The art of public speaking

There are times when people are called upon to address a group of people. There is no reason why we cannot face this challenge with relative ease and self-confidence.

The Objective of Speaking

Public speeches are delivered on various occasions, however regardless of what the occasion, the speaker wishes to get the audience to accept his perspective. Hence, in a certain sense, all speeches are persuasive speeches.

Persuade the audience to believe your information, persuade the audience to change its beliefs, persuade the audience not only to change its beliefs, but also to act on the changes.

Perhaps you wish to inform the audience about capital punishment or, you may wish to get them to change their beliefs regarding capital punishment or, you may not only wish them to change their beliefs regarding capital punishment, however to write letters to the governor informing him what action to take.

The objective is determined by the kind of audience you are speaking to; by the circumstances of the speech; and sometimes by the course of action that you recommend.

But, whether the objective of a particular speech is determined by the audience, by the circumstances, or by the speaker himself, preparation of the public speech must begin with the establishment of the objective of the speech.

This objective should be taken into a sentence, which is specific and concrete. A clear understanding of the objective in speaking is as helpful and valuable to the speaker as a road map is to the driver. The objective provides direction to the speech and, to a degree, governs’ all subsequent efforts the speaker makes.

The speaker needs to therefore begin preparing his speech by asking himself just what action he desires his audience to take.

This desired action is called the intended audience response (IAR).

The intended audience response (IAR) should also aid the audience, not just the speaker. We expect each speaker to be responsible for the well-being of the audience.

When Hitler spoke to the German people prior to as well as during World War II, he sought and got support for a military machine that eventually brought death and destruction to Germany.

We believe, therefore, that he deceived and misguided the German people.

The people, in their own self-interest, should not have taken his intended audience response.

The President of the United States has on the other hand, suggested the exchange of atomic energy secrets and fissionable materials among the nations of the world. This is an action that people could take in their own self-interest.

A person who intentionally recommends action by the audience that was to their detriment is dishonest; he who does so unwittingly is ignorant. Certainly, the public speaker must avoid being either.

A speaker may recommend action that would be beneficial to the audience, yet impractical to execute. A speaker who picks such an IAR will certainly fail. To prevent such failure, the speaker should be able to respond to these questions in the affirmative.

Does the audience have the authority to make the IAR? (Politicians do not address children.)

Does the audience have the capability to make the IAR? (Appeals for charitable contributions are not made to beggars.)

Would it be appropriate for the audience to make the IAR? (Women should not be asked to volunteer for heavy labor.)

Furthermore, the speaker should not ask for a response that he has neither the time nor the support to validate.

Selection of the Central Idea

People will act consistent with the suggestions they accept. To get an audience to accept the IAR, a speaker must present an idea that leads to the desired response. In order to clarify the relation between the central idea (CI) and the intended audience response, let us consider the following IAR examples:

  1. Donate money to charity
  2. Vote in the next national election
  3. Read better books


  1. If you donate money to charity.

you fulfill your social obligation.

you may deduct it from your income tax obligations.

Charitable organizations help your very own community.

  1. It is a privilege to vote.

It is a civic responsibility to vote.

Vote to have good government.

  1. There are wonderful love stories amongst the classics.

Biographies can be explanatory.

Historical novels can be enjoyable reading.

Building Much Better Speech

These examples of central ideas may appear glimpse to be mere arguments in favor of taking the recommended action. Sometimes, this may be true. Let us distinguish between a central idea and an argument.

public speaking skills training
public speaking skills training

A central idea is that idea, which, if accepted, brings about the IAR. In the examples above, if the audience were the congregation in a church, the first listed central idea for donating money to charity would be a wise choice.

If the audience were all business men, the deduction of charitable donations from income tax obligations would be a better choice.

If neither of these seems appropriate, the appeal to self-interest would be the very best choice.

It is clear that one particular group accepts one idea more readily than another does. The selection of the central idea is merely a question of which idea (when fully developed) influences the audience to take the action desired by the speaker.

When selecting the central idea, like choosing the IAR, the speaker must consider the nature of his audience. The CI he picks must be within the intellectual grasp of his audience.

The audience must have had the experience required to comprehend the idea. The CI should be a challenge to the audience. It must not be hackneyed.

