to improve your articulation. Laziness, on the other hand, requires a little more motivation to address. Some people just get in the habit of not articulating their words well. I’m sure we all know someone who mumbles when they speak or slurs their words together. From my experience, this is a problem that I’ve noticed more among men than women. Both mumbling and slurring are examples of poor articulation. In more informal settings, this type of speaking may be acceptable, but in formal settings, it will be negatively evaluated, which will hurt a speaker’s credibility. Perhaps the promise of being judged more favorably, which may help a person become more successful, is enough to motivate a mumbler to speak more clearly.

When combined with a low volume, poor articulation becomes an even greater problem. Doing vocal warm-ups like the ones listed in Section 10.1 “Managing Public Speaking Anxiety” or tongue twisters can help prime your mouth, lips, and tongue to articulate words more clearly. When you notice that you have trouble articulating a particular word, you can either choose a different word to include in your speech or you can repeat it a few times in a row in the days leading up to your speech to get used to saying it.


Unlike articulation, which focuses on the clarity of words, pronunciation refers to speaking words correctly, including the proper sounds of the letters and the proper emphasis. Mispronouncing words can damage a speaker’s credibility, especially when the correct pronunciation of a word is commonly known. I have actually heard someone, presenting on the topic of pronunciation, mispronounce the word pronunciation, saying “pro-NOUN-ciation” instead of “pro-NUN- ciation.” In such a case, it would not be unwarranted for the audience to question the speaker’s expertise on the subject.

We all commonly run into words that we are unfamiliar with and therefore may not know how to pronounce. I offer my students three suggestions when faced with this problem. The first is to look the word up in an online dictionary. Many dictionaries have a speaker icon with their definitions, and when you click on it, you can hear the correct pronunciation of a word. Some words have more than one pronunciation—for example, Caribbean—so choosing either of the accepted pronunciations is fine. Just remember to consistently use that pronunciation to avoid confusing your audience. If a word doesn’t include an audio pronunciation, you can usually find the phonetic spelling of a word, which is the word spelled out the way it sounds. There will occasionally be words that you can’t locate in a dictionary. These are typically proper nouns or foreign words. In this case, I suggest the “phone-a-friend” strategy. Call up the people you know who have large vocabularies or are generally smart when it comes to words, and ask them if they know how to pronounce it. If they do, and you find them credible, you’re probably safe to take their suggestion. The third option is to “fake it ‘til you make it” and should only be used as a last resort. If you can’t find the word in a dictionary and your smart friends don’t know how to pronounce it, it’s likely that your audience will also be unfamiliar with the word. In that case, using your knowledge of how things are typically pronounced, decide on a pronunciation that makes sense and confidently use it during your speech. Most people will not

question it. In the event that someone does correct you on your pronunciation, thank him or her for correcting you and adjust your pronunciation.


Fluency refers to the flow of your speaking. To speak with fluency means that your speech flows well and that there are not many interruptions to that flow. There are two main disfluencies, or problems that affect the flow of a
speech. Fluency hiccups are unintended pauses in a speech that usually result from forgetting what you were saying, being distracted, or losing your place in your speaking notes. Fluency hiccups are not the same as intended pauses, which are useful for adding emphasis or transitioning between parts of a speech. While speakers should try to minimize fluency hiccups, even experienced speakers need to take an unintended pause sometimes to get their bearings or to recover from an unexpected distraction. Fluency hiccups become a problem when they happen regularly enough to detract from the speaker’s message.

Verbal fillers are words that speakers use to fill in a gap between what they were saying and what they’re saying next. Common verbal fillers
include um, uh, ah, er, you know, and like. The best way to minimize verbal fillers is to become a higher self-monitor and realize that you use them. Many students are surprised when they watch the video of their first speech and realize they said “um” thirty times in three minutes. Gaining that awareness is the first step in eliminating verbal fillers, and students make noticeable progress with this between their first and second speeches. If you do lose your train of thought, having a brief fluency hiccup is better than injecting a verbal filler, because the audience may not even notice the pause or may think it was intentional.

Common Causes of Fluency Hiccups

  • Lack of preparation. Effective practice sessions are the best way to prevent fluency hiccups.
  • Not writing for speaking. If you write your speech the way you’ve been taught to write papers, you will have fluency hiccups. You must translate the written words into something easier for you to present orally. To do this, read your speech aloud and edit as you write to make sure your speech is easy for you to speak.
  • A poorly prepared speaking outline. Whether it is on paper or note cards, sloppy writing, unorganized bullet points, or incomplete/insufficient information on a speaking outline leads to fluency hiccups.
  • Distractions. Audience members and the external environment are unpredictable. Hopefully audience members will be polite and will silence their phones, avoid talking while the speaker is presenting, and avoid moving excessively. There could also be external noise that comes through a door or window. A speaker can also be distracted by internal noise such as thinking about other things.

“Getting Plugged In”

Delivering Presentations Online

As many people and organizations are trying to do more with smaller budgets, and new software becomes available, online presentations are becoming more common. Whether using a Webinar format, a WebEx, Skype, FaceTime, Elluminate Live, or some other program, the live, face-to-face audience is now mediated through a computer screen. Despite this change in format, many of the same basic principles of public speaking apply when speaking to people virtually. Yet many business professionals seem to forget the best practices of public speaking when presenting online or don’t get that they apply in both settings. The

website TheVirtualPresenter.com offers many tips for presenting online that we’ve covered in this book, including be audience focused, have engaging delivery, and use visual aids effectively.Roger Courville, “Delivery,” TheVirtualPresenter.com, accessed November 5,

2012, http://thevirtualpresenter.com/category/delivery. Yet speakers need to think about some of these things differently when presenting online. We have natural ways to engage an audience when presenting face-to-face, but since many online presentations are only one-way in terms of video, speakers have to rely on technology like audience polls, live chat, or options for audience members to virtually raise their hand when they have a question to get feedback while speaking. Also, in some formats, the audience can only see the presenter’s computer desktop or slide show, which pulls attention away from physical delivery and makes vocal delivery and visual aids more important. Extemporaneous delivery and vocal variety are still key when presenting online. Reading from your slides or having a monotone voice will likely not make a favorable impression on your audience. The lesson to take away is that presenting online requires the same skills as presenting in person, so don’t let the change in format lead you to make mistakes that will make you a less effective speaker.

  1. Have you ever presented online or been an audience member for an online presentation? If so, describe your experience and compare it to face-to- face speaking.
  2. What are some of the key differences between presenting online and presenting in person that a speaker should consider?
  3. How might online presentations play into your future career goals? What types of presentations do you think you would give? What could you do to ensure the presentations are effective?


  • Speakers should use vocal variety, which is changes in rate, volume, and pitch, to make a speech more engaging.
  • Speakers should use proper articulation and pronunciation to make their message clear.
  • Interruptions to the fluency of a speech, including fluency hiccups and verbal fillers, detract from the speaker’s message and can lessen a speaker’s credibility.


  1. Record yourself practicing your speech. How does your speech sound in terms of vocal variety? Cite specific examples.
  2. Listen to your recorded speech again. How would you evaluate your articulation and pronunciation? Cite specific examples.
  3. Over the course of a day, take note of verbal fillers that you tend to use. List them here so you can be a higher self-monitor and begin to notice and lessen your use of them.

10.4 Physical Delivery


  1. Explain the role of facial expressions and eye contact in speech delivery.
  2. Explain the role of posture, gestures, and movement in speech delivery.
  3. Explain the connection between personal appearance and credibility in speechdelivery.
  4. Explain the connection between visual aids and speech delivery.

Many speakers are more nervous about physical delivery than vocal delivery. Putting our bodies on the line in front of an audience often makes us feel more vulnerable than putting our voice out there. Yet most audiences are not as fixated on our physical delivery as we think they are. Knowing this can help relieve some

anxiety, but it doesn’t give us a free pass when it comes to physical delivery. We should still practice for physical delivery that enhances our verbal message. Physical delivery of a speech involves nonverbal communication through the face and eyes, gestures, and body movements.

Physical Delivery and the Face

We tend to look at a person’s face when we are listening to them. Again, this often makes people feel uncomfortable and contributes to their overall speaking anxiety. Many speakers don’t like the feeling of having “all eyes” on them, even though having a room full of people avoiding making eye contact with you would be much more awkward. Remember, it’s a good thing for audience members to look at you, because it means they’re paying attention and interested. Audiences look toward the face of the speaker for cues about the tone and content of the speech.

Facial Expressions

Facial expressions can help bring a speech to life when used by a speaker to communicate emotions and demonstrate enthusiasm for the speech. As with vocal variety, we tend to use facial expressions naturally and without conscious effort when engaging in day-to-day conversations. Yet I see many speakers’ expressive faces turn “deadpan” when they stand in front of an audience. Some people naturally have more expressive faces than others—think about the actor Jim Carey’s ability to contort his face as an example. But we can also consciously control and improve on our facial expressions to be more effective speakers. As with other components of speech delivery, becoming a higher self-monitor and increasing your awareness of your typical delivery habits can help you understand, control, and improve your delivery. Although you shouldn’t only practice your speech in front of a mirror, doing so can help you get an idea of how

expressive or unexpressive your face is while delivering your speech. There is some more specific advice about assessing and improving your use of facial expressions in the “Getting Competent” box in this chapter.

Facial expressions help set the emotional tone for a speech, and it is important that your facial expressions stay consistent with your message. In order to set a positive tone before you start speaking, briefly look at the audience and smile. A smile is a simple but powerful facial expression that can communicate friendliness, openness, and confidence. Facial expressions communicate a range of emotions and are also associated with various moods or personality traits. For example, combinations of facial expressions can communicate that a speaker is tired, excited, angry, confused, frustrated, sad, confident, smug, shy, or bored, among other things. Even if you aren’t bored, for example, a slack face with little animation may lead an audience to think that you are bored with your own speech, which isn’t likely to motivate them to be interested. So make sure your facial expressions are communicating an emotion, mood, or personality trait that you think your audience will view favorably. Also make sure your facial expressions match with the content of your speech. When delivering something lighthearted or humorous, a smile, bright eyes, and slightly raised eyebrows will nonverbally enhance your verbal message. When delivering something serious or somber, a furrowed brow, a tighter mouth, and even a slight head nod can enhance that message. If your facial expressions and speech content are not consistent, your audience could become confused by the conflicting messages, which could lead them to question your honesty and credibility.

“Getting Competent”

Improving Facial Expressions

My very first semester teaching, I was required by my supervisor to record myself teaching and evaluate what I saw. I was surprised by how serious I looked while teaching. My stern and expressionless face was due to my anxiety about being a beginning teacher and my determination to make sure I covered the content for the day. I didn’t realize that it was also making me miss opportunities to communicate how happy I was to be teaching and how passionate I was about the content. I just assumed those things would come through in my delivery. I was wrong. The best way to get an idea of the facial expressions you use while speaking is to record your speech using a computer’s webcam, much like you would look at and talk to the computer when using Skype or another video-chat program. The first time you try this, minimize the video window once you’ve started recording so you don’t get distracted by watching yourself. Once you’ve recorded the video, watch the playback and take notes on your facial expressions. Answer the following questions:

  1. Did anything surprise you? Were you as expressive as you thought you were?
  2. What facial expressions did you use throughout the speech?
  3. Where did your facial expressions match with the content of your speech?Where did your facial expressions not match with the content of your


  4. Where could you include more facial expressions to enhance your contentand/or delivery?

You can also have a friend watch the video and give you feedback on your facial expressions to see if your assessment matches with theirs. Once you’ve assessed your video, re-record your speech and try to improve your facial expressions and delivery. Revisit the previous questions to see if you improved.

Eye Contact

Eye contact is an important element of nonverbal communication in all communication settings.Chapter 4 “Nonverbal Communication” explains the power of eye contact to make people feel welcome/unwelcome, comfortable/uncomfortable, listened to / ignored, and so on. As a speaker, eye contact can also be used to establish credibility and hold your audience’s attention. We often interpret a lack of eye contact to mean that someone is not credible or not competent, and as a public speaker, you don’t want your audience thinking either of those things. Eye contact holds attention because an audience member who knows the speaker is making regular eye contact will want to reciprocate that eye contact to show that they are paying attention. This will also help your audience remember the content of your speech better, because acting like we’re paying attention actually leads us to pay attention and better retain information.

Eye contact is an aspect of delivery that beginning speakers can attend to and make noticeable progress on early in their speech training. By the final speech in my classes, I suggest that my students make eye contact with their audience for at least 75 percent of their speech. Most speakers cannot do this when they first begin practicing with extemporaneous delivery, but continued practice and effort make this an achievable goal for most.

As was mentioned in Chapter 4 “Nonverbal Communication”, norms for eye contact vary among cultures. Therefore it may be difficult for speakers from countries that have higher power distances or are more collectivistic to get used to the idea of making direct and sustained eye contact during a speech. In these cases, it is important for the speaker to challenge himself or herself to integrate some of the host culture’s expectations and for the audience to be accommodating and understanding of the cultural differences.

Tips for Having Effective Eye Contact

  1. Once in front of the audience, establish eye contact before you speak.
  2. Make slow and deliberate eye contact, sweeping through the wholeaudience from left to right.
  3. Despite what high school speech teachers or others might have told you,do not look over the audience’s heads, at the back wall, or the clock. Unless you are in a huge auditorium, it will just look to the audience like you are looking over their heads.
  4. Do not just make eye contact with one or a few people that you know or that look friendly. Also, do not just make eye contact with your instructor or boss. Even if it’s comforting for you as the speaker, it is usually awkward for the audience member.
  5. Try to memorize your opening and closing lines so you can make full eye contact with the audience. This will strengthen the opening and closing of your speech and help you make a connection with the audience.

Physical Delivery and the Body

Have you ever gotten dizzy as an audience member because the speaker paced back and forth? I know I have. Anxiety can lead us to do some strange things with our bodies, like pacing, that we don’t normally do, so it’s important to consider the important role that your body plays during your speech. Extra movements caused by anxiety are called nonverbal adaptors, and most of them manifest as distracting movements or gestures. These nonverbal adaptors, like tapping a foot, wringing hands, playing with a paper clip, twirling hair, jingling change in a pocket, scratching, and many more, can definitely detract from a speaker’s message and credibility. Conversely, a confident posture and purposeful gestures and movement can enhance both.


Posture is the position we assume with our bodies, either intentionally or out of habit. Although people, especially young women, used to be trained in posture, often by having them walk around with books stacked on their heads, you should use a posture that is appropriate for the occasion while still positioning yourself in a way that feels natural. In a formal speaking situation, it’s important to have an erect posture that communicates professionalism and credibility. However, a military posture of standing at attention may feel and look unnatural in a typical school or business speech. In informal settings, it may be appropriate to lean on a table or lectern, or even sit among your audience members. Head position is also part of posture. In most speaking situations, it is best to keep your head up, facing your audience. A droopy head doesn’t communicate confidence. Consider the occasion important, as an inappropriate posture can hurt your credibility.

Government and military leaders use an erect posture to communicate confidence and professionalism during public appearances.

Source: Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of Defense,http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Defense.gov_News_Photo_100406- N-0696M-096.jpg.


Gestures include arm and hand movements. We all go through a process of internalizing our native culture from childhood. An obvious part of this process is becoming fluent in a language. Perhaps less obvious is the fact that we also become fluent in nonverbal communication, gestures in particular. We all use hand gestures while we speak, but we didn’t ever take a class in matching verbal communication with the appropriate gestures; we just internalized these norms over time based on observation and put them into practice. By this point in your life, you have a whole vocabulary of hand movements and gestures that spontaneously come out while you’re speaking. Some of these gestures are emphatic and some are descriptive.Arthur Koch, Speaking with a Purpose, 7th ed. (Boston, MA: Pearson, 2007), 105.

Emphatic gestures are the most common hand gestures we use, and they function to emphasize our verbal communication and often relate to the emotions we verbally communicate. Pointing with one finger or all the fingers straight out is an emphatic gesture. We can even bounce that gesture up and down to provide more emphasis. Moving the hand in a circular motion in front of our chest with the fingers spread apart is a common emphatic gesture that shows excitement and often accompanies an increased rate of verbal speaking. We make this gesture more emphatic by using both hands. Descriptive gestures function to illustrate or refer to objects rather than emotions. We use descriptive gestures to indicate the number of something by counting with our fingers or the size, shape, or speed of something. Our hands and arms are often the most reliable and easy- to-use visual aids a speaker can have.

While it can be beneficial to plan a key gesture or two in advance, it is generally best to gesture spontaneously in a speech, just as you would during a regular conversation. For some reason, students are insecure about or uncomfortable

with gesturing during a speech. Even after watching their speech videos, many students say they think they “gestured too much” or nit-pick over a particular gesture. Out of thousands of speeches I’ve seen, I can’t recall a student who gestured too much to the point that it was distracting. Don’t try to overdo your gestures though. You don’t want to look like one of those crazy-arm inflatable dancing men that companies set up on the side of the road to attract customers. But more important, don’t try to hold back. Even holding back a little usually ends up nearly eliminating gestures. While the best beginning strategy is to gesture naturally, you also want to remain a high self-monitor and take note of your typical patterns of gesturing. If you notice that you naturally gravitate toward one particular gesture, make an effort to vary your gestures more. You also want your gestures to be purposeful, not limp or lifeless. I caution my students against having what I call “spaghetti noodle arms,” where they raise their hand to gesture and then let it flop back down to their side.


Sometimes movement of the whole body, instead of just gesturing with hands, is appropriate in a speech. I recommend that beginning speakers hold off trying to incorporate body movement from the waist down until they’ve gotten at least one speech done. This allows you to concentrate on managing anxiety and focus on more important aspects of delivery like vocal variety, avoiding fluency hiccups and verbal fillers, and improving eye contact. When students are given the freedom to move around, it often ends up becoming floating or pacing, which are both movements that comfort a speaker by expending nervous energy but only serve to distract the audience. Floating refers to speakers who wander aimlessly around, and pacing refers to speakers who walk back and forth in the same path. To prevent floating or pacing, make sure that your movements are purposeful. Many speakers employ the triangle method of body movement where they start in the middle, take a couple steps forward and to the right, then take a couple steps

to the left, then return back to the center. Obviously you don’t need to do this multiple times in a five- to ten-minute speech, as doing so, just like floating or pacing, tends to make an audience dizzy. To make your movements appear more natural, time them to coincide with a key point you want to emphasize or a transition between key points. Minimize other movements from the waist down when you are not purposefully moving for emphasis. Speakers sometimes tap or shuffle their feet, rock, or shift their weight back and forth from one leg to the other. Keeping both feet flat on the floor, and still, will help avoid these distracting movements.

Credibility and Physical Delivery

Audience members primarily take in information through visual and auditory channels. Just as the information you present verbally in your speech can add to or subtract from your credibility, nonverbal communication that accompanies your verbal messages affects your credibility.

Personal Appearance

Looking like a credible and prepared public speaker will make you feel more like one and will make your audience more likely to perceive you as such. This applies to all speaking contexts: academic, professional, and personal. Although the standards for appropriate personal appearance vary between contexts, meeting them is key. You may have experienced a time when your vocal and physical delivery suffered because you were not “dressed the part.” The first time I ever presented at a conference, I had a terrible cold and in my hazy packing forgot to bring a belt. While presenting later that day, all I could think about was how everyone was probably noticing that, despite my nice dress shirt tucked into my slacks, I didn’t have a belt on. Dressing the part makes you feel more confident, which will come through in your delivery. Ideally, you should also be comfortable

in the clothes you’re wearing. If the clothes are dressy, professional, and nice but ill fitting, then the effect isn’t the same. Avoid clothes that are too tight or too loose. Looking the part is just as important as dressing the part, so make sure you are cleaned and groomed in a way that’s appropriate for the occasion. The “Getting Real” box in this chapter goes into more detail about professional dress in a variety of contexts.

“Getting Real”

Professional Dress and Appearance

No matter what professional field you go into, you will need to consider the importance of personal appearance. Although it may seem petty or shallow to put so much emphasis on dress and appearance, impressions matter, and people make judgments about our personality, competence, and credibility based on how we look. In some cases, you may work somewhere with a clearly laid out policy for personal dress and appearance. In many cases, the suggestion is to follow guidelines for “business casual.” Despite the increasing popularity of this notion over the past twenty years, people’s understanding of what business casual means is not consistent.Lisa Takeuchi Cullen, “What (Not) to Wear to
Work,” Time, June 9, 2008, 49. The formal dress codes of the mid-1900s, which required employees to wear suits and dresses, gave way to the trend of business casual dress, which seeks to allow employees to work comfortably while still appearing professional.Susan M. Heathfield, “Dress for Success: A Business Casual Dress Code,” About.com, accessed February 7,
2012, http://humanresources.about.com/od/workrelationships/a/dress_code.ht m. While most people still dress more formally for job interviews or high-stakes presentations, the day-to-day dress of working professionals varies. Here are some tips for maintaining “business casual” dress and appearance:

  • Things to generally avoid. Jeans, hats, flip-flops, exposed underwear, exposed stomachs, athletic wear, heavy cologne/perfume, and chewing gum.
  • General dress guidelines for men. Dress pants or khaki pants, button-up shirt or collared polo/golf shirt tucked in with belt, and dress shoes; jacket and/or tie are optional.
  • General dress guidelines for women. Dress pants or skirt, blouse or dress shirt, dress, and closed-toe dress shoes; jacket is optional.
  • Finishing touches. Make sure shoes are neat and polished, not scuffed or dirty; clothes should be pressed, not wrinkled; make sure fingernails are clean and trimmed/groomed; and remove any lint, dog hair, and so on from clothing.

Obviously, these are general guidelines and there may be exceptions. It’s always a good idea to see if your place of business has a dress code, or at least guidelines. If you are uncertain whether or not something is appropriate, most people recommend to air on the side of caution and choose something else. While consultants and professionals usually recommend sticking to dark colors such as black, navy, and charcoal and/or light colors such as white, khaki, and tan, it is OK to add something that expresses your identity and makes you stand out, like a splash of color or a nice accessory like a watch, eyeglasses, or a briefcase. In fact, in the current competitive job market, employers want to see that you are serious about the position, can fit in with the culture of the organization, and are confident in who you are.Amy Verner, “Interview? Ditch the Navy Suit,” The Globe and Mail, December 15, 2008, L1.

