Reading Guide 2


Please answer the following questions based on your interpretation of the text. Each response should be about one paragraph in length. Please do not copy directly out of the textbook. Like all classroom assignments, will be utilized and it will be considered plagiarism to copy word for word from the textbook. Please submit in this format; write the questions out and do not submit one long block of text.

Chapter 3

  1. Out of all the different reasons for speakers to be ethical, which do you believe is the most important and why?

Chapter 10

  1. There are many aspects that make oral and written language different stylistically; describe specifically in this class what you should reflect on when you are writing and performing a speech knowing this.
  2. Why is language choice especially important when you are performing in front of a diverse audience, like you would encounter at school?

Chapter 12

  1. What do you believe are the three most effective types of presentation aids and why?
  2. Imagine a peer in another class was giving their first presentation and they were planning on using a PowerPoint slideshow during their performance. What are some of tips you would have for them in order to present a successful speech?

The following content is partner provided

Public Speaking
An Audience-Centered Approach

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Public Speaking
An Audience-Centered Approach

Tenth Edition

Steven A. Beebe
Texas State University

Susan J. Beebe
Texas State University

Student Edition
ISBN-10: 0-13-438091-6
ISBN-13: 978-0-13-438091-9

Books a la Carte
ISBN-10: 0-13-440161-1
ISBN-13: 978-0-13-440161-4

Acknowledgments of third party content appear on pages 355–359, which constitutes an
extension of this copyright page.

Copyright ©2018, 2015, 2012 by Pearson Education, Inc. or its affiliates. All Rights
Reserved. Printed in the United States of America. This publication is protected by
copyright, and permission should be obtained from the publisher prior to any prohibited
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Beebe, Steven A., 1950- author. | Beebe, Susan J. author.
Public speaking: an audience-centered approach / Steven A. Beebe, Texas State
University; Susan J. Beebe, Texas State University.
Tenth edition. | Hoboken: Pearson, 2017. | Includes
bibliographical references and index.
LCCN 2016028583 | ISBN 9780134380919 (hardcover)
LCSH: Public speaking. | Oral communication.
LCC PN4129.15 .B43 2017 | DDC 808.5/1—dc23
LC record available at

1 16

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Brief Contents

1 Speaking with Confidence 1

2 Presenting Your First Speech 19

3 Speaking Freely and Ethically 36

4 Listening to Speeches 48

5 Analyzing Your Audience 67

6 Developing Your Speech 95

7 Gathering and Using Supporting Material 115

8 Organizing and Outlining Your Speech 133

9 Introducing and Concluding Your Speech 157

10 Using Words Well: Speaker Language and Style 171

11 Delivering Your Speech 184

12 Using Presentation Aids 209

13 Speaking to Inform 228

14 Understanding Principles of Persuasive Speaking 244

15 Using Persuasive Strategies 264

16 Speaking for Special Occasions and Purposes 294

Appendix A Speaking in Small Groups 309

Appendix B Speeches for Analysis and Discussion 317


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Preface xv

1 Speaking with Confidence 1

What Is Public Speaking? 2
Why Study Public Speaking? 3

Empowerment 3
Employment 3

The Rich Heritage of Public
Speaking 4

The Golden Age of Public Speaking 4
Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Age of
Political Oratory 5
The Technological Age of Public Speaking 5

The Communication Process 6
Communication as Action 6
Communication as Interaction 7
Communication as Transaction 8

Improving Your Confidence as a Speaker 9
Understand Your Nervousness 10
How to Build Your Confidence 12

Confidently Connecting with Your Audience:
Begin with the End in Mind 15
Study Guide: Review, Apply, and Assess 17

2 Presenting Your First Speech 19

Consider Your Audience 20
Gather and Analyze
Information about Your
Audience 21
Consider the Culturally
Diverse Backgrounds of
Your Audience 22

The Audience-Centered Speechmaking Process 22
Select and Narrow Your Topic 22
Determine Your Purpose 24
Develop Your Central Idea 25
Generate the Main Ideas 25
Gather Supporting Material 26
Organize Your Speech 28

Sample Outline 29
Rehearse Your Speech 30
Deliver Your Speech 31

Confidently Connecting with Your Audience:
Use Your Communication Apprehension to
Enhance Your Performance 31
Sample Speech 33
Study Guide: Review, Apply, and Assess 35

3 Speaking Freely and Ethically 36

Speaking Freely 37
Free Speech and the U.S.
Constitution 38
Free Speech in the Twentieth
Century 38
Free Speech in the Twenty-First
Century 39

Speaking Ethically 40
Have a Clear, Responsible Goal 41
Use Sound Evidence and Reasoning 41
Be Sensitive to and Tolerant of Differences 42
Be Honest 43
Don’t Plagiarize 43

Confidently Connecting with Your Audience:
Remember That You Will Look More Confident
Than You May Feel 43
Sample Oral Citation 45
Speaking Credibly 46
Study Guide: Review, Apply, and Assess 47

4 Listening to Speeches 48

Overcoming Barriers to Effective
Listening 50

Listener Fatigue 50
Personal Concerns 50
Outside Distractions 51
Prejudice 52

Differences between Speech Rate and
Thought Rate 52

How to Become a Better Listener 53
Listen with Your Eyes as Well as Your Ears 53
Listen Mindfully 54
Listen Skillfully 55
Listen Ethically 58

x Contents

Improving Critical Listening and Thinking Skills 58
Separate Facts from Inferences 59
Evaluate the Quality of Evidence 60

Analyzing and Evaluating Speeches 60
Giving Feedback to Others 61

Confidently Connecting with Your Audience: Look
for Positive Listener Support 64

Giving Feedback to Yourself 64
Study Guide: Review, Apply, and Assess 65

5 Analyzing Your Audience 67

Gathering Information about Your
Audience 69

Gathering Information Informally 69
Gathering Information Formally 69

Analyzing Information about Your
Audience 72

Identify Similarities 72
Identify Differences 72
Identify Common Ground 72

Adapting to Your Audience 73
Analyzing Your Audience before You Speak 74

Demographic Audience Analysis 74
Confidently Connecting with Your Audience:
Learn as Much as You Can about Your Audience 77

Psychological Audience Analysis 83
Developing Your Speech Step by Step: Consider
Your Audience 84

Situational Audience Analysis 86
Adapting to Your Audience as You Speak 87

Identifying Nonverbal Audience Cues 88
Responding to Nonverbal Cues 90
Strategies for Customizing Your Message
to Your Audience 90

Analyzing Your Audience after You Speak 91
Nonverbal Responses 92
Verbal Responses 92
Survey Responses 92
Behavioral Responses 92

Study Guide: Review, Apply, and Assess 93

6 Developing Your Speech 95

Select and Narrow Your Topic 96
Guidelines for Selecting a Topic 96
Strategies for Selecting a Topic 98

Confidently Connecting with Your
Audience: Selecting an

Interesting Topic 100
Narrowing the Topic 100

Developing Your Speech Step by Step: Select
and Narrow Your Topic 102
Determine Your Purpose 102

General Purpose 102
Specific Purpose 103

Developing Your Speech Step by Step:
Determine Your Purpose 105
Develop Your Central Idea 105

A Complete Declarative Sentence 106
Direct, Specific Language 107
A Single Idea 107
An Audience-Centered Idea 108

Generate and Preview Your Main Ideas 108
Developing Your Speech Step by Step: Develop
Your Central Idea 109

Generating Your Main Ideas 109
Developing Your Speech Step by Step: Generate
Your Main Ideas 110

Previewing Your Main Ideas 111
Meanwhile, Back at the Computer . . . 112
Study Guide: Review, Apply, and Assess 113

7 Gathering and Using Supporting
Material 115

Sources of Supporting Material 116
Personal Knowledge and
Experience 116
The Internet 116
Online Databases 118
Traditional Library Holdings 119
Interviews 120

Confidently Connecting with Your Audience:
Prepare Early 120
Research Strategies 121

Develop a Preliminary Bibliography 121
Locate Resources 121
Assess the Usefulness of Resources 122
Take Notes 122
Identify Possible Presentation Aids 122

Developing Your Speech Step by Step: Gather
Supporting Material 122
Types of Supporting Material 123

Illustrations 123
Descriptions and Explanations 124
Definitions 125
Analogies 126
Statistics 127
Opinions 129

The Best Supporting Material 130
Study Guide: Review, Apply, and Assess 132

Contents xi

8 Organizing and Outlining
Your Speech 133

Confidently Connecting with
Your Audience: Organize
Your Message 135
Organizing Your Main Ideas 135

Organizing Ideas Topically 136
Ordering Ideas
Chronologically 137

Arranging Ideas Spatially 138
Organizing Ideas to Show Cause and Effect 139
Organizing Ideas by Problem-Solution 139
Acknowledging Cultural Differences in
Organization 140

Organizing Your Supporting Material 141
Developing Your Speech Step by Step: Organize
Your Speech 141

Primacy or Recency 142
Specificity 143
Complexity 143
From Soft to Hard Evidence 143

Organizing Your Presentation for the Ears of
Others: Signposting 144

Previews 144
Transitions 145
Summaries 146

Outlining Your Speech 147
Developing Your Preparation Outline 147

Sample Preparation Outline 151
Developing Your Speaking Notes 153

Study Guide: Review, Apply, and Assess 155

9 Introducing and Concluding
Your Speech 157

Confidently Connecting with Your Audience:
Be Familiar with Your Introduction and
Conclusion 158

Purposes of Introductions 158
Get the Audience’s
Attention 159
Give the Audience a
Reason to Listen 159

Introduce the Subject 159
Establish Your Credibility 160
Preview Your Main Ideas 160

Effective Introductions 161
Illustrations or Anecdotes 161
Startling Facts or Statistics 162
Quotations 162
Humor 163

Questions 164
References to Historical Events 164
References to Recent Events 165
Personal References 165
References to the Occasion 165
References to Preceding Speeches 166

Purposes of Conclusions 166
Summarize the Speech 166
Provide Closure 167

Effective Conclusions 168
Methods Also Used for Introductions 168
References to the Introduction 168
Inspirational Appeals or Challenges 169

Study Guide: Review, Apply, and Assess 170

10 Using Words Well: Speaker
Language and Style 171

Differentiating Oral and Written
Language Styles 172
Using Words Effectively 173

Use Specific, Concrete Words 173
Use Simple Words 174
Use Words Correctly 174

Use Words Concisely 175
Adapting Your Language Style to Diverse
Listeners 176

Use Language That Your Audience Can
Understand 176
Use Respectful Language 176
Use Unbiased Language 177

Crafting Memorable Word Structures 178
Creating Figurative Images 179
Creating Drama 179

Confidently Connecting with Your Audience:
Use Words to Manage Your Anxiety 179

Creating Cadence 180
Analyzing an Example of Memorable Word
Structure 180
Using Memorable Word Structures Effectively 182

Study Guide: Review, Apply, and Assess 183

11 Delivering Your Speech 184

The Power of Speech
Delivery 185

Listeners Expect Effective
Delivery 185
Listeners Make Emotional
Connections with
You through Delivery 185

Listeners Believe What They See 186

xii Contents

Methods of Delivery 186
Manuscript Speaking 186
Memorized Speaking 187
Impromptu Speaking 187

Confidently Connecting with Your Audience:
Re-create the Speech Environment When
You Rehearse 188

Extemporaneous Speaking 189
Characteristics of Effective Delivery 190

Eye Contact 190
Gestures 191
Movement 193
Posture 194
Facial Expression 195
Vocal Delivery 195
Personal Appearance 200

Rehearsing Your Speech: Some Final Tips 201
Developing Your Speech Step by Step: Rehearse
Your Speech 202
Delivering Your Speech 203
Developing Your Speech Step by Step: Deliver
Your Speech 204
Responding to Questions 204
Study Guide: Review, Apply, and Assess 207

12 Using Presentation Aids 209

Types of Presentation Aids 210
Images 210
Text 215
Video 216
Audio 217
Objects and Models 218
People 218

Using Computer-Generated Presentation Aids 219
Basic Principles of Using Computer-
Generated Presentation Aids 219
Tips for Using Computer-Generated
Presentation Aids 220

Confidently Connecting with Your Audience:
Practice with Your Presentation Aids to Boost
Your Confidence 221
Guidelines for Developing Presentation Aids 222

Make Them Easy to See 222
Keep Them Simple 222
Select the Right Presentation Aid 222
Do Not Use Dangerous or Illegal Presentation
Aids 223
Allow Plenty of Time to Prepare Your
Presentation Aids 223

Guidelines for Using Presentation Aids 223

Rehearse with Your Presentation Aids 223
Make Eye Contact with Your Audience,
Not with Your Presentation Aids 224
Explain Your Presentation Aids 224
Do Not Pass Objects among Members of Your
Audience 224
Use Animals with Caution 224
Use Handouts Effectively 225
Time the Use of Visuals to Control Your
Audience’s Attention 225

Study Guide: Review, Apply and Assess 227

13 Speaking to Inform 228

Informative Speech Topics 229
Speeches about Objects 230
Speeches about
Procedures 231
Speeches about People 231
Speeches about Events 232
Speeches about Ideas 232

Strategies to Enhance Audience Understanding 233
Speak with Clarity 233
Use Principles and Techniques of Adult
Learning 234
Clarify Unfamiliar Ideas or Complex
Processes 235

Strategies to Maintain Audience Interest 236
Motivate Your Audience to Listen to You 236
Tell a Story 237
Present Information That Relates to Your
Listeners 237
Use the Unexpected 238

Sample Informative Speech 238
Strategies to Enhance Audience Recall 239

Build In Redundancy 240
Make Your Key Ideas Short and Simple 240
Pace Your Information Flow 241
Reinforce Key Ideas 241

Developing an Audience-Centered Informative
Speech 241
Study Guide: Review, Apply, and Assess 243

14 Understanding Principles of
Persuasive Speaking 244

The Goals of Persuasion 245
Changing or Reinforcing
Audience Attitudes 245
Changing or Reinforcing
Audience Beliefs 245

Changing or Reinforcing Audience Values 246

Contents xiii

Changing or Reinforcing Audience Behaviors 246
How Persuasion Works 247

Aristotle’s Traditional Approach: Using Ethos,
Logos, and Pathos to Persuade 247
ELM’s Contemporary Approach: Using a Direct
or Indirect Path to Persuade 248

How to Motivate Listeners 249
Use Cognitive Dissonance 250
Use Listeners’ Needs 252
Use Positive Motivation 254
Use Negative Motivation 254

How to Develop Your Audience-Centered
Persuasive Speech 256

Consider the Audience 256
Select and Narrow Your Persuasive Topic 257
Determine Your Persuasive Purpose 257
Develop Your Central Idea and Main Ideas 258
Gather Supporting Material 260
Organize Your Persuasive Speech 261
Rehearse and Deliver Your Speech 261

Confidently Connecting with Your Audience:
Breathe to Relax 261
Study Guide: Review, Apply, and Assess 262

15 Using Persuasive Strategies 264

Enhancing Your Credibility 265
Understanding Credibility 265
Improving Your Credibility 266

Using Reasoning and Evidence 267
Understanding Types of
Reasoning 267
Using Types of Evidence 272

Using Evidence Effectively 273
Avoiding Faulty Reasoning 274

Using Emotional Appeals 277
Tips for Using Emotion to Persuade 277
Using Emotional Appeals Ethically 280

Strategies for Adapting Ideas to People and
People to Ideas 280

Persuading the Receptive Audience 280

Persuading the Neutral Audience 281
Persuading the Unreceptive Audience 282

Confidently Connecting with Your Audience:
Enhance Your Initial Credibility 282
Strategies for Organizing Persuasive Messages 283

Problem–Solution 285
Refutation 285

Sample Persuasive Speech 286
Cause and Effect 288
The Motivated Sequence 289

Study Guide: Review, Apply, and Assess 292

16 Speaking for Special Occasions
and Purposes 294

Public Speaking in the
Workplace 295

Group Presentations 295
Speeches 298
Mediated Workplace
Presentations 298

Ceremonial Speaking 299
Introductions 299

Confidently Connecting with Your Audience:
Seek a Variety of Speaking Opportunities 299

Toasts 300
Award Presentations 300
Nominations 301
Acceptances 301
Keynote Addresses 302
Commencement Addresses 303
Commemorative Addresses 303
Eulogies 304

After-Dinner Speaking: Using Humor
Effectively 304

Humorous Topics 305
Humorous Stories 306
Humorous Verbal Strategies 306
Humorous Nonverbal Strategies 307

Study Guide: Review, Apply, and Assess 308

A Appendix: Speaking in Small
Groups 309

Solving Problems in Groups and Teams 310
Participating in Small Groups 313

Come Prepared for Group Discussions 313
Do Not Suggest Solutions before Analyzing
the Problem 313
Evaluate Evidence 313
Help Summarize the Group’s Progress 313
Listen and Respond Courteously to Others 313
Help Manage Conflict 314

Leading Small Groups 314
Leadership Responsibilities 314
Leadership Styles 315

B Appendix: Speeches for Analysis
and Discussion 317

I Have a Dream: Martin Luther King 317
Inaugural Address: John F. Kennedy 318
Second Inaugural Address: Barack Obama 320
Remarks to the U.S. Congress: Pope Francis 323
The Need for Minority Bone Marrow
Donors: Julio Gonzalez 328

Endnotes 330

Glossary 348

Credits 355

Index 360

xiv Contents


The tenth edition of Public Speaking: An Audience-Centered Approach is written to be the
primary text in a course intended to help students become better public speakers.
We are delighted that since the first edition of the book was published more than

two decades ago, educators and students of public speaking have found our book a dis-
tinctively useful resource to enhance public-speaking skills. We’ve worked to make our
latest edition a preeminent resource for helping students enhance their speaking skills
by adding new features and retaining the most successful elements of previous editions.

New to the Tenth Edition
We’ve refined and updated this text to create a powerful and contemporary resource
for helping speakers connect to their audience. We’ve added several new features and
revised features that both instructors and students have praised. Like the previous
edition, the tenth edition is also available in Revel, but this revision has enabled us to
refine and improve our learning design and user experience, building on market feed-
back from current users and reviewers.


Educational technology designed for the way today’s students read,
think, and learn
When students are engaged deeply, they learn more effectively and perform better in
their courses. This simple fact inspired the creation of Revel: an immersive learning
experience designed for the way today’s students read, think, and learn. Built in col-
laboration with educators and students nationwide, Revel is the newest, fully digital
way to deliver respected Pearson content.

Revel enlivens course content with media interactives and assessments— integrated
directly within the authors’ narrative—that provide opportunities for students to read
about and practice course material in tandem. This immersive educational technology
boosts student engagement, which leads to better understanding of concepts and im-
proved performance throughout the course.

Learn more about Revel

Special FeatureS For public Speaking StudentS Revel is a dynamic learning experi-
ence that offers students a way to study the content and topics relevant to communi-
cation in a whole new way. Rather than simply offering opportunities to read about
and study public speaking, Revel facilitates deep, engaging interactions with the
concepts that matter most. For example, in Chapter 2, students are presented with the
authors’ hallmark audience-centered model as an interactive figure diagramming the
various tasks involved in the speechmaking process. This figure is used throughout
the text to emphasize the importance of being audience-centered. Throughout chap-
ters in Revel students can interact with this figure to learn more about each stage of
the process, and in the Chapter 13 Study Guide they can take a self-checking, drag-
and-drop assessment to put the stages of the model in order. In addition, students


are presented with video examples throughout the book on topics such as improving
listening skills, audience analysis, primary sources, speech delivery, using presen-
tation aids, informative speeches, outlines, intercultural listening, and the fear of
public speaking. As part of our commitment to boosting students’ communication
confidence, our first discussion of improving your confidence in Chapter 1 features
the Personal Report of Public Speaking Anxiety in Revel. Students can take this as-
sessment right there in the context of our chapter, get their score, and continue reading
about how to improve their own level of confidence. By providing opportunities to
read about and practice public speaking in tandem, Revel engages students directly
and immediately, which leads to a better understanding of course material. A wealth
of student and instructor resources and interactive materials can be found within
Revel. Some of our favorites include the following:

• Audio Excerpts Throughout the text, audio excerpts highlight effective speech
examples. Students can listen to audio clips while they read, bringing examples to
life in a way that a printed text cannot. These audio examples reinforce learning and
add dimension to the printed text.

• Videos and Video Self-Checks Video clips appear throughout the narrative to
boost mastery, and many videos are bundled with correlating self-checks, enabling
students to test their knowledge.

• Interactive Figures Interactive figures help students understand hard-to-grasp
concepts through interactive visualizations.

• Integrated Writing Opportunities To help students connect chapter content with
personal meaning, each chapter offers two varieties of writing prompts: the Journal
prompt, which elicits free-form, topic-specific responses addressing content at the
module level, and the Shared Writing prompt, which encourages students to share
and respond to each other’s brief responses to high-interest topics in the chapter.

For more information about all the tools and resources in Revel and access to your
own Revel account for Public Speaking: An Audience-Centered Approach, Tenth Edition go

New and Updated Features
In addition to the abundance of in-chapter inter-
active and media materials you’ll find in Revel,
we’ve refined and updated the text to create a
powerful and contemporary resource for help-
ing speakers connect to their audience.

new SpeecheS We’ve added new speech ex-
amples throughout the text. In addition, two
speeches in our revised Appendix B are new,
selected to provide readers with a variety of
positive models of effective speeches.

new exampleS and illuStrationS New exam-
ples and illustrations provide both classic and
contemporary models to help students master
the art of public speaking. As in previous edi-
tions, we draw on both student speeches and
speeches delivered by well-known people.

new material in every chapter In addition to
these new and expanded features, each chapter
has been revised with new examples, illustrations,

xvi Preface

and references to the latest research conclusions. Here’s a summary of the changes and
revisions we’ve made:

Chapter 1: Speaking with Confidence

To capture student interest, the chapter now begins with a new example about the annual
Technology, Education, and Design (TED) Conference. The section on the rich heritage of
public speaking has been moved before coverage of the communication process. In addition,
updated research reinforces advice on the importance of developing public speaking skills.