Subdivisions of the Speech

When you have selected the CI, you should divide it into several sub-ideas, which will in turn, be the main headings of the body of your speech. The selection of the headings of a speech is an essential step in the preparation.

Initially, the headings, when taken together, should completely cover the subject. For instance, a speech with the central idea that “The United States Federal government is efficient,” should have the following subservient ideas:

  1. The Legislative Branch is Efficient.
  2. The Executive Branch is Efficient.
  3. The Judicial Branch is Efficient.

The federal government has three branches. There are no other components.

The complete development of these headings treats the central idea and reveals that the entire federal government is efficient.

Having one central idea, separated into sub-ideas appropriately selected and supported, is a means of insuring unity in a speech. Because of this unity, the audience believes that you have provided it a complete picture.

Your very own experience shows you that using only a few sub-divisions help you comprehend and remember a complex idea, while too many have a tendency to confuse you. Therefore, the sub-ideas should not exceed five.

Previous experience suggests that five different headings approach the maximum number of items that people conveniently remember. Too many sub-heads actually harm the unity of your speech. More than five sub-ideas spell “danger” to the speaker.

The order in which speech materials are presented can either strengthen or weaken the impact of the speech. The speaker may find that his speech fits appropriately into one of the thought patterns.

If not, then, he should arrange his data in relation to the strength of each point. A speech may be organized around either three or five points.

The more your ideas approximate one of the following arrangements, the more effective your speech will be.

The Type of the Synopsis

The speaker should begin the synopsis of the speech by stating the intended audience response in as concrete terms as is possible. This assures the speaker that his thinking of his objective for speaking is clear.

He should then record the central idea. This is the next step because the selection of the central idea determines the framework of the speech. After selecting the central idea, the speaker should check to see if it actually will (when developed) bring about the desired response.

Division of the central idea into sub-ideas should be the next step.

Before completing the synopsis, it is essential, naturally, to explore each sub-idea, reviewed it, discuss it, and document whatever support can be found for it. At this point it may be necessary to evaluate the central idea and sub-ideas to see if your reading and other research will enable you to improve upon your previous choice of headings.

The next problem is to select from the recorded materials, the very best supports available for each particular idea; determine how much is needed and organize them in the most effective way.

If some headings require more specific data for support than has been found, additional research should be done.

Now that we have the ideas put down, we need to ask one more question:

“Which of these ideas will the audience accept on my own authority, and which of these ideas will require additional support?”

Generally, the more radical the statement, the more likely it is that you need to refer to a source of reference to persuade the audience to your way of thinking.

Preparation of the Introduction and the Conclusion.

Once the body of the speech is complete, and only then, is it possible to determine an appropriate introduction and conclusion.

Planning the Introduction

The objective of the introduction is to prepare the audience to hear your speech. In order to do this, it must get the attention of the audience, make the audience like or respect you (or both), and develop an interest in the ideas you present.

Speak Audibly. This doesn’t need comment since a speech unheard is practically the same as a speech unmade. The members of the audience need to listen from the beginning in order to comprehend the speech fully.

What can be said to gain attention will, of course, depend upon the speaker, the audience, and the circumstance. Some approaches that have achieved success in the past are:

A startling statement: “More people have been killed on our highways than have died on all the battlefields in the history of the world!”

A seemingly unbelievable yet true statement: “There are many Americans who actually take pleasure in paying their income tax obligations.”

A question or may be a series of questions: “Have you ever considered what it would be like to live in Red China? Have you ever imagined what it would be like to be a Chinese Communist?”

A familiar or famous quotation: “For all the tragic words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: It could have been!'”.

The business-like approach: “Today we will talk about three aspects. First, we shall consider … etc. “.

An example: You may use a significant story, an anecdote, a joke, or a parable. Keep in mind that one illustration is worth a thousand words of explanation.

The entire world likes a great story

Pay attention to how speakers you hear get the attention of their audience. Keep in mind that the very first sentence you say will be heard to by all. You may never again have such high percentage of listeners Don’t miss your best opportunity by wasting it on formalities or trivialities.

The usual recognition of important guests can be left to a less important part of the speech. The usual type of salutation is “Ladies and gentlemen” and is usually used in most speech situations.