  1. What do you think is the best practice to follow when dressing for a job interview?
  2. In what professional presentations would you want to dress formally? Business casual? Casual?
  1. Aside from the examples listed previously, what are some other things to generally avoid, in terms of dress and appearance, when trying to present yourself as a credible and competent communicator/speaker?
  2. In what ways do you think you can conform to business-casual expectations while still preserving your individuality?

Visual Aids and Delivery

Visual aids play an important role in conveying supporting material to your audience. They also tie to delivery, since using visual aids during a speech usually requires some physical movements. It is important not to let your use of visual aids detract from your credibility. I’ve seen many good speeches derailed by posters that fall over, videos with no sound, and uncooperative PowerPoint presentations.

The following tips can help you ensure that your visual aids enhance, rather than detract, from your message and credibility:

  1. Only have your visual aid displayed when it is relevant to what you are saying: insert black slides in PowerPoint, hide a model or object in a box, flip a poster board around, and so on.
  2. Make sure to practice with your visual aids so there aren’t any surprises on speech day.
  3. Don’t read from your visual aids. Put key information from your PowerPoint or Prezi on your speaking outline and only briefly glance at the screen to make sure you are on the right slide. You can also write information on the back of a poster or picture that you’re going to display so you can reference it while holding the visual aid up, since it’s difficult to hold a poster or picture and note cards at the same time.
  1. Triple check your technology to make sure it’s working: electricity, Internet connection, wireless clicker, sound, and so on.
  2. Proofread all your visual aids to find spelling/grammar errors and typos.
  3. Bring all the materials you may need to make your visual aid work:tape/tacks for posters and pictures, computer cables/adaptors, and so on.

    Don’t assume these materials will be provided.

  4. Have a backup plan in case your visual aid doesn’t work properly.KEY TAKEAWAYS
  • Facial expressions help communicate emotions and enthusiasm while speaking. Make sure that facial expressions are consistent with the content being presented. Record yourself practicing your speech in order to evaluate your use of facial expressions.
  • Eye contact helps establish credibility and keep your audience’s attention while you’re speaking.
  • Posture should be comfortable and appropriate for the speaking occasion.
  • Emphatic and descriptive gestures enhance the verbal content of our speech.Gestures should appear spontaneous but be purposeful.
  • Movements from the waist down should be purposefully used to emphasize apoint or as a transition during a speech.
  • Audience members will make assumptions about your competence andcredibility based on dress and personal appearance. Make sure your outer presentation of self is appropriate for the occasion and for the impression you are trying to project.
  • Visual aids can add to your speech but can also interfere with your delivery and negatively affect your credibility if not used effectively.


  1. Identify three goals related to delivery that you would like to accomplish in this course. What strategies/tips can you use to help achieve these goals?
  2. What nonverbal adaptors have you noticed that others use while speaking? Are you aware of any nonverbal adaptors that you have used? If so, what are they?
  3. Getting integrated: Identify some steps that speakers can take to ensure that their dress and physical appearance enhance their credibility. How might expectations for dress and physical appearance vary from context to context (academic, professional, personal, and civic)?

Chapter 11

Informative and Persuasive Speaking

Communicative messages surround us. Most try to teach us something and/or influence our thoughts or behaviors. As with any type of communication, some messages are more engaging and effective than others. I’m sure you have experienced the displeasure of sitting through a boring class lecture that didn’t seem to relate to your interests or a lecture so packed with information that your brain felt overloaded. Likewise, you have probably been persuaded by a message only to find out later that the argument that persuaded you was faulty or the speaker misleading. As senders and receivers of messages, it’s important that we be able to distinguish between informative and persuasive messages and know how to create and deliver them.

11.1 Informative Speeches


  1. Identify common topic categories for informative speeches.
  2. Identify strategies for researching and supporting informative speeches.
  3. Explain the different methods of informing.
  4. Employ strategies for effective informative speaking, including avoidingpersuasion, avoiding information overload, and engaging the audience.

Many people would rather go see an impassioned political speech or a comedic monologue than a lecture. Although informative speaking may not be the most exciting form of public speaking, it is the most common. Reports, lectures, training seminars, and demonstrations are all examples of informative speaking. That means you are more likely to give and listen to informative speeches in a

variety of contexts. Some organizations, like consulting firms, and career fields, like training and development, are solely aimed at conveying information. College alumni have reported that out of many different speech skills, informative speaking is most important.Rudolph Verderber, Essentials of Informative Speaking: Theory and Contexts (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1991), 3. Since your exposure to informative speaking is inevitable, why not learn how to be a better producer and consumer of informative messages?

Creating an Informative Speech

As you’ll recall from Chapter 9 “Preparing a Speech”, speaking to inform is one of the three possible general purposes for public speaking. The goal of informative speaking is to teach an audience something using objective factual information. Interestingly, informative speaking is a newcomer in the world of public speaking theorizing and instruction, which began thousands of years ago with the ancient Greeks.Thomas H. Olbricht, Informative Speaking (Glenview, IL: Scott, Foresman, 1968), 1–12.Ancient philosophers and statesmen like Aristotle, Cicero, and Quintilian conceived of public speaking as rhetoric, which is inherently persuasive. During that time, and until the 1800s, almost all speaking was argumentative. Teaching and instruction were performed as debates, and even fields like science and medicine relied on argumentative reasoning instead of factual claims.

While most instruction is now verbal, for most of modern history, people learned by doing rather than listening, as apprenticeships were much more common than classroom-based instruction. So what facilitated the change from argumentative and demonstrative teaching to verbal and informative teaching? One reason for this change was the democratization of information. Technical information used to be jealously protected by individuals, families, or guilds. Now society generally believes that information should be shared and made available to all. The

increasing complexity of fields of knowledge and professions also increased the need for informative speaking. Now one must learn a history or backstory before actually engaging with a subject or trade. Finally, much of the information that has built up over time has become commonly accepted; therefore much of the history or background information isn’t disputed and can now be shared in an informative rather than argumentative way.

Choosing an Informative Speech Topic

Being a successful informative speaker starts with choosing a topic that can engage and educate the audience. Your topic choices may be influenced by the level at which you are speaking. Informative speaking usually happens at one of three levels: formal, vocational, and impromptu.Rudolph Verderber, Essentials of Informative Speaking: Theory and Contexts (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1991), 3–4. Formal informative speeches occur when an audience has assembled specifically to hear what you have to say. Being invited to speak to a group during a professional meeting, a civic gathering, or a celebration gala brings with it high expectations. Only people who have accomplished or achieved much are asked to serve as keynote speakers, and they usually speak about these experiences. Many more people deliver informative speeches at the vocational level, as part of their careers. Teachers like me spend many hours lecturing, which is a common form of informative speaking. In addition, human resources professionals give presentations about changes in policy and provide training for new employees, technicians in factories convey machine specifications and safety procedures, and servers describe how a dish is prepared in their restaurant. Last, we all convey information daily in our regular interactions. When we give a freshman directions to a campus building, summarize the latest episode of American

Idol for our friend who missed it, or explain a local custom to an international student, we are engaging in impromptu informative speaking.

Whether at the formal, vocational, or impromptu level, informative speeches can emerge from a range of categories, which include objects, people, events, processes, concepts, and issues. An extended speech at the formal level may include subject matter from several of these categories, while a speech at the vocational level may convey detailed information about a process, concept, or issue relevant to a specific career.

Since we don’t have time to research or organize content for impromptu informative speaking, these speeches may provide a less detailed summary of a topic within one of these categories. A broad informative speech topic could be tailored to fit any of these categories. As you draft your specific purpose and thesis statements, think about which category or categories will help you achieve your speech goals, and then use it or them to guide your research. Table 11.1 “Sample Informative Speech Topics by Category”includes an example of how a broad informative subject area like renewable energy can be adapted to each category as well as additional sample topics.

Table 11.1 Sample Informative Speech Topics by Category


Renewable Energy Example

Other Examples


Biomass gasifier

Tarot cards, star-nosed moles, Enterprise 1701-D


Al Gore

Jennifer Lopez, Bayard Rustin, the Amish



Machismo, intuition, Wa (social harmony)


Earth Day

Pi Day, Take Back the Night, 2012 presidential election


Converting wind to energy

Scrapbooking, animal hybridization, Academy Awards voting


Nuclear safety

Cruise ship safety, identity theft, social networking and privacy

Speeches about objects convey information about any nonhuman material things. Mechanical objects, animals, plants, and fictional objects are all suitable topics of investigation. Given that this is such a broad category, strive to pick an object that

your audience may not be familiar with or highlight novel relevant and interesting facts about a familiar object.

Speeches about people focus on real or fictional individuals who are living or dead. These speeches require in-depth biographical research; an encyclopedia entry is not sufficient. Introduce a new person to the audience or share little- known or surprising information about a person we already know. Although we may already be familiar with the accomplishments of historical figures and leaders, audiences often enjoy learning the “personal side” of their lives.

Speeches about concepts are less concrete than speeches about objects or people, as they focus on ideas or notions that may be abstract or multifaceted. A concept can be familiar to us, like equality, or could literally be a foreign concept
like qi (or chi), which is the Chinese conception of the energy that flows through our bodies. Use the strategies discussed in this book for making content relevant and proxemic to your audience to help make abstract concepts more concrete.

Speeches about events focus on past occasions or ongoing occurrences. A particular day in history, an annual observation, or a seldom occurring event can each serve as interesting informative topics. As with speeches about people, it’s important to provide a backstory for the event, but avoid rehashing commonly known information.

Informative speeches about processes provide a step-by-step account of a procedure or natural occurrence. Speakers may walk an audience through, or demonstrate, a series of actions that take place to complete a procedure, such as making homemade cheese. Speakers can also present information about naturally occurring processes like cell division or fermentation.

Last, informative speeches about issues provide objective and balanced information about a disputed subject or a matter of concern for society. It is

important that speakers view themselves as objective reporters rather than commentators to avoid tipping the balance of the speech from informative to persuasive. Rather than advocating for a particular position, the speaker should seek to teach or raise the awareness of the audience.

Researching an Informative Speech Topic

Having sharp research skills is a fundamental part of being a good informative speaker. Since informative speaking is supposed to convey factual information, speakers should take care to find sources that are objective, balanced, and credible. Periodicals, books, newspapers, and credible websites can all be useful sources for informative speeches, and you can use the guidelines for evaluating supporting materials discussed in Chapter 9 “Preparing a Speech”to determine the best information to include in your speech. Aside from finding credible and objective sources, informative speakers also need to take time to find engaging information. This is where sharp research skills are needed to cut through all the typical information that comes up in the research process to find novel information. Novel information is atypical or unexpected, but it takes more skill and effort to locate. Even seemingly boring informative speech topics like the history of coupons can be brought to life with information that defies the audience’s expectations. A student recently delivered an engaging speech about coupons by informing us that coupons have been around for 125 years, are most frequently used by wealthier and more educated households, and that a coupon fraud committed by an Italian American businessman named Charles Ponzi was the basis for the term Ponzi scheme, which is still commonly used today.

As a teacher, I can attest to the challenges of keeping an audience engaged during an informative presentation. While it’s frustrating to look out at my audience of students and see glazed-over eyes peering back at me, I also know that it is my responsibility to choose interesting information and convey it in a way that’s

engaging. Even though the core content of what I teach hasn’t change dramatically over the years, I constantly challenge myself to bring that core information to life through application and example. As we learned earlier, finding proxemic and relevant information and examples is typically a good way to be engaging. The basic information may not change quickly, but the way people use it and the way it relates to our lives changes. Finding current, relevant examples and finding novel information are both difficult, since you, as the researcher, probably don’t know this information exists.

Here is where good research skills become necessary to be a good informative speaker. Using advice from Chapter 9 “Preparing a Speech” should help you begin to navigate through the seas of information to find hidden treasure that excites you and will in turn excite your audience.

As was mentioned earlier, the goal for informative speaking is to teach your audience. An audience is much more likely to remain engaged when they are actively learning. This is like a balancing act. You want your audience to be challenged enough by the information you are presenting to be interested, but not so challenged that they become overwhelmed and shut down. You should take care to consider how much information your audience already knows about a topic. Be aware that speakers who are very familiar with their speech topic tend to overestimate their audience’s knowledge about the topic. It’s better to engage your topic at a level slightly below your audience’s knowledge level than above. Most people won’t be bored by a brief review, but many people become lost and give up listening if they can’t connect to the information right away or feel it’s over their heads.

A good informative speech leaves the audience thinking long after the speech is done. Try to include some practical “takeaways” in your speech. I’ve learned many interesting and useful things from the informative speeches my students

have done. Some of the takeaways are more like trivia information that is interesting to share—for example, how prohibition led to the creation of NASCAR. Other takeaways are more practical and useful—for example, how to get wine stains out of clothing and carpet or explanations of various types of student financial aid.

Organizing and Supporting an Informative Speech

You can already see that informing isn’t as easy as we may initially think. To effectively teach, a speaker must present quality information in an organized and accessible way. Once you have chosen an informative speech topic and put your research skills to the test in order to locate novel and engaging information, it’s time to organize and support your speech.

Organizational Patterns

Three organizational patterns that are particularly useful for informative speaking are topical, chronological, and spatial. As you’ll recall, to organize a speech topically, you break a larger topic down into logical subdivisions. An informative speech about labor unions could focus on unions in three different areas of employment, three historically significant strikes, or three significant legal/legislative decisions. Speeches organized chronologically trace the development of a topic or overview the steps in a process. An informative speech could trace the rise of the economic crisis in Greece or explain the steps in creating a home compost pile. Speeches organized spatially convey the layout or physical characteristics of a location or concept. An informative speech about the layout of a fire station or an astrology wheel would follow a spatial organization pattern.

Methods of Informing

Types of and strategies for incorporating supporting material into speeches are discussed in Chapter 9 “Preparing a Speech”, but there are some specific ways to go about developing ideas within informative speeches. Speakers often inform an audience using definitions, descriptions, demonstrations, and explanations. It is likely that a speaker will combine these methods of informing within one speech, but a speech can also be primarily organized using one of these methods.

Informing through Definition

Informing through definition entails defining concepts clearly and concisely and is an important skill for informative speaking. There are several ways a speaker can inform through definition: synonyms and antonyms, use or function, example, and etymology.Rudolph Verderber, Essentials of Informative Speaking: Theory and Contexts (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1991), 53–

55. Defining a concept using a synonym or an antonym is a short and effective way to convey meaning. Synonyms are words that have the same or similar meanings, and antonyms are words that have opposite meanings. In a speech about how to effectively inform an audience, I would claim that using concrete words helps keep an audience engaged. I could enhance your understanding of what concrete means by defining it with synonyms like tangible and relatable. Or I could define concrete using antonyms like abstract andtheoretical.

Identifying the use or function of an object, item, or idea is also a short way of defining. We may think we already know the use and function of most of the things we interact with regularly. This is true in obvious cases like cars, elevators, and smartphones. But there are many objects and ideas that we may rely on and interact with but not know the use or function. For example, QR codes (or quick response codes) are popping up in magazines, at airports, and even on t- shirts.Andy Vuong, “Wanna Read That QR Code? Get the Smartphone App,” The Denver Post, April 18, 2011, accessed March 6,

2012,http://www.denverpost.com/business/ci_17868932. Many people may notice them but not know what they do. As a speaker, you could define QR codes by their function by informing the audience that QR codes allow businesses, organizations, and individuals to get information to consumers/receivers through a barcode-like format that can be easily scanned by most smartphones.

A speaker can also define a topic using examples, which are cited cases that are representative of a larger concept. In an informative speech about anachronisms in movies and literature, a speaker might provide the following examples: the film Titanic shows people on lifeboats using flashlights to look for survivors from the sunken ship (such flashlights weren’t invented until two years later);The Past in Pictures, “Teaching Using Movies: Anachronisms!” accessed March 6, 2012,http://www.thepastinthepictures.wildelearning.co.uk/Introductoryunit!.ht m. Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar includes a reference to a clock, even though no mechanical clocks existed during Caesar’s time.Scholasticus K, “Anachronism Examples in Literature,” February 2, 2012, accessed March 6, 2012,http://www.buzzle.com/articles/anachronism-examples-in- literature.html. Examples are a good way to repackage information that’s already been presented to help an audience retain and understand the content of a speech. Later we’ll learn more about how repackaging information enhances informative speaking.

Etymology refers to the history of a word. Defining by etymology entails providing an overview of how a word came to its current meaning. The Oxford English Dictionary is the best source for finding etymology and often contains interesting facts that can be presented as novel information to better engage your audience. For example, the word assassin, which refers to a person who intentionally murders another, literally means “hashish-eater” and comes from the Arabic word hashshashin. The current meaning emerged during the Crusades as a result of the practices of a sect of Muslims who would get high on hashish

before killing Christian leaders—in essence, assassinating them.Oxford English Dictionary Online, accessed March 6, 2012, http://www.oed.com.

Informing through Description

As the saying goes, “Pictures are worth a thousand words.” Informing through description entails creating verbal pictures for your audience. Description is also an important part of informative speeches that use a spatial organizational pattern, since you need to convey the layout of a space or concept. Good descriptions are based on good observations, as they convey what is taken in through the senses and answer these type of questions: What did that look like? Smell like? Sound like? Feel like? Taste like? If descriptions are vivid and well written, they can actually invoke a sensory reaction in your audience. Just as your mouth probably begins to salivate when I suggest that you imagine biting into a fresh, bright yellow, freshly cut, juicy lemon wedge, so can your audience be transported to a setting or situation through your descriptions. I once had a student set up his speech about the history of streaking by using the following description: “Imagine that you are walking across campus to your evening class. You look up to see a parade of hundreds upon hundreds of your naked peers jogging by wearing little more than shoes.”

Informing through Demonstration

When informing through demonstration, a speaker gives verbal directions about how to do something while also physically demonstrating the steps. Early morning infomercials are good examples of demonstrative speaking, even though they are also trying to persuade us to buy their “miracle product.” Whether straightforward or complex, it’s crucial that a speaker be familiar with the content of their speech and the physical steps necessary for the demonstration. Speaking while completing a task requires advanced psycho-motor skills that most people

can’t wing and therefore need to practice. Tasks suddenly become much more difficult than we expect when we have an audience. Have you ever had to type while people are reading along with you? Even though we type all the time, even one extra set of eyes seems to make our fingers more clumsy than usual.

Television chefs are excellent examples of speakers who frequently inform through demonstration. While many of them make the process of speaking while cooking look effortless, it took much practice over many years to make viewers think it is effortless.

Part of this practice also involves meeting time limits. Since television segments are limited and chefs may be demonstrating and speaking live, they have to be able to adapt as needed. Demonstration speeches are notorious for going over time, especially if speakers haven’t practiced with their visual aids / props. Be prepared to condense or edit as needed to meet your time limit. The reality competition show The Next Food Network Starcaptures these difficulties, as many experienced cooks who have the content knowledge and know how to physically complete their tasks fall apart when faced with a camera challenge because they just assumed they could speak and cook at the same time.

Tips for Demonstration Speeches

  1. Include personal stories and connections to the topic, in addition to the “how-to” information, to help engage your audience.
  2. Ask for audience volunteers (if appropriate) to make the demonstration more interactive.
  3. Include a question-and-answer period at the end (if possible) so audience members can ask questions and seek clarification.
  4. Follow an orderly progression. Do not skip around or backtrack when reviewing the steps.
  1. Use clear signposts like first, second, and third.
  2. Use orienting material like internal previews and reviews, and transitions.
  3. Group steps together in categories, if needed, to help make theinformation more digestible.
  4. Assess the nonverbal feedback of your audience. Review or slow down ifaudience members look lost or confused.
  5. Practice with your visual aids / props many times. Things suddenlybecome more difficult and complicated than you expect when an audience

    is present.

  6. Practice for time and have contingency plans if you need to edit someinformation out to avoid going over your time limit.

Informing through Explanation

Informing through explanation entails sharing how something works, how something came to be, or why something happened. This method of informing may be useful when a topic is too complex or abstract to demonstrate. When presenting complex information make sure to break the topic up into manageable units, avoid information overload, and include examples that make the content relevant to the audience. Informing through explanation works well with speeches about processes, events, and issues. For example, a speaker could explain the context surrounding the Lincoln-Douglas debates or the process that takes place during presidential primaries.

“Getting Plugged In”

TED Talks as a Model of Effective Informative Speaking

Over the past few years, I have heard more and more public speaking teachers mention their use of TED speeches in their classes. What started in 1984 as a conference to gather people involved in Technology, Entertainment, and Design

has now turned into a worldwide phenomenon that is known for its excellent speeches and presentations, many of which are informative in nature.“About TED,” accessed October 23, 2012, http://www.ted.com/pages/about. The motto of TED is “Ideas worth spreading,” which is in keeping with the role that we should occupy as informative speakers. We should choose topics that are worth speaking about and then work to present them in such a way that audience members leave with “take-away” information that is informative and useful. TED fits in with the purpose of the “Getting Plugged In” feature in this book because it has been technology focused from the start. For example, Andrew Blum’s speech focuses on the infrastructure of the Internet, and Pranav Mistry’s speech focuses on a new technology he developed that allows for more interaction between the physical world and the world of data. Even speakers who don’t focus on technology still skillfully use technology in their presentations, as is the case with David Gallo’s speech about exotic underwater life. Here are links to all these speeches:

  • Andrew Blum’s speech: What Is the Internet, Really?http://www.ted.com/talks/andrew_blum_what_is_the_internet_ really.html
  • Pranav Mistry’s speech: The Thrilling Potential of Sixth Sense Technology.http://www.ted.com/talks/pranav_mistry_the_thrilling_pote ntial_of_sixthsense_technology.html
  • David Gallo’s speech: Underwater Astonishments.http://www.ted.com/talks/david_gallo_shows_underwate r_astonishments.html
  1. What can you learn from the TED model and/or TED speakers that will help you be a better informative speaker?
  2. In what innovative and/or informative ways do the speakers reference or incorporate technology in their speeches?

Effective Informative Speaking

There are several challenges to overcome to be an effective informative speaker. They include avoiding persuasion, avoiding information overload, and engaging your audience.

