Chapter 10: Speech Preparation

10.1 Introduction

Learning Objectives

  • Explain the importance of accuracy, clarity, and listener interest in public speaking.
  • Define four delivery styles.
  • Discuss why public speaking is important.
  • Identify strategies for audience analysis.
  • Identify a variety of speech patterns to organizing a speech.
  • Understand how to include presentational aids in your speech.
  • Identify strategies for delivery.
  • Understand how to outline a speech.

In this chapter, we wish to address the finer points of effective public speaking so that you can be more successful in future presentations at ISU and later in your professional career.

Being honest about your personal agenda in choosing a topic is important. It is not always easy to discern a clear line between informative and persuasive speech. Good information has a strong tendency to be persuasive, and persuasion relies on good information. On a basic level, all communication is persuasive because at the very least when you communicate you are trying to persuade someone to listen to you and to believe you. Thus, informative and persuasive speaking do overlap. It remains up to you to examine your real motives in choosing your topic. Ethical speaking means respecting the intelligence of your audience. If you try to circumvent the purpose of the informative speech in order to plant a persuasive seed, your listeners will notice. Such strategies often come across as dishonest.

A good speech conveys accurate information to the audience clearly and that keeps the listener interested in the topic. Achieving all three of these goals—accuracy, clarity, and interest—is the key to your effectiveness as a speaker. If the information is inaccurate, incomplete, or unclear, it will be of limited usefulness to the audience. There is no topic about which you can give complete information, and therefore, we strongly recommend careful narrowing. With a carefully narrowed topic and purpose, it is possible to give an accurate picture that isn’t misleading.

Part of being accurate is making sure that your information is current. Even if you know a great deal about your topic or writing a good paper on the topic in a high school course, you need to verify the accuracy and completeness of what you know. Most people understand that technology changes rapidly, so you need to update your information almost constantly, but the same is true for topics that, on the surface, may seem to require less updating. For example, the American Civil War occurred 150 years ago, but contemporary research still offers new and emerging theories about the causes of the war and its long-term effects. So even with a topic that seems to be unchanging, you need to carefully check your information to be sure it’s accurate and up to date.

For your listeners to benefit from your speech, you must convey your ideas in a fashion that your audience can understand. The clarity of your speech relies on logical organization and understandable word choices. You should not assume that something that’s obvious to you will also be obvious to the members of your audience. Formulate your work with the objective of being understood in all details, and rehearse your speech in front of peers who will tell you whether the information in your speech makes sense.

In addition to being clear, your speech should be interesting. Your listeners will benefit the most if they can give sustained attention to the speech, and this is unlikely to happen if they are bored. This often means you will decide against using some of the topics you know a great deal about. Suppose, for example, that you had a summer job as a veterinary assistant and learned a great deal about canine parasites. This topic might be very interesting to you, but how interesting will it be to others in your class? In order to make it interesting, you will need to find a way to connect it with their interests and curiosities. Perhaps there are certain canine parasites that also pose risks to humans—this might be a connection that would increase audience interest in your topic.


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