Chapter 2: Presenting Your First Speech

This chapter provides an overview of the audience-centered speaking process, jump-
starting the speechmaking process for students who are assigned to present speeches
early in the term. To better streamline the chapter and reduce repetitive topics, we’ve
reduced the number of sections from nine to two. Additional coverage has been added
on considering the culturally diverse backgrounds of your audience. New research on
the importance of speech rehearsal has also been included.

Chapter 3: Speaking Freely and Ethically

To highlight the balance between the right to speak freely and the responsibility to speak
ethically, the chapter begins with a new, real-world example on racial tension at the Uni-
versity of Missouri–Columbia. Coverage of free speech in the twenty-first century has been
updated to include the Arab Spring and the terrorist attacks at the French humor maga-
zine, Charlie Hebdo. We have also included new research on the consequences of plagiarism.

Chapter 4: Listening to Speeches

The chapter has been streamlined by removing topics already covered in other chapters.
The discussion on prejudice has been updated. Research has been added on listening
skills, including the influence of technology.

Chapter 5: Analyzing Your Audience

The discussion of sex, gender, and sexual orientation has been updated with new research
and examples. This chapter introduces the first of the updated Developing Your Speech Step
by Step boxes, which provide students with an extended example of how to implement
audience-centered speechmaking concepts. The definition of race has also been revised.

Chapter 6: Developing Your Speech

This chapter includes a number of new figures, illustrating topics such as brainstorm-
ing, using Web directories, narrowing a broad topic, preparing a specific purpose state-
ment, and wording the central idea. A new example on guidelines for selecting a topic
has also been added. Discussions on using Web directories and writing a specific pur-
pose have been streamlined and updated.

Chapter 7: Gathering and Using Supporting Material

Coverage of the Internet has been revised to provide more updated information on
locating resources online. New figures have also been added to this chapter, including
an illustration highlighting the limitations and advantages of Wikipedia. The section on
interviewing has also been streamlined and revised.

Chapter 8: Organizing and Outlining Your Speech

This chapter now includes new examples of purpose statements, central ideas, and
main ideas. In addition, new figures illustrate how to organize supporting material
and how to use your preparation outline as a guide to analyzing and revising your
speech. A new Sample Preparation Outline gives students a complete model of the best
practices in organization and outlining.

Chapter 9: Introducing and Concluding Your Speech

New examples on humor, inspirational appeals, and references to the occasion have
been added to the chapter. Coverage of illustrations and anecdotes has been updated

Preface xvii

and revised. Content throughout the chapter has been streamlined to reduce repeti-
tive topics.

Chapter 10: Using Words Well: Speaker Language and Style

The chapter features three new tables: Table 10.1 provides explanations and examples
of different types of figurative language; Table 10.2 offers four strategies for creating
drama in speeches; and Table 10.3 summarizes ways to create cadence by using stylis-
tic devices. A new figure illustrating three key guidelines for using memorable word
structures effectively has also been added.

Chapter 11: Delivering Your Speech

Instead of seven sections, this chapter now has six. Selected content from former
Section 11.4 (Audience Diversity and Delivery) has been distributed throughout the
chapter where appropriate. Discussions on how to develop your message effectively
and use gestures effectively have also been updated.

Chapter 12: Using Presentation Aids

This chapter has been reorganized so it now has a greater focus on computer-generated
presentation aids. Additional content on visual rhetoric has been added. New Table 12.1
highlights the value of presentation aids, along with visual examples of each aid. The chap-
ter also features updated figures, including examples of bar, pie, line and picture graphs.

Chapter 13: Speaking to Inform

Developing an Audience-Centered Informative Speech, the final section in this chap-
ter, has been streamlined to reduce repetitive topics. Discussions on speeches about
procedures and speeches about events have been revised.

Chapter 14: Understanding Principles of Persuasive Speaking

Additional content has been added about changing and/or reinforcing audience val-
ues. The discussion of fear appeal has also been updated.

Chapter 15: Using Persuasive Strategies

This chapter has been streamlined to eliminate repetitive topics. Discussions on how
credibility evolves over time and improving your credibility have been updated and
revised. We have also added suggestions for telling stories with an emotional message.

Chapter 16: Speaking for Special Occasions and Purposes

The chapter features a new discussion on mediated workplace presentations. New
examples throughout the chapter demonstrate models of speeches for ceremonial oc-
casions including acceptance speeches and commencement addresses. There is also
a new table on formats for sharing group reports and recommendations with an au-
dience. A new figure illustrating suggestions for enhancing teamwork has also been
added to the chapter.

Successful Features Retained in This Edition
The goal of the tenth edition of Public Speaking: An Audience-Centered Approach remains
the same as that of the previous nine editions: to be a practical and user-friendly guide
to help speakers connect their hearts and minds with those of their listeners. While add-
ing powerful new features and content to help students become skilled public speakers,
we have also endeavored to keep what students and instructors liked best. Specifically,
we retained five areas of focus that have proven successful in previous editions: our
audience-centered approach; our focus on overcoming communication apprehension;
our focus on ethics; our focus on diversity; and our focus on skill development. We also
continue our partnership with instructors and students by offering a wide array of print
and electronic supplements to support teaching and learning.

xviii Preface









and Narrow
















, H


, N

Preface xix

Our Audience-Centered Approach
The distinguishing focus of the book is our audience-centered approach. More than
2,300 years ago, Aristotle said, “For of the three elements in speechmaking—speaker,
subject, and person addressed—it is the last one, the hearer, that determines the speak-
er’s end and object.” We think Aristotle was right. A good speech centers on the needs,
values, and hopes of the audience, who should be foremost in the speaker’s mind
during every step of the speech development and delivery process. Thus, in a very
real sense, the audience writes the speech. Effective and ethical public speaking does
not simply tell listeners only what they want to hear—that would be a manipulative,
speaker-centered approach. Rather, the audience-centered speaker is ethically respon-
sive to audience interests without abandoning the speaker’s end and object.

It is not unusual or distinctive for a public-speaking book to discuss audience
analysis. What is unique about our audience-centered approach is that our discussion
of audience analysis and adaptation is not confined to a single chapter; rather, we em-
phasize the importance of considering the audience throughout our entire discussion
of the speech preparation and delivery process. From the overview early in the text of
the public-speaking process until the final chapter, we illuminate the positive power of
helping students relate to their audience by keeping their listeners foremost in mind.

Preparing and delivering a speech also involves a sequence of steps. Our audience-
centered model integrates the step-by-step process of speech preparation and delivery
with the ongoing process of considering the audience. Our audience-centered model of
public speaking, shown here and introduced in Chapter 2, reappears throughout the text
to remind students of the steps involved in speech preparation and delivery, while simul-
taneously emphasizing the importance of considering the audience. Viewing the model
as a clock, the speaker begins the process at the 12 o’clock position with “Select and Nar-
row Topic” and moves around the model clockwise to “Deliver Speech.” Each step of the
speech preparation and delivery process touches the center portion of the model, labeled
“Consider the Audience.” Arrows connecting the center with each step of the process il-
lustrate how the audience influences each of the steps involved in designing and present-
ing a speech. Arrows pointing in both directions around the central process of “Consider
the Audience” represent how a speaker may sometimes revise a previous step because
of further information or thought about the audience. A speaker may, for example,
decide after having gathered supporting material for a speech that he or she
needs to go back and revise the speech purpose. Visual learners will
especially appreciate the illustration of the entire public-speaking
process provided by the model. The colorful, easy-to-under-
stand synopsis will also be appreciated by people who learn
best by having an overview of the entire process before
beginning the first step of speech preparation.

After introducing the model early in the book, we
continue to emphasize the centrality of considering
the audience by revisiting it at appropriate points
throughout the book. A highlighted version of the
model appears in several chapters as a visual re-
minder of the place the chapter’s topic occupies in
the audience-centered speechmaking process. Similar-
ly, highlighted versions appear in Developing Your Speech
Step by Step boxes. Another visual reminder comes in the
form of a miniature version of the model, the icon shown
here in the margin. When you see this icon, it will remind you
that the material presented has special significance for considering your
audience. In Revel, students can interact with this audience-centered
model to learn more about each stage of the speechmaking process. At the

xx Preface

end of Chapter 13, they can also test their knowledge using a drag-and-drop assessment to
put the stages of the model in order.

Our Focus on Communication Apprehension
One of the biggest barriers that keeps a speaker, especially a novice public speaker, from
connecting to his or her audience is apprehension. Fear of failure, forgetting, or fumbling
words is a major distraction. In our text, we help students to overcome their apprehension
of speaking to others by focusing on their listeners rather than on their fear. Our discus-
sion of communication apprehension is covered in Chapter 1. We have continued to add
the most contemporary research conclusions we can find to help students overcome the

anxiety that many people experience when
speaking publicly. To help students integrate
confidence-boosting strategies through their
study of public speaking, we offer students
powerful pointers for managing anxiety in
the Confidently Connecting with Your Audience
features found in each chapter. For example,
in Chapter 1 of the Revel course, students
can complete the Personal Report of Public
Speaking Anxiety and immediately get their

score. In addition, as students read through the narrative in Revel, they will find videos,
“Explore the Concept” activities, and assessment questions to engage their interest, en-
liven the content, and increase their confidence.

Our Focus on Ethics
Being audience-centered does not mean that a speaker tells an audience only what they
want to hear; if you are not true to your own values, you will have become a manipulative,
unethical communicator rather than an audience-centered one. Audience-centered speak-
ers articulate truthful messages that give audience members free choice in responding to
a message, while they also use effective means of ensuring message clarity and credibility.

From the first chapter onward, we link being an audience-centered speaker with
being an ethical speaker. Our principles and strategies for being rhetorically skilled are
anchored in ethical principles that assist speakers in articulating a message that con-
nects with their audience. We not only devote an entire chapter (Chapter 3) to being
an ethical speaker, but we also offer reminders, tips, and strategies for making ethical
speaking and listening an integral part of human communication. As part of the Study
Guide at the end of each chapter, students and instructors will find questions to spark
discussion about and raise awareness of ethical issues in effective speechmaking. For
example, in Revel, students can watch a short video on the ethics of decision and com-
plete a video self-check to evaluate their knowledge on the topic.

Our Focus on Diversity
Just as the topic of audience analysis is covered in most public-speaking textbooks, so is
diversity. Sometimes diversity is discussed in a separate section; sometimes it is presented
in “diversity boxes” sprinkled throughout a book. We choose to address diversity not as an
add-on to the main discussion but rather as an integral part of being an audience-centered
speaker. To be audience-centered is to acknowledge the various ethnic and cultural back-
grounds, attitudes, beliefs, values, and other differences present when people assemble
to hear a speech. We suggest that inherent in the process of being audience-centered is a
focus on the diverse nature of listeners in contemporary audiences. The topic of adapting
to diverse audiences is therefore not a boxed afterthought but is integrated into every step
of our audience-centered approach.

Our Focus on Skill Development
We are grateful for our ongoing collaboration with public-speaking teachers, many of
whom have used our audience-centered approach for more than two decades. We have
retained those skill development features of previous editions that both teachers and
students have applauded. What instructors tell us most often is “You write like I teach”
or “Your book echoes the same kind of advice and skill development suggestions that I
give my students.” We are gratified by the continued popularity of Public Speaking: An
Audience-Centered Approach.

clear and intereSting writing Style Readers have especially valued our polished
prose, concise style, and engaging, lively voice. Students tell us that reading our book
is like having a conversation with their instructor.

outStanding exampleS Students need to be not only told how to speak effectively,
but also shown how to speak well. Our powerful and interesting examples, both classic
and contemporary and drawn from both student speakers and famous orators, con-
tinue to resonate with student speakers.

built-in learning reSourceS We’ve retained the following built-in pedagogical fea-
tures of previous editions:

• Learning Objectives appear at the start of each chapter to provide students with strate-
gies and key points for approaching the chapter. Objectives reappear at key points in
the chapter to help students gauge their
progress and monitor their learning.

• An updated Study Guide at the end of
each chapter reviews the learning objec-
tives and key terms, and guides students
to think critically about chapter concepts
and related ethical issues.

• Recap boxes and tables help students
check their understanding and review
for exams.

• An extended speech example appears in the Developing Your Speech Step
by Step boxes, which appear throughout the book.

In the tenth edition, we have also added new tables and illustra-
tions to help summarize content. In Revel, students can reinforce content
from the text by completing “Explore the Concept” activities, watching
videos, interacting with figures, listening to speech examples, and taking
quizzes at the end of each section and chapter.

Instructor and Student Resources
Public-speaking students rarely learn how to be articulate speakers only
from reading a book. Students learn best in partnership with an experi-
enced instructor who can guide them through the process of being an audience-centered
speaker. And experienced instructors rely on support from textbook publishers. To sup-
port instructors and students who use Public Speaking: An Audience-Centered Approach,
Pearson provides an array of supplementary materials for students and instructors. Key
instructor resources include an Instructor’s Manual (ISBN 0-13-440158-1), Test Bank
(ISBN 0-13-440151-4), and PowerPoint™ Presentation Package (ISBN 0-13-440160-3).
These supplements are available at (instructor login re-
quired). MyTest online test-generating software (ISBN 0-13-440153-0) is available at www (instructor login required). For a complete list of the instructor and
student resources available with the text, please visit the Pearson Communication catalog,

Preface xxi

Preface xxiii

Writing a book is a partnership not only with each other as co-authors but also with
many people who have offered us the benefit of their experience and advice about how
to make this the best possible teaching and learning resource. We appreciate all of the
authors and speakers we have quoted or referenced; their words and wisdom have
added resonance to our knowledge and richness to our advice. We are grateful for our
students, colleagues, adopters, friends, and the skilled editorial team at Pearson.

Many talented reviewers have helped us shape the content and features of this
edition. These talented public-speaking teachers have supplemented our experience
to help us make decisions about how to present and organize the content of this book.
We express our sincere appreciation to the following reviewers who have shared their
advice, wisdom, and expertise:

Reviewers of the tenth edition:

Jay Frasier, Lane Community College; Heather Heritage, Cedarville University;
John Levine, University of California–Berkeley; Richard Robinson, The University of
Tennessee at Martin; Mary Shortridge, Ashland Community and Technical College;
Tamara St. Marthe, National Park College; Charlotte Toguchi, Kapi’olani Community
College; Henry Young, Cuyahoga Community College–Metropolitan Campus

Reviewers of previous editions:

Melanie Anson, Citrus College; Richard Armstrong, Wichita State University;
Nancy Arnett, Brevard Community College; David E. Axon, Johnson County
Community College; Ernest W. Bartow, Bucks County Community College; John
Bee, University of Akron; Jaima L. Bennett, Golden West College; Donald S.
Birns, SUNY–Albany; Tim Borchers, Moorhead State University; Cynthia Brown
El, Macomb Community College; Barry Brummett, University of Wisconsin,
Milwaukee; John Buckley, University of Tennessee; Thomas R. Burkholder,
University of Nevada–Las Vegas; Deborah Burns, Merrimack College; Brady
Carey, Mt. Hood Community College; Judy H. Carter, Amarillo College; Mark
Chase, Slippery Rock University; Laurence Covington, University of the District
of Columbia; Marilyn J. Cristiano, Paradise Valley Community College; Dan B.
Curtis, Central Missouri State University; Ann L. Darling, University of Illinois,
Urbana–Champaign; Conrad E. Davidson, Minot State University; Terrence
Doyle, Northern Virginia Community College; Gary W. Eckles, Thomas Nelson
Community College; Thomas G. Endres, University of St. Thomas; Richard I.
Falvo, El Paso Community College; John S. France, Owens State Community
College; Kristina Galyen, University of Cincinnati; Darla Germeroth, University
of Scranton; Donna Goodwin, Tulsa Community College; Myra G. Gutin, Rider
University; Larry Haapanen, Lewis-Clark State College; Dayle C. Hardy-Short,
Northern Arizona University; Carla J. Harrell, Old Dominion University;
Tina Harris, University of Georgia; Phyllis Heberling, Tidewater Community
College; James L. Heflin, Cameron University; Susan A. Hellweg, San Diego
State University; Wayne E. Hensley, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State
University; Patricia S. Hill, University of Akron; Judith S. Hoeffler, Ohio State
University; Stephen K. Hunt, Illinois State University; Paul A. Hutchins, Cooke
County College; Ann Marie Jablonowski, Owens Community College; Elaine B.
Jenks, West Chester University; Nanette Johnson-Curiskis, Gustavus Adolphus
College; Kamesha Khan, Chicago State University; Kherstin Khan-Brockbank,
Fresno City College; Cecil V. Kramer, Jr., Liberty University; Michael W. Kramer,
University of Missouri; Jeff Kurtz, Denison University; Linda Kurz, University
of Missouri, Kansas City; Ed Lamoureux, Bradley University; David Lawless,
Tulsa Junior College; Robert S. Littlefield, North Dakota State University; Jeré W.
Littlejohn, Mississippi State University; Harold L. Make, Millersville University

xxiv Preface

of Pennsylvania; Jim Mancuso, Mesa Community College; Deborah F. Meltsner,
Old Dominion University; Rebecca Mikesell, University of Scranton; Maxine
Minson, Tulsa Junior College; Christine Mixan, University of Nebraska at Omaha;
Barbara Monaghan, Berkeley College; Jay R. Moorman, Missouri Southern State
University; Marjorie Keeshan Nadler, Miami University; Karen O’Donnell, Finger
Lakes Community College; Rhonda Parker, University of San Francisco; Roxanne
Parrott, University of Georgia; Richard L. Quianthy, Broward Community
College; Carol L. Radetsky, Metropolitan State College; Renton Rathbun, Owens
Community College; Mary Helen Richer, University of North Dakota; K. David
Roach, Texas Tech University; Kellie W. Roberts, University of Florida; Rebecca
Roberts, University of Wyoming; Val Safron, Washington University; Kristi
Schaller, University of Hawaii at Manoa; Cara Schollenberger, Bucks County
Community College; Shane Simon, Central Texas College; Cheri J. Simonds,
Illinois State University; Glenn D. Smith, University of Central Arkansas; Valerie
Smith, California State University, East Bay; David R. Sprague, Liberty University;
Jessica Stowell, Tulsa Junior College; Edward J. Streb, Rowan College; Aileen
Sundstrom, Henry Ford Community College; Susan L. Sutton, Cloud County
Community College; Tasha Van Horn, Citrus College; Jim Vickrey, Troy State
University; Denise Vrchota, Iowa State University; Beth M. Waggenspack, Virginia
Polytechnic Institute and State University; David E. Walker, Middle Tennessee
State University; Jamille Watkins-Barnes, Chicago State University; Lynn Wells,
Saddleback College; Nancy R. Wern, Glenville State College; Charles N. Wise, El
Paso Community College; Marcy Wong, Indian River State College; Argentina R.
Wortham, Northeast Lakeview College; Merle Ziegler, Liberty University

Kosta Tovstiadi is a good friend and trusted researcher who assisted with research
for this edition. We are grateful that Karon Bowers, Publisher, Communication, contin-
ued to be a strong source of support and encouragement to us as we worked on this
edition, as she was on previous editions. Ellen Keohane, our skilled development edi-
tor, has done an exceptional job of offering excellent advice and creative suggestions to
make this a better book. She helped lighten our workload with her attention to detail
and many helpful suggestions.

We have enjoyed strong support and mentorship from a number of teachers,
friends, and colleagues who have influenced our work over the years. Our colleagues
at Texas State University continue to be supportive of our efforts. Tom Willett, retired
professor from William Jewell College; Dan Curtis, emeritus professor at the Univer-
sity of Central Missouri; John Masterson, emeritus professor at Texas Lutheran Uni-
versity; and Thompson Biggers, professor at Mercer University, are longtime friends
and exemplary teachers who continue to influence our work and our lives. Sue Hall,
Department of Communication Studies senior administrative assistant at Texas State,
again provided exceptional support and assistance to keep our work on schedule.

We view our work as authors of a textbook as primarily a teaching process. Both of
us have been blessed with gifted teachers whose dedication and mentorship continue
to inspire and encourage us. Mary Harper, former speech, English, and drama teacher
at Steve’s high school alma mater, Grain Valley High School, Grain Valley, Missouri;
and Sue’s speech teacher, the late Margaret Dent, who taught at Hannibal High School,
Hannibal, Missouri, provided initial instruction in public speaking that remains with
us today. We also value the life lessons and friendship we received from the late Erma
Doty, another former teacher at Grain Valley High. We appreciate the patience and en-
couragement we received from Robert Brewer, our first debate coach at the University
of Central Missouri, where we met each other more than forty-five years ago and where
the ideas for this book were first discussed. We both served as student teachers under
the unforgettable, energetic guidance of the late Louis Banker at Fort Osage High School,
near Buckner, Missouri. Likewise, we have both benefited from the skilled instruction

of Mary Jeanette Smythe, now retired from the University of Missouri–Columbia. We
wish to express our appreciation to the late Loren Reid, emeritus professor from the
University of Missouri–Columbia, one of the first people in the nation to earn a Ph.D.
in speech, who lived to the age of 109; to us, he was the quintessential speech teacher.