Avoiding Persuasion

We should avoid thinking of informing and persuading as dichotomous, meaning that it’s either one or the other. It’s more accurate to think of informing and persuading as two poles on a continuum, as inFigure 11.1 “Continuum of Informing and Persuading”.Thomas H. Olbricht, Informative Speaking(Glenview, IL: Scott, Foresman, 1968), 14. Most persuasive speeches rely on some degree of informing to substantiate the reasoning. And informative speeches, although meant to secure the understanding of an audience, may influence audience members’ beliefs, attitudes, values, or behaviors.

Figure 11.1 Continuum of Informing and Persuading

Speakers can look to three areas to help determine if their speech is more informative or persuasive: speaker purpose, function of information, and audience perception.Rudolph Verderber, Essentials of Informative Speaking: Theory and Contexts (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1991), 5–6. First, for informative speaking, a speaker’s purpose should be to create understanding by

sharing objective, factual information. Specific purpose and thesis statements help establish a speaker’s goal and purpose and can serve as useful reference points to keep a speech on track. When reviewing your specific purpose and thesis statement, look for words like should/shouldn’t, good/bad,

and right/wrong, as these often indicate a persuasive slant in the speech.

Second, information should function to clarify and explain in an informative speech. Supporting materials shouldn’t function to prove a thesis or to provide reasons for an audience to accept the thesis, as they do in persuasive speeches. Although informative messages can end up influencing the thoughts or behaviors of audience members, that shouldn’t be the goal.

Third, an audience’s perception of the information and the speaker helps determine whether a speech is classified as informative or persuasive. The audience must perceive that the information being presented is not controversial or disputed, which will lead audience members to view the information as factual. The audience must also accept the speaker as a credible source of information. Being prepared, citing credible sources, and engaging the audience help establish a speaker’s credibility. Last, an audience must perceive the speaker to be trustworthy and not have a hidden agenda. Avoiding persuasion is a common challenge for informative speakers, but it is something to consider, as violating the speaking occasion may be perceived as unethical by the audience. Be aware of the overall tone of your speech by reviewing your specific purpose and thesis to make sure your speech isn’t tipping from informative to persuasive.

Words likeshould/shouldn’t,good/bad, andright/wrong in a specific purpose and/or thesis statement often indicate that the speaker’s purpose is tipping from informative to persuasive.

Avoiding Information Overload

Many informative speakers have a tendency to pack a ten-minute speech with as much information as possible. This can result in information overload, which is a barrier to effective listening that occurs when a speech contains more information than an audience can process. Editing can be a difficult task, but it’s an important skill to hone, because you will be editing more than you think. Whether it’s reading through an e-mail before you send it, condensing a report down to an executive summary, or figuring out how to fit a client’s message on the front page of a brochure, you will have to learn how to discern what information is best to keep and what can be thrown out. In speaking, being a discerning editor is useful because it helps avoid information overload. While a receiver may not be attracted to a brochure that’s covered in text, they could take the time to read it, and reread it, if necessary. Audience members cannot conduct their own review while listening to a speaker live. Unlike readers, audience

members can’t review words over and over.Rudolph Verderber, Essentials of Informative Speaking: Theory and Contexts (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1991), 10.Therefore competent speakers, especially informative speakers who are trying to teach their audience something, should adapt their message to a listening audience. To help avoid information overload, adapt your message to make it more listenable.

Although the results vary, research shows that people only remember a portion of a message days or even hours after receiving it.Laura Janusik, “Listening Facts,” accessed March 6, 2012,http://d1025403.site.myhosting.com/files.listen.org/Facts.htm. If you spend 100 percent of your speech introducing new information, you have wasted approximately 30 percent of your time and your audience’s time. Information overload is a barrier to effective listening, and as good speakers, we should be aware of the limitations of listening and compensate for that in our speech preparation and presentation. I recommend that my students follow a guideline that suggests spending no more than 30 percent of your speech introducing new material and 70 percent of your speech repackaging that information. I specifically use the word repackaging and not repeating. Simply repeating the same information would also be a barrier to effective listening, since people would just get bored. Repackaging will help ensure that your audience retains most of the key information in the speech. Even if they don’t remember every example, they will remember the main underlying point.

Avoiding information overload requires a speaker to be a good translator of information. To be a good translator, you can compare an unfamiliar concept with something familiar, give examples from real life, connect your information to current events or popular culture, or supplement supporting material like statistics with related translations of that information. These are just some of the strategies a good speaker can use. While translating information is important for

any oral presentation, it is especially important when conveying technical information. Being able to translate complex or technical information for a lay audience leads to more effective informing, because the audience feels like they are being addressed on their level and don’t feel lost or “talked down to.” The History Channel show The Universe provides excellent examples of informative speakers who act as good translators. The scientists and experts featured on the show are masters of translating technical information, like physics, into concrete examples that most people can relate to based on their everyday experiences.

Following the guidelines established in Chapter 9 “Preparing a Speech” for organizing a speech can also help a speaker avoid information overload. Good speakers build in repetition and redundancy to make their content more memorable and their speech more consumable. Preview statements, section transitions, and review statements are some examples of orienting material that helps focus an audience’s attention and facilitates the process of informing.Rudolph Verderber, Essentials of Informative Speaking: Theory and Contexts (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1991), 12.

Engaging Your Audience

As a speaker, you are competing for the attention of your audience against other internal and external stimuli. Getting an audience engaged and then keeping their attention is a challenge for any speaker, but it can be especially difficult when speaking to inform. As was discussed earlier, once you are in the professional world, you will most likely be speaking informatively about topics related to your experience and expertise. Some speakers fall into the trap of thinking that their content knowledge is enough to sustain them through an informative speech or that their position in an organization means that an audience will listen to them and appreciate their information despite their delivery. Content expertise is not enough to be an effective speaker. A person

must also have speaking expertise.Rudolph Verderber, Essentials of Informative Speaking: Theory and Contexts (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1991), 4. Effective speakers, even renowned experts, must still translate their wealth of content knowledge into information that is suited for oral transmission, audience centered, and well organized. I’m sure we’re all familiar with the stereotype of the absentminded professor or the genius who thinks elegantly in his or her head but can’t convey that same elegance verbally. Having well-researched and organized supporting material is an important part of effective informative speaking, but having good content is not enough.

Audience members are more likely to stay engaged with a speaker they view as credible. So complementing good supporting material with a practiced and fluent delivery increases credibility and audience engagement. In addition, as we discussed earlier, good informative speakers act as translators of information. Repackaging information into concrete familiar examples is also a strategy for making your speech more engaging. Understanding relies on being able to apply incoming information to life experiences.

Repackaging information is also a good way to appeal to different learning styles, as you can present the same content in various ways, which helps reiterate a point. While this strategy is useful with any speech, since the goal of informing is teaching, it makes sense to include a focus on learning within your audience adaptation. There are three main learning styles that help determine how people most effectively receive and process information: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic.Neil Fleming, “The VARK Helpsheets,” accessed March 6,

2012, http://www.vark-learn.com/english/page.asp?p=helpsheets.Visual learners respond well to information presented via visual aids, so repackage information using text, graphics, charts and other media. Public speaking is a good way to present information for auditory learners who process information well when they hear it. Kinesthetic learners are tactile; they like to learn through

movement and “doing.” Asking for volunteers to help with a demonstration, if appropriate, is a way to involve kinesthetic learners in your speech. You can also have an interactive review activity at the end of a speech, much like many teachers incorporate an activity after a lesson to reinforce the material.

“Getting Real”

Technical Speaking

People who work in technical fields, like engineers and information technology professionals, often think they will be spared the task of public speaking. This is not the case, however, and there is actually a branch of communication studies that addresses public speaking matters for “techies.” The field of technical communication focuses on how messages can be translated from expert to lay audiences. I actually taught a public speaking class for engineering students, and they basically had to deliver speeches about the things they were working on in a way that I could understand. I ended up learning a lot more about jet propulsion and hybrid car engines than I ever expected!

Have you ever been completely lost when reading an instruction manual for some new product you purchased? Have you ever had difficulty following the instructions of someone who was trying to help you with a technical matter? If so, you’ve experienced some of the challenges associated with technical speaking. There are many careers where technical speaking skills are needed. According to the Society for Technical Communication, communicating about specialized or technical topics, communicating by using technology, and providing instructions about how to do something are all examples of technical speaking.Society for Technical Communication, “Defining Technical Communication,” accessed March 6, 2012, http://www.stc.org/about-stc/the-profession-all-about-technical- communication/defining-tc. People with technical speaking skills offer much to

organizations and businesses. They help make information more useable and accessible to customers, clients, and employees. They can help reduce costs to a business by reducing unnecessary work that results from misunderstandings of instructions, by providing clear information that allows customers to use products without training or technical support and by making general information put out by a company more user friendly. Technical speakers are dedicated to producing messages that are concise, clear, and coherent.Society for Technical Communication, “Ethical Principles,” accessed March 6,

2012, http://www.stc.org/about-stc/the-profession-all-about-technical- communication/ethical-principles. Such skills are used in the following careers: technical writers and editors, technical illustrators, visual designers, web designers, customer service representatives, salespeople, spokespeople, and many more.

  1. What communication skills that you’ve learned about in the book so far do you think would be important for a technical speaker?
  2. Identify instances in which you have engaged in technical speaking or received information from a technical speaker. Based on what you have learned in this chapter, were the speakers effective or not, and why?

Sample Informative Speech

Title: Going Green in the World of Education General purpose: To inform

Specific purpose: By the end of my speech, the audience will be able to describe some ways in which schools are going green.

Thesis statement: The green movement has transformed school buildings, how teachers teach, and the environment in which students learn.


Attention getter: Did you know that attending or working at a green school can lead students and teachers to have less health problems? Did you know that allowing more daylight into school buildings increases academic performance and can lessen attention and concentration challenges? Well, the research I will cite in my speech supports both of these claims, and these are just two of the many reasons why more schools, both grade schools and colleges, are going green.

Introduction of topic: Today, I’m going to inform you about the green movement that is affecting many schools.

Credibility and relevance: Because of my own desire to go into the field of education, I decided to research how schools are going green in the United States. But it’s not just current and/or future teachers that will be affected by this trend. As students at Eastern Illinois University, you are already asked to make “greener” choices. Whether it’s the little signs in the dorm rooms that ask you to turn off your lights when you leave the room, the reusable water bottles that were given out on move-in day, or even our new Renewable Energy Center, the list goes on and on. Additionally, younger people in our lives, whether they be future children or younger siblings or relatives, will likely be affected by this continuing trend.

Preview statement: In order to better understand what makes a “green school,” we need to learn about how K–12 schools are going green, how college campuses are going green, and how these changes affect students and teachers.

Transition: I’ll begin with how K–12 schools are going green. Body

1. According to the “About Us” section on their official website, the US Green Building Council was established in 1993 with the mission to promote sustainability in the building and construction industry, and it is this organization that is responsible for the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, which is a well-respected green building certification system.

1. While homes, neighborhoods, and businesses can also pursue LEED certification, I’ll focus today on K–12 schools and college campuses.

1. It’s important to note that principles of “going green” can be applied to the planning of a building from its first inception or be retroactively applied to existing buildings.
a. A 2011 article by Ash in Education Week notes that the pathway to creating a greener school is flexible based on the community and its needs. a. In order to garner support for green initiatives, the article recommends that local leaders like superintendents, mayors, and college administrators become involved in the green movement.

b. Once local leaders are involved, the community, students, parents, faculty, and staff can be involved by serving on a task force, hosting a summit or conference, and implementing lessons about sustainability into everyday conversations and school curriculum.

b. The US Green Building Council’s website also includes a tool kit with a lot of information about how to “green” existing schools.

2. Much of the efforts to green schools have focused on K–12 schools and districts, but what makes a school green?

1. According to the US Green Building Council’s Center for Green Schools, green school buildings conserve energy and natural resources.

. For example, Fossil Ridge High School in Fort Collins, Colorado, was built in 2006 and received LEED certification because it has

automatic light sensors to conserve electricity and uses wind energy to

offset nonrenewable energy use.

  1. To conserve water, the school uses a pond for irrigation, has artificial turfon athletic fields, and installed low-flow toilets and faucets.
  2. According to the 2006 report by certified energy manager Gregory Katstitled “Greening America’s Schools,” a LEED certified school uses 30–50 percent less energy, 30 percent less water, and reduces carbon dioxide emissions by 40 percent compared to a conventional school.

2. The Center for Green Schools also presents case studies that show how green school buildings also create healthier learning environments.

. Many new building materials, carpeting, and furniture contain chemicals that are released into the air, which reduces indoor air quality.

  1. So green schools purposefully purchase materials that are low in these chemicals.
  2. Natural light and fresh air have also been shown to promote a healthier learning environment, so green buildings allow more daylight in and include functioning windows.Transition: As you can see, K–12 schools are becoming greener; college

    campuses are also starting to go green.

2. Examples from the University of Denver and Eastern Illinois University

show some of the potential for greener campuses around the country.
1. The University of Denver is home to the nation’s first “green” law school. 1. According to the Sturm College of Law’s website, the building was

designed to use 40 percent less energy than a conventional building through the use of movement-sensor lighting; high-performance insulation in the walls, floors, and roof; and infrared sensors on water faucets and toilets.

2. Electric car recharging stations were also included in the parking garage, and the building has extra bike racks and even showers that students and faculty can use to freshen up if they bike or walk to school or work.

2. Eastern Illinois University has also made strides toward a more green campus.

  1. Some of the dining halls on campus have gone “trayless,” which according to a 2009 article by Calder in the journal Independent School has the potential to dramatically reduce the amount of water and chemical use, since there are no longer trays to wash, and also helps reduce food waste since people take less food without a tray.
  2. The biggest change on campus has been the opening of the Renewable Energy Center in 2011, which according to EIU’s website is one of the largest biomass renewable energy projects in the country.

. The Renewable Energy Center uses slow-burn technology to use wood chips that are a byproduct of the lumber industry that would normally be discarded.

a. This helps reduce our dependency on our old coal-fired power plant, which reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

b. The project was the first known power plant to be registered with the US Green Building Council and is on track to receive LEED certification.

Transition: All these efforts to go green in K–12 schools and on college

campuses will obviously affect students and teachers at the schools.
3. The green movement affects students and teachers in a variety of ways. 1. Research shows that going green positively affects a student’s health. 1. Many schools are literally going green by including more green spaces

such as recreation areas, gardens, and greenhouses, which according to a 2010 article in the Journal of Environmental Education by University of Colorado professor Susan Strife has been shown to benefit a child’s

cognitive skills, especially in the areas of increased concentration and

attention capacity.
2. Additionally, the report I cited earlier, “Greening America’s Schools,”

states that the improved air quality in green schools can lead to a 38 percent reduction in asthma incidents and that students in “green schools” had 51 percent less chance of catching a cold or the flu compared to children in conventional schools.

2. Standard steps taken to green schools can also help students academically.

  1. The report “Greening America’s Schools” notes that a recent synthesis offifty-three studies found that more daylight in the school building leads to

    higher academic achievement.

  2. The report also provides data that show how the healthier environment ingreen schools leads to better attendance and that in Washington, DC, and Chicago, schools improved their performance on standardized tests by 3–4 percent.

3. Going green can influence teachers’ lesson plans as well their job satisfaction and physical health.

1. There are several options for teachers who want to “green” their curriculum.

. According to the article in Education Week that I cited earlier, the Sustainability Education Clearinghouse is a free online tool that provides K–12 educators with the ability to share sustainability-oriented lesson ideas.

a. The Center for Green Schools also provides resources for all levels of teachers, from kindergarten to college, that can be used in the classroom.

2. The report “Greening America’s Schools” claims that the overall improved working environment that a green school provides leads to higher teacher retention and less teacher turnover.

3. Just as students see health benefits from green schools, so do teachers, as the same report shows that teachers in these schools get sick less, resulting in a decrease of sick days by 7 percent.


Transition to conclusion and summary of importance: In summary, the going-green era has impacted every aspect of education in our school systems.

Review of main points: From K–12 schools to college campuses like ours, to the students and teachers in the schools, the green movement is changing the way we think about education and our environment.

Closing statement: As Glenn Cook, the editor in chief of the American School Board Journal, states on the Center for Green Schools’s website, “The green schools movement is the biggest thing to happen to education since the introduction of technology to the classroom.”


Ash, K. (2011). “Green schools” benefit budgets and students, report says. Education Week, 30(32), 10.

Calder, W. (2009). Go green, save green. Independent School, 68(4), 90–93. The Center for Green Schools. (n.d.). K–12: How. Retrieved

fromhttp://www.centerforgreenschools.org/main-nav/k-12/buildings.aspx Eastern Illinois University. (n.d.). Renewable Energy Center. Retrieved

Kats, G. (2006). Greening America’s schools: Costs and benefits. A Capital E Report.

Retrieved fromhttp://www.usgbc.org/ShowFile.aspx?DocumentID=2908 

Strife, S. (2010). Reflecting on environmental education: Where is our place in the green movement?Journal of Environmental Education, 41(3), 179–191. doi:10.1080/00958960903295233

Sturm College of Law. (n.d.). About DU law: Building green. Retrieved fromhttp://www.law.du.edu/index.php/about/building-green

USGBC. (n.d.). About us. US Green Building Council. Retrieved from https://new.usgbc.org/about


  • Getting integrated: Informative speaking is likely the type of public speaking we will most often deliver and be audience to in our lives. Informative speaking is an important part of academic, professional, personal, and civic contexts.
  • Informative speeches teach an audience through objective factual information and can emerge from one or more of the following categories: objects, people, concepts, events, processes, and issues.
  • Effective informative speaking requires good research skills, as speakers must include novel information, relevant and proxemic examples, and “take-away” information that audience members will find engaging and useful.

• The four primary methods of informing are through definition, description, demonstration, or explanation.

o Informing through definition entails defining concepts clearly and concisely using synonyms and antonyms, use or function, example, or etymology.

o Informing through description entails creating detailed verbal pictures for your audience.

o Informing through demonstration entails sharing verbal directions about how to do something while also physically demonstrating the steps.

o Informing through explanation entails sharing how something works, how something came to be, or why something happened.

  • An effective informative speaker should avoid persuasion by reviewing the language used in the specific purpose and thesis statements, using objective supporting material, and appearing trustworthy to the audience.
  • An effective informative speaker should avoid information overload by repackaging information and building in repetition and orienting material like reviews and previews.
  • An effective informative speaker engages the audience by translating information into relevant and concrete examples that appeal to different learning styles.


  1. Getting integrated: How might you use informative speaking in each of the following contexts: academic, professional, personal, and civic?
  2. Brainstorm potential topics for your informative speech and identify which topic category each idea falls into. Are there any risks of persuading for the topics you listed? If so, how can you avoid persuasion if you choose that topic?
  3. Of the four methods of informing (through definition, description, demonstration, or explanation), which do you think is most effective for you? Why?

11.2 Persuasive Speaking


  1. Explain how claims, evidence, and warrants function to create an argument.
  2. Identify strategies for choosing a persuasive speech topic.
  3. Identify strategies for adapting a persuasive speech based on an audience’sorientation to the proposition.
  4. Distinguish among propositions of fact, value, and policy.

5. Choose an organizational pattern that is fitting for a persuasive speech topic.

We produce and receive persuasive messages daily, but we don’t often stop to think about how we make the arguments we do or the quality of the arguments that we receive. In this section, we’ll learn the components of an argument, how to choose a good persuasive speech topic, and how to adapt and organize a persuasive message.

Foundation of Persuasion

Persuasive speaking seeks to influence the beliefs, attitudes, values, or behaviors of audience members. In order to persuade, a speaker has to construct arguments that appeal to audience members. Arguments form around three components: claim, evidence, and warrant. The claim is the statement that will be supported by evidence. Your thesis statement is the overarching claim for your speech, but you will make other claims within the speech to support the larger

thesis. Evidence, also called grounds, supports the claim. The main points of your persuasive speech and the supporting material you include serve as evidence. For example, a speaker may make the following claim: “There should be a national law against texting while driving.” The speaker could then support the claim by providing the following evidence: “Research from the US Department of Transportation has found that texting while driving creates a crash risk that is twenty-three times worse than driving while not distracted.” Thewarrant is the underlying justification that connects the claim and the evidence. One warrant for the claim and evidence cited in this example is that the US Department of Transportation is an institution that funds research conducted by credible experts. An additional and more implicit warrant is that people shouldn’t do things they know are unsafe.

Figure 11.2 Components of an Argument 

The quality of your evidence often impacts the strength of your warrant, and some warrants are stronger than others. A speaker could also provide evidence to support their claim advocating for a national ban on texting and driving by saying, “I have personally seen people almost wreck while trying to text.” While this type of evidence can also be persuasive, it provides a different type and strength of warrant since it is based on personal experience. In general, the anecdotal evidence from personal experience would be given a weaker warrant than the evidence from the national research report. The same process works in our legal system when a judge evaluates the connection between a claim and evidence. If someone steals my car, I could say to the police, “I’m pretty sure Mario did it because when I said hi to him on campus the other day, he didn’t say hi back, which proves he’s mad at me.” A judge faced with that evidence is unlikely to issue a warrant for Mario’s arrest. Fingerprint evidence from the steering wheel that has been matched with a suspect is much more likely to warrant arrest.

As you put together a persuasive argument, you act as the judge. You can evaluate arguments that you come across in your research by analyzing the connection

(the warrant) between the claim and the evidence. If the warrant is strong, you may want to highlight that argument in your speech. You may also be able to point out a weak warrant in an argument that goes against your position, which you could then include in your speech. Every argument starts by putting together a claim and evidence, but arguments grow to include many interrelated units.

Choosing a Persuasive Speech Topic

As with any speech, topic selection is important and is influenced by many factors. Good persuasive speech topics are current, controversial, and have important implications for society. If your topic is currently being discussed on television, in newspapers, in the lounges in your dorm, or around your family’s dinner table, then it’s a current topic. A persuasive speech aimed at getting audience members to wear seat belts in cars wouldn’t have much current relevance, given that statistics consistently show that most people wear seat belts. Giving the same speech would have been much more timely in the 1970s when there was a huge movement to increase seat-belt use.