Now that you have the attention of the audience, you need to focus on making the audience like or respect you enough to pay attention.

With an audience that is hostile, it may be necessary to prolong the introduction, but for most audiences, it is sufficient that you be well-prepared to speak to them, that you be interested in them, and that you get the job done as quickly as possible.

Avoid long-winded introductions. Get to the point. Avoid apologies at all costs. The speaker that says, “I’m not very qualified to talk to you on this subject, yet …” ought not to be speaking to begin with. Your introduction needs to arouse the interest of your audience in the theme of your speech.

Therefore, your startling statement, challenging statement, series of questions, familiar quotation, business-like approach, or illustration must punctuate the theme of your speech.

Do not heat up the audiences with a couple of unrelated jokes and then say, in effect, “Well, we had better get back to the speech.” You can tell jokes however pick ones that illustrate your point.

If you think you will be nervous during the initial few minutes of your speech, begin with an introduction that requires movement. Place a chart on one side of the platform so that you can walk over and point to it, set up a demonstration and practice opening with it, or try to have a few pieces of note paper in your hands at the beginning.

A physical movement assists in calming you. Plan sufficient movement in introduction to put yourself at ease.

It can be seen from the above discussion that an introduction for a particular speech must be worked out in regards to the nature of the speech, the speaker, the audience, and the speech situation.

Here are some general suggestions that you could experiment with in your speeches, however we must repeat these cautions:

First, introductions should be as brief as possible

Second, materials in introductions should be included only if they contribute to one of the three objectives of the introduction.

Third, the more original and the more prompt it is, the more effective the introduction will be.

Fourth, all introductions should be planned, yet adaptable enough to incorporate events that occur as late as your own introduction.

Planning the Conclusion

The objective of the conclusion is to draw the entire speech together in a few words. In order to do this, it must provide the audience a sense of finality or completeness, summarize the content of the body of the speech, and/or arouse the audience to action.

Although a conclusion may accomplish all three of these objectives, any one of them may be sufficient to satisfy the needs of an individual speech. In order to provide the audience a sense of finality or completeness, the conclusion should be appropriately designed to balance.

It shouldn’t be too long or too short. Avoid the anti-climax. There is nothing worse for an audience than to think that a speaker is wrapping up, only to find that he has gained steam and is moving on to something new.

A preview of your speech in your introduction helps to avoid these anti-climaxes. Here are some suggestions for providing your conclusion a sense of completeness:

A significant quotation: Save a particularly effective sentence from one of your best sources and utilize it as the basis of your conclusion.

You might say:

” My comments urging this class to adopt a child overseas, under the Save the Children Federation, may be most effectively concluded by quoting “Constance Capron” from her Reader’s Digest article, when she said:

” I was ashamed that my own problems, now petty by comparison, had blinded me to the realities of life.’ Are we in this same fix?”

A startling statistic: “Only 5,500 children are now being funded by the Save the Children Federation.

Think of the thousands more who need help. Are there not more than 5,500 families in the United States who can afford to share a small amount of their earnings with a destitute child overseas?”

A fitting instance: “Let me tell share a story before I end my speech. This is the story of Stella Saradari of Serres, Greece.

Her father died fighting the Communists in the mountains of Greece; her mother is a scrubwoman. Stella, her brother Constantine, and her mother live in one room. Their house fell down after a hard winter, and had to be rebuilt by neighbors”.

The conclusion to every speech ought to summarize its content.

If you tell an audience in your introduction what to expect in the speech, by saying, “I am going to discuss three points with you;” if you explain to the audience in the body of the speech when you are discussing each of these by saying, “Now first, we will discuss … “.

And if, in your conclusion, you say, “Now, I have told you three things about …,” your audience cannot help but get a clear picture of your message.

If this sounds too elementary to you, keep in mind that you are already extremely knowledgeable about the content of your speech and have reviewed the material several times.

Your audience, on the contrary, has not had this opportunity. If you give an audience three reviews of your main structure (once in the introduction, once in the body, and once in the conclusion), you need have no fears of being misinterpreted.

public speaking tips and tricks
public speaking tips and tricks

The suggested conclusions will, largely summarize your content. However, your central idea will be even clearer if you also review for your audience the main parts of your speech. You have to be organized to make such a summary.


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