Finally, we value the patience, encouragement, proud support, and love of our
sons and daughter-in-law, Mark and Amanda Beebe and Matthew Beebe. They offer
many inspiring lessons in overcoming life challenges and infusing life with joy and
music. They continue to be our most important audience.

Steven A. Beebe

Susan J. Beebe

Preface xxv

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It’s a hot ticket. Even at $8,500, the annual four-day event always sells out. Some
3 million additional people watch and listen online every day.1 But the performers
are not, as you might guess, legendary singers or classic rock bands. They are, in

fact, not performers at all. They are public speakers.
The live event is the annual Technology, Education, and Design (TED) Conference.

And you are probably among the billions who have seen a TED video. Public speak-
ing, whether presented to a live audience, via broadcast video, or online, remains a
powerful and popular form of communication.

As you begin reading this text, chances are that you are also beginning a course
in public speaking. You’re in good company; nearly a half million college students

There are two kinds of speakers:

those that are nervous and

those that are liars.

—Mark Twain

1.1 Compare and contrast public speaking and

1.2 Explain why it is important to study public speaking.

1.3 Discuss in brief the history of public speaking.

1.4 Sketch and explain a model that illustrates the
components and the process of communication.

1.5 Use several techniques to become a more confident

After studying this chapter, you should be able to do the following:

Speaking with

Jean Jaures (1859-1914), Speaking at the
Tribune of the Chamber of Deputies, 1903
(oil on canvas). Photo: The Bridgeman Art
Library/Getty Images.

2 Chapter 1

take a public-speaking class each year.2 If you haven’t had much previous experi-
ence speaking in public, you’re also in good company. Sixty-six percent of students
beginning a public-speaking course reported having had little or no public-speaking

The good news is that this text will provide you with the knowledge and experi-
ence needed to become a competent public speaker—an active participant in what
TED curator Chris Anderson calls “as important a task as humanity has.”4

What Is Public Speaking?
1.1 Compare and contrast public speaking and conversation.

Public speaking is the process of presenting a spoken message to an audience, small
or large. You hear speeches almost every day. Each day when you attend class, an
instructor lectures. When watching a newscast on TV or via the Internet, you get a
“sound bite” of some politician delivering a speech. When you hear a comedian deliv-
ering a monologue on a late-night talk show or the Comedy Channel, you’re hearing a
speech designed to entertain you.

The skill of public speaking builds on your normal, everyday interactions with
others. In fact, as you begin to study and practice public speaking, you will dis-
cover that it has much in common with conversation, a form of communication in
which you engage in every day. Like conversation, public speaking requires you to
focus and verbalize your thoughts.

When you have a conversation, you also have to make decisions “on your feet.” If
your friends look puzzled or interrupt with questions, you may need to explain your idea a

second time. If they look bored, you insert a funny story or
talk more animatedly. As a public speaker, you will learn
to make similar adaptations based on your knowledge
of your listeners, their expectations for your speech, and
their reactions to what you are saying. In fact, because
we believe that the ability to adapt to your audience is so
vital, this text focuses on public speaking as an audience-
centered activity.

Although there are some similarities, public
speaking is not exactly like talking with a friend or an
acquaintance. Let’s take a look at some of the ways in
which public speaking differs from conversation.

●● Public speaking requires more preparation than conversa-
tion. Although you may sometimes be asked to
speak on the spur of the moment, you will usually
know in advance whether you will be expected to
give a talk on a specific occasion. A public speaker
might spend hours or even days planning and prac-
ticing his or her speech.

●● Public speaking is more formal than conversa-
tion. The slang or casual language we often use
in conversation is usually not appropriate for
most public speaking. Audiences expect speakers
to use standard English grammar and vocabulary.
A public speaker’s delivery is also more formal
than the way most people engage in ordinary

public speaking
The process of presenting a spoken mes-
sage to an audience

Public speakers take more time to prepare their remarks than conversa-
tionalists do. Public speaking is also more formal than conversation, with
defined roles for speaker and audience. Photo: val lawless/Shutterstock.

Speaking with Confidence 3

●● Public speaking involves more clearly defined roles for speaker and audience than conver-
sation. During a conversation, there is typically interaction between speaker and
listener. But in public speaking, the roles of speaker and audience are more clearly
defined and remain stable. A public speaker presents a more structured and less
interactive message. Although in some cultures a call-and-response speaker–
audience interaction occurs (such as saying “That’s right” or “Amen” when re-
sponding to a preacher’s sermon), in the majority of the United States, audience
members rarely interrupt or talk back to speakers.

Why Study Public Speaking?
1.2 Explain why it is important to study public speaking.

Although you’ve heard countless speeches during your lifetime, you may still have
questions about why it’s important for you to study public speaking. Here are two
reasons: By studying public speaking you will gain long-term advantages related to
empowerment and employment.

You will undoubtedly be called on to speak in public at various times in your life: as
a student participating in a seminar class; as a businessperson presenting to a poten-
tial client; as a concerned citizen addressing the city council’s zoning board. In each
of these situations, the ability to speak with competence and confidence will provide
empowerment. To be empowered is to have the resources, information, and atti-
tudes that allow you to take action to achieve a desired goal. Being a skilled public
speaker will give you an edge that less skilled communicators lack—even those who
may have superior ideas, education, or experience. It will position you for greater
things by enhancing your overall communication skill.5 Former presidential speech-
writer James Humes, who labels public speaking “the language of leadership,” says,
“Every time you have to speak—whether it’s in an auditorium, in a company confer-
ence room, or even at your own desk—you are auditioning for leadership.”6

One of the empowering resources that you develop by studying public speaking
is critical thinking. To think critically is to be able to listen and analyze information
you hear so that you can judge its accuracy and relevance. While you are learning how
to improve your speaking in this course, you are also learning the critical thinking
skills to sort good ideas from bad ideas. Being a critical thinker and an effective com-
municator is a powerful and empowering combination.

Yet, like most people, you may experience fear and anxiety about speaking in
public. As you start your journey of becoming an effective public speaker, you may
have questions about how to bolster your confidence and manage your apprehen-
sion. Before you finish this chapter, you’ll have read about more than a dozen strat-
egies to help you feel both more empowered and confident. Being both a confident
and an empowered public speaker is within your grasp. And being an empowered
speaker can open up leadership and career opportunities for you.

If you can speak well, you possess a skill that others value highly. In fact, industrial-
ist Charles M. Schwab once said, “I’ll pay more for a person’s ability to speak and
express himself than for any other quality he might possess.”7 Billionaire stock inves-
tor Warren Buffet agrees. In an interview with CNN reporter Christiane Amanpour,

Having resources, information, and
attitudes that lead to action to achieve
a desired goal

critical thinking
Analyzing information to judge its accuracy
and relevance

4 Chapter 1

extolling the virtues of his public-speaking course, he said, “If you improve
your communication skills I guarantee you that you will earn 50 percent more
money over your lifetime.”8

Whether you’re currently employed in an entry-level position or aspire to
the highest rung of the corporate leadership ladder, being able to communicate
effectively with others is key to success in any line of work.9 The skills you
learn in a public-speaking course, such as how to ethically adapt information
to listeners, organize your ideas, persuade others, and hold listeners’ attention,
are among the skills most sought after by any employer. In a nationwide sur-
vey, prospective employers of college graduates said they seek candidates with
“public-speaking and presentation ability.”10 Other surveys of personnel man-
agers, both in the United States and  internationally, have confirmed that they

consider communication skills the top factor in helping graduating college students
obtain employment.11 So by enhancing your speaking skill you are developing the
number-one competency that employers seek.

The Rich Heritage of Public
1.3 Discuss in brief the history of public speaking.

By studying public speaking you are doing more than empowering yourself and
enhancing your opportunities for employment. You are participating in a centuries-
old tradition of developing your rhetorical skills that enhances your ability to both
present ideas to others and analyze the speeches you hear. Long before many people
could read, they listened to public speakers. Rhetoric is the strategic use of words and
symbols to achieve a goal. Although rhetoric is often defined as the art of speaking or
writing aimed at persuading others (changing or reinforcing attitudes, beliefs, values,
or behavior), whether you’re informing, persuading, or even entertaining listeners,
you are using rhetoric because you are trying to achieve a goal.

The Golden Age of Public Speaking
The fourth century b.c.e. is called the golden age of rhetoric in the Greek Republic
because it was during this time that the philosopher Aristotle formulated guide-
lines for speakers that we still follow today. In later chapters in this text, you will be
learning principles and practices of public speaking that were first summarized by
Aristotle in his classic book The Art of Rhetoric, written in 333 b.c.e.

Roman orators continued the Greek rhetorical tradition by identifying five clas-
sical canons, or elements of preparing and presenting a speech:

●● Invention: the creative process of developing your ideas

●● Arrangement: how the speech is organized

●● Style: your choice of words

●● Memory: the extent to which you use notes or rely on your memory to share
your ideas

●● Delivery: the nonverbal expression of your message

These five classic elements of public speaking are embedded in the principles and
practices that we present in this text.

The Roman orator Cicero was known not only for being an excellent public
speaker but also for his writings on how to be an effective speaker. Marcus Fabius

The strategic use of words and symbols to
achieve a goal

WHy STudy PublIC
• Empowerment: You will

gain confidence and skill in
communicating with others.

• Employment: You will enhance
your career and leadership

Speaking with Confidence 5

Quintilianus, who was known as Quintilian and born in what is today Spain, also
sought to teach others how to be effective speakers. As politicians and poets attracted
large followings in ancient Rome, Cicero and Quintilian sought to define the qualities
of the “true” orator. Quintilian famously wrote that the ideal orator should be “a good
person speaking well.” On a lighter note, it is said that Roman orators invented the
necktie. Fearing laryngitis, they wore “chin cloths” to protect their throats.12

Centuries later, in medieval Europe, the clergy were the most polished public
speakers in society. People gathered eagerly to hear Martin Luther expound his
Articles of Faith. In the eighteenth century, British subjects in the colonies listened
to the town criers and impassioned patriots of what would one day become the
United States.

Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Age
of Political Oratory
Vast nineteenth-century audiences heard speakers such as Henry Clay and Daniel
Webster debate states’ rights; they listened to Frederick Douglass, Angelina Grimke,
and Sojourner Truth argue for the abolition of slavery and to Lucretia Mott plead for
women’s suffrage; they gathered for an evening’s entertainment to hear Mark Twain
as he traveled the lecture circuits of the frontier.

Yet students of nineteenth-century public speaking spent little time developing
their own speeches. Instead, they practiced the art of declamation—the delivery of
an already famous address. Favorite subjects for declamation included speeches by
such Americans as Patrick Henry and William Jennings Bryan and by the British
orator Edmund Burke. Collections of speeches, such as Bryan’s own ten-volume set
of The World’s Famous Orations, published in 1906, were extremely popular.

Hand in hand with declamation went the study and practice of elocution, the
expression of emotion through posture, movement, gesture, facial expression, and
voice. From the mid-nineteenth century to the early twentieth century, elocution
manuals—providing elaborate and specific prescriptions for effective delivery—
were standard references not only in schools but also in nearly every middle-class
home in the United States.13

The Technological Age of Public
In the first half of the twentieth century, radio made it pos-
sible for people around the world to hear Franklin Delano
Roosevelt decry December 7, 1941, as “a date which will
live in infamy” following the attack on Pearl Harbor in
Hawaii. In the last half of the century, television provided
the medium through which audiences saw and heard the
most stirring speeches:

●● Martin Luther King Jr. proclaiming his dream of equality

●● Ronald Reagan beseeching Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear
down this wall”

●● Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel looking beyond the end
of one millennium toward the next with “profound fear
and extraordinary hope”

With the twenty-first century dawned a new era of
speechmaking. It was to be an era that would draw

The delivery of an already famous speech

The expression of emotion through
posture, movement, gesture, facial
expression, and voice

Civil rights leader and human rights activist Dr. Martin Luther
King Jr. delivered one of the great speeches of history as the
keynote of the August 1963 civil rights march on Washington, D.C.
Photo: The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty.

6 Chapter 1

on age-old public-speaking traditions. But it was
also an era in which U.S. soldiers serving in Iraq
and Afghanistan would watch their children’s com-
mencement addresses live via streaming video. And
it was to be an era that would summon public speak-
ers to meet some of the most difficult challenges in
history—an era in which President Barack Obama
would empathize with the grief felt by the commu-
nity of Newtown, Connecticut, after twenty young
children and six adults were shot to death at Sandy
Hook Elementary School. He assured his listeners
that “ . . . you’re not alone in your grief; that our
world too has been torn apart; that all across this
land of ours, we have wept with you, we’ve pulled
our children tight.”14 Speakers of the future will con-
tinue to draw on a long and rich heritage, in addition
to forging new frontiers in public speaking.

You may be more likely to hear a speech today
presented as a pre-recorded TED Talk, YouTube

video, or a podcast and delivered on your smartphone or other digital device than
you are a live-and-in person presentation. In fact, you may be taking this course
online and may present your speeches to your classmates and instructor as video
recordings. Although the electronic context of the message influences both how
the message may be prepared and received, the primary process of developing and
presenting your speech is the same as it has been for centuries. Whether you are
presenting your message in person or via video there are core processes of public
speaking that will serve you well.

Another unchanging truth of public speaking is that the core of all you do in pub-
lic speaking is a focus on your audience. Your audience will ultimately determine if
your message has achieved your objective. For this reason, we suggest that you keep
your audience foremost in your mind from the first moments of thinking about your
speech topic to the time when you utter the concluding sentence of your speech.

The Communication Process
1.4 Sketch and explain a model that illustrates the components and the process

of communication.

Even the earliest communication theorists recognized that communication is a process.
The models they formulated were linear, suggesting a simple transfer of meaning from
a sender to a receiver, as shown in Figure 1.1. More recently, theorists have created mod-
els that better demonstrate the complexity of the communication process. Let’s explore
what some of those models can teach us about what happens when we communicate.

Communication as Action
Although they were simplistic, the earliest linear models of communication as action
identified most of the elements of the communication process. We will explain each
element as it relates to public speaking.

Source A public speaker is a source of information and ideas for an audience. The
job of the source or speaker is to encode, or translate, the ideas and images in his or
her mind into verbal or nonverbal symbols (a code) that an audience can recognize.
The speaker may encode into words (for example, “The fabric should be 2 inches
square”) or into gestures (showing the size with his or her hands).

The public speaker

To translate ideas and images into verbal
or nonverbal symbols

A verbal or nonverbal symbol for an idea
or image

of PublIC SPEAkIng
Period Event

Fourth to first
centuries b.c.e.

Greek rhetoric flourishes in the Age of
Aristotle. Roman orators continue the

Fifteenth century European clergy are the primary practitioners
of public speaking.

Eighteenth century American patriots make impassioned public
pleas for independence.

Nineteenth century Abolitionists and suffragists speak out for
change; frontier lecture circuits flourish.

Twentieth century Electronic media make possible vast

Twenty-first century A new era of speechmaking uses rapidly
evolving technology and media while drawing
on a rich heritage of public speaking.

Speaking with Confidence 7

MeSSage The message in public speaking is the speech itself—both what is said
and how it is said. If a speaker has trouble finding words to convey his or her ideas
or sends contradictory nonverbal symbols, listeners may not be able to decode the
speaker’s verbal and nonverbal symbols back into a message.

channelS A message is usually transmitted from sender to receiver via two channels:
visual and auditory. Audience members see the speaker and decode his or her nonver-
bal symbols—eye contact (or lack of it), facial expressions, posture, gestures, and dress.
If the speaker uses any visual aids, such as graphs or models, these too are transmitted
along the visual channel. The auditory channel is evident as the speaker speaks. Then
the audience members hear words and recognize vocal cues such as inflection, rate,
and voice quality.

receiver The receiver of the message is the individual audience member, whose
decoding of the message will depend on his or her own particular blend of past ex-
periences, attitudes, beliefs, and values. As already emphasized, an effective public
speaker should be receiver- or audience-centered.

noiSe Anything that interferes with the communication of a message is called
noise. Noise may be physical and external. If your 8 a.m. public-speaking class is
frequently interrupted by the roar of a lawn mower running back and forth under
the window, it may be difficult to concentrate on what your instructor is saying. A
noisy air conditioner, a crying baby, or incessant coughing is an example of exter-
nal noise that may make it difficult for audience members to hear or concentrate
on a speech.

Noise may also be internal. Internal noise may stem from either physiological
or psychological causes and may directly affect either the source or the receiver. A
bad cold (physiological noise) may cloud a speaker’s memory or subdue his or
her delivery. An audience member worrying about an upcoming exam (psycho-
logical noise) is unlikely to remember much of what the speaker says. Regardless
of whether it is internal or external, physiological or psychological, or whether it
originates in the sender or the receiver, noise interferes with the transmission of
a message.

Communication as Interaction
Realizing that linear models were overly simplistic, later communication theorists
designed models that depicted communication as a more complex process (see
Figure 1.2). These models were circular, or interactive, and added two important new
elements: feedback and context.

The content of a speech and the mode of
its delivery

To translate verbal or nonverbal symbols
into ideas and images

The visual and auditory means by which
a message is transmitted from sender to

A listener or an audience member

external noise
Physical sounds that interfere with

internal noise
Physiological or psychological interference
with communication

Source Channel Receiver


Message Message

figure 1.1 The earliest models viewed communication as the action
of transferring meaning from source to receiver.

SourcE: Copyrighted by Pearson Education, Hoboken, NJ.

8 Chapter 1

Feedback As we’ve noted, one way in which public speaking differs from casual con-
versation is that the public speaker does most or all of the talking. But public speaking
is still interactive. Without an audience to hear and provide feedback, public speak-
ing serves little purpose. Skillful public speakers are audience-centered. They depend
on the nods, facial expressions, and murmurs of the audience to adjust their rate of
speaking, volume, vocabulary, type and amount of supporting material, and other
variables to communicate their message successfully.

context The context of a public-speaking experience is the environment or situa-
tion in which the speech occurs. It includes such elements as the time, the place, and
the speaker’s and audience’s cultural traditions and expectations. To rephrase John
Donne, no speech is an island. No speech occurs in a vacuum. Rather, each speech is a
blend of circumstances that can never be replicated exactly.

The person whose job it is to deliver an identical message to a number of differ-
ent audiences at different times and in different places can attest to the uniqueness
of each speaking context. If the room is hot, crowded, or poorly lit, these conditions
affect both speaker and audience. The audience that hears a speaker at 10 a.m. is
likely to be fresher and more receptive than a 4:30 p.m. audience. A speaker who
fought rush-hour traffic for 90 minutes to arrive at his or her destination may find it
difficult to muster much enthusiasm for delivering the speech.

Many of the skills that you will learn from this text relate not only to the prepa-
ration of effective speeches (messages) but also to the elements of feedback and
context in the communication process. Our audience-centered approach focuses on
“reading” your listeners’ responses and adjusting to them as you speak.

Communication as Transaction
The most recent communication models do not label individual components. Instead,
transactive models focus on communication as a simultaneous, transactive process. As
Figure 1.3 suggests, we send and receive messages concurrently. In a two-person com-
munication transaction, both individuals are sending and receiving at the same time.
When you are listening, you are simultaneously expressing your thoughts and feelings

Verbal and nonverbal responses provided
by an audience to
a speaker

The environment or situation in which
a speech occurs


Source Channel Receiver



Message Message

figure 1.2 Interactive models of communication add the element
of feedback to the previous action models. They also take into consideration
the communication context.

SourcE: Copyrighted by Pearson Education, Hoboken, NJ.

Speaking with Confidence 9

An effective public speaker should not only be focused
on the message he or she is expressing but should also be
tuned in to how the audience is responding to the message.
A good public speaker shouldn’t wait until the speech is over
to gauge the effectiveness of a speech. Instead, because of the
transactive nature of communication, a speaker should be
scanning the audience during the speech for nonverbal clues
to assess the audience’s reaction, just as you do when having
a conversation with someone.

Although communication models have been devel-
oped only recently, the elements of these models have
long been recognized as the keys to successful public
speaking. As you study public speaking, you will continue
a tradition that goes back to the beginnings of Western

Improving your
Confidence as a Speaker
1.5 Use several techniques to become a more confident speaker.

Actor and celebrated emcee George Jessel once wryly observed, “The human brain
starts working the moment you are born and never stops . . . until you stand up to
speak in public.” Perhaps public speaking is a required class for you, but, because
of the anxiety you feel when you deliver a speech, you’ve put it off for as long as

The first bit of comfort we offer is this: It’s normal to be nervous. In a classic sur-
vey seeking to identify people’s phobias, public speaking ranked as the most anxiety-
producing experience most people face. Forty-one percent of all respondents reported
public speaking as their most significant fear: Fear of death ranked only sixth!15 Even
comedian Jerry Seinfeld has said, “Given a choice, at a funeral most of us would
rather be the one in the coffin than the one giving the eulogy.” New research continues
to confirm that most people are apprehensive about giving a speech.16 Other studies
have found that more than 80 percent of the population feels anxious when they speak
to an audience.17 Some people find public speaking quite frightening: Studies suggest
that about 20 percent of all college students are highly apprehensive about speaking
in front of others.18

Even if your anxiety is not overwhelming, you can benefit from learning some
positive approaches that allow your nervousness to work for you.19 First, we will
help you understand why you become nervous. Then we will offer specific strate-
gies to help you speak with greater comfort and less anxiety.



figure 1.3 A transactive model of communication focuses on the simultaneous
encoding and decoding that happens between source and receiver. Both
source and receiver send and receive messages with ongoing feedback within
a communication channel.