Many topics that are current are also controversial, which is what gets them attention by the media and citizens. Current and controversial topics will be more engaging for your audience. A persuasive speech to encourage audience members to donate blood or recycle wouldn’t be very controversial, since the benefits of both practices are widely agreed on. However, arguing that the restrictions on blood donation by men who have had sexual relations with men be lifted would be controversial. I must caution here that controversial is not the same as inflammatory. An inflammatory topic is one that evokes strong reactions from an audience for the sake of provoking a reaction. Being provocative for no good reason or choosing a topic that is extremist will damage your credibility and prevent you from achieving your speech goals.

You should also choose a topic that is important to you and to society as a whole. As we have already discussed in this book, our voices are powerful, as it is through communication that we participate and make change in society. Therefore we should take seriously opportunities to use our voices to speak publicly. Choosing a speech topic that has implications for society is probably a better application of your public speaking skills than choosing to persuade the audience that Lebron James is the best basketball player in the world or that Superman is a better hero than Spiderman. Although those topics may be very important to you, they don’t carry the same social weight as many other topics you could choose to discuss. Remember that speakers have ethical obligations to the audience and should take the opportunity to speak seriously.

You will also want to choose a topic that connects to your own interests and passions. If you are an education major, it might make more sense to do a persuasive speech about funding for public education than the death penalty. If there are hot-button issues for you that make you get fired up and veins bulge out in your neck, then it may be a good idea to avoid those when speaking in an academic or professional context.

Choosing such topics may interfere with your ability to deliver a speech in a competent and ethical manner. You want to care about your topic, but you also want to be able to approach it in a way that’s going to make people want to listen to you. Most people tune out speakers they perceive to be too ideologically entrenched and write them off as extremists or zealots.

You also want to ensure that your topic is actually persuasive. Draft your thesis statement as an “I believe” statement so your stance on an issue is clear. Also, think of your main points as reasons to support your thesis. Students end up with speeches that aren’t very persuasive in nature if they don’t think of their main points as reasons. Identifying arguments that counter your thesis is also a good

exercise to help ensure your topic is persuasive. If you can clearly and easily identify a competing thesis statement and supporting reasons, then your topic and approach are arguable.

Review of Tips for Choosing a Persuasive Speech Topic

1. Choose a topic that is current.
o Not current. People should use seat belts.
o Current. People should not text while driving.
2. Choose a topic that is controversial.
o Not controversial. People should recycle.
o Controversial. Recycling should be mandatory by law.
3. Choose a topic that meaningfully impacts society.
o Not as impactful. Superman is the best superhero.
o Impactful. Colleges and universities should adopt zero-tolerance bullying

4. Write a thesis statement that is clearly argumentative and states your

o Unclear thesis. Homeschooling is common in the United States.
o Clear, argumentative thesis with stance. Homeschooling does not

provide the same benefits of traditional education and should be strictly monitored and limited.

Adapting Persuasive Messages

Competent speakers should consider their audience throughout the speech- making process. Given that persuasive messages seek to directly influence the audience in some way, audience adaptation becomes even more important. If possible, poll your audience to find out their orientation toward your thesis. I read my students’ thesis statements aloud and have the class indicate whether

they agree with, disagree with, or are neutral in regards to the proposition. It is unlikely that you will have a homogenous audience, meaning that there will probably be some who agree, some who disagree, and some who are neutral. So you may employ all of the following strategies, in varying degrees, in your persuasive speech.

When you have audience members who already agree with your proposition, you should focus on intensifying their agreement. You can also assume that they have foundational background knowledge of the topic, which means you can take the time to inform them about lesser-known aspects of a topic or cause to further reinforce their agreement. Rather than move these audience members from disagreement to agreement, you can focus on moving them from agreement to action. Remember, calls to action should be as specific as possible to help you capitalize on audience members’ motivation in the moment so they are more likely to follow through on the action.

There are two main reasons audience members may be neutral in regards to your topic: (1) they are uninformed about the topic or (2) they do not think the topic affects them. In this case, you should focus on instilling a concern for the topic. Uninformed audiences may need background information before they can decide if they agree or disagree with your proposition. If the issue is familiar but audience members are neutral because they don’t see how the topic affects them, focus on getting the audience’s attention and demonstrating relevance. Remember that concrete and proxemic supporting materials will help an audience find relevance in a topic. Students who pick narrow or unfamiliar topics will have to work harder to persuade their audience, but neutral audiences often provide the most chance of achieving your speech goal since even a small change may move them into agreement.

When audience members disagree with your proposition, you should focus on changing their minds. To effectively persuade, you must be seen as a credible speaker. When an audience is hostile to your proposition, establishing credibility is even more important, as audience members may be quick to discount or discredit someone who doesn’t appear prepared or doesn’t present well- researched and supported information. Don’t give an audience a chance to write you off before you even get to share your best evidence. When facing a disagreeable audience, the goal should also be small change. You may not be able to switch someone’s position completely, but influencing him or her is still a success. Aside from establishing your credibility, you should also establish common ground with an audience.

Acknowledging areas of disagreement and logically refuting counterarguments in your speech is also a way to approach persuading an audience in disagreement, as it shows that you are open-minded enough to engage with other perspectives.

Determining Your Proposition

The proposition of your speech is the overall direction of the content and how that relates to the speech goal. A persuasive speech will fall primarily into one of three categories: propositions of fact, value, or policy. A speech may have elements of any of the three propositions, but you can usually determine the overall proposition of a speech from the specific purpose and thesis statements.

Propositions of fact focus on beliefs and try to establish that something “is or isn’t.” Propositions of value focus on persuading audience members that something is “good or bad,” “right or wrong,” or “desirable or undesirable.”Propositions of policy advocate that something “should or shouldn’t” be done. Since most persuasive speech topics can be approached as propositions of fact, value, or policy, it is a good idea to start thinking about what

kind of proposition you want to make, as it will influence how you go about your research and writing. As you can see in the following example using the topic of global warming, the type of proposition changes the types of supporting materials you would need:

  • Proposition of fact. Global warming is caused by increased greenhouse gases related to human activity.
  • Proposition of value. America’s disproportionately large amount of pollution relative to other countries is wrong.
  • Proposition of policy. There should be stricter emission restrictions on individual cars.To support propositions of fact, you would want to present a logical argument based on objective facts that can then be used to build persuasive arguments. Propositions of value may require you to appeal more to your audience’s emotions and cite expert and lay testimony. Persuasive speeches about policy usually require you to research existing and previous laws or procedures and determine if any relevant legislation or propositions are currently being considered.

“Getting Critical”

Persuasion and Masculinity

The traditional view of rhetoric that started in ancient Greece and still informs much of our views on persuasion today has been critiqued for containing Western and masculine biases. Traditional persuasion has been linked to Western and masculine values of domination, competition, and change, which have been critiqued as coercive and violent.Sally M. Gearhart, “The Womanization of Rhetoric,” Women’s Studies International Quarterly 2 (1979): 195–201.

Communication scholars proposed an alternative to traditional persuasive rhetoric in the form of invitational rhetoric. Invitational rhetoric differs from a traditional view of persuasive rhetoric that “attempts to win over an opponent, or to advocate the correctness of a single position in a very complex issue.”Jennifer Emerling Bone, Cindy L. Griffin, and T. M. Linda Scholz, “Beyond Traditional Conceptualizations of Rhetoric: Invitational Rhetoric and a Move toward Civility,”Western Journal of Communication 72 (2008): 436. Instead, invitational rhetoric proposes a model of reaching consensus through dialogue. The goal is to create a climate in which growth and change can occur but isn’t required for one person to “win” an argument over another. Each person in a communication situation is acknowledged to have a standpoint that is valid but can still be influenced through the offering of alternative perspectives and the invitation to engage with and discuss these standpoints.Kathleen J. Ryan and Elizabeth J. Natalle, “Fusing Horizons: Standpoint Hermenutics and Invitational Rhetoric,” Rhetoric Society Quarterly 31 (2001): 69–90. Safety, value, and freedom are three important parts of invitational rhetoric. Safety involves a feeling of security in which audience members and speakers feel like their ideas and contributions will not be denigrated. Value refers to the notion that each person in a communication encounter is worthy of recognition and that people are willing to step outside their own perspectives to better understand others. Last, freedom is present in communication when communicators do not limit the thinking or decisions of others, allowing all participants to speak up.Jennifer Emerling Bone, Cindy L. Griffin, and T. M. Linda Scholz, “Beyond Traditional Conceptualizations of Rhetoric: Invitational Rhetoric and a Move toward Civility,” Western Journal of Communication 72 (2008): 436–37.

Invitational rhetoric doesn’t claim that all persuasive rhetoric is violent. Instead, it acknowledges that some persuasion is violent and that the connection between persuasion and violence is worth exploring. Invitational rhetoric has the potential

to contribute to the civility of communication in our society. When we are civil, we are capable of engaging with and appreciating different perspectives while still understanding our own. People aren’t attacked or reviled because their views diverge from ours. Rather than reducing the world to “us against them, black or white, and right or wrong,” invitational rhetoric encourages us to acknowledge human perspectives in all their complexity.Jennifer Emerling Bone, Cindy L. Griffin, and T. M. Linda Scholz, “Beyond Traditional Conceptualizations of Rhetoric: Invitational Rhetoric and a Move toward Civility,” Western Journal of Communication 72 (2008): 457.

  1. What is your reaction to the claim that persuasion includes Western and masculine biases?
  2. What are some strengths and weaknesses of the proposed alternatives to traditional persuasion?
  3. In what situations might an invitational approach to persuasion be useful? In what situations might you want to rely on traditional models of persuasion?

Organizing a Persuasive Speech

We have already discussed several patterns for organizing your speech, but some organization strategies are specific to persuasive speaking. Some persuasive speech topics lend themselves to a topical organization pattern, which breaks the larger topic up into logical divisions. Earlier, in Chapter 9 “Preparing a Speech”, we discussed recency and primacy, and in this chapter we discussed adapting a persuasive speech based on the audience’s orientation toward the proposition. These concepts can be connected when organizing a persuasive speech topically. Primacy means putting your strongest information first and is based on the idea that audience members put more weight on what they hear first. This strategy can be especially useful when addressing an audience that disagrees with your

proposition, as you can try to win them over early. Recency means putting your strongest information last to leave a powerful impression. This can be useful when you are building to a climax in your speech, specifically if you include a call to action.

The problem-solution pattern is an organizational pattern that advocates for a particular approach to solve a problem. You would provide evidence to show that a problem exists and then propose a solution with additional evidence or reasoning to justify the course of action. One main point addressing the problem and one main point addressing the solution may be sufficient, but you are not limited to two. You could add a main point between the problem and solution that outlines other solutions that have failed. You can also combine the problem- solution pattern with the cause-effect pattern or expand the speech to fit with Monroe’s Motivated Sequence.

As was mentioned in Chapter 9 “Preparing a Speech”, the cause-effect pattern can be used for informative speaking when the relationship between the cause and effect is not contested. The pattern is more fitting for persuasive speeches when the relationship between the cause and effect is controversial or unclear. There are several ways to use causes and effects to structure a speech. You could have a two-point speech that argues from cause to effect or from effect to cause. You could also have more than one cause that lead to the same effect or a single cause that leads to multiple effects. The following are some examples of thesis statements that correspond to various organizational patterns. As you can see, the same general topic area, prison overcrowding, is used for each example. This illustrates the importance of considering your organizational options early in the speech-making process, since the pattern you choose will influence your researching and writing.

Persuasive Speech Thesis Statements by Organizational Pattern

  • Problem-solution. Prison overcrowding is a serious problem that we can solve by finding alternative rehabilitation for nonviolent offenders.
  • Problem–failed solution–proposed solution. Prison overcrowding is a serious problem that shouldn’t be solved by building more prisons; instead, we should support alternative rehabilitation for nonviolent offenders.
  • Cause-effect. Prisons are overcrowded with nonviolent offenders, which leads to lesser sentences for violent criminals.
  • Cause-cause-effect. State budgets are being slashed and prisons are overcrowded with nonviolent offenders, which leads to lesser sentences for violent criminals.
  • Cause-effect-effect. Prisons are overcrowded with nonviolent offenders, which leads to increased behavioral problems among inmates and lesser sentences for violent criminals.
  • Cause-effect-solution. Prisons are overcrowded with nonviolent offenders, which leads to lesser sentences for violent criminals; therefore we need to find alternative rehabilitation for nonviolent offenders.Monroe’s Motivated Sequence is an organizational pattern designed for persuasive speaking that appeals to audience members’ needs and motivates them to action. If your persuasive speaking goals include a call to action, you may want to consider this organizational pattern. We already learned about the five steps of Monroe’s Motivated Sequence in Chapter 9 “Preparing a Speech”, but we will review them here with an example:

1. Step 1: Attention
o Hook the audience by making the topic relevant to them.
o Imagine living a full life, retiring, and slipping into your golden years. As

you get older you become more dependent on others and move into an assisted-living facility. Although you think life will be easier, things get

worse as you experience abuse and mistreatment from the staff. You report the abuse to a nurse and wait, but nothing happens and the abuse continues. Elder abuse is a common occurrence, and unlike child abuse, there are no laws in our state that mandate complaints of elder abuse be reported or investigated.

2. Step 2: Need
o Cite evidence to support the fact that the issue needs to be addressed.
o According to the American Psychological Association, one to two million

elderly US Americans have been abused by their caretakers. In our state, those in the medical, psychiatric, and social work field are required to report suspicion of child abuse but are not mandated to report suspicions of elder abuse.

3. Step 3: Satisfaction
o Offer a solution and persuade the audience that it is feasible and well

thought out.
o There should be a federal law mandating that suspicion of elder abuse be

reported and that all claims of elder abuse be investigated.
4. Step 4: Visualization
o Take the audience beyond your solution and help them visualize the

positive results of implementing it or the negative consequences of not.
o Elderly people should not have to live in fear during their golden years. A

mandatory reporting law for elderly abuse will help ensure that the voices

of our elderly loved ones will be heard.
5. Step 5: Action
o Call your audience to action by giving them concrete steps to follow to

engage in a particular action or to change a thought or behavior.
o I urge you to take action in two ways. First, raise awareness about this

issue by talking to your own friends and family. Second, contact your representatives at the state and national level to let them know that elder

abuse should be taken seriously and given the same level of importance as other forms of abuse. I brought cards with the contact information for our state and national representatives for this area. Please take one at the end of my speech. A short e-mail or phone call can help end the silence surrounding elder abuse.


  • Arguments are formed by making claims that are supported by evidence. The underlying justification that connects the claim and evidence is the warrant. Arguments can have strong or weak warrants, which will make them more or less persuasive.
  • Good persuasive speech topics are current, controversial (but not inflammatory), and important to the speaker and society.

• Speakers should adapt their persuasive approach based on audience members’ orientation toward the proposal.

o When audience members agree with the proposal, focus on intensifying their agreement and moving them to action.

o When audience members are neutral in regards to the proposition, provide background information to better inform them about the issue and present information that demonstrates the relevance of the topic to the audience.

o When audience members disagree with the proposal, focus on establishing your credibility, build common ground with the audience, and incorporate counterarguments and refute them.

• Persuasive speeches include the following propositions: fact, value, and policy.

o Propositions of fact focus on establishing that something “is or isn’t” or is “true or false.”

o Propositions of value focus on persuading an audience that something is “good or bad,” “right or wrong,” or “desirable or undesirable.”

o Propositions of policy advocate that something “should or shouldn’t” be done.

• Persuasive speeches can be organized using the following patterns: problem- solution, cause-effect, cause-effect-solution, or Monroe’s Motivated Sequence.


  1. Getting integrated: Give an example of persuasive messages that you might need to create in each of the following contexts: academic, professional, personal, and civic. Then do the same thing for persuasive messages you may receive.
  2. To help ensure that your persuasive speech topic is persuasive and not informative, identify the claims, evidence, and warrants you may use in your argument. In addition, write a thesis statement that refutes your topic idea and identify evidence and warrants that could support that counterargument.
  3. Determine if your speech is primarily a proposition of fact, value, or policy. How can you tell? Identify an organizational pattern that you think will work well for your speech topic, draft one sentence for each of your main points, and arrange them according to the pattern you chose.

11.3 Persuasive Reasoning and Fallacies


Persuasive speakers should be concerned with what strengthens and weakens an argument. Earlier we discussed the process of building an argument with claims

  1. Define inductive, deductive, and causal reasoning.
  2. Evaluate the quality of inductive, deductive, and causal reasoning.
  3. Identify common fallacies of reasoning.

and evidence and how warrants are the underlying justifications that connect the two. We also discussed the importance of evaluating the strength of a warrant, because strong warrants are usually more persuasive. Knowing different types of reasoning can help you put claims and evidence together in persuasive ways and help you evaluate the quality of arguments that you encounter. Further, being able to identify common fallacies of reasoning can help you be a more critical consumer of persuasive messages.


Reasoning refers to the process of making sense of things around us. In order to understand our experiences, draw conclusions from information, and present new ideas, we must use reasoning. We often reason without being aware of it, but becoming more aware of how we think can empower us to be better producers and consumers of communicative messages. The three types of reasoning we will explore are inductive, deductive, and causal.

Inductive Reasoning

Inductive reasoning reaches conclusions through the citation of examples and is the most frequently used form of logical reasoning.Otis M. Walter, Speaking to Inform and Persuade (New York: Macmillan, 1966), 58. While introductory speakers are initially attracted to inductive reasoning because it seems easy, it can be difficult to employ well. Inductive reasoning, unlike deductive reasoning, doesn’t result in true or false conclusions. Instead, since conclusions are generalized based on observations or examples, conclusions are “more likely” or “less likely.” Despite the fact that this type of reasoning isn’t definitive, it can still be valid and persuasive.

Some arguments based on inductive reasoning will be more cogent, or convincing and relevant, than others. For example, inductive reasoning can be weak when

claims are made too generally. An argument that fraternities should be abolished from campus because they contribute to underage drinking and do not uphold high academic standards could be countered by providing examples of fraternities that sponsor alcohol education programming for the campus and have members that have excelled academically.Otis M. Walter, Speaking to Inform and Persuade (New York: Macmillan, 1966), 58. In this case, one overly general claim is countered by another general claim, and both of them have some merit. It would be more effective to present a series of facts and reasons and then share the conclusion or generalization that you have reached from them.

You can see inductive reasoning used in the following speech excerpt from President George W. Bush’s address to the nation on the evening of September 11, 2001. Notice how he lists a series of events from the day, which builds to his conclusion that the terrorist attacks failed in their attempt to shake the foundation of America.

Today, our fellow citizens, our way of life, our very freedom came under attack in a series of deliberate and deadly terrorist acts. The victims were in airplanes or in their offices: secretaries, business men and women, military and federal workers, moms and dads, friends and neighbors. Thousands of lives were suddenly ended by evil, despicable acts of terror. The pictures of airplanes flying into buildings, fires burning, huge—huge structures collapsing have filled us with disbelief, terrible sadness, and a quiet, unyielding anger. These acts of mass murder were intended to frighten our nation into chaos and retreat. But they have failed. Our country is strong.

A great people has been moved to defend a great nation. Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America.

If a speaker is able to provide examples that are concrete, proxemic, and relevant to the audience, as Bush did in this example, audience members are prompted to think of additional examples that connect to their own lives. Inductive reasoning can be useful when an audience disagrees with your proposition. As you present logically connected examples as evidence that build to a conclusion, the audience may be persuaded by your evidence before they realize that the coming conclusion will counter what they previously thought. This also sets up cognitive dissonance, which is a persuasive strategy we will discuss later.

Reasoning by analogy is a type of inductive reasoning that argues that what is true in one set of circumstances will be true in another.Otis M. Walter, Speaking to Inform and Persuade (New York: Macmillan, 1966), 64.Reasoning by analogy has been criticized and questioned by logicians, since two sets of circumstances are never exactly the same. While this is true, our goal when using reasoning by analogy in persuasive speaking is not to create absolutely certain conclusions but to cite cases and supporting evidence that can influence an audience. For example, let’s say you are trying to persuade a university to adopt an alcohol education program by citing the program’s success at other institutions. Since two universities are never exactly the same, the argument can’t be airtight. To better support this argument, you could first show that the program was actually successful using various types of supporting material such as statistics from campus offices and testimony from students and staff. Second, you could show how the cases relate by highlighting similarities in the campus setting, culture, demographics, and previous mission. Since you can’t argue that the schools are similar in all ways, choose to highlight significant similarities. Also, it’s better to acknowledge significant limitations of the analogy and provide additional supporting material to address them than it is to ignore or hide such limitations.

So how do we evaluate inductive reasoning? When inductive reasoning is used to test scientific arguments, there is rigorous testing and high standards that must

be met for a conclusion to be considered valid. Inductive reasoning in persuasive speaking is employed differently. A speaker cannot cite every example that exists to build to a conclusion, so to evaluate inductive reasoning you must examine the examples that are cited in ways other than quantity. First, the examples should be sufficient, meaning that enough are cited to support the conclusion. If not, you risk committing the hasty generalization fallacy. A speaker can expect that the audience will be able to think of some examples as well, so there is no set number on how many examples is sufficient. If the audience is familiar with the topic, then fewer examples are probably sufficient, while more may be needed for unfamiliar topics. A speaker can make his or her use of reasoning by example more powerful by showing that the examples correspond to the average case, which may require additional supporting evidence in the form of statistics. Arguing that teacher salaries should be increased by providing an example of a teacher who works side jobs and pays for his or her own school supplies could be effectively supported by showing that this teacher’s salary corresponds to the national average.Otis M. Walter, Speaking to Inform and Persuade (New York: Macmillan, 1966), 59–60.

Second, the examples should be typical, meaning they weren’t cherry-picked to match the point being argued. A speaker who argues to defund the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) because the organization supports art that is “pornographic and offensive” may cite five examples of grants given for projects that caused such controversy. Failing to mention that these examples were pulled from the more than 128,000 grants issued by the NEA would be an inappropriate use of inductive reasoning since the examples aren’t sufficient or typical enough to warrant the argument. Another way to support inductive arguments is to show that the examples are a fair sample, meaning they are representative of the larger whole. Arguing that college athletes shouldn’t receive scholarships because they do not have the scholastic merit of other students and have less academic

achievement could be supported by sharing several examples. But if those examples were not representative, then they are biased, and the reasoning faulty. A speaker would need to show that the athletes used in the example are representative, in terms of their race, gender, sport, and background, of the population of athletes at the university.

Deductive Reasoning

Deductive reasoning derives specifics from what is already known. It was the preferred form of reasoning used by ancient rhetoricians like Aristotle to make logical arguments.Martha D. Cooper and William L. Nothstine, Power Persuasion: Moving an Ancient Art into the Media Age (Greenwood, IN: Educational Video Group, 1996), 27. A syllogism is an example of deductive reasoning that is commonly used when teaching logic. A syllogism is an example of deductive reasoning in which a conclusion is supported by major and minor premises. The conclusion of a valid argument can be deduced from the major and minor premises. A commonly used example of a syllogism is “All humans are mortal. Socrates is a human. Socrates is mortal.” In this case, the conclusion, “Socrates is mortal,” is derived from the major premise, “All humans are mortal,” and the minor premise, “Socrates is a human.” In some cases, the major and minor premises of a syllogism may be taken for granted as true. In the previous example, the major premise is presumed true because we have no knowledge of an immortal person to disprove the statement. The minor premise is presumed true because Socrates looks and acts like other individuals we know to be human. Detectives or scientists using such logic would want to test their conclusion. We could test our conclusion by stabbing Socrates to see if he dies, but since the logic of the syllogism is sound, it may be better to cut Socrates a break and deem the argument valid. Since most arguments are more sophisticated than the previous example, speakers need to support their premises with research and evidence to establish their validity before deducing their conclusion.

A syllogism can lead to incorrect conclusions if one of the premises isn’t true, as in the following example:

  • All presidents have lived in the White House. (Major premise)
  • George Washington was president. (Minor premise)
  • George Washington lived in the White House. (Conclusion)In the previous example, the major premise was untrue, since John Adams, our second president, was the first president to live in the White House. This causes the conclusion to be false. A syllogism can also exhibit faulty logic even if the premises are both true but are unrelated, as in the following example:
  • Penguins are black and white. (Major premise)
  • Some old television shows are black and white. (Minor premise)
  • Some penguins are old television shows. (Conclusion)Causal Reasoning

    Causal reasoning argues to establish a relationship between a cause and an effect. When speakers attempt to argue for a particular course of action based on potential positive or negative consequences that may result, they are using causal reasoning. Such reasoning is evident in the following example: Eating more local foods will boost the local economy and make you healthier. The “if/then” relationship that is set up in causal reasoning can be persuasive, but the reasoning isn’t always sound. Rather than establishing a true cause-effect relationship, speakers more often set up a correlation, which means there is a relationship between two things but there are other contextual influences.

To use causal reasoning effectively and ethically, speakers should avoid claiming a direct relationship between a cause and an effect when such a connection cannot be proven. Instead of arguing that “x caused y,” it is more accurate for a

speaker to say “x influenced y.” Causal thinking is often used when looking to blame something or someone, as can be seen in the following example: It’s the president’s fault that the economy hasn’t recovered more. While such a statement may garner a speaker some political capital, it is not based on solid reasoning. Economic and political processes are too complex to distill to such a simple cause-effect relationship. A speaker would need to use more solid reasoning, perhaps inductive reasoning through examples, to build up enough evidence to support that a correlation exists and a causal relationship is likely. When using causal reasoning, present evidence that shows the following: (1) the cause occurred before the effect, (2) the cause led to the effect, and (3) it is unlikely that other causes produced the effect.

Review of Types of Reasoning

  • Inductive. Arguing from examples to support a conclusion; includes reasoning by analogy. Examples should be sufficient, typical, and representative to warrant a strong argument.
  • Deductive. Deriving specifics from what is already known; includes syllogisms. Premises that lead to a conclusion must be true, relevant, and related for the argument to be valid.
  • Causal. Argues to establish a relationship between a cause and an effect. Usually involves a correlation rather than a true causal relationship.Fallacies of Reasoning

    Fallacies are flaws within the logic or reasoning of an argument. Although we will discuss 10 common fallacies, more than 125 have been identified and named. It’s important to note that the presence of a fallacy in an argument doesn’t mean that it can’t be persuasive. In fact, many people are persuaded by fallacious arguments because they do not identify the fallacy within the argument. Fallacies are often

the last effort of uninformed or ill-prepared speakers who find that they have nothing better to say. Being aware of the forms of reasoning and fallacies makes us more critical consumers of persuasive messages, which is a substantial benefit of studying persuasive speaking that affects personal, political, and professional aspects of our lives.

Hasty Generalization

The hasty generalization fallacy relates to inductive reasoning and is the result of too few examples being cited to warrant the generalization. Jumping to conclusions is tempting, especially when pressed for time, but making well- researched and supported arguments is key to being an effective and ethical speaker. Making a claim that train travel is not safe and citing two recent derailments that resulted in injury doesn’t produce a strong warrant when viewed in relation to the number of train passengers who travel safely every day.

False Analogy

The false analogy fallacy also relates to inductive reasoning and results when the situations or circumstances being compared are not similar enough. A common false analogy that people make is comparing something to putting a person on the moon: “If we can put a person on the moon, why can’t we figure out a way to make the tax code easier to understand?” This question doesn’t acknowledge the different skill sets and motivations involved in the two examples being compared.

False Cause

The false cause fallacy relates to causal reasoning and occurs when a speaker argues, with insufficient evidence, that one thing caused or causes another. When I was in high school, teachers used to say that wearing baseball caps would make us go bald when we got older. In an attempt to persuade us to not wear hats in

the classroom, they were arguing, fallaciously, that wearing baseball caps is what causes baldness. When a false cause argument is made after the “effect,” it is referred to in Latin as post hoc ergo propter hoc, which means “after this, therefore because of this.” Blaming bad fortune on superstitions is a good example of faulty reasoning that tries to argue for a connection between an “effect” that has already occurred and its preceding “cause.” My bad luck is more likely attributable to poor decisions I have made or random interference than the mirror I broke while moving two years ago.

False Authority

The false authority fallacy results when the person making an argument doesn’t actually have the qualifications to be credible but is perceived as credible because they are respected or admired. Despite the fact that this form of argument is fallacious, it is obviously quite effective. Advertisers spend millions of dollars to get celebrities and athletes to sell us their products because of the persuasive potential these stars carry in their persona, not in their ability to argue a point. Voters might be persuaded to support a candidate because of a famous musician’s endorsement without questioning the political beliefs of either the musician or the politician to see if they match up with their own.


Parents and other sources of guidance in our lives have tried to keep us from falling for the bandwagon fallacy. When your mom responds to your argument that you should get to go to the party because everyone else is by asking, “If everyone else jumped off a bridge, would you?” she is rightfully pointing out the fallacy in your argument. In a public-speaking-related example, I have had students try to persuade their audience to buy and eat more organic foods based on their increasing popularity. In short, popular appeal and frequency of use are

not strong warrants to support an argument. Just because something is popular, doesn’t mean it’s good.

False Dilemma

The false dilemma fallacy occurs when a speaker rhetorically backs his or her audience into a corner, presenting them with only two options and arguing that they must choose either one or the other. This is also known as the “either/or” fallacy. Critical thinkers know that the world can’t be simplified to black and white, good and bad, or right and wrong. Yet many people rely on such oversimplifications when making arguments. A speaker who argues that immigrants to the United States should learn English or go back to their own country doesn’t acknowledge that there are many successful immigrants who have successful lives and contribute to society without speaking English fluently. The speaker also ignores the fact that many immigrants do not have access to English language instruction or the time to take such classes because they are busy with their own jobs and families. Granted, such a rhetorical strategy does make it easier to discuss complex issues and try to force people into a decision, but it also removes gray area in the form of context that can be really important for making a decision. Be critical of speakers and messages that claim there are only two options from which to choose.

Ad Hominem

Ad hominem means “to the person” in Latin and refers to a common fallacy of attacking a person rather than an argument. Elementary school playgrounds and middle school hallways are often sites of ad hominem attacks. When one person runs out of good reasons to support their argument and retorts to the other, “Well you’re ugly!” they have resorted to a fallacious ad hominem argument. You probably aren’t surprised to know that politicians frequently rely on personal

attacks, especially when they are sponsored by political action committees (PACs). The proliferation of these organizations resulted in an increase in “attack ads” during the 2012 presidential race. While all fallacious arguments detract from the quality of public communication, ad hominem arguments in particular diminish the civility of our society.

Slippery Slope

The slippery slope fallacy occurs when a person argues that one action will inevitably lead to a series of other actions. If we take one step down an icy hill it becomes difficult to get back up and you slide all the way down even though you only wanted to take one step. A slippery slope fallacy in a speech about US foreign policy might take the form of the following argument: If the United States goes to help this country in need, then we will be expected to intervene any time there’s a conflict in the world.

Red Herring

The red herring fallacy is my favorite because it has an interesting origin—and it was used in Scooby Doo! The origin of the name of this fallacy comes from old foxhunting practices in England. When the hunters were training their dogs to stay on the trail of a fox, they would mark a trail with fox scent so the dog could practice following the scent. As a further test, they would take the smell of fish (like a red herring) and create a second trail leading in another direction. If a dog left the scent of the fox trail to follow the stronger and more noticeable scent trail left by the red herring, then the dog failed the test. The smartest and best-trained dogs weren’t distracted by the fishy trail and stayed on the path. Basically every episode of Scooby Doo involves a red herring trick—for example, when the ghost at the amusement park turns out to be a distraction created by the owner to cover up his financial problems and shady business practices. A speaker who uses the

red herring fallacy makes an argument that distracts from the discussion at hand. Bringing up socialism during an argument about nationalized health care is an example of a red herring fallacy.

Appeal to Tradition

The appeal to tradition fallacy argues that something should continue because “it’s the way things have been done before.” Someone may use this type of argument when they feel threatened by a potential change. People who oppose marriage rights for gay and lesbian people often argue that the definition of marriage shouldn’t change because of its traditional meaning of a “union between one man and one woman.” Such appeals often overstate the history and prevalence of the “tradition.” Within the United States, many departures from traditional views of marriage have led to changes that we accept as normal today. Within the past one hundred years we have seen law changes that took away men’s rights to beat their wives and make decisions for them. And it wasn’t until 1993 that every state made marital rape a crime, which changed the millennia-old “tradition” that women were obligated to have sex with their husbands.Stephanie Coontz, “Traditional Marriage Has Changed a Lot,” Seattle Post Intelligencer, February 23, 2006, accessed March 6,

2012, http://www.seattlepi.com/default/article/Traditional-marriage-has- changed-a-lot-1196563.php. Many people are resistant to or anxious about change, which is understandable, but this doesn’t form the basis of a good argument.

Review of Fallacies
• Hasty generalization. Inductive reasoning fallacy that occurs when too

few examples are cited to warrant a conclusion.

  • False analogy. Inductive reasoning fallacy that occurs when situations or circumstances being compared are not similar enough.
  • False cause. Causal reasoning fallacy that occurs when a speaker argues with insufficient evidence that one thing caused/causes another.
  • False authority. Fallacy that occurs when a person making an argument doesn’t have the knowledge or qualifications to be credible but is perceived as credible because they are respected or admired.
  • Bandwagon. Fallacy that relies on arguing for a course of action or belief because it is commonly done or held.
  • False dilemma. Fallacy that occurs when a speaker presents an audience only two options and argues they must choose one or the other.
  • Ad hominem. Fallacy that occurs when a speaker attacks another person rather than his or her argument.
  • Slippery slope. Fallacy that occurs when a person argues that one action will inevitably lead to a series of other actions.
  • Red herring. Fallacy that occurs when a speaker poses an argument that is meant to distract from the argument at hand.

• Appeal to tradition. Fallacy that results when a speaker argues that something should continue because “it’s the way things have been done before.”


• We use reasoning to make sense of the world around us and draw conclusions. Three types of reasoning are inductive, deductive, and causal.

o Inductive reasoning refers to arguments that persuade by citing examples that build to a conclusion. Examples should be sufficient, typical, and representative to warrant a strong argument. Reasoning by analogy argues that what is true in one set of circumstances will be true in another, and is an example of inductive reasoning.

o Deductive reasoning refers to arguments that derive specifics from what is already known and includes syllogisms. Premises that lead to the conclusion must be true and relevant for the argument to be valid.

o Causal reasoning refers to arguments that establish a relationship between a cause and an effect and usually involves a correlation rather than a true causal relationship.

• Fallacies refer to flaws within the logic or reasoning of an argument. Ten fallacies of reasoning discussed in this chapter are hasty generalization, false analogy, false cause, false authority, false dilemma, ad hominem, slippery slope, red herring, and appeal to tradition.


  1. Identify examples of inductive, deductive, and causal reasoning in the sample persuasive speech on education in prisons included in Section 4.3 “Nonverbal Communication Competence”.
  2. People often use fallacies in arguments, usually without knowing it. Being able to identify fallacies is an important critical thinking skill. Find a letter to the editor in a paper or online and see if you can identify any of the ten fallacies discussed in this chapter.
  3. Of the ten fallacies discussed in the chapter, which do you think is the most unethical and why?

11.4 Persuasive Strategies


  1. Identify common persuasive strategies.
  2. Explain how speakers develop ethos.
  3. Explain how speakers appeal to logos and pathos.
  4. Explain how cognitive dissonance works as a persuasive strategy.

5. Explain the relationship between motivation and appeals to needs as persuasive strategies.

Do you think you are easily persuaded? If you are like most people, you aren’t swayed easily to change your mind about something. Persuasion is difficult because changing views often makes people feel like they were either not informed or ill informed, which also means they have to admit they were wrong about something. We will learn about nine persuasive strategies that you can use to more effectively influence audience members’ beliefs, attitudes, and values. They are ethos, logos, pathos, positive motivation, negative motivation, cognitive dissonance, appeal to safety needs, appeal to social needs, and appeal to self- esteem needs.

Ethos, Logos, and Pathos

Ethos, logos, and pathos were Aristotle’s three forms of rhetorical proof, meaning they were primary to his theories of persuasion. Ethos refers to the credibility of a speaker and includes three dimensions: competence, trustworthiness, and dynamism. The two most researched dimensions of credibility are competence and trustworthiness.James B. Stiff and Paul A. Mongeau, Persuasive Communication, 2nd ed. (New York: Guilford Press, 2003), 105.

Competence refers to the perception of a speaker’s expertise in relation to the topic being discussed. A speaker can enhance their perceived competence by presenting a speech based in solid research and that is well organized and practiced. Competent speakers must know the content of their speech and be able to effectively deliver that content. Trustworthiness refers to the degree that audience members perceive a speaker to be presenting accurate, credible information in a nonmanipulative way. Perceptions of trustworthiness come from the content of the speech and the personality of the speaker. In terms of content,

trustworthy speakers consider the audience throughout the speech-making process, present information in a balanced way, do not coerce the audience, cite credible sources, and follow the general principles of communication ethics. In terms of personality, trustworthy speakers are also friendly and warm.James B. Stiff and Paul A. Mongeau, Persuasive Communication, 2nd ed. (New York: Guilford Press, 2003), 105.

Dynamism refers to the degree to which audience members perceive a speaker to be outgoing and animated.James B. Stiff and Paul A. Mongeau, Persuasive Communication, 2nd ed. (New York: Guilford Press, 2003), 105. Two components of dynamism are charisma and energy. Charisma refers to a mixture of abstract and concrete qualities that make a speaker attractive to an audience. Charismatic people usually know they are charismatic because they’ve been told that in their lives, and people have been attracted to them.

Unfortunately, charisma is difficult to intentionally develop, and some people seem to have a naturally charismatic personality, while others do not. Even though everyone can’t embody the charismatic aspect of dynamism, the other component of dynamism, energy, is something that everyone can tap into. Communicating enthusiasm for your topic and audience by presenting relevant content and using engaging delivery strategies such as vocal variety and eye contact can increase your dynamism.

Logos refers to the reasoning or logic of an argument. The presence of fallacies would obviously undermine a speaker’s appeal to logos. Speakers employ logos by presenting credible information as supporting material and verbally citing their sources during their speech. Using the guidelines from our earlier discussion of reasoning will also help a speaker create a rational appeal. Research shows that messages are more persuasive when arguments and their warrants are made explicit.James B. Stiff and Paul A. Mongeau,Persuasive Communication,

2nd ed. (New York: Guilford Press, 2003), 142.Carefully choosing supporting material that is verifiable, specific, and unbiased can help a speaker appeal to logos. Speakers can also appeal to logos by citing personal experience and providing the credentials and/or qualifications of sources of information.Martha D. Cooper and William L. Nothstine, Power Persuasion: Moving an Ancient Art into the Media Age (Greenwood, IN: Educational Video Group, 1996),

48. Presenting a rational and logical argument is important, but speakers can be more effective persuaders if they bring in and refute counterarguments. The most effective persuasive messages are those that present two sides of an argument and refute the opposing side, followed by single argument messages, followed by messages that present counterarguments but do not refute them.James B. Stiff and Paul A. Mongeau, Persuasive Communication, 2nd ed. (New York: Guilford Press, 2003), 142. In short, by clearly showing an audience why one position is superior to another, speakers do not leave an audience to fill in the blanks of an argument, which could diminish the persuasive opportunity.

Pathos refers to emotional appeals. Aristotle was suspicious of too much emotional appeal, yet this appears to have become more acceptable in public speaking. Stirring emotions in an audience is a way to get them involved in the speech, and involvement can create more opportunities for persuasion and action. Reading in the paper that a house was burglarized may get your attention, but think about how different your reaction would be if you found out it was your own home. Intentionally stirring someone’s emotions to get them involved in a message that has little substance would be unethical. Yet such spellbinding speakers have taken advantage of people’s emotions to get them to support causes, buy products, or engage in behaviors that they might not otherwise, if given the chance to see the faulty logic of a message.

Effective speakers should use emotional appeals that are also logically convincing, since audiences may be suspicious of a speech that is solely based on

emotion. Emotional appeals are effective when you are trying to influence a behavior or you want your audience to take immediate action.James B. Stiff and Paul A. Mongeau, Persuasive Communication, 2nd ed. (New York: Guilford Press, 2003), 146.Emotions lose their persuasive effect more quickly than other types of persuasive appeals. Since emotions are often reactionary, they fade relatively quickly when a person is removed from the provoking situation.Leon Fletcher, How to Design and Deliver Speeches, 7th ed. (New York: Longman, 2001), 342.

Emotional appeals are also difficult for some because they require honed delivery skills and the ability to use words powerfully and dramatically. The ability to use vocal variety, cadence, and repetition to rouse an audience’s emotion is not easily attained. Think of how stirring Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech was due to his ability to evoke the emotions of the audience. Dr. King used powerful and creative language in conjunction with his vocalics to deliver one of the most famous speeches in our history. Using concrete and descriptive examples can paint a picture in your audience member’s minds. Speakers can also use literal images, displayed using visual aids, to appeal to pathos.

Speakers should strive to appeal to ethos, logos, and pathos within a speech. A speech built primarily on ethos might lead an audience to think that a speaker is full of himself or herself. A speech full of facts and statistics appealing to logos would result in information overload. Speakers who rely primarily on appeals to pathos may be seen as overly passionate, biased, or unable to see other viewpoints.

Review of Ethos, Logos, and Pathos

1. Ethos relates to the credibility of a speaker. Speakers develop ethos by o appearing competent, trustworthy, and dynamic;

o sharing their credentials and/or relevant personal experience; o presenting a balanced and noncoercive argument;
o citing credible sources;
o using appropriate language and grammar;

o being perceived as likable; and
o appearing engaged with the topic and audience through effective delivery. 2. Logos relates to the reasoning and logic of an argument. Speakers appeal

to logos by
o presenting factual, objective information that serves as reasons to support

the argument;
o presenting a sufficient amount of relevant examples to support a

o deriving conclusions from known information; and
o using credible supporting material like expert testimony, definitions,

statistics, and literal or historical analogies.
3. Pathos relates to the arousal of emotion through speech. Speakers appeal

to pathos by
o using vivid language to paint word pictures for audience members;
o providing lay testimony (personal stories from self or others);
o using figurative language such as metaphor, similes, and personification;

o using vocal variety, cadence, and repetition.

Dissonance, Motivation, and Needs

Aristotle’s three rhetorical proofs—ethos, logos, and pathos—have been employed as persuasive strategies for thousands of years. More recently, persuasive strategies have been identified based on theories and evidence related to human psychology. Although based in psychology, such persuasive strategies are regularly employed and researched in communication due to their role in

advertising, marketing, politics, and interpersonal relationships. The psychologically based persuasive appeals we will discuss are cognitive dissonance, positive and negative motivation, and appeals to needs.

Cognitive Dissonance

If you’ve studied music, you probably know what dissonance is. Some notes, when played together on a piano, produce a sound that’s pleasing to our ears. When dissonant combinations of notes are played, we react by wincing or cringing because the sound is unpleasant to our ears. So dissonance is that unpleasant feeling we get when two sounds clash. The same principle applies
to cognitive dissonance, which refers to the mental discomfort that results when new information clashes with or contradicts currently held beliefs, attitudes, or values. Using cognitive dissonance as a persuasive strategy relies on three assumptions: (1) people have a need for consistency in their thinking; (2) when inconsistency exists, people experience psychological discomfort; and (3) this discomfort motivates people to address the inconsistency to restore balance.James B. Stiff and Paul A. Mongeau, Persuasive Communication, 2nd ed. (New York: Guilford Press, 2003), 80. In short, when new information clashes with previously held information, there is an unpleasantness that results, as we have to try to reconcile the difference.

Cognitive dissonance isn’t a single-shot persuasive strategy. As we have learned, people are resistant to change and not easy to persuade. While we might think that exposure to conflicting information would lead a rational person to change his or her mind, humans aren’t as rational as we think.