SourcE: Copyrighted by Pearson Education, Hoboken, NJ.

Audience and speaker send messages simultaneously.
Elements of the process include:

• Source: The originator of the message
• Message: The content of what is expressed both ver-

bally and nonverbally
• Channel: The means by which a message is expressed

from sender to receiver
• Receiver: The listener or audience member who sees

and hears the message
• Feedback: Responses provided by an audience to a

• Context: The situation and environment in which the

speech occurs

10 Chapter 1

Understand Your Nervousness
What makes you feel nervous about speaking in public? Why do your hands some-
times shake, your knees quiver, your stomach flutter, and your voice seem to go up an
octave? What is happening to you?20

Researchers have found that public-speaking anxiety is both a trait (a charac-
teristic or general tendency that you may have) and a state (anxiety triggered by the
specific incidence of giving a speech to an audience).21 A study by two communica-
tion researchers found that among the causes of public-speaking anxiety were fear
of humiliation, concern about not being prepared, worry about one’s looks, pressure
to perform, personal insecurity, concern that the audience wouldn’t be interested in
oneself or the speech, lack of experience, fear of making mistakes, and an overall fear
of failure.22 Another study found that men are likely to experience more anxiety than
women when speaking to people from a culture different from their own.23 There
is also evidence that being a perfectionist may be linked to increased apprehension
when speaking to others.24 As you read the list of possible speaking-anxiety causes,
you’ll probably find a reason that resonates with you because most people feel some
nervousness when they speak before others. You’re not alone if you are apprehensive
about giving a speech.25 Understanding why you and many others may experience
apprehension can give you insights into how to better address your anxiety.26

Your biologY aFFectS Your PSYchologY Increasingly, researchers are concluding
that communication apprehension may have a genetic or biological basis: Some
people may inherit a tendency to feel anxious about speaking in public.27 You may
wonder, “So if I have a biological tendency to feel nervous, is there anything I can do
to help manage my fear?” The answer is yes. Even if you are predisposed to feeling
nervous because of your genetic makeup, there are strategies you can use to help
manage your apprehension.28 Perhaps you’ve heard that the secret to serenity is to
focus on the things you can change, rather than on the things you can’t, and to have
the wisdom to know the difference between what is changeable and what isn’t. For
increased serenity when speaking in public, we suggest you focus on behaviors that
you can change, such as enhancing your speaking skills, rather than on your biologi-
cally based speaking apprehension, which is much more difficult to change. A better
understanding of the biological reasons you feel apprehensive is a good starting
point on the journey to speaking with greater confidence and serenity.29

Your PSYchologY alSo aFFectS Your biologY Your view of the speaking assignment,
your perception of your speaking skill, and your self-esteem interact to create anxiety.30
You want to do well, but you’re not sure that you can or will. Presented with this con-
flict, your brain signals your body to switch to its default fight-or-flight mode: You can
either fight to respond to the challenge or flee to avoid the cause of the anxiety. Your
body responds by summoning more energy to deal with the conflict you are facing.
Your breathing rate increases, more adrenaline pumps through you, and more blood
rushes through your veins.31 To put it more technically, you are experiencing physio-
logical changes because of your psychological state, which explains why you may have
a more rapid heartbeat, shaking knees and hands, a quivering voice, and increased per-
spiration.32 You may also experience butterflies in your stomach because of changes in
your digestive system. As a result of your physical discomfort, you may make less eye
contact with your audience, use more vocalized pauses (“Um,” “Ah,’’ “You know”),
and speak too rapidly. Although you see your physical responses as hindrances, your
brain and body are simply trying to help you with the task at hand. Sometimes they of-
fer more “help” than needed, and their assistance is not useful.

Your aPPrehenSion FollowS a Predictable Pattern When are you most likely to feel
nervous about giving a speech in your communication class? Research suggests there
are typical times when people feel nervous. As shown in Figure 1.4, many people feel

Speaking with Confidence 11

most nervous right before they give their speech. That’s when the uncertainty about
what will happen next is highest.33 If you’re like most people, you’ll feel the second-
highest level of anxiety when your instructor explains the speech assignment. You’ll
probably feel the least anxiety when you’re preparing your speech.

One practical application of this research is that now you can understand when
you’ll need the most help managing your anxiety—right before you speak. It will
also help to remember that as you begin to speak, anxiety begins to decrease—often
dramatically. Another application of this research is realizing you’ll feel less anx-
ious about your speech when you’re doing something positive to prepare for it.
Don’t put off working on your speech; if you start preparing well in advance, you’ll
not only have a better speech, but you’ll also feel less anxious about presenting it.

What else can you do to understand and manage your fear and anxiety?
Consider the following observations.

You are going to Feel More nervouS than You look Realize that your audience
cannot see evidence of everything you feel.

When she finished her speech, Carmen sank into her seat and muttered, “Ugh,
was I shaky up there! Did you see how nervous I was?”

“Nervous? You were nervous?” asked Kosta, surprised. “You looked pretty
calm to me.”

Worrying that you are going to appear nervous to others may only increase
your anxiety. Your body will exhibit more physical changes to deal with your self-
induced state of anxiety. So even if you do feel nervous, remember that your listen-
ers aren’t able to see what you feel. The goal is to present an effective speech using
the skills you are learning in this course.34

You are not alone President John F. Kennedy was noted for his superb public-
speaking skills. When he spoke, he seemed perfectly at ease. Former British prime
minister Winston Churchill was also hailed as one of the twentieth century’s great
orators. Amazingly, both Kennedy and Churchill were extremely fearful of speaking
in public. The list of famous people who admit to feeling nervous before they speak
may surprise you: singers Barbra Streisand, Andrea Bocelli, Mariah Carey, Adele, and
Carly Simon; actors Julia Roberts and Jim Carrey; comedians Conan O’Brien and Jay
Leno; weather forecaster Al Roker, and media magnet Oprah Winfrey have all reported

Speech Assignment





You Begin Your




figure 1.4 Research reveals a pattern of nervousness common to many
public speakers, who feel the most nervous right before their speech begins,
with anxiety tapering off as the speech continues. Students may also feel a
smaller peak of worry at the time their instructor assigns them to give a speech.

SourcE: Copyrighted by Pearson Education, Hoboken, NJ.

12 Chapter 1

feeling anxious and jittery before speaking in public.35 Almost
everyone experiences some anxiety when speaking. It is unrealistic
to try to eliminate speech anxiety. Instead, your goal should be
to manage your nervousness so that it does not create so much
internal noise that it keeps you from speaking effectively.

You can uSe Your anxietY Extra adrenaline, increased blood
flow, pupil dilation, increased endorphins to block pain, el-
evated heart rate, and other physical changes caused by anxiety
improve your energy level and help you function better than
you might otherwise. Your heightened state of readiness can
actually help you speak better, especially if you view the pub-
lic-speaking event positively instead of negatively. Speakers
who label their increased feelings of physiological arousal as
“nervousness” are more likely to feel anxious and fearful, but
the same physiological feelings could also be labeled as “en-
thusiasm” or “excitement.” You are more likely to benefit from

the extra help your brain is trying to give you if you think positively rather than nega-
tively about speaking in public. Don’t let your initial anxiety convince you that you
cannot speak effectively.

How to Build Your Confidence
“Is there anything I can do to help manage my nervousness and anxiety when I give
a speech?” you may wonder. Both contemporary research and centuries of experience
from seasoned public speakers suggest some practical advice.36 We summarize their
suggestions in Table 1.1.

know Your audience Know to whom you will be speaking, and learn as much
about your audience as you can. The more you can anticipate the kind of reaction

Table 1.1 How to Build Your Confidence

What to Do How to Do It

Before You Speak

Know your audience. Learn as much as you can about the people who will be in your audience.

Don’t procrastinate. Start preparing your speech early. Give yourself plenty of time for rehearsal.

Select an appropriate topic. Pick a topic that interests both you and your audience.

Prepare. Well in advance of your speech, spend time developing your ideas, researching your message,
and selecting interesting stories and information.

Be organized. Prepare a well-structured talk, with clear major ideas, so that it is easier to remember.

Know your introduction and your conclusion. Have your opening line well in mind, although it should not be memorized word for word.

Make practice real. As you rehearse, recreate the speaking environment.

Breathe. Whenever your apprehension or anxiety increases, take a slow, deep, relaxing, calming breath.

Channel your nervous energy. Take a walk to relax before you speak or subtly squeeze your chair to release tension.

Visualize your success. Picture yourself confidently presenting your message to your audience.

Give yourself a mental pep talk. Remind yourself that you have prepared and worked hard to make your speech a success.

During Your Speech

Focus on your message, not on your fear. Stay focused on communicating your ideas to your listeners.

Look for positive support. Seek out smiling, supportive listeners.

After You Speak

Seek more speaking opportunities. Actively look for places to share your ideas with other groups.

Focus on what you have accomplished,
not on your fear.

Celebrate your speaking achievement after you complete your presentation.

undERSTAnd youR
Keep in mind:

• Nervousness is your brain trying to help you.
• Nervousness is predictable; it peaks right before

you speak.
• You’ll feel more nervous than you look.
• You are not alone.
• It’s normal to be nervous.
• Your nervousness can improve your performance

because of enhanced physiological responses.

Speaking with Confidence 13

your listeners will have to your speech, the more comfortable you will be in delivering
your message.37 As you are preparing your speech, periodically visualize your listen-
ers’ response to your message. Consider their needs, goals, and hopes as you prepare
your message. Be audience-centered rather than speaker-centered. Don’t keep telling
yourself how nervous you are going to be.38 An audience-centered speaker focuses on
connecting to listeners rather than focusing on fear.

don’t ProcraStinate One research study confirmed what you probably already
know: Speakers who are more apprehensive about speaking put off working on their
speeches, in contrast to speakers who are less anxious about public speaking.39 The
lack of thorough preparation often results in a poor speech performance, reinforcing
the speaker’s perception that public speaking is difficult. Realize that if you fear that
you’ll be nervous when speaking, you’ll tend to put off working on your speech. Take
charge and tackle the speech assignment early, giving yourself every chance to be suc-
cessful. Don’t let your fear freeze you into inaction. Prepare early.

Select an aPProPriate toPic You will feel less nervous if you talk about something
that is familiar to you or with which you have had some personal experience. Your
comfort with the subject of your speech will be reflected in your delivery.

Judy Shepard, whose son Matthew Shepard was brutally murdered in 1998
for being gay, is a frequent conference speaker and ardent proponent of gay rights.
Always apprehensive about giving a speech during her college years, she said,
“Speech class was my worst nightmare.”40 But today, because of her fervent belief
in her cause, she gives hundreds of speeches. “This is my survival; this is how I
deal with losing Matt,” she explained to students at South Lakes High School in
Reston, Virginia.41 Talking about something you are passionate about can boost
your motivation and help you manage your fear.

PrePare One formula applies to most speaking situations you are likely to experi-
ence: The better prepared you are, the less anxiety you will experience. Being prepared
means that you have researched your topic and practiced your speech several times
before you deliver it. One research study found clear evidence that rehearsing your
speech reduces your apprehension.42 Being prepared also means that you have devel-
oped a logically coherent outline rather than one that is disorganized and difficult to
follow. Transitional phrases and summaries can help you present a well- structured,
easy-to-understand message.

be organized One of the key skills you’ll learn in this text is the value of developing
a well-organized message. For most North American listeners, speeches should follow
a logical outline pattern and have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Communication
researcher Melanie Booth-Butterfield suggests that speakers can better manage their
apprehension if they rely on the rules and structures of a speaking assignment, includ-
ing following a clear outline pattern, when preparing and delivering a speech.43 Her
research showed that anxiety about a speech assignment decreased and confidence
increased when speakers closely followed the directions and rules for developing
a speech. So, to help manage your apprehension about speaking, listen carefully to
what the specific assignment is, ask for additional information if you’re unclear about
the task, and develop a well-organized message.

know Your introduction and Your concluSion You are likely to feel the most anx-
ious during the opening moments of your speech. Therefore, it is a good idea to have
a clear plan for how you will start your speech. We aren’t suggesting memorizing
your introduction word for word, but you should have it well in mind. Being familiar
with your introduction will help you feel more comfortable about the entire speech.

If you know how you will end your speech, you will have a safe harbor in case
you lose your place. If you need to end your speech prematurely, a well-delivered
conclusion can permit you to make a graceful exit.

14 Chapter 1

Make Practice real When you practice your speech, pretend you are presenting the
speech to the audience you will actually address. Stand up. Imagine what the room looks
like, or consider rehearsing in the room where you will deliver your speech. What will
you be wearing? Practice rising from your seat, walking to the front of the room, and
beginning your speech. Practice your speech aloud, rather than just saying it to yourself.
A realistic rehearsal will increase your confidence when your moment to speak arrives.

breathe One symptom of nervousness is a change in your breathing and heart rate.
Nervous speakers tend to take short, shallow breaths. To help break this anxiety-
induced breathing pattern, consider taking a few slow, deep breaths before you rise
to speak. No one will detect that you are taking deep breaths if you just slowly inhale
and exhale before beginning your speech. Besides breathing deeply, try to relax your
entire body. Deep breathing and visualizing yourself as successful will help you relax.

channel Your nervouS energY One common symptom of being nervous is shaky
hands and wobbly knees. As we noted previously, what triggers this jiggling is the
extra boost of adrenaline your body is giving you—and the resulting energy that has
to go somewhere. Your muscles may move whether you intend them to or not. Take
control by channeling that energy. One way to release tension is to take a leisurely
walk before you arrive wherever you will be speaking. Taking a slow, relaxing walk
can help calm you down and use up some of your excess energy. Once you are seated
and waiting to speak, grab the edge of your chair (without calling attention to what
you are doing) and gently squeeze it to release tension. No one needs to know you’re
doing this—just unobtrusively squeeze and relax, squeeze and relax. You can also pur-
posely tense and then release the muscles in your legs and arms while you’re seated.
You don’t need to look like you’re going into convulsions; just imperceptibly tense
and relax your muscles to burn energy. One more tip: You may want to keep both
feet on the floor and gently wiggle your toes rather than sit with your legs crossed.
Crossing your legs can sometimes cause one leg or foot to go to sleep. Keeping your
feet on the floor and slightly moving your toes can ensure that your entire body will
be wide awake and ready to go when it’s your turn to speak.

As you wait to be introduced, focus on remaining calm. Then, when your
name is called, walk to the front of the room in a calm and collected manner. Before
presenting your opening, attention-catching sentence, take a moment to look for a
friendly, supportive face. Think calm and act calm to feel calm.

Physical symptoms of nervousness
are signs that your body is trying to
help you meet the challenge of pub-
lic speaking. Labeling your body’s
arousal as excitement can help build
your confidence as you speak, as
can the other tips described in this
chapter. Photo: Image Source/Alamy
Stock Photo.

Speaking with Confidence 15

viSualize Your SucceSS Studies suggest that one of the best ways to control anxiety
is to imagine a scene in which you exhibit skill and comfort as a public speaker.44 As
you imagine giving your speech, picture yourself walking confidently to the front and
delivering your well-prepared opening remarks. Visualize yourself as a controlled,
confident speaker. Imagine yourself calm and in command. Positive visualization is
effective because it boosts your confidence by helping you see yourself as a more con-
fident, accomplished speaker.45

Research has found that it’s even helpful to look at a picture of someone confi-
dently and calmly delivering a speech while visualizing yourself giving the speech;
such positive visualization helps manage your apprehension.46 You could even
make a simple drawing of someone speaking confidently.47 As you look at the pic-
ture or drawing, imagine that it’s you confidently giving the speech. It’s helpful if
the image you’re looking at is a person you can identify with—someone who looks
like you or someone you believe is more like you than not.48

give YourSelF a Mental PeP talk You may think that people who talk to them-
selves are slightly loony. But silently giving yourself a pep talk can give you confi-
dence and take your mind off your nervousness. There is some evidence that simply
believing that a technique can reduce your apprehension may, in fact, help reduce
your apprehension.49 Giving yourself a positive message such as “I can do this” may
be a productive way to manage your anxiety. Here’s a sample mental pep talk you
could deliver to yourself right before you speak: “I know this stuff better than any-
one else. I’ve practiced it. My message is well organized. I know I can do it. I’ll do a
good job.” Research provides evidence that people who entertain thoughts of worry
and failure don’t do themselves any favors.50 When you feel yourself getting ner-
vous, use positive messages to replace negative thoughts that may creep into your
consciousness. Examples include the following:

One of the habits cited by the late Stephen Covey in his influential book The 7 Habits of Highly

Successful People is “Begin with the end in mind.”51 From the moment you begin thinking about pre-

paring and presenting your speech, picture yourself being confident and successful. If you find your

anxiety level rising at any point in the speech-preparation process, change your mental picture of

yourself and imagine that you’ve completed your speech and the audience has given you a rousing

round of applause. Begin imagining success rather than focusing on your fear. Using the principles,

skills, and strategies we discuss in this text will help you develop the habit of speech success.

ConfIdEnTly ConnECTIng WITH youR AudIEnCE
Begin with the End in Mind

Negative Thought Positive Self-Talk

I’m going to forget what I’m
supposed to say.

I’ve practiced this speech many times.
I’ve got notes to prompt me.
If I forget or lose my place, no one will know.
I’m not following my outline.

So many people are looking at me. I can do this! My listeners want me to do a good job.
I’ll seek out friendly faces when I feel nervous.

People think I’m dull and boring. I’ve got some good examples. I can talk to people
one-on-one, and people seem to like me.

I just can’t go through with this. I have talked to people all my life. I’ve given presentations
in classes for years. I can get through this because I’ve
rehearsed and I’m prepared.

16 Chapter 1

FocuS on Your MeSSage, not on Your Fear The more you think about being anxious
about speaking, the more your level of anxiety will increase. Instead, think about what
you are going to say. In the few minutes before you address your listeners, mentally
review your major ideas, introduction, and conclusion. Focus on your ideas rather
than on your fear.

look For PoSitive SuPPort Evidence suggests that if you think you see audience
members looking critically at you or your message, you may feel more apprehen-
sive and nervous when you speak.52 Alternatively, when you are aware of positive
audience support, you will feel more confident and less nervous. To reiterate our
previous advice: It is important to be audience-centered. Although some audience
members may not respond positively to you or your message, the overwhelming
majority of listeners will be positive. Looking for supportive, reinforcing feedback
and finding it can help you feel more confident as a speaker. One study found that
speakers experienced less apprehension if they had a support group or a small
“learning community” that provided positive feedback and reinforcement.53 This
research finding has implications for you as a speaker and listener. When you have
a speaking assignment, work with others so they can provide support as you pre-
pare and when you present your speech. When you’re listening to speakers in class,
help them by providing eye contact and offering additional positive nonverbal sup-
port, such as nodding in agreement and maintaining a positive but sincere facial
expression. You can help your fellow students feel more comfortable as speakers,
and they can do the same for you. One study found that nonnative speakers may
feel anxious and nervous because English is not their native language; so providing
positive and supportive feedback is especially important when you know a speaker
is quite nervous.54

Seek SPeaking oPPortunitieS The more experience you gain as a public speaker,
the less nervous you will feel.55 As you develop a track record of successfully de-
livering speeches, you will have more confidence.56 This course in public speaking
will give you opportunities to enhance both your confidence and your skill through
frequent practice. Researchers have found that the most nervous speakers at the
beginning of a public-speaking class experienced the greatest decreases in nervous-
ness by the end of the class.57 Another research study found that students who
took a basic public-speaking course later reported having less apprehension and
more satisfaction about speaking than students who had not taken such a course.58
To add to the practice you will get in this class, consider joining organizations and
clubs such as Toastmasters, an organization dedicated to improving public-speaking
skills by providing a supportive group of people to help you polish your speaking
and overcome your anxiety.

FocuS on what You have accoMPliShed, not on Your Fear When you conclude
your speech, you may be tempted to fixate on your fear. You might amplify in your
own mind the nervousness you felt and think everyone could see how nervous you
looked. Resist that temptation. When you finish your speech, celebrate your accom-
plishment. Say to yourself, “I did it! I spoke and people listened.” Don’t replay your
mental image of yourself as nervous and fearful. Instead, mentally replay your suc-
cess in communicating with your listeners. There is evidence that as you continue
to gain experience presenting speeches you will gain confidence and have a greater
willingness to communicate. So when you finish your speech, congratulate yourself
on having achieved your goal knowing that your success is likely to result in more
success in the future.59

Because managing communication apprehension is such an important skill for
most public speakers, we’ll remind you of tips to help you enhance your confidence.
Look for techniques of confidently connecting with your audience in the margins.

Speaking with Confidence 17

Key Terms


aPPlY: What aspects of public speak have not changed
during the past 2000 years and what aspects of speaking
to an audience have changed with the advent of contem-
porary technology in comparison to the “Golden Age” of
public speaking?

aSSeSS: Identify a famous public speaker, perhaps some-
one in politics, community service, or a religious leader,
who you believe is an excellent public speaker. What
factors make this person an effective speaker? Which of
those qualities would you like to develop to enhance your
own speaking skill?

The Communication Process
1.4 Sketch and explain a model that illustrates the

components and the process of communication.

review: Like other forms of communication, public
speaking is a process. Different theorists have explained
the communication process as (1) an action, by which a
source transmits a message through a channel to a re-
ceiver; (2) an interaction, in which the receiver’s feedback
and the context of the communication add to the action;
and (3) a transaction, in which source and receiver simul-
taneously send messages to build a shared meaning.

Key Terms

external noise
internal noise

aPPlY: Reflect on the most recent public-speaking situa-
tion in which you were an audience member. Identify the
specific elements in the communication model presented
earlier. If the speaker was effective, what elements of the
model explain the effectiveness (for example, the mes-
sage was interesting and there was little noise)? Or if the
speaker was ineffective, which elements in the model
explain why the speaker was ineffective?

aSSeSS: Give an example of internal noise that is affect-
ing you as you read this question. What could a public
speaker do or say that would help you focus on the
speaker instead of the internal noise that may distract you
from his or her message?

What Is Public Speaking?
1.1 Compare and contrast public speaking and


review: Public speaking—presenting a message to an
audience—builds on other communication skills. Public
speaking is similar to conversation in that it requires fo-
cus, expression, and adapting to an audience. However,
public speaking is more planned, more formal, and has
more defined roles for speakers than conversation.

Key Term
public speaking

aPPlY: What are similarities and differences between the
conversations you have with others and public speaking?

aSSeSS: Learning the new skills of public speaking can
be challenging and take time. What are the benefits of put-
ting in the effort to become an effective speaker?

Why Study Public Speaking?
1.2 Explain why it is important to study public speaking.

review: Because you are likely to be called on to speak in
public at various times throughout your life, developing a
skill in public speaking can empower you. It can also help
you secure employment or advance your career.

Key Terms
empowerment critical thinking

aPPlY: How do you think this course in public speaking
can help you with your career goals? With your personal

aSSeSS: As you begin a course in public speaking, take
stock of your general skill and experience as a speaker.
Write a summary of your current perception of yourself as
a speaker, including strengths and areas for development.
At the end of the course, revise what you have written to
assess how you have improved.

The Rich Heritage of Public Speaking
1.3 Discuss in brief the history of public speaking.

review: The study of public speaking goes back more
than 2,000 years. As you develop your own public-speak-
ing skills, your study will be guided by experience and
knowledge gained over centuries of making and studying
speeches. Today you are likely to hear speeches presented
on TV, YouTube, or by other video means.

study Guide: Review, Apply, And Assess

18 Chapter 1

aPPlY: Mike Roberts is preparing to address the univer-
sity academic council in an effort to persuade its members
to support the establishment of a Greek housing zone on
campus. This is Mike’s first major task as president of his
fraternity, and he is understandably nervous about his
responsibility. What advice would you give to help him
manage his nervousness?

aSSeSS: Take a quiz, available at www.jamescmccroskey
.com/measures/prca24.htm, to assess your level of com-
munication apprehension. At the end of your public-
speaking class, reassess your level of communication
apprehension to see if the course has had an effect on your
overall level of communication apprehension.

Improving your Confidence
as a Speaker
1.5 Use several techniques to become a more confident


review: Some beginning public speakers feel nervous at
even the thought of giving a speech. Don’t be surprised if
you feel more nervous than you look to others. Remember
that almost every speaker experiences some nervousness
and that some anxiety can be useful. Specific sugges-
tions to help you manage your apprehension include
being prepared and knowing your audience, imagining
the speech environment when you rehearse, and using re-
laxation techniques such as visualization, deep breathing,
and focusing thoughts away from your fears.

Unless you have some prior experience in higher mathematics, you may not
have the foggiest notion of what calculus is when you first take a class in that
subject. But when you tell people that you are taking a public-speaking class,

most have some idea of what a public speaker does. A public speaker talks while oth-
ers listen. You hear speeches almost every day. Increasingly many of the speeches you
hear are presented via electronic media. Online, whether in a YouTube video, a TED
Talk, or even a video on Facebook, you are likely to encounter speeches. Yet even with
the ubiquitous presence of social media, you undoubtedly experience many presenta-
tions live and in person, in your classes or where you work. Although you have heard
countless speeches, you may still have questions about how a speaker prepares and
presents a speech.

In Chapter 1, we discussed the importance of learning to speak publicly and
described the components of effective communication. We also presented tips and
strategies for becoming a confident speaker. In this chapter, we will preview the

If all my talents and powers

were to be taken from me by

some inscrutable Providence,

and I had my choice of keeping

but one, I would unhesitat-

ingly ask to be allowed to keep

the Power of Speaking, for

through it, I would quickly

recover all the rest.

—Daniel Webster

2.1 Explain why it is important to be audience-centered
during each step of the speechmaking process.

2.2 Describe and discuss the eight steps of the audience-
centered speechmaking process.

After studying this chapter, you should be able to do the following:

Presenting Your
First Speech

Benjamin Robert Haydon (1832-33),
Meeting of the Birmingham Political Union
(oil on canvas). This meeting took place
on Newhall Hill on May 16, 1832. Photo:
Courtesy of the Birmingham Museum &
Art Gallery. Lebrecht Music and Arts Photo
Library/Alamy Stock Photo.

20 Chapter 2

preparation and presentation skills that you will learn in this course. Undoubtedly,
you will be given a speech assignment early in your public-speaking course. Although
it would be ideal if you had time to read Public Speaking: An Audience-Centered Approach
from cover to cover before tackling your first speech, doing so would be impractical.
To help you begin, we present this chapter, a step-by-step overview designed to serve
as the scaffolding on which to build your skill in public speaking.

Consider Your Audience
2.1 Explain why it is important to be audience-centered during each step

of the speechmaking process.

You’ve been speaking to others since you were 2 years old. Talking to people has
seemed such a natural part of your life that you may never have stopped to ana-
lyze the process. But as you think about preparing your first speech for class, you
may wonder, “What do I do first?” Your assignment may be to introduce yourself
or another student to the class. Or your first assignment may be a brief informative
talk—to describe something to your audience. Regardless of the specific assignment,
however, you need some idea of how to begin.

As we noted previously, you don’t need to read this text in its entirety before giv-
ing your first speech. But it is useful to have an overview of the various steps and skills
involved in giving a speech. To help you visualize this overview, Figure 2.1 diagrams
the various tasks involved in the speechmaking process, emphasizing the audience as









and Narrow





Figure 2.1 The reminder to consider the audience is at the center of this model
of the speechmaking process because your audience influences your work on
each task involved in designing and presenting a speech. As we discuss each
task in depth throughout the text, we also use a smaller image of this model to
flag information and advice that remind you to consider your audience.

Source: Copyrighted by Pearson Education, Hoboken, NJ.

Presenting Your First Speech 21

the central concern at every step of the process. We’ll refer to this audience-centered
model of public speaking throughout the text. To emphasize the importance of being
audience-centered, we have placed a smaller version of this model in the margins throughout
the text to draw your attention to information that discusses the importance of always being
mindful of your audience. (See the icon in the margin.) When you see the icon, it means
we’re discussing the central theme of this text: Always make choices in designing
and delivering your speech with your audience in mind.

We will preview our discussion of the speechmaking process with the central
element: considering your audience. We will then discuss each step of the process,
starting with selecting and narrowing a topic, and moving clockwise around the
model, examining each interrelated step.

Why should the central focus of public speaking be the audience? Why is it
not topic selection, outlining, or research? The simple truth is that your audience
influences the topic you choose and every later step of the speechmaking process.
Your selection of topic, purpose, and even major ideas should be based on a thor-
ough understanding of your listeners. In a real sense, your audience “writes” the
speech.1 Think of this first step of speechmaking less as a “step”—something you
do once and then move on to the next step—and more like the beginning of a con-
tinuous process. Whether pondering what to speak about or delivering your con-
cluding remarks, we suggest that you never stop thinking about the reason you are
speaking—to communicate with your audience.

Gather and Analyze Information
about Your Audience
To be audience-centered, you should first identify and then analyze information about
your listeners. For example, just by looking at your audience in your speech class, you
will be able to determine such basic information as approximately how old they are
and the percentage of men and women in your audience; you also know that they are
all students in a public-speaking class. To determine less obvious information, you
may need to ask them questions or design a short questionnaire.

As we’ve noted, audience analysis is not something you do only at the beginning
of preparing your speech. It is an ongoing activity. The characteristics of your audience
influence the choices you make about your speech at every step of the speech-prepa-
ration process. That’s why, in the audience-centered speech model, arrows connect the
center of the diagram with each stage of designing and delivering your speech. At any
point during the preparation and delivery of your message, you may need to revise
your thinking or your material if you learn new information about your audience. That
is why the model has arrows pointing both ways across the boundary between the cen-
tral element and each step in the process. Chapter 5 includes a comprehensive discus-
sion of the principles and strategies involved in analyzing your audience.

When you speak to a live audience, you will be looking your listeners directly in
the eye. So you’ll have the benefit of seeing their immediate reactions, whether it be
their rapt attention characterized by returned eye contact, a slight forward lean and
no fidgeting, or unfocused stares signaling their inattentiveness. Speaking in person
permits you to modify your message on the spot so that you can achieve your goal.
However, when you use video technology to deliver your speech, you often can’t see
your listeners, especially if you record the speech for others to see and hear later, so it’s
more challenging to reactively modify your talk during your presentation. For video
or online presentations where you can’t see or hear your audience, you must, instead,
do your best to anticipate how listeners may respond. Selecting examples and illustra-
tions that you think will gain and maintain their attention, organizing your message
for maximum clarity, and delivering your message with eye contact, appropriate vocal
variation, and meaningful gestures can help you connect to your virtual audience.



22 Chapter 2

Consider the Culturally Diverse Backgrounds
of Your Audience
Different cultures have radically different expectations about public speaking. In
Russia, for example, speakers have a “no frills” approach that emphasizes content
over delivery. A presentation that seems perfectly sensible and acceptable to a U.S.
businessperson who is accustomed to straightforward, problem-oriented logic may
seem shockingly rude to a Chinese businessperson who expects more circuitous, less
overtly purposeful rhetoric. When one of this text’s authors taught public speaking for
several semesters in the Bahamas he shocked students by suggesting that they should
achieve a conversational, informal delivery style. Bahamian audiences, he quickly
discovered, expect formal oratory from their speakers, very much as U.S. audiences
in the nineteenth century preferred the grandiloquence of Stephen A. Douglas to the
quieter, homespun style of Abraham Lincoln. As a result, your author had to embel-
lish his own style when he taught the Bahamian class.

You need not give speeches in foreign countries to recognize the importance of
adapting to different cultural expectations of individual audience members. People
in the United States are highly diverse in terms of their culture, age, ethnicity, and
religious tradition. Consider the various cultural backgrounds of your classmates.
How many different cultural and ethnic traditions do they represent? Depending on

who your audience members are and what topics they are interested
in, you will want to adjust your delivery style and possibly your
topic, pattern of organization, and the examples you select.

Being sensitive to your audience and adapting your message
accordingly will serve you well not only when addressing listen-
ers with cultural backgrounds different from your own, but also in
all types of situations. If you learn to analyze your audience and
adapt to their expectations, you can apply these skills in numer-
ous settings: interviewing for a job via Skype, delivering a business
presentation, or speaking to the city council—even while proposing

The Audience-Centered
Speechmaking Process
2.2 Describe and discuss the eight steps of the audience-centered

speechmaking process.

Preparing a speech is a process of following eight steps, while keeping the interests,
needs, and values of your audience in mind. After considering your audience, the
steps of the audience-centered public speaking process are: Select and narrow your
topic, determine your purpose, develop your central idea, generate main ideas,
gather supporting material, organize your speech, rehearse your speech, and deliver
your speech.

Select and Narrow Your Topic
While keeping your audience foremost in mind, your next task is to determine what you
will talk about and to limit your topic to fit the constraints of your speaking assignment.
Pay special attention to the guidelines your instructor gives you for your assignment.

If your first speech assignment is to introduce yourself to the class, your speech
topic has been selected for you—you are the topic. It is not uncommon to be asked
to speak on a specific subject. Often, though, you will not be given a topic. The task

speech topic
The key focus of the content
of a speech

ConSidER YouR AudiEnCE
• Keep your audience in mind at every step

of preparing your speech.
• Gather and analyze as much information

as you can.
• Be sensitive to the cultural diversity of your


Presenting Your First Speech 23

of selecting and narrowing a topic will be yours. Choosing or finding a topic can be
frustrating. “What should I talk about?” can become a haunting question.

Although there is no single answer to the question of what you should talk
about, you may discover a topic by asking three standard questions:

●● “Who is the audience?”

●● “What are my interests, talents, and experiences?”

●● “What is the occasion?”

It’s a good idea to give yourself plenty of time to select and narrow your topic.
Don’t wait until the last minute to ponder what you might talk about. One of the
most important things you can do to be an effective speaker is to start preparing
your speech well in advance of your speaking date. One research study identified
some practical advice: The amount of time you spend preparing for your speech is one of
the best predictors of a good grade on your speech.2

Who Is the AudIence? Your topic may grow from basic knowledge of your audience.
For example, if you know that your audience members are primarily between the ages
of twenty-five and forty, this information should help you select a topic of interest
to people who are probably working and either seeking partners or raising families.
An older audience may lead you to other concerns or issues: “Will Social Security be
there when I need it?” or “The advantages of belonging to the American Association
of Retired Persons.”

WhAt Are My Interests, tAlents, And experIences? Rather than racking your brain
for exotic topics and outlandish ideas, examine your own background. Your choice of
major in college, your hobbies, and your travel experiences are sources for topic ideas.
What issues do you feel strongly about? Reflect on jobs you’ve held, news stories that
catch your interest, events in your hometown, your career goals, or interesting people
you have met. Chapter 6 contains a discussion of specific strategies for finding topics.

Once you have chosen your topic, narrow it to fit the time limits for your talk.
If you’ve been asked to deliver a ten-minute speech, the topic “how to find counsel-
ing help on campus” would be more manageable than the topic “how to make the
most of your college experience.” As our model suggests, your audience should be
foremost in your mind when you work on your topic.



Your recent snowshoeing trip might
provide the basis for a good speech
topic. Photo: ARochau/Fotolia

24 Chapter 2

WhAt Is the occAsIon? Besides your audience, you should
consider the occasion for the speech when choosing a topic.
A commencement address calls for a different topic, for ex-
ample, than does a speech to a model railroad club. Another
aspect of the occasion you’ll want to consider is the physical
setting of your speech. Will you be speaking to people seated
in chairs arranged in a circle, will your listeners be sitting
around a table watching you via a webcast or teleconference,
or will you be standing in front of rows of people? The oc-
casion and physical surroundings, including whether your
speech is communicated via media, affect the degree of for-
mality your audience expects in your choice of topics.

Determine Your Purpose
You might think that once you have selected your topic, you are ready to start the
research process. Before you do that, however, you need to decide on both a general
and a specific purpose.

deterMIne your GenerAl purpose Your general purpose is the overarching goal
of your speech. There are three types of general purposes for speeches: to inform, to
persuade, and to entertain.

●● Inform: When you inform, you teach, define, illustrate, clarify, or elaborate on
a topic. The primary objective of class lectures, seminars, and workshops is to
inform. Chapter 13 will show you how to construct an effective speech with an
informative purpose.

●● Persuade: A speech to persuade seeks to change or reinforce listeners’ attitudes,
beliefs, values, or behavior. Ads on TV, the radio, and pop-up commercials on the
Internet; sermons; political speeches; and sales presentations are examples of mes-
sages designed to persuade. To be a skilled persuader, you need to be sensitive to
your audience’s attitudes (likes and dislikes) toward you and your topic. Chapters
14 and 15 will discuss principles and strategies for preparing persuasive speeches.

●● Entertain: To entertain listeners is the third general purpose of a speech. After-
dinner speeches and comic monologues are mainly intended as entertainment. As
Chapter 16 describes, often the key to an effective entertaining speech lies in your
choice of stories, examples, and illustrations, as well as in your delivery. Appendix
B includes examples of speeches designed to inform, persuade, and entertain.

deterMIne your specIfIc purpose Your specific purpose is a concise statement indi-
cating what you want your listeners to be able to do, remember, or feel when you finish
your speech. A specific-purpose statement identifies the precise, measurable audience
response you desire. Here again, we emphasize the importance of focusing on the audi-
ence as you develop your specific purpose. Perhaps you have had the experience of lis-
tening to a speaker and wondering, “What’s the point? I know he’s talking about edu-
cation, but I’m not sure where he’s going with this subject.” You may have understood
the speaker’s general purpose, but the specific one wasn’t clear. If you can’t figure out
what the specific purpose is, it is probably because the speaker does not know either.

Deciding on a specific purpose is not difficult once you have narrowed your
topic: “At the end of my speech, the class will be able to identify three counsel-
ing facilities on campus and describe the best way to get help at each one.” Notice
that this purpose is phrased in terms of what you would like the audience to be
able to do by the end of the speech. Your specific purpose should be a fine-tuned,

general purpose
The overarching goal of a speech—
to inform, persuade, or entertain



specific purpose
A concise statement of the desired audi-
ence response, indicating what you want
your listeners to remember, feel, or do
when you finish speaking

YouR ToPiC
To pick a good topic, ask three questions:

• Who is the audience? Consider the audience mem-
bers at every point in the speechmaking process.

• What are my interests, talents, and experiences?
Narrow down your talk to fit time limits.

• What is the occasion? The setting for the
presentation is important, too.

Presenting Your First Speech 25

audience-centered goal. For an informative speech,
you may simply want your audience to restate an
idea, define new words, or if the speech is about
introducing yourself to the class, recall a dramatic
or humorous incident in your life. In a persuasive
speech, you may try to rouse your listeners to take a
class, buy something, change a bad habit, or vote for
someone. A persuasive speech can also reinforce a
behavior as well as an attitude, belief, or value.

Once you have formulated your specific purpose,
write it down and keep it before you as you read
and gather ideas for your talk. Your specific purpose
should guide your research and help you choose sup-
porting materials that are related to your audience. As
you continue to work on your speech, you may even
decide to modify your purpose. But if you have an
objective in mind at all times as you move through the
preparation stage, you will stay on track.

Develop Your Central Idea
You should now be able to write the central idea of
your speech. Whereas your statement of a specific
purpose indicates what you want your audience to do
when you have finished your speech, your central idea identifies the essence of your
message. Think of it as a one-sentence summary of your speech. Here’s an example:

central idea
A one-sentence summary of the speech

Develop Your General Purpose
To inform To share information by teaching, defining, illustrating,

describing, or explaining

To persuade To change or reinforce an attitude, belief, value,
or behavior

To entertain To amuse with humor, stories, or illustrations

Develop Your Specific Purpose
What do you want your audience to remember, do, or feel when you finish
your speech?

General Purpose Specific Purpose

To inform At the end of my speech, the audience will be able
to identify three counseling facilities on campus and
describe the counseling services each facility offers
to students.

To persuade At the end of my speech, the audience will visit the
counseling facilities on campus.

To entertain At the end of my speech, the audience will be
amused by the series of misunderstandings
I  created when I began making inquiries about
career advisors on campus.

TOPIC: British TV shows that inspired American TV shows


SPECIFIC PURPOSE: At the end of my speech the audience will be able to
identify three classic British TV shows that inspired
American versions.

CENTRAL IDEA: The Office, Antiques Roadshow, and House of Cards began
as British TV programs that have become successful
American TV shows.

Here’s another way to think about how to develop your central idea sentence.
Imagine that you have just finished presenting your speech and you get into an
elevator. Someone on the elevator with you says, “Oh, I’m sorry I missed your
speech. What did you say?” Between the second floor and the first, you have only
15 seconds to summarize your message. You might say, “I said there are two keys to
parent and child communication: First, make time for communication, and second,
listen effectively.” That brief recap is your central idea sentence. To clarify, your
purpose sentence is what you want the audience to be able to do; the central idea
sentence is your speech in a nutshell—your speech in one sentence.

Generate the Main Ideas
In the words of columnist H. V. Prochnow, “A good many people can make a speech, but
saying something is more difficult.” Effective speakers are good thinkers; they say some-
thing. They know how to play with words and thoughts to develop their main ideas. The
ancient Romans called this skill invention—the ability to develop or discover ideas that
result in new insights or approaches to old problems. The Roman orator Cicero called
this aspect of speaking the process of “finding out what [a speaker] should say.”

main ideas
The key points of a speech

The development or discovery of ideas
and insights

26 Chapter 2

Once you have an appropriate topic, a specific purpose, and a well-
worded central idea down on paper, the next task is to identify the major
divisions of your speech or key points that you wish to develop. To deter-
mine how to subdivide your central idea into key points, ask these three

1. Does the central idea have logical divisions? For example, if the
central idea is “There are three ways to interpret the stock market
page of your local newspaper or financial website,” your speech can
be organized into three parts. You will simply identify the three ways
to interpret stock market information and use each as a major point.

2. Can you think of several reasons why the central idea is true? If,
for example, your central idea is “New legislation is needed to ensure
that U.S. citizens’ privacy is protected,” each major point of your
speech could be a reason why you think new privacy laws are needed.

3. Can you support the central idea with a series of steps? Suppose
your central idea is “Running for a campus office is easy to do.” Your
speech could be developed around a series of steps, telling your lis-
teners what to do first, second, and third to get elected.

Your time limit, topic, and the information gleaned from your research will
determine how many major ideas will be in your speech. A three- to five-minute
speech might have only two major ideas. In a short speech, you may develop only
one major idea with examples, illustrations, and other forms of support. Don’t
spend time trying to divide a topic that does not need to be divided. In Chapters 6
and 8, we will discuss how to generate major ideas and organize them.

Gather Supporting Material
With your main idea or ideas in mind, your next job is to gather material to support
them—facts, examples, definitions, and quotations from others that illustrate, amplify,

CEnTRAl idEA And
mAin idEAS
Develop Your central Idea

Write a single sentence that summarizes
your speech.

use Your central Idea to Develop
Your Main Ideas

Ask yourself:

• Does my central idea have logical

• Are there several reasons my central idea
is true?