There are many different mental and logical acrobatics that people do to get themselves out of dissonance. Some frequently used strategies to resolve cognitive dissonance include discrediting the speaker or source of information,

viewing yourself as an exception, seeking selective information that supports your originally held belief, or intentionally avoiding or ignoring sources of cognitive dissonance.Martha D. Cooper and William L. Nothstine, Power Persuasion: Moving an Ancient Art into the Media Age(Greenwood, IN: Educational Video Group, 1996), 72. As you can see, none of those actually results in a person modifying their thinking, which means persuasive speech goals are not met. Of course, people can’t avoid dissonant information forever, so multiple attempts at creating cognitive dissonance can actually result in thought or behavior modification.

Positive and Negative Motivation

Positive and negative motivation are common persuasive strategies used by teachers, parents, and public speakers. Rewards can be used for positive motivation, and the threat of punishment or negative consequences can be used for negative motivation. We’ve already learned the importance of motivating an audience to listen to your message by making your content relevant and showing how it relates to their lives. We also learned an organizational pattern based on theories of motivation: Monroe’s Motivated Sequence. When using positive motivation, speakers implicitly or explicitly convey to the audience that listening to their message or following their advice will lead to positive results.
Conversely, negative motivation implies or states that failure to follow a speaker’s advice will result in negative consequences. Positive and negative motivation as persuasive strategies match well with appeals to needs and will be discussed more next.

Appeals to Needs

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs states that there are several layers of needs that human beings pursue. They include physiological, safety, social, self-esteem, and

self-actualization needs.Abraham H. Maslow, “A Theory of Human Motivation,” Psychological Review 50 (1943): 370–96. Since these needs are fundamental to human survival and happiness, tapping into needs is a common persuasive strategy. Appeals to needs are often paired with positive or negative motivation, which can increase the persuasiveness of the message.

Figure 11.3 Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Physiological needs form the base of the hierarchy of needs. The closer the needs are to the base, the more important they are for human survival. Speakers do not appeal to physiological needs. After all, a person who doesn’t have food, air, or water isn’t very likely to want to engage in persuasion, and it wouldn’t be ethical to deny or promise these things to someone for persuasive gain. Some speakers attempt to appeal to self-actualization needs, but I argue that this is difficult to do ethically. Self-actualization refers to our need to achieve our highest potential, and these needs are much more intrapersonal than the others. We achieve our highest potential through things that are individual to us, and these are often things that we protect from outsiders. Some examples include pursuing higher education and intellectual fulfillment, pursuing art or music, or pursuing

religious or spiritual fulfillment. These are often things we do by ourselves and for ourselves, so I like to think of this as sacred ground that should be left alone. Speakers are more likely to be successful at focusing on safety, social, and self- esteem needs.

We satisfy our safety needs when we work to preserve our safety and the safety of our loved ones. Speakers can combine appeals to safety with positive motivation by presenting information that will result in increased safety and security. Combining safety needs and negative motivation, a speaker may convey that audience members’ safety and security will be put at risk if the speaker’s message isn’t followed. Combining negative motivation and safety needs depends on using some degree of fear as a motivator. Think of how the insurance industry relies on appeals to safety needs for their business. While this is not necessarily a bad strategy, it can be done more or less ethically.

Ethics of Using Fear Appeals

  • Do not overuse fear appeals.
  • The threat must be credible and supported by evidence.
  • Empower the audience to address the threat.I saw a perfect example of a persuasive appeal to safety while waiting at the shop for my car to be fixed. A pamphlet cover with a yellow and black message reading, “Warning,” and a stark black and white picture of a little boy picking up a ball with the back fender of a car a few feet from his head beckoned to me from across the room. The brochure was produced by an organization called Kids and Cars, whose tagline is “Love them, protect them.” While the cover of the brochure was designed to provoke the receiver and compel them to open the brochure, the information inside met the ethical guidelines for using fear appeals. The first statistic noted that at least two children a week are killed when they are backed

over in a driveway or parking lot. The statistic is followed by safety tips to empower the audience to address the threat. You can see a video example of how this organization effectively uses fear appeals in Video 11.1.

Video Clip 11.1

Kids and Cars: Bye-Bye Syndrome

(click to see video)

This video illustrates how a fear appeal aimed at safety needs can be persuasive. The goal is to get the attention of audience members and compel them to check out the information the organization provides. Since the information provided by the organization supports the credibility of the threat, empowers the audience to address the threat, and is free, this is an example of an ethical fear appeal.

Our social needs relate to our desire to belong to supportive and caring groups. We meet social needs through interpersonal relationships ranging from acquaintances to intimate partnerships. We also become part of interest groups or social or political groups that help create our sense of identity. The existence and power of peer pressure is a testament to the motivating power of social needs. People go to great lengths and sometimes make poor decisions they later regret to be a part of the “in-group.” Advertisers often rely on creating a sense of exclusivity to appeal to people’s social needs. Positive and negative motivation can be combined with social appeals. Positive motivation is present in messages that promise the receiver “in-group” status or belonging, and negative motivation can be seen in messages that persuade by saying, “Don’t be left out.” Although these arguments may rely on the bandwagon fallacy to varying degrees, they draw out insecurities people have about being in the “out-group.”

We all have a need to think well of ourselves and have others think well of us, which ties to our self-esteem needs. Messages that combine appeals to self- esteem needs and positive motivation often promise increases in respect and status. A financial planner may persuade by inviting a receiver to imagine prosperity that will result from accepting his or her message. A publicly supported radio station may persuade listeners to donate money to the station by highlighting a potential contribution to society. The health and beauty industries may persuade consumers to buy their products by promising increased attractiveness. While it may seem shallow to entertain such ego needs, they are an important part of our psychological makeup. Unfortunately, some sources of persuasive messages are more concerned with their own gain than the well-being of others and may take advantage of people’s insecurities in order to advance their persuasive message. Instead, ethical speakers should use appeals to self- esteem that focus on prosperity, contribution, and attractiveness in ways that empower listeners.

Review of Persuasive Strategies

  • Ethos. Develops a speaker’s credibility.
  • Logos. Evokes a rational, cognitive response from the audience.
  • Pathos. Evokes an emotional response from the audience.
  • Cognitive dissonance. Moves an audience by pointing outinconsistencies between new information and their currently held beliefs,

    attitudes, and values.

  • Positive motivation. Promises rewards if the speaker’s message isaccepted.
  • Negative motivation. Promises negative consequences if a speaker’smessage is rejected.
  • Appeals to safety needs. Evokes an audience’s concern for their safetyand the safety of their loved ones.
  • Appeals to social needs. Evokes an audience’s need for belonging and inclusion.
  • Appeals to self-esteem needs. Evokes an audience’s need to think well of themselves and have others think well of them, too.

“Getting Competent”

Identifying Persuasive Strategies in Mary Fisher’s “Whisper of AIDS” Speech

Mary Fisher’s speech at the 1992 Republican National Convention, “A Whisper of AIDS,” is one of the most moving and powerful speeches of the past few decades. She uses, more than once, all the persuasive strategies discussed in this chapter. The video and transcript of her speech can be found at the following

link: http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/maryfisher1992rnc.html. As you watch the speech, answer the following questions:

  1. Ethos. List specific examples of how the speaker develops the following dimensions of credibility: competence, trustworthiness, and dynamism.
  2. Logos. List specific examples of how the speaker uses logic to persuadeher audience.
  3. Pathos. How did the speaker appeal to emotion? What metaphors did sheuse? What other communicative strategies (wording, imagery, etc.)

    appealed to your emotions?

  4. List at least one example of how the speaker uses positive motivation.
  5. List at least one example of how the speaker uses negative motivation.
  6. List at least one example of how the speaker appeals to safety needs.
  7. List at least one example of how the speaker appeals to social needs.
  8. List at least one example of how the speaker utilizes cognitive dissonance.

Sample Persuasive Speech

Title: Education behind Bars Is the Key to Rehabilitation General purpose: To persuade

Specific purpose: By the end of my speech, my audience will believe that prisoners should have the right to an education.

Thesis statement: There should be education in all prisons, because denying prisoners an education has negative consequences for the prisoner and society, while providing them with an education provides benefits for the prisoner and society.


Attention getter: “We must accept the reality that to confine offenders behind walls without trying to change them is an expensive folly with short-term benefits—winning battles while losing the war.” These words were spoken more than thirty years ago by Supreme Court Justice Warren Burger, and they support my argument today that prisoners should have access to education.

Introduction of topic: While we value education as an important part of our society, we do not value it equally for all. Many people don’t believe that prisoners should have access to an education, but I believe they do.

Credibility and relevance: While researching this topic, my eyes were opened up to how much an education can truly affect a prisoner, and given my desire to be a teacher, I am invested in preserving the right to learn for everyone, even if they are behind bars. While I know from our audience analysis activity that some of you do not agree with me, you never know when this issue may hit close to home. Someday, someone you love might make a mistake in their life and end up in prison, and while they are there I know you all would want them to receive an

education so that when they get out, they will be better prepared to make a contribution to society.

Preview: Today, I invite you listen with an open mind as I discuss the need for prisoner education, a curriculum that will satisfy that need, and some benefits of prisoner education.

Transition: First I’ll explain why prisoners need access to education.


1. According to a 2012 article in the journal Corrections Today on correctional education programs, most states have experienced an increase in incarceration rates and budgetary constraints over the past ten years, which has led many to examine best practices for reducing prison populations.

1. In that same article, criminologist and former research director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons states that providing correctional education is one of the most productive and important reentry services that our prisons offer.

  1. His claim is supported by data collected directly from prisoners, 94 percent of whom identify education as a personal reentry need—ranking it above other needs such as financial assistance, housing, or employment.
  2. Despite the fact that this need is clearly documented, funding for adult and vocational education in correctional education has decreased.

2. Many prisoners have levels of educational attainment that are far below those in the general population.

1. According to statistics from 2010, as cited in the Corrections
Today article, approximately 40 percent of state prison inmates did not complete high school, as compared to 19 percent of the general population.

  1. Additionally, while about 48 percent of the general public have taken college classes, only about 11 percent of state prisoners have.
  2. At the skill level, research from the United Kingdom, cited in the 2003 article from Studies in the Education of Adults titled “Learning behind Bars: Time to Liberate Prison Education,” rates of illiteracy are much higher among the prison population than the general population, and there is a link between poor reading skills and social exclusion that may lead people to antisocial behavior.

3. Prisoner education is also needed to break a cycle of negativity and stigma that many prisoners have grown accustomed to.

  1. The article from Studies in the Education of Adults that I just cited states that prisoners are often treated as objects or subjected to objectifying labels like “addict, sexual offender, anddeviant.”
  2. While these labels may be accurate in many cases, they do not do much to move the prisoner toward rehabilitation.
  3. The label student, however, has the potential to do so because it has positive associations and can empower the prisoner to make better choices to enhance his or her confidence and self-worth.Transition: Now that I’ve established the need for prisoner education, let’s

    examine how we can meet that need.

2. In order to meet the need for prisoner education that I have just explained,

it is important to have a curriculum that is varied and tailored to various

prisoner populations and needs.
1. The article from Corrections Today notes that education is offered to

varying degrees in most US prisons, but its presence is often debated and comes under increased scrutiny during times of budgetary stress.

  1. Some states have implemented programs that require inmates to attend school for a certain amount of time if they do not meet minimum standards for certain skills such as reading or math.
  2. While these are useful programs, prisoner education shouldn’t be limited to or focused on those with the least amount of skills.
  3. The article notes that even prisoners who have attended or even graduated from college may benefit from education, as they can pursue specialized courses or certifications.

2. Based on my research, I would propose that the prison curriculum have four tiers: one that addresses basic skills that prisoners may lack, one that prepares prisoners for a GED, one that prepares prisoners for college-level work, and one that focuses on life and social skills.

1. The first tier of the education program should focus on remediation and basic skills, which is the most common form of prisoner education as noted by Foley and Gao in their 2004 article from the Journal of Correctional Education that studied educational practices at several institutions.

a. These courses will teach prisoners basic reading, writing, and math

skills that may be lacking.
b. Since there is a stigma associated with a lack of these basic skills, early

instruction should be one-one-one or in small groups.
2. The second tier should prepare prisoners who have not completed the

equivalent of high school to progress on to a curriculum modeled after that

of most high schools, which will prepare them for a GED.
3. The third tier should include a curriculum based on the general education

learning goals found at most colleges and universities and/or vocational training.

. Basic general education goals include speaking, writing, listening, reading, and math.

a. Once these general education requirements have been met, prisoners should be able to pursue specialized vocational training or upper-level college courses in a major of study, which may need to be taken online through distance learning, since instructors may not be available to come to the actual prisons to teach.

4. The fourth tier includes training in social and life skills that most people learn through family and peer connections, which many prisoners may not have had.

. Some population-specific areas of study that wouldn’t be covered in a typical classroom include drug treatment and anger management.

  1. Life skills such as budgeting, money management, and healthy living can increase confidence.
  2. Classes that focus on social skills, parenting, or relational communication can also improve communication skills and relational satisfaction; for example, workshops teaching parenting skills have been piloted to give fathers the skills needed to more effectively communicate with their children, which can increase feelings of self-worth.

3. According to a 2007 article by Behan in the Journal of Correctional Education, prisons should also have extracurricular programs that enhance the educational experience.

1. Under the supervision of faculty and/or staff, prisoners could be given the task of organizing an outside speaker to come to the prison or put together a workshop.

2. Students could also organize a debate against students on the outside, which could allow the prisoners to interact (face-to-face or virtually) with other students and allow them to be recognized for their academic abilities.

  1. Even within the prison, debates, trivia contests, paper contests, or speech contests could be organized between prisoners or between prisoners and prison staff as a means of healthy competition.
  2. Finally, prisoners who are successful students should be recognized and put into peer-mentoring roles, because, as Behan states in the article, “a prisoner who…has had an inspirational learning experience acts as a more positive advocate for the school than any [other method].”Transition: The model for prisoner education that I have just outlined will

    have many benefits.

3. Educating prisoners can benefit inmates, those who work in prisons, and

society at large.
1. The article I just cited from the Journal of Correctional Education states

that the self-reflection and critical thinking that are fostered in an educational setting can help prisoners reflect on how their actions affected them, their victims, and/or their communities, which may increase self- awareness and help them better reconnect with a civil society and reestablish stronger community bonds.

2. The Corrections Today article I cited earlier notes that a federally funded three-state survey provided the strongest evidence to date that prisoner education reduces the recidivism rate and increases public safety.

  1. The Corrections Today article also notes that prisoners who completed a GED reoffended at a rate 20 percent lower than the general prison population, and those that completed a college degree reoffended at a rate 44 percent lower than the general prison population.
  2. So why does prisoner education help reduce recidivism rates?

. Simply put, according to the article in the Studies in the Education

of Adults I cited earlier, the skills gained through good prison education programs make released prisoners more desirable employees, which

increases their wages and helps remove them from a negative cycles of

stigma and poverty that led many of them to crime in the first place.
a. Further, the ability to maintain consistent employment has been shown to

reduce the rate of reoffending.
3. Education doesn’t just improve the lives of the prisoners; it also positively

affects the people who work in prisons.

  1. An entry on eHow.com by Kinney about the benefits of prisoners gettingGEDs notes that a successful educational program in a prison can create a more humane environment that will positively affect the officers and staff as well.
  2. Such programs also allow prisoners to do more productive things with their time, which lessens violent and destructive behavior and makes prison workers’ jobs safer.

4. Prisoner education can also save cash-strapped states money.

  1. Giving prisoners time-off-sentence credits for educational attainment canhelp reduce the prison population, as eligible inmates are released earlier

    because of their educational successes.

  2. As noted by the Corrections Today article, during the 2008–9 school yearthe credits earned by prisoners in the Indiana system led to more than $68 million dollars in avoided costs.


Transition to conclusion and summary of importance: In closing, it’s easy to see how beneficial a good education can be to a prisoner. Education may be something the average teenager or adult takes for granted, but for a prisoner it could be the start of a new life.

Review of main points: There is a clear need for prisoner education that can be met with a sound curriculum that will benefit prisoners, those who work in prisons, and society at large.

Closing statement: While education in prisons is still a controversial topic, I hope you all agree with me and Supreme Court Justice Burger, whose words opened this speech, when we say that locking a criminal away may offer a short- term solution in that it gets the criminal out of regular society, but it doesn’t better the prisoner and it doesn’t better us in the long run as a society.


Bayliss, P. (2003). Learning behind bars: Time to liberate prison education. Studies in the Education of Adults, 35(2), 157–172.

Behan, C. (2007). Context, creativity and critical reflection: Education in correctional institutions.Journal of Correctional Education, 58(2), 157–169.

Foley, R. (2004). Correctional education: Characteristics of academic programs serving incarcerated adults. Journal of Correctional Education, 55(1), 6–21.

Kinney, A. (2011). What are the benefits of inmates getting GEDs? Ehow.com. Retrieved fromhttp://www.ehow.com/list_6018033_benefits-inmates-getting- geds_.html

Steurer, S. J., Linton, J., Nally, J., & Lockwood, S. (2010). The top-nine reasons to increase correctional education programs. Corrections Today, 72(4), 40–43.


• Ethos refers to the credibility of a speaker and is composed of three dimensions: competence, trustworthiness, and dynamism. Speakers develop ethos by being

prepared, citing credible research, presenting information in a nonmanipulative

way, and using engaging delivery techniques.

  • Logos refers to the reasoning or logic of an argument. Speakers appeal to logosby presenting factual objective information, using sound reasoning, and avoiding

    logical fallacies.

  • Pathos refers to emotional appeals. Speakers appeal to pathos by using vividlanguage, including personal stories, and using figurative language.
  • Cognitive dissonance refers to the mental discomfort that results from newinformation clashing with currently held beliefs, attitudes, or values. Cognitive dissonance may lead a person to be persuaded, but there are other ways that people may cope with dissonance, such as by discrediting the speaker, seeking out alternative information, avoiding sources of dissonance, or reinterpreting the information.
  • Speakers can combine positive and negative motivation with appeals to safety, social, or self-esteem needs in order to persuade.


  1. Ethos, or credibility, is composed of three dimensions: competence, trustworthiness, and dynamism. Of those dimensions, which is most important for you when judging someone’s credibility and why?
  2. Recount a time when you experienced cognitive dissonance. What was the new information and what did it clash with? What coping strategies, of the ones discussed in the chapter, did you use to try to restore cognitive balance?
  3. How ethical do you think it is for a speaker to rely on fear appeals? When do fear appeals cross the line?
  4. Imagine that you will be delivering a persuasive speech to a group of prospective students considering attending your school. What could you say that would appeal to their safety needs? Their social needs? Their self-esteem needs?

Chapter 12

Public Speaking in Various Contexts

Public speaking doesn’t just occur in communication classes or in academic settings. Most communication instructors try to connect the content of their course to the real world and to other courses, but many students fail to follow up on that connection. To get the most out of this course, you should be able to see how communication skills in general, and speaking skills in particular, integrate into various parts of your lives. This book approaches communication from an integrative learning perspective that encourages teachers and students to apply the content of a class to other courses, personal contexts, and professional contexts and then reflect on those connections. Integrative and reflective thinking about communication helps us realize that the expectations for speaking are context specific. When we can draw on particular skills in order to adapt to our communication situation, we will be more successful in our classes, workplaces, and communities. This chapter highlights these connections and can hopefully serve as a resource and a reminder, once you have completed this course, of the important roles that speaking plays in various aspects of your life.

12.1 Speaking in Personal and Civic Contexts


  1. List three general guidelines for ceremonial speeches.
  2. Identify strategies for effectively composing and delivering the followingceremonial speeches: speech of introduction, presenting an award, accepting an

    award, toast, speech of tribute, and eulogy.

  3. Identify strategies for effectively composing and delivering a “This I Believe”speech.

4. Explain the connection between public advocacy and speaking.

Speaking in personal contexts includes elements of all three general purposes we learned earlier. You may inform an audience about an upcoming speaker during a speech of introduction or use humor to entertain during a toast. People are also compelled to speak about issues they care about, which may entail using persuasive strategies to advocate for a person, group, or issue.

Speaking on Special Occasions

Ceremonial speaking refers to speeches of praise, tribute, and celebration that bring audiences together on special occasions. Although most communication classes cover informative and persuasive speaking more than ceremonial speaking, I have had many students tell me after taking the class that the guidelines they learned for speaking on special occasions have been very useful for them. Before we get into specific examples of ceremonial speeches, we’ll discuss three general guidelines for ceremonial speeches: be prepared, be brief, and be occasion focused.

Speakers should always be prepared for a speech, but this can be challenging with special-occasion speaking because it is often unexpected. Even though most special occasions are planned, the speaking that goes on during these events isn’t always as planned. One reason for this lack of preparation is that people often, mistakenly, think they can “wing” a toast, introduction, or acceptance speech. Another reason is that special occasion speeches can “sneak up” on you if the person in charge of the event didn’t plan ahead for the speaking parts of the program and has to ask people to participate at the last minute. More than once, I have been asked to introduce a guest speaker at an event at the last minute. Given these reasons, it should be clear that even though ceremonial speeches are brief

and don’t require the research of other speech types, they still require planning, good content, and good delivery.

Special-occasion speeches should always be brief, unless otherwise noted. With only a couple exceptions, these speeches are shorter than other speech types. Special occasions are planned events, and a speaker is just one part of a program. There may be a dinner planned, a special surprise coming up, other people to be honored, or even a limit on how long the group can use the facility. So delivering a long speech on such an occasion will likely create timing problems for the rest of the program.

A special-occasion speech should focus on the occasion. You will almost always be speaking about someone or something else like a group, organization, or event, so don’t make the speech about you. Strategies for effective delivery still apply to special-occasion speeches. Since these occasions are often celebratory, it is important to be enthusiastic or reverent to the tone of the occasion. A toast may be lighthearted and jovial, a eulogy somber, a tribute stirring, or an acceptance speech celebratory. Even when accepting an award, speakers will spend most of their speech talking about others rather than them.

Speech of Introduction

Five minutes after I felt a tap on my shoulder, I was introducing the provost of the university. I didn’t know before the tap that I was going to introduce him, and I didn’t know that much about him. This is just one example of how special- occasion speeches can sneak up on you. Knowing this can help you “expect the unexpected.” As we learned earlier, speaking anxiety increases when there is little time to prepare and practice a speech. Despite the lack of notice and my lack of knowledge about the person I would soon introduce, I drew on my knowledge of

special-occasion speaking and made the most out of my five minutes of prep time.