• Can my central idea be divided into
a  series of steps?

If the central idea of your speech is,
“You can conduct your own home
energy audit,” you might discuss
energy audits of various rooms of a
home or you might present a series
of steps in conducting a home energy
audit. Photo: auremar/Fotolia

Presenting Your First Speech 27

clarify, provide evidence, or tell a story. Here, as always when preparing your speech,
the importance of being an audience-centered speaker can’t be overemphasized. There’s
an old saying that an ounce of illustration is worth a ton of talk. If a speech is boring, it is
usually because the speaker has not chosen supporting material that is relevant or inter-
esting to the audience. Don’t just give people data; connect facts to their lives. As one sage
quipped, “Data is not information any more than 50 tons of cement is a skyscraper.”3

tell A story Don Hewitt, the founding and longtime producer of TV’s popular
and award-winning 60 Minutes, was repeatedly asked by young journalists, “What’s
the secret of your success as a communicator?” Hewitt’s answer: “Tell me a story.”
Everyone likes to hear a good story. As Hewitt noted, the Bible does more than
describe the nature of good and evil; it masterfully tells stories about Job, Noah,
David, and others.4

Tell stories based on your own experiences and provide vivid descriptions of
things that are tangible so that your audience can visualize what you are talking about.

AppeAl to the senses To be interesting, supporting material should be personal,
concrete, and appeal to your listeners’ senses. The more senses you trigger with
words, the more interesting your talk will be. Descriptions such as “the rough, splin-
tery surface of weather-beaten wood” or “the sweet, cool, refreshing flavor of cherry
Jell-O” evoke sensory images. In addition, relating abstract statistics to something
tangible can help communicate your ideas more clearly. For example, if you say Frito-
Lay sells 2.6 billion pounds of snack food each year, your listeners will have a hazy
idea that 2.6 billion pounds is a lot of corn and potato chips, but if you add that 2.6
billion pounds is triple the weight of the Empire State Building, you’ve made your
point more memorably.5 Or, rather than simply saying that 4,000 teens die each year
in car accidents, say this: “If 12 fully loaded jumbo jets crashed every year, something
would be done about it. Every year, more than 4,000 teens die in car crashes—the
equivalent of 12 large plane crashes.” Relating sta-
tistics to something listeners can visualize makes the
point more effectively.6 In Chapter 8 we will discuss
the variety of supporting material available to you.

use reseArch skIlls to fInd InterestInG InforMAtIon
President Woodrow Wilson once admitted, “I use not
only all the brains I have, but all that I can borrow.”
How does a public speaker find interesting and rel-
evant supporting material? By developing good re-
search skills. If you gave a short speech about a sport
you had practiced for years or a recent trip you took,
chances are you would not need to gather much addi-
tional information. But sooner or later, you will need to
do some research on a topic to speak on it intelligently
to an audience. By the time you have given several
speeches in this course, you will have learned to use a
number of resources: various electronic databases your
library subscribes to, your library’s computerized card
catalog, an e-version of Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations,
and a wide assortment of Internet indexes such as
Google Scholar.

In addition to becoming a skilled user of online
information and resources from your library, you
will also learn to be on the lookout as you read,

Good research skills are essential to the speechmaking process.

28 Chapter 2

Use your own knowledge and research to find sup-
porting materials that accomplish the following:

• Tell a Story. Most audiences enjoy stories.
• Appeal to the Senses. Help the audience hear,

see, touch, and experience what you describe.
• Use Research Skills. Find new, interesting ma-

terial that the audience has not heard before.

watch TV or YouTube, receive tweets, and search the Internet for
examples, illustrations, and quotations that could be used in a
speech. Chapter 7 will more thoroughly explain how to use all
these resources, with a special emphasis on Internet and elec-
tronic research tools.

Organize Your Speech
A wise person once said, “If effort is organized, accomplishment
follows.” A clearly and logically structured speech helps your audi-
ence remember what you say. A logical structure also helps you feel
more in control of your speech, and greater control helps you feel
more comfortable while delivering your message.

As we saw in Chapter 1, classical rhetoricians called the pro-
cess of developing an orderly speech disposition. Speakers need to present ideas,
information, examples, illustrations, stories, and statistics in an orderly sequence so
that listeners can easily follow what they are saying.

Every well-prepared speech has three major divisions: the introduction, the
body, and the conclusion. The introduction helps capture attention, serves as an
overview of the speech, and provides your audience with reasons to listen to you.
The body presents the main content of your speech. The conclusion summarizes
your key ideas. You may have heard this advice on how to organize a speech: “Tell
them what you’re going to tell them (the introduction), tell them (the body of the
speech), and tell them what you told them (the conclusion).”

As a student of public speaking, you will study and learn to apply variations
of this basic pattern of organization (chronological, topical, cause–effect, problem–
solution) that will help your audience understand your meaning. You will learn
about previewing and summarizing—information that will help your audience
remember your ideas. In the outline of a sample speech, notice how the introduc-
tion catches the listener’s attention, the body of the speech identifies the main
ideas, and the conclusion summarizes the key ideas.

It is important that you do not write a speech word for word as you would an
essay for English class. Writing and then reading or memorizing you speech will
sound mechanical and less appealing to your audience. After you have selected
your topic and purpose, and generated your main ideas—start with the body of
your speech. Because your introduction previews your speech and your conclusion
summarizes it, most public-speaking teachers recommend that you prepare your
introduction and conclusion after you have carefully organized the body of your
talk. Indicate your major ideas by Roman numerals. Use capital letters for your sup-
porting points. Use Arabic numerals if you need to subdivide your ideas further.
Most communication teachers will tell you how many speaking notes you may use
for your speech. Use brief notes—written cues on note cards—instead of a complete
manuscript. Increasingly speakers are using handheld computer tablets such as
iPads to display their speaking notes.

For your first speech, you may want to adapt the sample outline format shown
on the next page.7 Chapter 9 presents additional examples and suggestions for out-
lining your talk. Your instructor may want you to add more detailed information
about your supporting material in outlines you submit in class. Follow the precise
guidelines your instructor provides for outlining your speech.

The organization and arrangement of ideas
and illustrations

In addition to developing a written outline to use as you speak, con-
sider using presentation aids to add structure and clarity to your major ideas.
Developing simple visual reinforcers of your key ideas can help your audience
retain essential points.

Presenting Your First Speech 29

sample Outline

How to invest money

To inform

At the end of my speech, the audience should be able to identify two principles that will help
them better invest their money.

Knowing the source of money, how to invest it, and how money grows can lead to increased
income from wise investments.

Imagine for a moment that it is the year 2065. You are sixty-five years old. You’ve just picked up
your mail and opened an envelope that contains a check for $300,000! No, you didn’t win the
lottery. You smile as you realize your own modest investment strategy over the last forty years
has paid off handsomely.

Today I’d like to answer three questions that can help you become a better money manager:
First, where does money come from? Second, where do you invest it? And third, how does a
little money grow into a lot of money?

Knowing the answers to these three questions can pay big dividends for you. With only
modest investments and a well-disciplined attitude, you could easily have an annual income of
$300,000 or more.


opening line

Preview major ideas.

Tell your audience why they
should listen to you.

I. Major Idea

A. Supporting idea

B. Supporting idea

II. Major Idea

A. Supporting idea

B. Supporting idea

C. Supporting idea

III. Major Idea

A. Supporting idea

B. Supporting idea

Summarize main ideas
and  restate central idea.

To inform, persuade, or
entertain. Your instructor
will probably specify your
general purpose.

Your instructor may assign
a topic, or you may select it.

A clear statement indicating
what your audience should
be able to do after hearing
your speech

A one-sentence summary
of your talk

I. There are two sources of money.

A. You already have some money.

B. You will earn money in the future.

II. You can do three things with your money.

A. You can spend it.

B. You can lend it to others.

C. You can invest it.

III. Two principles can help make you rich.

A. The “magic” of compound interest can transform pennies into millions.

B. Finding the best rate of return on your money can pay big dividends.

Today I’ve identified three key aspects of effective money management: (1) sources of money,
(2) what you can do with money, and (3) money-management principles that can make you
rich. Now, let’s go “back to the future”! Remember the good feeling you had when you re-
ceived your check for $300,000? Recall that feeling again when you are depositing your first
paycheck. Remember this simple secret for accumulating wealth: Part of all you earn is yours
to keep. It is within your power to “go for the gold.”

30 Chapter 2

In Chapter 12 we offer tips for designing graphics using software such as
PowerPoint, Keynote, or Prezi. For example, the second major idea explored in the
outline could be reinforced with a visual such as the one in Figure 2.2.

For all the steps we have discussed so far, your success as a speaker will ulti-
mately be determined by your audience. That is why throughout the text we refer
you to the audience-centered speechmaking model presented in this chapter.

Once you are comfortable with the structure of your talk and you have devel-
oped your visual aids, you are ready to rehearse.

Rehearse Your Speech
Remember this joke? One man asks another, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” The
answer: “Practice, practice, practice.” The joke may be older than Carnegie Hall itself,
but it is still good advice to all speakers, especially novice speakers. A speech is a
performance. As with any stage performance, be it music, dance, or theater, you need
to rehearse. Experienced carpenters know to “measure twice, saw once.” Rehearsing
your speech is a way to measure your message so that you get it right when you pres-
ent it to your audience.

If you practice your speech as if you were actually delivering it, you will be a
more effective speaker when you talk to the audience. And there is evidence that, like
preparing early, spending time rehearsing your delivery will enhance the overall qual-
ity of your speech.8

The best way to practice is to rehearse your speech aloud, standing just as you
will when you deliver it to your audience. As you rehearse, try to find a comfort-
able way to phrase your ideas, but don’t try to memorize your talk. In fact, if you
have rehearsed your speech so many times that you are using exactly the same
words every time, you have rehearsed long enough. Rehearse just enough so that
you can discuss your ideas and supporting material without leaving out major
parts of your speech. It is all right to use notes, but most public-speaking instruc-
tors limit the number of notes you may use. Make sure you rehearse your speech
using the same notes you plan to use when presenting it.

Figure 2.2 Presentation graphic for the first major idea in your speech.

SourceS: Shannon Kingston. Copyrighted by Pearson Education, Hoboken, NJ. Photo: acekreations/Fotolia

Presenting Your First Speech 31

Practice making eye contact with your imaginary audience as often as you
can. Also, be certain to speak loudly enough for all in the room to hear. If you are
not sure what to do with your hands when you rehearse, just keep them at your
side. Focus on your message rather than worrying about how to gesture. If you
are delivering your speech via video (whether live or prerecorded), remember
that the camera may make it appear to listeners that you are only a few feet away
from them. For video, do not use overly animated gestures or facial expressions. A
natural, conversational quality will be valued whether you are speaking in front of
a camera or a live audience.

Besides rehearsing your physical delivery, you also will make decisions about
the style of your speech. “Style,” said novelist Jonathan Swift, “is proper words in
proper places.” The words you choose and your arrangement of those words make
up the style of your speech. You can learn more about using words in Chapter 10.
To be a good speaker, you must become familiar with the language your listeners
are used to hearing and you must know how to select the right word or phrase to
communicate an idea.

Deliver Your Speech
The time has come, and you’re ready to present your speech to your audience.
Delivery is the final step in the preparation process. Before you walk to the front of
the room, look at your listeners to see if the audience assembled is what you were
expecting. Are the people of the age, race, and gender that you had predicted? Or do
you need to make last-minute changes in your message to adjust to a different mix
of audience members?

When you are introduced, walk calmly and confidently to the front of the
room. Then take a moment to establish eye contact with your audience, smile nat-
urally, and deliver your attention-catching opening sentence. Concentrate on your
message and your audience. Deliver your speech just as you rehearsed it using
a conversational style before your imaginary audience: Maintain eye contact,
speak loudly enough to be heard, and use some natural variation in pitch. Finally,
remember the public-speaking advice of columnist Ann Landers: “Be sincere, be
brief, and be seated.”

Figure 2.3 summarizes this chapter’s introduction to the audience-centered
speaking process and refers you to other chapters for in-depth information about
each step. For a model of many of the attributes of a well-crafted message that we
have discussed, read the following speech by student Grace Hildenbrand.9



Recall that most speakers’ nervousness peaks right before giving a speech. You can use this

anxiety to help you enhance your performance. How? Exercise the skill of reframing to get yourself

to think positively rather than negatively about speaking in public. Remember that anxiety is your

body’s way of trying to give you more energy to help you improve your performance. Don’t dwell

on the symptoms of anxiety; reframe them as signals that your brain is increasing your mental

powers. Knowing that some apprehension can enhance your mental alertness can help you deliver

a well-presented speech.

ConFidEnTlY ConnECTinG wiTh YouR AudiEnCE
Use Your Communication Apprehension to Enhance Your Performance

32 Chapter 2

Consider the Audience
Chapter 5

Analyzing the audience is central to the

speechmaking process; consider your

audience at every step of the way in

preparing and presenting your speech.

Gather information about your audience

by asking questions or surveying them

more formally.

Summarize and analyze the information

you have gathered.

Select and Narrow Your Topic
Chapter 6

Consider the audience: Who are your

listeners and what do they expect?

Consider the occasion: What is

the reason for the speech?

Consider your own interests and
skills: What are your strengths?

Determine Your Purpose
Chapters 6, 13, 14, 15, 16

• Decide whether your general speech
purpose is to inform, to persuade,

or to entertain, or a combination of
these goals.
• Decide on your specific purpose:
What do you want your listeners to
be able to do after you finish your
• Use your specific purpose to guide

you in connecting your message to
your audience.

Develop Your Central Idea
Chapter 6

• State your central idea for your

speech in one sentence.
• Your central idea should be a single idea

presented in clear, specific language.
• Relate your central idea to your

Generate Main Ideas
Chapter 6

• Determine whether your central idea
can be supported with logical divisions
using a topical arrangement.
• Determine whether your central
idea can be supported with reasons
the idea is true.
• Determine whether your central idea
can be supported with a series of steps.

Gather Supporting Material
Chapter 7

• Remember that most of what you say
consists of supporting material such
as stories, descriptions, definitions,
analogies, statistics, and opinions.
• The best supporting material both
clarifies your major ideas and holds
your listeners’ attention.
• Supporting material that is personal,
concrete, and appealing to the listeners’

senses is often the most interesting.

Organize Your Speech
Chapters 8 and 9

• Remember the maxim: Tell us what
you’re going to tell us (introduction);
tell us (body); and tell us what you
told us (conclusion).
• Outline your main ideas by topic,
chronologically, spatially, by cause
and e�ect, or by problem and solution.
• Use signposts to clarify the overall
structure of your message.

Rehearse Your Speech
Chapters 8, 10, 11, and 12

• Prepare speaking notes and practice
using them well in advance of your
speaking date.
• Rehearse your speech out loud,
standing as you would stand while
delivering your speech.
• Practice with well-chosen visual aids
that are big, simple, and appropriate
for your audience.

Deliver Your Speech
Chapters 11 and 12

• Look at individual listeners.
• Use movement and gestures that fit

your natural style of speaking.

• Consider your own intere
skills: What are your stre


Gather Supporting Material



ndividual listeners.
ement and gestures that fit
ural style of speaking.









and Narrow


Audience-Centered Public Speaking




Figure 2.3 An overview of the public-speaking process

Source: Copyrighted by Pearson Education, Hoboken, NJ.

Presenting Your First Speech 33


Grace Hildenbrand

There are thought to be more than five hundred different versions of Cinderella, making it one of
the most popular fairy tales in the world.

In the United States, most children have seen Disney’s Cinderella and adults have either seen this
movie or they are familiar with other versions of the Cinderella fairy tale. I know that I watched
Disney’s version of Cinderella many times as a child. And then when I got to college, I took a
German course and I learned about the Brothers Grimm version of Cinderella. I was surprised to
find that it was actually quite different from Disney’s version of Cinderella. In the Brothers Grimm
there are two brothers, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, who compiled various fairy tales into books
back in the 1800s and one of those fairy tales was Cinderella. Disney did change aspects of the
Brothers Grimm version of Cinderella to make it more appropriate for children. These differences
in these two versions are revealed in the characters, in the royal ball scene, and in the use of

So to begin, I would like to discuss the differences in characters between the Disney and
Brothers Grimm versions of Cinderella. Disney both added in and changed characters from the
Brothers Grimm version of Cinderella. For example, the fairy godmother character did not exist
in the Brothers Grimm version of Cinderella. It was actually a tree that Cinderella would go to
for help and there were birds that lived in the tree that would help her out with whatever she
needed. So, for example, when Cinderella was getting ready to go to the ball, she needed to
make sure that she finished up her chores and she had a dress to wear. And so she asks the
tree for help and the birds in the tree help her finish her chores and also they gave her a dress
to wear to the ball.

Another change that Disney made was to add in the other animal characters to Cinderella. In
the Brothers Grimm version, there are the birds that serve as the fairy godmother’s role, but the
Disney version not only had birds, but also they added in a dog, a cat, and a horse as well as
mice to make it more appealing for kids. Neeley Tucker from the Washington Post discusses that
most fairy tales were not originally for children but they were mostly written for adults. And so
most fairy tales have actually been changed over time to be more appropriate for kids and this
was definitely the case for Cinderella.

So now that I’ve discussed the differences in characters between the two versions, I would like
to discuss the differences in the royal ball scene. If you recall from Disney, there’s one royal ball
scene where Cinderella meets her prince, but in the Brothers Grimm version there is a royal fes-
tival that includes three different royal balls in three days. At each royal ball, Cinderella dances
with the prince, then she runs away and hides from him before the end of the night and she
doesn’t lose her slipper until the third night. According to Sharron McElmeel and her book on
children’s literature, there are a couple of other changes in this scene as well; one of them is
that in the Brothers Grimm version, the shoe was golden and then in Disney, of course, it was a
glass slipper. And then Disney also added the midnight curfew; so in the Brothers Grimm version,
Cinderella did not need to be back by the stroke of midnight. She was simply trying to get away
from the prince so that he wouldn’t figure out that she was a housemaid. She was trying to hide
her true identity. Also, the prince purposely spreads pitch out along the steps of the castle on the
third night, so that Cinderella will get stuck and he will be able to get her shoe and figure out her
true identity.

sample speech

The speaker has
identified an interesting
fact she hopes will get
her listener’s attention.

The speaker has analyzed
her audience and knows
that most of them are
from the United States.

This speaker’s general
purpose is to inform the
audience about two of the
most well-known versions
of the Cinderella story.

After giving a verbal
signal to mark the tran-
sition into the body of
her speech, the speaker
states her central idea.

This story helps keep the
audience interested and
supports the speaker’s
central idea.

The speaker provides
an oral citation identify-
ing the source of her

The summary and
preview help the
audience follow the
organization of the

34 Chapter 2

Here the speaker gives
another oral citation,
mentioning the source of
her supporting material.

The speaker directly
addresses the audience
members to engage their
attention and involve
them in the speech.

In her conclusion, the
speaker summarizes
the main points of her

The speaker closes with
a vivid image and a sug-
gestion for action. Both
will help the audience
remember the content of
this speech.

So now that we’ve talked a little bit about the differences in the characters between the two ver-
sions and the differences in the royal ball scene, I’d like to discuss the way that Disney omitted
some violence from their version of Cinderella compared to the Brothers Grimm version.

The Brothers Grimm version of Cinderella is much gorier than Disney’s version. For example,
when the prince is trying to figure out who Cinderella is and he’s having various women try on
the slipper, he comes to Cinderella’s stepsisters and both of them have feet that are too big. The
first stepsister actually cuts off her toe to make the shoe fit, and the second stepsister actually
cuts off her heel to make the shoe fit. So it’s a very bloody scene and it’s actually kind of funny
because even though they are bleeding, the prince doesn’t seem to realize that neither one of the
stepsisters is Cinderella. According to the Greenwood Encyclopedia of Folktales and Fairytales,
the prince doesn’t realize that neither of the stepsisters is Cinderella until the birds that serve
the fairy godmother role tell him, “Hey, there’s blood everywhere, neither one of these women is

Another gory aspect of the Brothers Grimm version is that at Cinderella’s wedding at the end
of the story, as punishment for being wicked, the stepsisters actually get their eyes poked out
by the birds and they are blinded. So with these changes, you can imagine that if Disney kept
the fairy tale similar to the Brothers Grimm version, it likely would have changed the audience.
You know, rather than having it geared toward children, it might be geared toward adults, and it
definitely would have not become such a popular and important part of our childhood.

In conclusion, now you should have a better understanding of the differences between the
Disney and Brothers Grimm versions of Cinderella and why Disney changed its version of
Cinderella. Specifically these differences were that Disney added in and changed some of
the characters; Disney also made changes to the royal ball scene and got rid of some of the
violence from the Brothers Grimm version. So the next time that you’re watching Disney’s
Cinderella or any other version of Cinderella, I’d like you to imagine that if there was blood
dripping from the eyes and feet of the stepsisters how this would change your reaction to this
classic fairy tale.

Presenting Your First Speech 35

values of your audience in mind. After considering
your audience, the steps of the audience-centered pub-
lic speaking process are: Select and narrow your topic,
determine your purpose, develop your central idea,
generate main ideas, gather supporting material, orga-
nize your speech, rehearse your speech, and deliver your

Key Terms
general purpose
specific purpose
central idea

main ideas

Apply: Barbara is planning to move to an independent
living community for seniors and wants to tell other
senior citizens the steps to follow when making a simi-
lar move. Write a possible specific purpose statement
and then develop a central idea sentence for Barbara’s

Assess: After you deliver your first speech to your
class, write a short self-analysis. Identify when you
thought you were especially effective in connecting with
your listeners. Also note times when you wondered if
you were maintaining your classmates’ interest. If you
were to give the same speech to the same audience
again, what would you do the same and what would
you do differently?

study Guide: Review, apply, and assess

Consider your Audience
2.1 Explain why it is important to be audience-centered

during each step of the speechmaking process.

revIeW: Your audience influences your topic selection
and every aspect of presenting a speech. The audience-
centered model of public speaking introduced previously
suggests that you should consider the audience each step
of the way when preparing and presenting a speech.

Key Term
speech topic

Apply: Jonathan has just received his first speech as-
signment in his public-speaking class. What key pieces of
information should Jonathan keep in mind as he begins to
prepare his speech?

Assess: What do you know about your public-speaking
class as an audience, based only on observing them or
hearing them introduce themselves to the class? How
might you use this information to make your speech

The Audience-Centered
Speechmaking Process
2.2 Describe and discuss the eight steps of the audience-

centered speechmaking process.

revIeW: Preparing a speech is a process of follow-
ing eight steps, while keeping the interests, needs, and

When smoldering racial tension at the University of Missouri–Columbia
reached a crisis point on November 9, 2015, members of a black student
group gathered in a tent city on the Carnahan Quad to plan protests. The

students were surrounded by supporters carrying signs saying “No Media” and at-
tempting to block journalists from the scene, ostensibly to protect the students’ right
to free speech without interruption. Cell phone video of what happened next went
viral. An assistant professor confronting a student reporter shouted, “Hey, who wants
to help me get this reporter out of here? I need some muscle over here.”1

Free speech, broadly defined as the open exchange of information and ideas, is
protected by law in the United States and other countries. It is considered by many to
be a universal human right. Certainly few would dispute that the student protestors

free speech
The open exchange of information
and ideas

Je suis Charlie (I am Charlie)

—Solidarity slogan in support
of free speech following
the 2015 terrorist attacks

on French magazine
Charlie Hebdo

3.1 Explain how free speech has been challenged
and defended throughout history.

3.2 List and explain five criteria for ethical public

3.3 Explain the relationship between ethics
and credibility.

After studying this chapter, you should be able to do the following:

Speaking Freely
and Ethically

1873 South Carolina legislature, including
African-American delegates, passing an
appropriation bill. (Hand-colored halftone
of a 19th century illustration.) Photo: North
Wind Picture Archives—All rights reserved.

Speaking Freely and Ethically 37

in Missouri were exercising their right to free speech. But it could be claimed that their
supporters were, too, along with the professor who called for “muscle” to remove
the reporter—who in turn was exercising his own free speech rights. Free speech in-
cludes ideas and behaviors that we may consider offensive or unfair, as well as those
we deem wise and just. However, the right to speak freely must be balanced by the
responsibility to speak ethically.

Ethics—the beliefs, values, and moral principles by which we determine what is
right or wrong—serve as criteria for many of the decisions we make in our personal
and professional lives and for our judgments of others’ behavior. The student who
refuses to cheat on a test, the employee who will not call in sick to gain an extra day
of vacation, and the property owner who does not claim more storm damage than she
actually suffered have all made choices based on ethics.

We read and hear about ethical issues every day in the media. Cloning, stem-
cell research, and drug testing have engendered heated ethical debates among
medical professionals. Advertising by some attorneys has incensed those who
believe that an overall increase in frivolous litigation is tarnishing the profession.
And in the political arena, debates about reforms of social programs, fiscal respon-
sibility, and the collection of personal data by the federal government all hinge on
ethical issues.

Although you are undoubtedly familiar with many of these ethical issues, you may
have given less thought to ethics in public speaking. The National Communication
Association Credo for Communication Ethics emphasizes the fundamental nature and
far-reaching impact of ethical communication:

Ethical communication is fundamental to responsible thinking, decision making,
and the development of relationships and communities within and across con-
texts, cultures, channels, and media. Moreover, ethical communication enhances
human worth and dignity by fostering truthfulness, fairness, responsibility, per-
sonal integrity, and respect for self and others.2

Ethical considerations should guide you during every step of the public-speaking
process. As you determine the goal of your speech, outline your arguments, and se-
lect your supporting material, think about the beliefs, values, and moral principles of
your audience, as well as your own. Ethical public speaking is inherently audience-
centered, always taking into account the needs and rights of the listeners.

In our discussion of speaking freely and ethically, we will turn first to free speech,
offering a brief history of both its protection and its restriction. Then we will discuss
the ethical practice of free speech, providing guidelines to help you balance your right
to free speech with your responsibilities as an audience-centered speaker. Within this
framework, we will define and discuss plagiarism, one of the most troublesome viola-
tions of public-speaking ethics. And, finally, we will discuss the relationship between
ethics and speaker credibility.

Speaking Freely
3.1 Explain how free speech has been challenged and defended

throughout history.

After a heckler interrupted Barack Obama for the third time during a presidential
speech, Obama calmly reminded the woman that the right to free speech required not
only that he listen to her but also that she listen to him. “You should let me finish my
sentence,” Obama admonished.3 Even during a moment of confrontation—a moment
in which one might question the heckler’s ethics—Obama defended the right of both
parties to free speech. A brief history of free speech is summarized in Table 3.1, and we
discuss it in more detail next.

The beliefs, values, and moral principles
by which people determine what is right
or wrong



38 Chapter 3

Free Speech and the U.S. Constitution
In 1791, the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was written to guarantee that
“Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech.” In the more than
200 years since then, entities as varied as state legislatures, colleges and universi-
ties, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the federal courts have sought to define
through both law and public policy the phrase “freedom of speech.”

Only a few years after the ratification of the First Amendment, Congress
passed the Sedition Act, providing punishment for those who spoke out against
the government. When both Thomas Jefferson and James Madison declared this act
unconstitutional, however, it was allowed to lapse.

Free Speech in the Twentieth Century
During World War I, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it was lawful to restrict
speech that presented “a clear and present danger” to the nation. This decision led
to the founding, in 1920, of the American Civil Liberties Union, the first organization
formed to protect free speech. In 1940, Congress declared it illegal to urge the violent
overthrow of the federal government. However, even as they heard the hate speech
employed by Hitler and the Nazis, U.S. courts and lawmakers argued that only by
protecting free speech could the United States protect the rights of minorities and
the disenfranchised. For most of the last half of the twentieth century, the Supreme
Court continued to protect rather than to limit free speech, upholding it as “the core
aspect of democracy.”4

In 1964, the Supreme Court narrowed the definition of slander, false speech
that harms someone. The Court ruled that before a public official can recover dam-
ages for slander, he or she must prove that the slanderous statement was made
with “actual malice.”5 Another 1964 boost for free speech occurred not in the courts
but on a university campus. In December of that year, more than 1,000 students
at the University of California in Berkeley took over three floors of Sproul Hall to
protest the recent arrest of outspoken student activists. The Berkeley Free Speech
Movement that arose from the incident permanently changed the political cli-
mate of U.S. college campuses. Today, more than 50 years later, college campuses

First Amendment
The amendment to the U.S. Constitution
guaranteeing free speech; the first of the
ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution
known collectively as the Bill of Rights

Table 3.1 A Brief History of Free Speech

SOURCE: Copyrighted by Pearson Education, Hoboken, NJ.

1791 First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees that “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech”

1798 Sedition Act is passed (expired in 1801)

1919 Supreme Court suggests that speech presenting a “clear and present danger” may be restricted

1920 American Civil Liberties Union is formed

1940 Congress declares it illegal to urge the violent overthrow of the federal government

1964 Supreme Court restricts definition of slander; Berkeley Free Speech Movement is born

1989 Supreme Court defends the burning of the U.S. flag as a speech act

1997 Supreme Court strikes down the Communications Decency Act of 1996, in defense of free speech on the Internet

1998 Oprah Winfrey successfully defends her right to speak freely on television

2001 September 11 terrorist attacks spark passage of the Patriot Act and new debate over the balance between national security and free speech

2006 State of Montana pardons those convicted under the Montana Sedition Act of 1918

2011 During the Arab Spring, advocates for political and social change protest openly in northern African countries not historically considered
bastions of free speech

2013 Using the “Like” button on Facebook is defined by a federal court as a speech act protected by the U.S. Constitution

2015 “Je suis Charlie” (“I am Charlie”) becomes the rallying cry of supporters of free speech rights, following terrorist attacks at the Paris offices
of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo

Speaking Freely and Ethically 39

continue to support freedom of speech. In December 2015, professors at the
University of Wisconsin voiced their commitment by declaring that “the clash of
ideas constitutes the heart and soul of what a university is.”6

Free speech gained protection in the last two decades of the twentieth cen-
tury, when the Supreme Court found “virtually all attempts to restrain speech in
advance . . . unconstitutional,” regardless of how hateful or disgusting the speech
may seem to some.7 In 1989, the Supreme Court defended the burning of the U.S.
flag as a speech act protected by the First Amendment. In 1997, the Court struck
down the highly controversial federal Communications Decency Act of 1996,
which had imposed penalties for creating, transmitting, or receiving obscene
material on the Internet. The Court ruled that “the interest in encouraging free-
dom of expression in a democratic society outweighs any theoretical but unproven
benefit of censorship.”8

Perhaps no twentieth-century test of free speech received more publicity than the
sensational 1998 lawsuit brought by four Texas cattlemen against popular talk-show
host Oprah Winfrey. In a show on “mad cow disease,” Winfrey had declared that she
would never eat another hamburger. Charging that her statement caused cattle prices
to plummet, the cattlemen sued for damages; however, Winfrey’s attorneys success-
fully argued that the case was an important test of free speech. Emerging from the
courtroom after the verdict in her favor, Winfrey shouted, “My reaction is that free
speech not only lives, it rocks!”9

Free Speech in the Twenty-First Century
No sooner had the new century begun than the right to free speech in the United
States experienced one of its most historically significant challenges. One month after
the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the pendulum again swung toward restric-
tion of free speech with the passage of the Patriot Act, which broadened the investiga-
tive powers of government agencies. But even as Americans debated the restrictions
imposed by the Patriot Act, they recognized and offered restitution for historical
infringement on free speech. In May 2006, Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer for-
mally pardoned seventy-eight late citizens of Montana who had been imprisoned

speech act
A behavior, such as flag burning, that is
viewed by law as nonverbal communica-
tion and is subject to the same protections
and limitations as verbal speech

Since the 1700s, court rulings
and laws have been shaping our
interpretation of the First Amendment.
The amendment protects free speech,
including the rights of protest speakers
to speak out about controversial
issues. Photo: Yana Paskova/Getty

40 Chapter 3

or fined under the Montana Sedition Act of 1918, convictions that “violated basic
American rights of speech . . .”10

The debate over the definition and protection of speech acts has continued into
the twenty-first century. In 2013, a U.S. federal court ruled that using the “Like”
button on Facebook is a free speech act protected by the constitution.11

Free speech has also become an increasingly global issue. During the 2011
Arab Spring, advocates for political and social change protested openly in north-
ern African countries, which have not historically been considered strongholds of
free speech.

Once played out primarily in public gatherings or on radio or television, free speech
acts and movements in the twenty-first century have gained visibility via social media
and the Web. After terrorists attacked the Paris offices of the satirical magazine Charlie
Hebdo in January of 2015, demonstrators adopted the slogan “Je suis Charlie” (“I am
Charlie”) to show support for the publication’s exercise of free speech. The hashtag
#jesuischarlie and a free smartphone app allowed hundreds of thousands of others
to demonstrate solidarity through social media. In addition,, an
international, multilingual Web site for the discussion of free speech, offers and invites
discussion and debate about ten draft principles for global free speech (Figure 3.1).
There can be little doubt that in the months and years to come, both the United States
and the world will continue to debate the “unprecedented chances for free expres-
sion” that the digital age offers.12

Speaking Ethically
3.2 List and explain five criteria for ethical public speaking.

As the boundaries of free speech expand, the importance of ethical speech increases.
Speaking at a 2015 commencement ceremony in Pennsylvania, writer Ian McEwan
told the graduates of Dickinson College,

. . . you may reasonably conclude that free speech is not simple. It’s never an abso-
lute. We don’t give space to proselytising paedophiles, to racists (and remember,
race is not identical to religion), or to those who wish to incite violence against

ethical speech
Speech that is responsible, honest,
and tolerant

Figure 3.1 Ten Draft Principles for Global Free Speech

SOURCE: Published on Free Speech Debate ( These principles were drafted as part of an Oxford University research project led
by Timothy Garton Ash and published on Free Speech Debate where they can also be debated online. These

Speaking Freely and Ethically 41

And Mathieu Davy, a French lawyer specializing in media rights, likewise asserted
that freedom of expression is not exclusive of ethical boundaries:

I have the right to criticize an idea, a concept, or a religion. I have the right to
criticize the powers in my country. But I don’t have the right to attack people and
to incite hate.14

In the discussion that follows, we offer suggestions for observing these and other
ethical guidelines. Although there is no definitive ethical creed for public speaking,
teachers and practitioners generally agree that an ethical speaker is one who has a
clear, responsible goal; uses sound evidence and reasoning; is sensitive to and toler-
ant of differences; acts honestly; and avoids plagiarism.

Have a Clear, Responsible Goal
The goal of a public speech should be clear to the audience. For example, if you are
trying to convince the audience that your beliefs about gay marriage are more cor-
rect than those of others, you should say so at some point in your speech. If you keep
your true agenda hidden, you violate your listeners’ rights.

In addition to being clear, an ethical goal should be socially responsible. A
socially responsible goal conveys respect and offers the listener choices, whereas an
irresponsible, unethical goal is demeaning or psychologically coercive or oppres-
sive. Adolf Hitler’s speeches, which incited the German people to hatred and geno-
cide, were demeaning and coercive.

If your overall objective is to inform or persuade, it is probably ethical; if your
goal is to demean, coerce, or manipulate, it is unethical. But lawyers and ethicists do
not always agree on this distinction. As we have pointed out, although Congress and
the Supreme Court have at times limited speech that incites sedition, violence, and
riot, they have also protected free speech rights “for both the ideas that people cherish
and the thoughts they hate.”15

In a recent study of the relationship between people’s perceptions of free speech
and hate speech, researchers Daniel Downs and Gloria Cowan found that participants
who considered freedom of speech to be more important considered hate speech to be
less harmful.16 The investigators reason that “Free-speech defenders may recognize
the harm of hate speech but believe that freedom of speech is more essential than is
censoring speech content.”

Use Sound Evidence and Reasoning
Ethical speakers use critical thinking skills such as analysis and evaluation to formu-
late arguments and draw conclusions. Unethical speakers substitute false claims and
emotional manipulation for evidence and logical arguments.

In the early 1950s, Wisconsin senator Joseph McCarthy incited national panic by
charging that Communists were infiltrating every avenue of American life. Never
able to substantiate his claims, McCarthy nevertheless succeeded in his witch hunt
by exaggerating and distorting the truth. One United Press reporter noted, “The
man just talked in circles. Everything was by inference, allusion, never a concrete
statement of fact. Most of it didn’t make sense.”17 Although today we recognize the
flimsiness of McCarthy’s accusations, in his time he wielded incredible power. It may
sometimes be tempting to resort to false claims to gain power over others, but it is
always unethical to do so.

42 Chapter 3

Some speakers bypass sound evi-
dence and reasoning to make their conclu-
sions more provocative. One contempo-
rary rhetoric scholar offers this example
of such short-circuited reasoning:

Let’s say two people are observing
who speaks in college classrooms and they
come up with

1. Women are not as good at public
speaking as men.

2. In college classes on coed campuses
where most professors are male,
women tend to talk less in class, com-
pared to men.18

The first conclusion, based on insufficient
evidence, reinforces sexist stereotypes with
an inflammatory overgeneralization. The
second, more qualified conclusion is more

One last, but important, requirement
for the ethical use of evidence and rea-
soning is to share with an audience all
information that might help them reach a
sound decision, including information that
may be potentially damaging to your case.
Even if you proceed to refute the opposing

A speaker who is sensitive to differences also avoids language that might be
interpreted as being biased or offensive. It may seem fairly simple and a matter of
common sense to avoid overtly abusive language, but it is not always easy to avoid
language that discriminates more subtly. In Chapter 10, we look at unintentionally
offensive words and phrases that ethical speakers should avoid.

Be Honest
President Bill Clinton’s finger-wagging declaration in January 1998 that “I did not
have sexual relations with that woman—Miss Lewinsky” was a serious breach of eth-
ics that came back to haunt him. Many Americans were willing to forgive the inappro-
priate relationship; fewer could forgive the dishonesty.

A seeming exception to the directive to avoid false information is the use
of hypothetical illustrations—illustrations that never actually occurred but that
might happen. Many speakers rely on such illustrations to clarify or enhance their
speeches. As long as a speaker makes it clear to the audience that the illustration is
indeed hypothetical—for example, prefacing the illustration with a phrase such as
“Imagine that . . .”—such use is ethical.

Honesty also requires that speakers give credit for ideas and information that are
not their own. The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association states
that “authors do not present the work of another as if it were their own work. This
can extend to ideas as well as written words.”21 Presenting the words and ideas of
others without crediting them is called plagiarism. This ethical violation is both seri-
ous enough and widespread enough to warrant a separate discussion in this chapter.

Don’t Plagiarize
Although some cultures may view unacknowledged borrowing from sources as a sign
of respect and humility and an attempt to be audience-centered, in the United States
and most other Western cultures, using the words, sentence structures, or ideas of
another person without crediting the source is a serious breach of ethics. Yet even
people who would never think of stealing money or shoplifting may feel justified
in plagiarizing—stealing words and/or ideas. One student commencement speaker
who plagiarized a speech by the writer Barbara Kingsolver explained his action as
resulting from the “expectation to produce something amazing.”22

Understand What ConstitUtes Plagiarism Even if you’ve never plagiarized any-
thing as public as a commencement address, perhaps you can remember copying a
grade-school report directly from an online or printed encyclopedia, or maybe you’ve
even purchased or “borrowed” a paper to submit for an assignment in high school or
college. These are obvious forms of plagiarism.

Less obvious forms include patchwriting—lacing a speech with compelling
phrases you find in a source; failing to give credit to a source or to provide adequate



Presenting someone else’s words or ideas
as though they were one’s own

Failing to give credit for phrases taken
from another source

Like Hitler, Senator Joseph McCarthy knew how to manipulate emotions and fears to
produce the results he wanted. McCarthy’s false accusations of Communism cast sus-
picion over thousands of people, causing many of them to lose their jobs or their entire
careers. Photo: National Archives and Records Administration.

evidence and arguments, you have fulfilled your ethical responsibility by presenting
the perspective of the other side. And you make your own arguments more convinc-
ing by anticipating and answering counterarguments and opposing evidence.

Be Sensitive to and Tolerant of Differences
The filmmaker who ate nothing but McDonald’s meals for his Oscar-
nominated movie Super Size Me apologized for a profanity-laced, politically incor-
rect speech at a suburban Philadelphia school.

Among other things, Morgan Spurlock joked about the intelligence of
McDonald’s employees and teachers smoking pot while he was speaking at
Hatboro-Horsham High School. . . .

Spurlock, 35, told The Philadelphia Inquirer in a telephone interview that he
“didn’t think of the audience” and could have chosen his words better.19

As noted in Chapter 2, being audience-centered requires that you become as aware as
possible of others’ feelings, needs, interests, and backgrounds. Spurlock violated this
ethical principle in his remarks.

Sometimes called accommodation, sensitivity to differences does not mean
that speakers must abandon their own convictions for those of their audience
members. It does mean that speakers should demonstrate a willingness to listen
to opposing viewpoints and learn about different beliefs and values. Such will-
ingness not only communicates respect; it can also help a speaker select a topic,
formulate a purpose, and design strategies to motivate an audience. And it has
broader implications as well. DePaul University Communication Professor Kathy
Fitzpatrick notes,

Our success in public diplomacy will turn on our ability to speak in ways that rec-
ognize and appreciate how [our audiences] will interpret our messages.20

Sensitivity to the feelings, needs, interests,
and backgrounds of other people

Speaking Freely and Ethically 43

A speaker who is sensitive to differences also avoids language that might be
interpreted as being biased or offensive. It may seem fairly simple and a matter of
common sense to avoid overtly abusive language, but it is not always easy to avoid
language that discriminates more subtly. In Chapter 10, we look at unintentionally
offensive words and phrases that ethical speakers should avoid.

Be Honest
President Bill Clinton’s finger-wagging declaration in January 1998 that “I did not
have sexual relations with that woman—Miss Lewinsky” was a serious breach of eth-
ics that came back to haunt him. Many Americans were willing to forgive the inappro-
priate relationship; fewer could forgive the dishonesty.

A seeming exception to the directive to avoid false information is the use
of hypothetical illustrations—illustrations that never actually occurred but that
might happen. Many speakers rely on such illustrations to clarify or enhance their
speeches. As long as a speaker makes it clear to the audience that the illustration is
indeed hypothetical—for example, prefacing the illustration with a phrase such as
“Imagine that . . .”—such use is ethical.

Honesty also requires that speakers give credit for ideas and information that are
not their own. The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association states
that “authors do not present the work of another as if it were their own work. This
can extend to ideas as well as written words.”21 Presenting the words and ideas of
others without crediting them is called plagiarism. This ethical violation is both seri-
ous enough and widespread enough to warrant a separate discussion in this chapter.