A speech of introduction is a speech in which one speaker briefly introduces an upcoming speaker who is usually the focus of the occasion. Such speeches are usually only one to two minutes long. The first step in preparing a speech of introduction is to get to know the person you’re introducing. If you’ve been asked to introduce someone, you are likely part of the team planning the event or you have a relationship with the person. If you already know the person and have a relationship with them, then this step is easily checked off the preparation list. If you’ve just been asked to introduce the guest because you are involved in the planning of the event, then you have hopefully been asked in advance and can take some time to get to know the person. You can find biographical information about many people online, through their professional or personal websites or social media profiles. The guest may have already sent a bio (a biographical sketch with information about their life and accomplishments) to put in the program. You want to make sure the information is up to date and valid, so it’s good to verify any information found on the Internet or just contact the person directly to ask for a bio. While these are good places to start to get to know the person you will introduce, it’s good to have some personal connection, too. You may want to communicate directly with the person and ask them a couple questions that you think the audience might find interesting but aren’t included in the typical bio. Such direct communication might also allow you to make the introduction more personal, as you can note the lunch, phone call, or e-mail exchanges during your speech. In my situation, since I wasn’t able to get to know the person, I had to rely on the information from the bio included in the program.

During the speech of introduction, make sure to say the person’s name, correctly, several times. It so happened that the person I was introducing unexpectedly had a last name that was difficult for me to pronounce. So, after reviewing the bio and

picking out highlights, I confirmed the pronunciation of his name with a couple people at the event who knew how to say it and then spent much of the remainder of my time saying the last name over and over. Mispronouncing someone’s name is embarrassing for the speaker and the audience.

You should also establish the speaker’s credentials and credibility. Do not read the person’s bio to the audience, especially if that bio is already included in the program. Remember, you are engaging in public speaking, not public reading. A bio that you pull from the Internet may also include information and accomplishments that aren’t relevant to the occasion or the speaker’s content. If you were introducing a speaker at a civic organization, it might be more relevant to focus on her community engagement and service rather than her academic accomplishments. Keep in mind the introduction sets up an audience’s expectations for the speaker. You want to share his or her relevant credentials and your personal connection, if there is one, but make sure you don’t “over sell” it, as in the following example: “Marko is one of the smartest and funniest people I have ever met. I have no doubts that he will both enlighten and entertain you with his presentation today!”

A speech of introduction also helps set the tone for the upcoming speaker and establish a relationship between the audience and speaker.Toastmasters International, “Introducing a Speaker: What Should You Say?” accessed March 17, 2012,http://www.toastmasters.org/MainMenuCategories/FreeResources/NeedH elpGivingaSpeech/BusinessPresentations/IntroducingaSpeaker.aspx. It is important that the tone you set matches with that of the upcoming speaker. Just as a heavy metal warm-up band wouldn’t be a good setup for Celine Deon, a humorous and lighthearted introduction for a speaker with a serious topic would create an inconsistency in tone that could be uncomfortable for the speaker and the audience. By setting the tone, you help establish a relationship between the

speaker and the audience. If you’re unsure of the tone or content of the person’s speech, you should contact that speaker or the event planner to find out. You also want to establish your own credibility and goodwill by being prepared in terms of content and delivery and expressing your thanks for being asked to introduce the speaker.

A speech of welcome is similar to a speech of introduction, but instead of introducing an audience to an upcoming speaker, you introduce the audience to upcoming events. If you are asked to deliver a speech of welcome, you’re likely a representative of the group that planned or is hosting the event. Since a welcome speaker is usually the first speaker of the day and the proceeding sessions are timed, this is definitely an occasion where brevity will be appreciated. Getting behind schedule on the first presentation isn’t a good way to start the day. Aside from graciously welcoming the audience, you should also provide key information about upcoming events and acknowledge key participants. In terms of previewing the events, do not read through a program or schedule if it’s something that audience members already have in their possession. You can reference the program, but allow them to read it on their own. You may want to highlight a couple things on the program like a keynote speaker or awards ceremony. Definitely make sure to announce any changes in the schedule so people can plan accordingly. Thank any sponsors, especially if they are in attendance, and acknowledge any VIP guests.

Welcome speakers should also convey logistical information that audience members may need to know, which helps answer questions before the audience needs to ask them. Many people may not be familiar with a facility, so it may be necessary to inform them where the coffee and snacks are, where the restrooms are, or other simple logistics. Welcome speeches are often allotted more time than is needed, but do not feel obligated to fill that time. Audience members will not be upset if you finish early, as they may have some last-minute things to do

before the event gets started, and it doesn’t hurt to get a little ahead of schedule, since things will inevitably get behind later on.

For the speeches previously discussed, just as with all speeches, it’s important to know your audience. The nature of ceremonial speaking occasions helps facilitate audience and situational analysis. If you’re asked to speak at such an occasion, you can usually get information from the event planner or coordinator, who should know the expectations for the tone and the general makeup of the audience.

Presenting an Award

If you have a leadership role in an organization, you may end up presenting an employee, a colleague, or a peer with an award. There are several steps
in presenting an award, but the main goal of this speech is to enhance the value of the award and honor the person receiving it. As with other special-occasion speeches, it should be focused on the occasion and the particular award. Start by stating the name of the award and providing a brief overview of its purpose. Also share some information about the organization or group that is bestowing the award. Connect the values of the organization with the purpose of the award. You may also want to describe the selection process. If there were many qualified nominees and the decision was difficult to make, then stating that enhances the value of the award. Such statements also recognize others who were nominated but didn’t win.

Once you’ve covered the background of the award and the selection process, you are usually at a good point to announce the winner, since the remaining information is specific to the person being honored with the award. Announce the winner and pause to allow the audience to acknowledge him or her before continuing on with the speech; however, don’t bring the person up until you are

ready to hand over the award, as it creates an awkward situation.WestsideToastmasters.com, “Presenting an Award for Maximum Impact,” accessed November 9, 2012,http://westsidetoastmasters.com/article_reference/presenting_awards_fo r_maximum_impact_2005-01.html. Next, share the qualifications of the person receiving the award. This helps explain to the audience why the winner is deserving of the honor. Then connect the winner to the legacy of the award by saying how they are similar to previous winners. For example, “This year’s winner joins a select group of other college seniors who have been recognized for their dedication to community service and outreach.” You can also say what the person adds to the legacy of the award. For example, “Nick helped establish an alternative spring break program that will continue to service communities in need for many years to come.” It can be an honor to present an award, but most of us would like to be on the other side of this speech.

Accepting an Award

Congratulations, you won an award! When you deliver a speech accepting an award, be brief, gracious, and humble. Before you begin speaking, take a moment, pause, smile, and make eye contact with the audience.Patricia Fripp, “Accepting an Award with Class,” Toastmasters International, accessed November 9,

2012, http://www.toastmasters.org/Members/SpotlightArticles/AcceptAwardCla ss.aspx.You may know ahead of time that you’re going to win the award, or you may not. Either way, take time to write out an acceptance speech. Try to memorize most of the content to make the speech look genuine and spontaneous. If you have a lot of people to thank, you may write that information out on a small card to reference, just so you don’t leave anyone out. Make sure to thank the group giving the award and the person who presented you with the award. Also compliment the other nominees, and thank those who helped make your

accomplishment possible. In 2002, Halle Berry won an Academy Award for Best Leading Actress, making history as the first African American woman to earn that honor. The acceptance speech she delivered acknowledged the magnitude of the situation, keeping the focus on actresses who came before her and the people who helped her achieve this honor. The video and text of her speech can be accessed in Video Clip 12.1.

Video Link

Halle Berry’s Oscar Acceptance Speech



Cheers, slainte, skal, prost, and salud! All these words could form the basis for
a toast, which is a ceremonial speech that praises or conveys goodwill or blessings in honor of a person, accomplishment, or event.

Toasts are usually the shortest special-occasion speech, which is good since people’s arms get tired if they have to hold their drink up in the air for too long. The degree of preparation needed for a toast varies more than any other special- occasion speech type. Some toasts are practically spontaneous and will therefore have to be impromptu. People can toast an accomplishment, completion of a task, a holiday such as New Year’s Eve, a favorite sports team winning, or the anniversary of a special event. Wedding toasts are more formal and more preparation is needed and expected. Although toasts are generally supposed to be conversational and appear spontaneous, because that makes the content seem more genuine, in situations that are more formal or where there is much at stake, brief notes are OK. You wouldn’t want to see a person giving a toast pull out a stack of note cards, though.

Toasts are definitely a time to include a brief personal anecdote and/or humor, but always make sure to test your story or joke out on someone who knows you and knows the person or people you will be toasting. As I’ve already warned, using humor in a speech can be dangerous, since most people who try to use humor publicly think they are funnier than they actually are. Not having someone else vet your toast material can lead to embarrassment for many people. Aside from having someone review your content, it’s also a good idea to not get too “toasty” before you deliver your toast, or the story or joke that you decided to leave out earlier may find its way back into the speech. Awkward and embarrassing toasts make funny scenes in movies and television shows, but they usually go smoother in real life, especially if you follow the previous advice. You can also spice up your toast by adding a cultural flair. You can see how to say “Cheers!” in many different languages at the following link:http://www.awa.dk/glosary/slainte.htm.

Speech of Tribute

A speech of tribute is a longer and more formal version of a toast that establishes why a person, group, or concept is worthy of praise. Speeches of tribute can honor a group, organization, or concept but usually focus on one person. To effectively pay tribute to someone, introduce the personality of the individual, the values of the group, or the noble history of the event in order to initiate a relationship between the audience and the person, group, or idea that is being honored. Speeches of tribute shouldn’t be biographical sketches. Most people can look up a person’s bio or the history of a group or event quickly using the Internet, so sharing that information doesn’t show that you’ve done any more work than an audience member could do in the five or ten minutes of the speech. People, groups, or events worthy of speeches of tribute have usually accomplished great things and have enriching lessons to share. As a speaker, use a narrative style to convey to the audience a lesson or a “moral of the story.” It’s

important to focus on the positive aspects of a person or group’s history; this is not the occasion to offer criticism.


A eulogy is a speech honoring a person who has died. The emotions and grief surrounding the loss of a loved one are difficult to manage and make this one of the most challenging types of speech. However, being asked to deliver a eulogy is an honor. Such speakers are usually chosen because the family and friends of the deceased person see the speaker as someone they can depend on in difficult situations and as someone who can comfort and be an example to others. In the short amount of time you have to prepare a eulogy, usually a day or two, it is important to put time into organizing the speech, just as you would for a professional speech. Create an outline, and structure the speech with an introduction, a body with about three main points, and a conclusion. A eulogy, like a speech of tribute, shouldn’t be a chronological outline of a person’s life or a biographical sketch.Theodore Lustig, “The Most Difficult Speech: The Eulogy,” Toastmasters International, accessed November 9, 2012,http://www.toastmasters.org/ToastmastersMagazine/ToastmasterArchive/ 2009/December/Articles/The-Eulogy.aspx. As with a speech of tribute, focus on the person’s personality and demonstrate why the person was likable and what he or she added to your life and the lives of others.

Depending on the situation, you may also want to share some of the deceased’s accomplishments. Accomplishments can usually be broken up into three categories, and you may focus on one or more depending on your relationship with the person. Family accomplishments usually entail discussing the loved ones the person is leaving behind or conveying the roles he or she played as a member of his or her family and friendship circles. Professional accomplishments deal with academic and career achievement and would be especially relevant if the

person speaking worked with or had a mentoring relationship with the deceased. Community accomplishments include civic engagement, community service, and local involvement. Most people have too many accomplishments to include, so include those that are relevant to your relationship with the deceased and that you think will elicit similar fond memories in others. Focus on the positives of a person’s life, and acknowledge and share in the sorrow of the other people in attendance. Remember, as the person chosen to deliver a eulogy, you set an example and provide comfort to others, which is a difficult but important role to play.

Speaking as an Advocate in Personal and Civic Contexts

People are often required or expected to speak as part of their academic or professional duties. However, there may also be times when you are compelled to speak or choose to speak because you care about a topic or an issue. Advocacy speaking occurs in contexts that are civic and/or personal, such as at a city council meeting, at a student group meeting, when you post a link on your Facebook page asking your friends to sign a petition, or when you encourage your friends to vote.

In the 1950s, radio broadcast pioneer Edward R. Murrow hosted a brief radio segment on which people read essays about their beliefs and lives. Fifty years later, the concept was reborn on National Public Radio and is now an ongoing national project that still produces radio segments, has a free podcast, and produces books. This I Believe speeches encourage people to use the power of their voice to speak from a personal context in a way can inspire, motivate, and resonate with others. In such cases, we can see that personal speeches can cross into civic contexts. Using personal narratives as a basis for advocacy and social change is not new, as stories have been used to move people to action in many historical situations. Personal testimony, witnesses of injustice, and people

sharing their everyday experiences can have a powerful effect on the world. I have enjoyed having my students do This I Believe speeches, and even if this isn’t a speech assignment in your class, it is a good way to practice your speaking and writing skills, and it can be fun and inspirational.

Here are some guidelines for the This I Believe speech. Tell a story with your speech and make it personal. Since this speech is about you and your belief, use personal pronouns like I and we and connect to your audience by using you, us, and our. Even if the belief you are focusing on is abstract, and many are, ground it in events from your life that your audience can relate to. Such events or moments may include instances when your belief was formed, tested, or changed. The core belief should be something that can be easily summed up as a thesis statement and elaborated on and supported in the main points. Be positive in your speech by focusing on what you believe, not what you don’t believe. Don’t make this a soapbox speech, and don’t use the speech to preach or editorialize.“This I Believe—Essay Writing Guidelines,” accessed March 17,

2012, http://thisibelieve.org/guidelines. You can listen to and/or read many examples of these speeches at the following National Public Radio link:http://www.npr.org/series/4538138/this-i-believe. The following is the text of a This I Believe speech delivered by one of my students.

The Power of the Voice: by Matthew Cain

I believe in the power of the voice. The human voice transforms and changes a person’s life. I am an example of the voice’s power to change.

When I was young, I didn’t use my voice to speak at first. I would use my hands to gesture what I wanted or needed. It was not until the age of two that I started to talk. Right away, my parents knew my voice was different. I stammered, stuttered, and could not say my Rs. My parents thought, however, that this was

just a phase. It wasn’t until I started school that problems arose. As kindergarten started, I felt different. I did not fit in. I don’t mean fitting in socially, but fitting in with my voice. As each of my schoolmates stood to say the alphabet, I did not want to. It wasn’t because I didn’t know it, but because I couldn’t say it. However, I stood up and began to speak: A,…B,…C,…D, and so on. As I finally reached Q, my teacher stopped me. “What are you doing?” she asked. So, I started to say it over; I failed.

I went through the next months in embarrassment. Even though students pointed and laughed, no one outside the school knew of the embarrassment I was feeling. It wasn’t until my teacher gave me my progress report that my parents saw how my voice altered my education. The first meeting my parents had with my teacher proved that my voice did have an effect on my education. I listened outside as a peaceful meeting turned into a shouting match. With words flying, my parents and the teacher finally reached a conclusion. The conclusion was that I needed speech therapy. It would begin the next year.

Starting on the first day of first grade, I would go to speech therapy every other day. My embarrassment grew with every grade that I moved through. When my speech teacher came to my classroom to get me, everyone looked at me. What was in their mind, I could only guess. Thoughts like “What a freak!” or “What’s wrong with him?” flew through my mind. However, over the next five years, my speech did improve. My stuttering slowed and my speech became clearer. By the time I reached middle school, life was getting better. Speech after speech, I became less sensitive to my impairment and to people’s reaction.

During my last year of middle school, I was required to take a public speaking class. I feared this class. I feared the class because I would be giving up to four speeches, the most I have ever done. My teacher told us we could pick the topic for our last speech. Being a fan of history, I chose to talk about World War Two.

When I completed my eight-minute speech, everyone looked at me with disbelief. My friend, Garrett, told me, “You did not stutter!” It was then that I realized that when I talk about things I enjoy, I don’t stutter…as much. High school caused a dramatic change in my life. After a few more speeches about history, I decided to become a teacher. I knew I would not let my speech affect the rest of my life.

The power of the human voice shaped my life. Every time I give a speech, I remember the past. I learned not to judge others for their speech because I know how it feels. As my voice continues to shape my life, it will undoubtedly change others. That power will not just change the people around me, but the whole world. This I believe.

There are many opportunities to engage in public advocacy, which is engaging people through responsible communication that seeks to make a better world for our loved ones and our communities.John T. Warren and Deanna L.
Fassett, Communication: A Critical/Cultural Introduction(Los Angeles, CA: Sage, 2011), 39. This view of communication acknowledges the power of our words to transform the world around us and that we have an ethical responsibility to advocate for a world that better serves the interests and needs of us all. Speaking as an advocate requires a person to take pause and think about his or her own commitments and responsibilities.John T. Warren and Deanna L. Fassett, Communication: A Critical/Cultural Introduction (Los Angeles, CA: Sage, 2011), 37. When you are compelled to speak up in the face of an injustice that was committed against you or that you have witnessed being committed against others, you are choosing to take a stand, making a commitment to an issue, and accepting responsibility for your words and actions. Your first steps toward advocacy may be small and uncomfortable. You may not even be sure what issues or causes you care about. Once you know, you can take small steps, as Gandhi noted, to be the change you want to see in the world. As you take steps to model a desired change and speak out, you will begin to learn more about

yourself, your place in the world, and the issues that move you. You will likely then feel more compelled to share that information with others.

Speaking as an advocate doesn’t mean you argue for your community or your view at the expense of others. Advocates invite their listeners to engage with them and consider the complexity of an issue. As speakers we have to be open to the perspectives of others as we expect them to be open to ours. This creates an opportunity for growth. Change happens when people choose to change, not when they are forced to change. For change to happen, all parties in an interaction need to be open to dialogue, growth, and transformation.Sonja K. Foss and Karen A. Foss, Inviting Transformation: Presentational Speaking for a Changing World, 2nd ed. (Long Grove, IL: Waveland, 2003), 4–10.

Teaching is a form of advocacy, but you don’t have to be a teacher to teach. We all teach in various capacities as friends, parents, and community members. As we teach, we build bridges between different areas of thoughts and actions. This is a process that helps build communities and alliances. Ask yourself, “What kind of community do I want? What role will I play in creating that community? What work am I willing to do and what sacrifices am I willing to make to create and nurture that community?”John T. Warren and Deanna L.

Fassett, Communication: A Critical/Cultural Introduction (Los Angeles, CA: Sage, 2011), 38. As speakers, we must seize opportunities we have to speak and use them to talk about socially significant topics that matter to us and our communities. Speaking about these topics invites others who hear us to think about their position in the world and reflect on their own responsibilities as communicators, which can spread advocacy and lead to social change.

“Getting Critical”

Advocacy and Critical Thinking

Being an advocate and responsible citizen in the world means speaking about how we can and should make the world a better place for all as well as listening and thinking critically and compassionately before responding to others’ communication.John T. Warren and Deanna L. Fassett, Communication: A Critical/Cultural Introduction (Los Angeles, CA: Sage, 2011), 52–53.Critical listening means we can identify flaws within a message we receive and places for positive change. The positive change occurs because critical listening and critical thinking lead to responsible advocacy. Critical listeners don’t just tear a message apart because it has flaws. When we engage in compassionate critical listening, we make a genuine effort to hear others and reflect on the complexity of their message rather than closing ourselves off or shutting down because we encounter a message with which we disagree. Since the issues and causes people advocate for are often political and controversial, critical thinking and listening become even more important. When we feel ourselves shutting down or disregarding a person’s message without giving it thought, a little alert should go off in our minds to indicate that perhaps we are not engaging in critical compassionate listening. The same alert should go off if we find ourselves wanting to cut someone off or dismiss him or her when that person questions us after we engage in advocacy speaking. Being a critical compassionate listener, however, doesn’t mean that we have to give up our own ways of thinking and our own advocacy positions. There is a delicate balance that critical listeners and thinkers try to maintain, as critical thinkers are generous, cautious, and open minded, but wary.

  1. As an advocate and a competent communicator, what can you do to try to maintain a critical mind-set that is both open minded and wary?
  2. Are there causes that people advocate for that you find it difficult to listen to critically and compassionately? If so, what are they? What can you do to be a better critical and compassionate listener in these situations?


• Getting integrated: While many students view public speaking as a classroom exercise, we are all expected to speak in multiple contexts ranging from personal, to civic, to professional. This chapter can serve as a guide for how public speaking will “pop up” in your life once you’ve completed this class.

• Ceremonial speeches are intended to praise, pay tribute to, and celebrate individuals or groups in ways that bring audience members together on special occasions. These speeches should be prepared ahead of time, brief, and occasion focused.

o In a speech of introduction, get to know the person you are introducing, say his or her name correctly several times during the speech, establish his or her credentials, and set the tone of the event.

o For a speech of welcome, welcome the audience, provide key information about upcoming events, announce any changes to the program, acknowledge sponsors and VIPs, and convey logistical information.

o When presenting an award, state the name of the award and its purpose, connect the award to the values of the organization presenting it, describe the selection process, acknowledge the winner, share his or her qualifications, and connect him or her to the legacy of the award.

o When accepting an award, be gracious and humble, thank the group presenting the award, thank fellow nominees, and thank those who helped make your accomplishments possible.

o When delivering a toast, be spontaneous and genuine, share a personal anecdote, use humor that has been approved by at least one other trusted person, and be brief.

o When delivering a speech of tribute, demonstrate why the person being honored is worthy of praise, connect to the personality of the individual, do not offer a biographical sketch, and share a “moral of the story.”

o When delivering a eulogy, prepare a well-organized speech so you can still communicate clearly and comfort others despite your own emotions.

  • This I Believe speeches encourage people to speak from a personal context in a way that inspires others and crosses into civic engagement. These speeches should be positive, personal, grounded in concrete events, and not preachy.
  • Public advocacy speaking occurs mostly in civic contexts and engages people through responsible communication that invites others to listen to diverging viewpoints in a critical and compassionate way to promote social change.
  • A thesis statement summarizes the central idea of your speech and will be explained or defended using supporting material. Referencing your thesis statement often will help ensure that your speech is coherent.
  • Demographic, psychographic, and situational audience analysis help tailor your speech content to your audience.


  1. Getting integrated: This section discusses speaking in personal and/or civic contexts. Recall an experience you have already had with this type of speaking. How does your experience compare with the content in this section? Did you follow any of these guidelines? What might you do differently next time?
  2. Write a speech of introduction for a classmate, friend, family member, or person that you admire.
  3. Review the text of the tribute to Al Pacino at the following
    link: http://www.afi.com/laa/laa07.aspx. How does the speech establish that the honoree is worthy of praise? What elements of the honoree’s personality come through in the speech?
  4. If you were to write a This I Believe speech, what would you write it on and why? Does your belief connect to public advocacy in some way? Why or why not?

12.2 Speaking in Academic Settings


  1. Identify strategies for adapting presentations in the following disciplines: arts and humanities, social sciences, education/training and development, science and math, and technical courses.
  2. Identify strategies for effective speaking at academic conferences.

Oral communication has always been a part of higher education, and communication skills in general became more of a focus for colleges and universities in the late part of the twentieth century, as the first “communication across the curriculum” programs began to develop. These programs focus on the importance of writing and speaking skills for further academic, professional, and civic development. Your school may very well have a communication across the curriculum program that includes requirements for foundational speaking and writing skills that are then built on in later classes. Whether your school has a communication across the curriculum program or not, it is important to know that the skills you develop in this class serve as a scaffold from which you can continue to build and develop speaking skills that are tailored to the needs of your particular field of study. As you participate in oral communication within and about your field of study, you become socialized into the discipline-specific ways of communicating necessary to be successful in that field. This communicative process starts in the classroom.Deanna P. Dannels, “Time to Speak Up: A Theoretical Framework of Situated Pedagogy and Practice for Communication across the Curriculum,” Communication Education 50, no. 2 (2001): 151.

Speaking to Professors and Classmates

What does a good communicator in a science class look and sound like? What does a good communicator in a history class look and sound like? While there will be some overlap in the answers to those questions, there are also specific differences based on the expectations for oral communication within those fields

of study. Knowing that speaking is context specific can help you learn which presentation style will earn you a better grade based on the discipline and the course.Deanna P. Dannels, “Time to Speak Up: A Theoretical Framework of Situated Pedagogy and Practice for Communication across the

Curriculum,” Communication Education 50, no. 2 (2001): 152.

Although instructors try to bring professional contexts into the classroom, students have difficulty or avoid engaging with a “made-up” customer or company. Making a more conscious effort to view the classroom as a training ground that simulates, but doesn’t replicate, the environment of your chosen career field can make your transition from student to practitioner more successful.Deanna P. Dannels, “Learning to Be Professional: Technical Classroom Discourse, Practice, and Professional Identity Construction,” Journal of Business and Technical Communication14, no. 5 (2000): 28. While students know they are being graded and their primary audience is their professor, you and your classmates are also audience members in the class who can use the opportunity to practice communicating in ways relevant to your career path in addition to completing the assignment and getting a good grade.

Social Sciences

Social sciences include psychology, sociology, criminology, and political science, among others.Speaking in the social sciences is driven by quantitative or qualitative data reviewed in existing literature or from original research projects that focus on historical or current social issues. Social scientists often rely on quantitative and/or qualitative research and evidence in their presentations. Qualitative research focuses on describing and interpreting social phenomena using data collected through methods such as participant observation and interviewing—in short, watching and/or talking to people. Qualitative researchers value the subjectivity that comes from individual perspectives and seek to capture

the thoughts and feelings of research participants and convey them using descriptive writing that allows readers to think, see, and feel along with the participant. Quantitative social scientists use statistics to provide evidence for a conclusion and collect data about social phenomena using methods such as surveys and experiments. Since these methods are more controlled, the information gathered is turned into numerical data that can be statistically analyzed. Rather than valuing subjectivity and trying to see the world through the perspective of their research subjects, as qualitative researchers do, quantitative researchers seek to use data to describe and explain social phenomena in objective and precise ways so their findings can be generalized to larger populations. Knowing what counts as credible data for each type of research is an important part of speaking in the social sciences. Some social scientists use qualitative and quantitative research, but many people have a preferred method, and individual instructors may expect students to use one or the other.

Presentations in the social sciences usually connect to historical or current social issues. Students may be expected to conduct a literature review on a particular societal issue related to race or poverty, for example. When presenting a literature review, students are expected to review a substantial number of primary sources and then synthesize them together to provide insight into an issue. Many students make a mistake of simply summarizing articles in a literature review. Students should put various authors in conversation with one another by comparing and contrasting the various perspectives and identifying themes within the research.

Students in social work and political science courses may be asked to evaluate or propose policies relevant to a societal issue. Reviewing information about persuasive speeches, discussed earlier, that include propositions of policy may be helpful. This type of presentation involves researching current and proposed legislation and may involve comparing and contrasting policies in one area with

policies in another. A student in a social work class may be asked to investigate policies in urban areas related to homeless youth. A political science student may be asked to investigate the political arguments used in states that have passed “right to work” legislation. In any case, presentations in the social sciences may be informative or persuasive but should be socially relevant and research based.

Arts and Humanities

Speaking in the arts and humanities usually involves critiquing, reviewing, or comparing and contrasting existing literature, art, philosophies, or historical texts in ways that connect the historical and contemporary. It may also involve creating and explaining original works of art. Students in the arts may give presentations on fine arts like painting and sculpting or performing arts like theater and dance. Students in the humanities may present in courses related to philosophy, English, and history, among other things.

Research in these fields is based more on existing texts and sources rather than data created through original research as in the sciences and social sciences. In the arts, students may be expected to create an original final product to present, which may entail explaining the inspiration and process involved in creating a sculpture or actually performing an original dance or song. In either case, there is an important visual component that accompanies presentations. In the humanities, visual support is not as central as it is in many other fields.Deanna P. Dannels, “Time to Speak Up: A Theoretical Framework of Situated Pedagogy and Practice for Communication across the Curriculum,” Communication

Education 50, no. 2 (2001): 150. Given that the humanities rely primarily on existing texts for information, students may be asked to synthesize and paraphrase information in a literature review, just as a student in the social sciences would. Frequently, students in the arts and humanities are asked to connect a work of art, a literary work, a philosophy, or a historical event to their

own lives and/or to present day society. Students may also be asked to compare and contrast works of art, literature, or philosophies, which requires synthesis and critical thinking skills.

The arts and humanities also engage in criticism more than other fields. Being able to give and receive constructive criticism is very important, especially since many people take their art or their writing personally. Some projects are even juried, meaning that an artist needs to be prepared to engage with several instructors or selected judges and explain their work and process through feedback and constructive criticism.

Education/Training and Development

Speaking in education/training and development involves students delivering a lecture, facilitating a discussion, or running an activity as if they were actually teaching or training. In each of these cases, students will be evaluated on their ability to present content in a progressive way that builds new knowledge from existing knowledge, interact with their audience (students or trainees), and connect their content to the bigger picture or the overarching objectives for the lesson and course. Teachers and trainers also need to be able to translate content into relevant examples and present for long periods of time, adapting as they go to fit the changing class dynamics. All levels of the education and training and development fields include a focus on the importance of communication and public speaking. Listening is also a central part of teaching and training. Aside from being judged on how technical information is broken down as a speaker in a technical class may be, speakers in education and training are evaluated more on their nonverbal communication.

Immediacy behaviors are important parts of teaching and training. Immediacy behaviors are verbal and nonverbal communication patterns that indicate a

teacher’s approachability. Effective use of immediacy behaviors helps reduce perceived distance between the teacher and student or trainer and trainee. Some immediacy behaviors include changes in vocal pitch, smiling, leaning in toward a person, nodding, providing other positive nonverbal feedback while listening, and using humor effectively. Teachers who are more skilled at expressing immediacy receive higher evaluations, and their students learn more.Virginia P. Richmond, Derek R. Lane, and James C. McCroskey, “Teacher Immediacy and the Teacher-Student Relationship,” in Handbook of Instructional Communication: Rhetorical and Relational Perspectives, eds. Timothy P. Mottet, Virginia P. Richmond, and James C. McCroskey (Boston, MA: Pearson, 2006), 170. Immediacy behaviors are important for lecturing, facilitating, and interacting with students or trainees one-on-one.

Tips for Effective LecturesMarilla Svinicki and Wilbert J.
McKeachie, McKeachie’s Teaching Tips, 13th ed. (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2011): 55–71.

  • Put content that you are excited about in lectures.
  • Move around to engage the audience; don’t get stuck behind a lectern orcomputer.
  • Actually write out examples; don’t expect them to “come to you” as youlecture.
  • Include notes to yourself to stop and ask for questions or pose a directquestion to the audience.
  • Start the lecture by connecting to something the audience has alreadylearned, and then say what this lecture will add to their knowledge and

    how it fits into what will be learned later in the class.

  • Do not lecture for more than twenty minutes without breaking it up withsomething more interactive.

Tips for Effective Discussion FacilitationMarilla Svinicki and Wilbert J. McKeachie, McKeachie’s Teaching Tips, 13th ed. (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2011): 36–54.

  • Start the discussion off with an example that connects to something the audience is familiar with.
  • Do not be afraid of silence. Pose the question. Repeat it or rephrase it once if needed and then wait for a response. Too often facilitators pose a question, wait a second, repeat and rephrase the question to the point that everyone is confused, and then end up answering their own question.
  • Listen supportively and do not move from one person to the next without responding to his or her comment verbally and nonverbally. Use this as an opportunity to pivot from a response back to the topic of discussion, to another example, or to another person.
  • Spend time making good discussion questions. Good discussion questions usually contain a sentence or two that sets up the context for the question. The question should be open ended, not “yes or no.” Have follow-up questions prepared to move the discussion along.
  • If students/trainees are not actively participating, you can have them write a brief response first, then share it with a neighbor, then come back to group discussion. This is the “think, pair, share” method.

“Getting Plugged In”

Online Teaching and Learning

Online courses are becoming more common. You may have even taken an online course or may be taking this class online. Although we have an understanding of how the typical classroom functions, since we have been socialized into it, the online classroom presents a whole new set of variables and challenges. Some of

our past classroom experiences will be relevant and some will not. Many online instructors and students are expected to “figure it out” as they go, which leads to frustrated teachers and students.Lawrence C. Ragan, 10 Principles of Effective Online Teaching: Best Practices in Distance Education (Madison, WI: Magna Publications, 2011), 6, accessed March 17, 2012,http://www.facultyfocus.com/free-reports/principles-of-effective-online- teaching-best-practices-in-distance-education. We’ll learn some tips for making online teaching and learning more effective for instructors and students next. The amount of research and information available about online teaching and learning has increased dramatically in recent years, so there is much more information that isn’t included here. More resources for online teaching and learning can be found at the following link: http://www.eiu.edu/adulted/online_tips.php.

Tips for Instructors

  • Set a schedule and keep to it. A major difference between a brick-and- mortar classroom and an online classroom is the asynchronous nature. In most cases, the instructor and individual students can do their class work at different times rather than all together at scheduled times. This is a major reason for popularity of online courses, since a busy professional, single parent, or member of the military can get a college education on his or her own time frame. You can preserve this flexibility while still providing structure by grading assignments promptly, setting regular days and times for course updates, and charting a progressive path with start and end dates for lessons/units so that students aren’t completing all the work during the last week of class.
  • Reveal online materials as they are relevant. Don’t have everything for the whole semester visible, as it can be overwhelming and difficult to navigate.
  • Monitor and manage student progress by communicating with students about missed and upcoming assignments. Online students are expected to be more independent, but the instructor should still serve as a guide.
  • Create a “frequently asked questions” document that addresses common areas of concern for students, and allow students to pose new questions so you can add them to the document.
  • Do informal assessments to check in with students to get feedback on the course. Don’t wait for end-of-semester evaluations. Ask them what they like about the course and for suggestions for improvement.
  • Find ways to make the course interactive: create a “questions forum” where students can ask questions like they would by raising their hand in class; use peer learning to have students engage with each other about the content; use images, audio, and video; and use real-time chats or video conferencing.

Tips for Students

  • Schedule a time to do your online class work that works for your schedule and stick to it. Make sure that the time spent engaged directly with the course at least equals the amount a regular class would meet, typically about three hours a week for a sixteen-week semester. This doesn’t include homework and study time, which will also need to be scheduled in.
  • Since technology is the primary channel for your learning, plan ahead for how you will deal with technological failures. Identify an additional place where you can access the Internet if necessary. Keep all your course documents backed up on a thumb drive so you can do course work “on the go” on computers other than your own.
  • Ask questions when you have them so you don’t get lost and behind.
  • Practice good “netiquette” when communicating with your instructor andclassmates.
  1. What are some positives and negatives of online learning—from a teacher’s perspective and from a student’s perspective?
  2. What courses do you think would translate well to an online environment? What courses would be difficult to teach online?

Science and Math

Speaking in science and math usually focuses on using established methods and logic to find and report objective results. Science includes subjects such as biology, physics, and chemistry, and math includes subjects such as statistics, calculus, and math theory. You may not think that communication and public speaking are as central to these courses as they are in the humanities and social sciences—and you are right, at least in terms of public perception. The straightforwardness and objectivity of these fields make some people believe that skilled communication is unnecessary, since the process and results speak for themselves. This is not the case, however, as scientists are increasingly being expected to interact with various stakeholders, including funding sources, oversight agencies, and the public.

The ability to edit and discern what information is relevant for a presentation is very important in these fields. Scientists and mathematicians are often considered competent communicators when they are concise but cover the material in enough detail to be understood.Deanna P. Dannels, “Time to Speak Up: A Theoretical Framework of Situated Pedagogy and Practice for Communication across the Curriculum,” Communication Education 50, no. 2 (2001): 151. Poster presentations are common methods of public communication in science and math and are an excellent example of when editing skills are valuable. Posters should be professional looking and visually appealing and concisely present how the information being presented conforms to expected scientific or logical methods. It is difficult, for example, to decide what details

from each step of the scientific method should be included on the poster. The same difficulties emerge in oral scientific research reports, which also require a speaker to distill complex information into a limited time frame. Research shows that common critiques by biology instructors of student presentations include going over the time limit and rambling.Trudy Bayer, Karen Curto, and Charity Kriley, “Acquiring Expertise in Discipline-Specific Discourse: An Interdisciplinary Exercise in Learning to Speak Biology,” Across the Disciplines: A Journal of Language, Learning, and Academic Writing 2 (2005), accessed March 15,

2012, http://wac.colostate.edu/atd/articles/bayer_curto_kriley2005.cfm. Some presentations may focus more on results while others focus more on a method or procedure, so it’s important to know what the expectations for the presentation are. Scientists also engage in persuasive speaking. Scientists’ work is funded through a variety of sources, so knowing how to propose a research project using primary-source scientific data in a persuasive way is important.

Technical Courses

Speaking in technical courses focuses on learning through testing, replication, and design and then translating the technical information involved in those processes into lay terms. Technical courses appear in most disciplines but are more common in fields like computer science, engineering, and fire sciences. Technical vocational courses like welding, electronics, and woodworking would also fall into this category. Some nursing courses and many courses for medical technicians are considered technical courses. There is a perception of technical courses as training grounds where you give people a manual, they memorize it, regurgitate it, and then try to put the skills into practice. If that were the case, then a range of communication skills wouldn’t be as necessary. However, the goal of such courses has changed in recent years to focus more on educating professionals rather than training technicians.Deanna P. Dannels, “Learning to

Be Professional: Technical Classroom Discourse, Practice, and Professional Identity Construction,” Journal of Business and Technical Communication 14, no. 5 (2000): 8.

Technical courses may include research, but testing, replication, and design are usually more important. A main focus in these courses is to translate technical information into lay terms.Deanna P. Dannels, “Time to Speak Up: A Theoretical Framework of Situated Pedagogy and Practice for Communication across the Curriculum,” Communication Education 50, no. 2 (2001): 151. A key communication path in technical fields is between professional and customer/client, but you can’t just think of the client as the only person for whom the information must be translated. Technical professionals also have to communicate with a range of people along the way, including managers, colleagues, funding sources, machinists, and so on. Team projects are common in technical courses, especially in courses related to design, so being able to work effectively in groups and present information as a group is important. Much of the presentation in technical courses will be data driven, which is informative. While data may be compelling and the merits of a design self-evident for internal audiences, external audiences will require more information, and selling ideas requires persuasive speaking skills. To help prepare students in technical courses to adapt to these various audiences, instructors often use assignments that ask students to view their classmates and instructor as customers, colleagues, or funding sources that they might encounter once in their career. As was noted earlier, students may not take these simulations seriously, which is a missed opportunity for applied, practical learning.

Speaking at Academic Conferences

Undergraduate students, graduate students, faculty, and administrators have opportunities to present at academic conferences, which are local, regional,

national, or international events at which students, teachers, professionals, and practitioners gather to discuss and share knowledge in a particular field of study. Presenting at or even attending a conference can be intimidating. The National Communication Association provides useful resources on the “how to” of academic conferencing including frequently asked questions and professional standards and guidelines that will be helpful when preparing for any

conference: http://natcom.org/conventionresources.

When planning a presentation at an academic conference, you should spend time creating a “sexy” and descriptive title. You want something “sexy,” meaning that it gets people’s attention and connects to a current and relevant topic, and descriptive, so that people can get a sense for what the presentation will include. Most conferences have numerous concurrent sessions running, so in a way, you are competing with people in other rooms who are speaking at the same time slot. Getting people in the room is important for networking to take place. The blog entry at the following link contains useful information about “How to Write Killer Conference Session Titles That Attract

Attendees”: http://jeffhurtblog.com/2010/03/17/how-to-write-killer- conference-session -titles-that-attract-attendees.

A frequent complaint about conference presentations stems from speakers who try to cram too much information into their ten-minute time slot. Presenters at academic conferences are usually presenting recently completed original research or research that is in progress. The papers that are submitted for review for the conference are usually about twenty-five to thirty pages long. It would take about an hour to present the whole paper, but since most conferences occur as part of a panel, with four to five speakers and a seventy-five-minute time slot, each speaker usually gets between ten and fifteen minutes to present. Therefore conference presenters must use their editing skills to cut their papers down to fit their time limit. As we’ve already learned in Chapter 9 “Preparing a Speech”,

writing something that will be read and writing something that will be listened to are two different styles of writing and require different skill sets. So hacking your twenty-five-page paper down to five pages isn’t enough, as you also need to translate that writing into an oral style. Even at communication conferences, where presenters definitely “know better,” I’ve seen people try to speed read their way through a ten- to twelve-page paper because they could only bring themselves to cut it down by half. As a writer, I know it’s difficult to cut your own work down, because we often think that everything is important, but it’s really not, and even if it was, there’s no time to go over it all. So, since almost all presenters at academic conferences are faced with the same problem of too much information and too little time, it’s important to adapt the paper to a completely different structure than the original form in order to effectively achieve your speaking goals. Additionally, it’s very difficult to anticipate how many people will attend your conference session—it may be forty, or two. I usually prepare a typically formal conference presentation for an audience of ten to thirty people, but I am also prepared to do something more informal. Especially in situations where there are more panelists than audience members, I’ve found it useful to just make a circle with chairs and have a more informal and interactive discussion.

When preparing the presentation, follow these steps: determine the take-home message, determine the main question, add supporting material, and compose the introduction and conclusion.Scott Morgan and Barrett Whitener, Speaking about Science: A Manual for Creating Clear Presentations (New York, NY: Cambridge, 2006), 9–16, 35–47. The “take-home message” is the one concept or finding that captures the combined importance of all the data and findings. This is what the speaker wants the audience to have memorized by the end of the speech. It provides a theme or thread for the whole presentation and can therefore be used to help determine what needs to stay in the presentation and

what should be left out. This functions like the thesis statement of a typical informative or persuasive speech. The next step in preparing the presentation is identifying the main question. The main question will be answered in the talk through the presentation of data and findings. The take-home message should be related to the main question, perhaps even answer it, as this provides a logical flow for the presentation. Explicitly stating the take-home message and main question in the speech helps the audience process the information and helps a speaker keep only the information relevant to them, which helps prevent information overload. The following link contains some information from the National Communication Association about “How to Make the Most of Your Presentation”:http://natcom.org/Tertiary.aspx?id=1763.


  • The need for public speaking skills extends beyond this classroom to other parts of academia but will vary based on your discipline. Knowing how to speak in discipline-specific ways can help you be a more successful student.
  • Student speakers in the social sciences present reviews of existing research or the results of original quantitative or qualitative research related to current social issues.
  • Student speakers in the arts and humanities critique, review, and compare and contrast existing art, literature, and historical texts. Students are also asked to paraphrase and synthesize existing texts and connect past art or literature to contemporary society.
  • Student speakers in education/training and development lecture, facilitate discussion, and run activities as if they were actually teaching or training. Students need to be able to break down complex concepts and progressively build on them while sharing examples and connecting to the bigger picture of the course. Students will also be evaluated on nonverbal immediacy behaviors.
  • Student speakers in science and math courses deliver presentation content based on the scientific method and systems of logic. Students may focus on sharing the results of a research project or problem or focus on a specific method or procedure related to science or math.
  • Student speakers in technical courses present “how-to” information regarding mechanical or information processes. They also translate technical information for lay audiences. Presentation content is often data driven, but products and designs must still be sold to various audiences, so persuasive skills are also important.
  • Presentations at academic conferences must be severely edited to fit time frames of approximately ten minutes. Many speakers try to cram too much information into their time frame. Narrow your presentation down to an introduction, an interrogation of a main question, and a concluding take-home message.


  1. Getting integrated: Does your major or career interest fall into the social sciences, arts and humanities, education/training and development, science and math, or technical courses? Which strategies for speaking in that area have you already witnessed among your professors or classmates? Which strategies do you think will be most helpful for you to learn/improve on? Which are you already doing well on?
  2. Identify an academic conference related to your desired career field and visit the conference association’s website. When is the conference? How do you submit to attend? Do they have any advice listed for presenting at their conference? If so, compare and contrast the advice they offer with the advice in this chapter.
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