Don’t Plagiarize
Although some cultures may view unacknowledged borrowing from sources as a sign
of respect and humility and an attempt to be audience-centered, in the United States
and most other Western cultures, using the words, sentence structures, or ideas of
another person without crediting the source is a serious breach of ethics. Yet even
people who would never think of stealing money or shoplifting may feel justified
in plagiarizing—stealing words and/or ideas. One student commencement speaker
who plagiarized a speech by the writer Barbara Kingsolver explained his action as
resulting from the “expectation to produce something amazing.”22

Understand What ConstitUtes Plagiarism Even if you’ve never plagiarized any-
thing as public as a commencement address, perhaps you can remember copying a
grade-school report directly from an online or printed encyclopedia, or maybe you’ve
even purchased or “borrowed” a paper to submit for an assignment in high school or
college. These are obvious forms of plagiarism.

Less obvious forms include patchwriting—lacing a speech with compelling
phrases you find in a source; failing to give credit to a source or to provide adequate



Presenting someone else’s words or ideas
as though they were one’s own

Failing to give credit for phrases taken
from another source

As you listen to other people presenting speeches, you will note that most speakers don’t appear to

be nervous. They are not dishonestly trying to hide their apprehension; most people simply do not

outwardly appear as nervous as they may feel. When you deliver your presentation, you may experi-

ence some apprehension, but it is ethical to keep such feelings to yourself. And unless you tell your

audience that you’re nervous, it’s unlikely that they will notice it.

ConFidEnTly ConnECTing wiTh your AudiEnCE
Remember That You Will Look More Confident Than You May Feel

44 Chapter 3

information in a citation; or relying too heavily on the vocabulary or sentence struc-
ture of a source.23 Your college or university may have an honor code that further
defines plagiarism.

Suppose your source says, “Based on historical data, it’s clear that large areas
of the West Coast are overdue for a massive earthquake.” You would be plagiariz-
ing if you changed only a word or two to say, “Based on historical data, it’s clear
that many parts of the West Coast are overdue for a huge earthquake.” A better
paraphrase would be, “For much of the West Coast, historical trends show that ‘the
big one’ should have already hit.”

Understand that Plagiarism may have signifiCant ConseqUenCes According to one
source, 75 to 98 percent of college students admit to having cheated at least once.24 At
least one Web site claims to provide “non-plagiarized” custom term papers—ironic,
because using any such paper is exactly what constitutes plagiarism!25 And communi-
cation researcher Todd Holm reports that more than half of the students he surveyed
acknowledged cheating in some way in a public-speaking class.26

Despite the near-epidemic occurrence of plagiarism, most colleges impose stiff
penalties on students who plagiarize. Plagiarists almost always fail the assign-
ment in question, frequently fail the course, and are sometimes put on academic
probation or even expelled. And the risk of being caught is much greater than you
might suspect. Many colleges subscribe to a Web-based plagiarism detection com-
pany such as Turnitin; other professors routinely use free detection sites such as
Grammarly or even Google.

A few years ago, one of your authors heard an excellent student speech on
the importance of detecting cancer early. The only problem was that she heard the
same speech again in the following class period! On finding the “speech”—actually
a Reader’s Digest article that was several years old—both students were certain that
they had discovered a surefire shortcut to an A. Instead, they failed the assignment,
ruined their course grades, and lost your author’s trust.

Other consequences of plagiarism may include the loss of a degree, the end of a
promising career, or sometimes even civil or criminal prosecution resulting in fines
or jail time.27 In 2006, a graduate student in Connecticut was ordered by the state
appeals court to pay more than $26,000 in damages for plagiarizing another student’s
paper.28 In 2013, Montana Senator John Walsh was stripped of his master’s degree
after it became public that he had plagiarized his final paper for the U.S. Army War
College in 2007.29

do yoUr oWn Work The most flagrant cases of plagiarism result from not do-
ing your own work. For example, while you idly surf the Internet for ideas for a
speech assignment, you may discover a Web page that could easily be made into
a speech. However tempting it may be to use this material, and however certain
you are that no audience member could possibly have seen it, resist any urge to
plagiarize. Not only is the risk of being detected great, but also you will be short-
changing yourself in the long run if you do not learn how to develop a speech step
by step.

Another way speakers may attempt to shortcut the speech preparation process
is to ask another person to edit their speech so extensively that it becomes more
that other person’s work than their own. This is another form of plagiarism and
another way of cheating themselves out of the skills they need to develop.

aCknoWledge yoUr soUrCes Our admonition to do your own work in no way
suggests that you should not research your speeches and then share your findings
with audience members. In fact, an ethical speaker is responsible for doing just
that. Furthermore, some information is so widely known that you do not have to

Speaking Freely and Ethically 45

On a 2013 Web page titled “Bed Bug FAQs,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention out-
lines three problems caused by bed bug infestations: “property loss, expense, and inconvenience.”

sample Oral citatiOn

● Provide the date.

● Specify the type of resource.

● Give the title.

● Provide the author or source.

● Pause briefly to signal that you are about to begin

● Quote the source.

● Pause again to indicate that you are ending the
quoted passage.

acknowledge a source for it. For example, you need not credit a source if you say that
a person must be infected with the HIV virus to develop AIDS or that the Treaty of
Versailles was signed in 1919. This information is widely available in a variety of refer-
ence sources. However, if you decide to use any of the following in your speech, you
must give credit to the source:

● Direct quotations, even if they are only brief phrases

● Opinions, assertions, or others’ ideas, even if you paraphrase rather than quote
them verbatim

● Statistics

● Any nonoriginal visual materials, including graphs, tables, and pictures

To be able to acknowledge your sources, you must first practice careful and
systematic note-taking. Indicate with quotation marks any phrases or sentences
that you photocopy, copy by hand, or electronically cut and paste verbatim from a
source. Be sure to record the author, title, publisher or Web site, publication date,
and page numbers for all sources from which you take quotations, ideas, statistics,
or visual materials. Additional suggestions for systematic note-taking are offered
in Chapter 7. In addition to keeping careful records of your sources, you must also
know how to cite sources for your audience, both orally and in writing.

Oral Citations Perhaps you have heard a speaker say “Quote” while holding up both
hands and curving his index and middle fingers to indicate quotation marks. This
is an artificial and distracting way to cite a source; an oral citation can be integrated
more smoothly into a speech.

For example, you might want to use the approach illustrated in the follow-
ing sample oral citation. The publication date and author of a source are usually
included in an oral citation. In this sample, the speaker also mentions the type of
resource (Web page) and its title (“Bed Bugs”). Follow your instructor’s preferences
for the level of detail you should include in your oral citations. Note that when you
include an oral citation in a speech, indicate the beginning and end of the quoted
passage by pausing briefly. The sample preparation outline in Chapter 10 gives
additional examples of oral citations.

Written Citations You can also provide a written citation for a source. In fact, your
public-speaking instructor may ask you to submit a bibliography with the outline
or other written materials required for each speech. Instructors who require a bib-
liography will usually specify the format they want for the citations; if they do not,
you can use a style guide published by the Modern Language Association (MLA) or
the American Psychological Association (APA), both of which are available online as

oral citation
The spoken presentation of source infor-
mation, including the author, title, and year
of publication

written citation
The print presentation of source informa-
tion including the author, title, and year of
publication, usually formatted according to
a conventional style guide

46 Chapter 3

well as in print format. Here is an example of a written citation in MLA format for the
source quoted in the sample oral citation:

“Bed Bug FAQs.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 10 Jan. 2013, www.cdc.
gov/parasites/bedbugs/faqs.html. Accessed 8 Jan. 2016.

Notice that the citation provides two dates: the date the material was posted
online and the date the researcher accessed it. If you are unable to find the date the
material was posted—or any other element of information—proceed directly to the
next item in the citation. Additional information about citing sources and preparing
a bibliography can be found in Chapter 7.

Perhaps now you are thinking, “What about those ‘gray areas,’ those times
when I am not certain whether the information or ideas I am presenting are common
knowledge?” A good rule is this: When in doubt, document. You will never be guilty
of plagiarism if you document something you didn’t need to, but you could be
committing plagiarism if you do not document something you should have.

Speaking Credibly
3.3 Explain the relationship between ethics and credibility.

Credibility is a speaker’s believability. A credible speaker is one whom an audi-
ence perceives to be competent, knowledgeable, dynamic, and trustworthy. The last
of those four factors—trustworthiness—is dependent in large part on the speaker’s
known consistent adherence to ethical principles.

You trust people whom you believe to be ethical. In fact, the Greek rhetori-
cian Aristotle used the term ethos—the root word of ethic and ethical—to refer to a
speaker’s credibility. Quintilian, a Roman teacher of public speaking, believed that
an effective public speaker should also be a person of good character, a “good per-
son speaking well.”

We examine credibility in more detail in Chapter 5, where we discuss analyzing
your audience’s attitudes toward you; in Chapter 10, where we talk about estab-
lishing credibility in your speech introduction; and in Chapter 15, where we cover
the role of credibility in persuading an audience. For now, keep in mind that speak-
ing ethically is one key to being perceived by your audience as a credible speaker.

An audience’s perception of a speaker as
competent, knowledgeable, dynamic, and

PubliC SPEAkEr
• Has a clear, responsible

• Uses sound evidence and

• Is sensitive to and tolerant

of differences
• Is honest
• Doesn’t plagiarize

Speaking Freely and Ethically 47

aPPly: From at least the time of Franklin Delano
Roosevelt, speechwriters have written many of the best
speeches made by U.S. presidents. Is such use of speech-
writers ethical? Is it ethical to give credit to the presidents
for memorable lines when their speeches were written by
professional speechwriters?

assess: The following passage comes from the book
Abraham Lincoln, Public Speaker, by Waldo W. Braden:

The Second Inaugural Address, sometimes called
Lincoln’s Sermon on the Mount, was a concise, tightly
constructed composition that did not waste words
on ceremonial niceties or superficial sentiment. The
shortest Presidential inaugural address up to that
time, it was only 700 words long, compared to 3,700
words for the First, and required from 5 to 7 minutes
to deliver.30

Which of the following statements should be credited to
Braden if you were to use them in a speech?

● “Lincoln’s second inaugural address is sometimes
called Lincoln’s Sermon on the Mount.”

● “Because he was elected and sworn in for two terms
as president, Abraham Lincoln prepared and deliv-
ered two inaugural addresses.”

● “Lincoln’s second inaugural address was 700 words
and 5 to 7 minutes long.”

Speaking Credibly
3.3 Explain the relationship between ethics

and credibility.

revieW: Speaking ethically allows your audience to trust
you. Being trustworthy is an important part of being cred-
ible, or believable.

Key Term

aPPly: An important requirement for the ethical use of
evidence and reasoning is to share with an audience all
of the information that might help them reach a sound
decision, even if it is potentially damaging to your case.
Would you consider a speaker who shares such informa-
tion more or less credible than one who does not?

assess: As you listen to classmates’ speeches, try to
identify specific ways in which they try to gain your trust.
In what ways were they successful? In what ways were
they not?

study Guide: review, apply, and assess

Speaking Freely
3.1 Explain how free speech has been challenged and

defended throughout history.

revieW: Although the U.S. Congress and courts have oc-
casionally limited the constitutional right to free speech,
more often they have protected and broadened its appli-
cation. Freedom of speech has also been upheld by such
organizations as the American Civil Liberties Union and
by colleges and universities. Social media are a new con-
text for twenty-first-century challenges to free speech.

Key Terms
free speech

First Amendment
speech act

aPPly: Social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and
Instagram continue to review and revise their policies
regarding the protection of free speech. Given these sites’
widely diverse audiences that include international users,
commercial users, and political dissidents, how can social
media best develop audience-centered policies regarding
free speech?

assess: Why do you think the U.S. Supreme Court has
historically considered flag burning and pornography to
be “free speech acts”?

Speaking Ethically
3.2 List and explain five criteria for ethical public


revieW: Speakers who exercise their right to free speech
are responsible for tempering what they say by applying
ethics. An ethical public speaker should have a clear, re-
sponsible goal, use sound evidence and reasoning, be sen-
sitive to and tolerant of differences, be honest, and take
appropriate steps to avoid plagiarism. Practice accommo-
dation, or sensitivity to differences, by listening to oppos-
ing viewpoints and learning about different beliefs and
values. Do not use language that might be interpreted as
biased or offensive. Avoid plagiarizing by understanding
what it is, doing your own work, and acknowledging—
orally, in writing, or both—the sources for any quotations,
ideas, statistics, or visual materials.

Key Terms
ethical speech

oral citation
written citation

Several years ago a psychology professor who dedicated his life to teaching and
worked hard to prepare interesting lectures, found his students sitting through
his talks with glassy-eyed expressions.1 To find out what was on his students’

minds instead of psychology, he would, without warning, fire a blank from a gun and
then ask his students to record their thoughts at the instant they heard the shot. Here
is what he found:

20 percent were pursuing erotic thoughts or sexual fantasies.
20 percent were reminiscing about something (they weren’t sure what they were

thinking about).
20 percent were worrying about something or thinking about lunch.
8 percent were pursuing religious thoughts.

4.1 List and describe five barriers to effective listening.

4.2 Identify and implement strategies for becoming a
better listener.

4.3 Identify and implement strategies for improving your
critical listening skills and critical thinking skills.

4.4 Use criteria to effectively and appropriately evaluate

After studying this chapter, you should be able to do the following:

Listening to

Learn how to listen and you

will prosper—even from those

who talk badly.


Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723–1792), Self-Portrait
as a Deaf Man, 1775, Tate, London/Art
Resource, N.Y.

Listening to Speeches 49

20 percent were reportedly listening.
12 percent were able to recall what the professor was talking about when

the gun fired.

Like this professor, you would probably prefer that more than 12 percent of
your audience could recall your messages. Understanding how people listen can
help you improve your ability to connect with your audience. If you understand
what holds listeners’ attention, as well as how to navigate around the barriers to
effective listening, you can make your messages stick like Velcro rather than slip
from your listeners’ minds like Teflon.

Considerable evidence also suggests that your own listening skills could
be improved.2 Within 24 hours after listening to a lecture or speech, you will
most likely recall only about 50 percent of the message. Forty-eight hours later,
you are above average if you remember more than 25 percent of the message.
Learning about listening can help you increase your listening skills so you can
gain more benefits from the speeches you hear.

Although listening can be a challenge, it is among the most valued skills to
possess. Research confirms that good listening skills can improve the quality of
both your life and career.3 Chances are, the people who become your best friends
are also good listeners. Several surveys suggest that listening is highly valued
by employers.4 If you are like most students, you spend more than 80 percent of
your day involved in communication-related activities.5 As shown in Figure 4.1,
you listen a lot; research suggests you spend more than half of your communication
time listening.6 Your challenge is to stay on course and be a good listener.

Listening is a complex process of selecting, attending to, understanding, remem-
bering, and responding to verbal and nonverbal messages. Being able to describe
these listening components can help you retain more and become a better speaker and

●● Selecting. To select a sound, the first stage of listening, is to single out a mes-
sage from several competing messages. As a public speaker, your job is to develop
a presentation that motivates your listeners to focus on your message.

●● Attending. The sequel to selecting is attending. To attend to a sound is to focus
on it.7 One of your key challenges as a public speaker is to capture and then hold
your audience’s attention.

●● Understanding. Boiled down to its essence, communication is the process of
understanding, or making sense of our experiences and sharing that sense with
others.8 We understand something when we create meaning out of what we expe-
rience. The challenge of being understood comes back to a focus on the audience.

●● Remembering. The next stage in the listening process is remembering. To
remember is to recall ideas and information. You hear more than one billion
words each year, but how much information do you retain? It depends on how
well you listen.

●● Responding. The final stage in the listening process is to respond. When listen-
ers respond, they react to what they have heard with their behavior. For example,
it could be that you want them simply to remember and restate your key ideas.
Or you may want them to vote for someone, buy something, or enroll in a course.
That’s why it’s useful for public speakers to develop specific behavioral goals for
their talks.

In this chapter we discuss how people listen, and we identify barriers and pitfalls that
keep both speakers and audiences from listening effectively. Our goal is not only to help
you remember what speakers say but also to be a more thoughtful, ethical, and critical
listener to the messages you hear. We’ll offer tips to improve your ability to analyze and
evaluate speeches, including your own.





Figure 4.1 You listen a lot: A typical
student spends about 11 percent of
his or her communication time writing,
17 percent reading, 17 percent
speaking, and at least 55 percent

Copyrighted by Pearson Education, Hoboken, NJ.

The process by which receivers select,
attend to, understand, remember, and
respond to senders’ messages

To single out a message from several
competing messages

To focus on incoming information for
further processing

To assign meaning to the information to
which you attend

Recalling ideas and information

Reacting with a change in behavior to a
speaker’s message

50 Chapter 4

Overcoming Barriers to
Effective Listening
4.1 List and describe five barriers to effective listening.

Barriers are created when the listener doesn’t select, attend, understand, remember, or
respond to the message as planned by the speaker. The more you know about poten-
tial obstacles that keep your listeners from responding to your message the way you
intend, the better able you will be to develop messages that hold their interest. We
discuss those barriers next and how to deal with them.

Listener Fatigue
We spend a large part of each day listening. That’s both good news and bad news. The
good news is that because we listen a lot, we have the potential to become effective
listeners. The bad news is that instead of getting better at it, we often tune out because
we hear so much information that we get tired of listening and reduce our concen-
tration on the message. Listening researchers have developed what they call the
working memory theory of listening, which explains why we sometimes just don’t
listen well. The theory suggests that when a listener’s capacity is reached (when our
working memory is full), then it’s harder to concentrate and remember what we hear.9
Although this theory suggests that there’s nothing you can do as either a speaker or a
listener to manage this problem, listeners and speakers can actually use several strate-
gies to overcome the limits of working memory.

What You Can Do as a speaker You can keep your audience from tuning out by
making sure your speech has a balance between new information and supporting
material such as stories and examples. A speech that is too dense—chock-full of facts,
new definitions, and undeveloped ideas—can make listening a tiring, tedious pro-
cess. On the other hand, people don’t want to listen to a bare-bones outline of ideas;
they need ideas that are fleshed out with illustrations. Pace the flow of new ideas and
information. Communication expert Frank E. X. Dance recommends a 30:70 ratio: 30
percent of your speaking time should be spent presenting new ideas and informa-
tion, and 70 percent of your time should be spent supporting your ideas with vivid
examples and interesting stories.10

Another way to combat information overload as a speaker is to build redun-
dancy into your message. If listeners miss the idea the first time you present it,
perhaps they will catch it during your concluding summary. Repeating key ideas
can be part of the 70 percent of your message that supports the new information
you present.

What You Can Do as a Listener If you find yourself tuning a speaker out because
you’re just tired of listening to someone talk, make a special effort to concentrate on
the information you’re hearing. The key to being a good listener is to recognize when
you’re not being a good listener and then to adjust how you are listening. Perk up
your listening power by making sure that you are looking at the speaker, sitting up
straight, and remaining focused on the message.

Personal Concerns
You are sitting in your African history class on a Friday afternoon. It’s a beautiful
day. You slump into your seat, open your notebook, and prepare to take notes on the
lecture. As the professor talks about an upcoming assignment, you begin to think
about how you are going to spend your Saturday. One thought leads to another as you
mentally plan your weekend. Suddenly you hear your professor say, “For Monday’s

working memory theory
of listening
A theory that suggests that listeners find
it difficult to concentrate and remember
when their short-term working memories
are full

Listening to Speeches 51

test, you will be expected to know the principles I’ve just reviewed.” What principles?
What test? You were present in class, and you did hear the professor’s lecture, but
you’re not sure what was said.

Your own thoughts are among the biggest competitors for your attention when
you are a member of an audience. Most of us would rather listen to our own inner
speech than to a public speaker’s message. As the psychology professor with the
gun found, sex, lunch, worries, and daydreams are distractions for the majority of

What You Can Do as a speaker To counteract the problem of listeners’ focusing
on their personal concerns instead of your message, consciously work to maintain
your audience’s attention by using occasional wake-up messages such as “Now lis-
ten carefully because this will affect your future grade (or family, or employment).”
Delivering your message effectively by using good eye contact, speaking with appro-
priate volume and vocal variation, and using appropriate gestures for emphasis can
also help keep listeners engaged.

What You Can Do as a Listener To stay focused, it’s important that you stop the
mental conversation you’re having with yourself about ideas unrelated to the speak-
er’s message. Be aware of thoughts, worries, and daydreams that are competing for
your attention. Then, once you are aware that you are off-task, return your attention to
what the speaker is saying.

Outside Distractions
While sitting in class, you notice the person in front of you check-
ing Facebook on her tablet computer. Two classmates behind you
are discussing their favorite Game of Thrones episodes. You feel your
phone vibrate in your pocket, which means someone just sent you a
text. Looking out the window you see a varsity football hero strug-
gling to break into his car to retrieve the keys he left in the ignition.
As your history professor drones on about the Bay of Pigs invasion,
you find it difficult to focus on his lecture. Most of us don’t listen
well when physical distractions compete with the speaker. And,
with lives immersed in technology, the next distraction is only a text,
phone call, or tweet away. Research has found that merely the visible
presence of a smartphone can be a communication distraction and
reduce our listening effectiveness.11 We can’t resist checking to see if
someone wants to communicate with us.

What You Can Do as a speaker To minimize distractions, be
aware of anything that might sidetrack your listeners’ attention. For
example, look at the way the chairs in the room are arranged. Do
they allow listeners a clear view of you and any presentation aids
you might use? Is there distracting or irrelevant information written
on a chalkboard or whiteboard? Try to empathize with listeners by
imagining what they will be looking at when you speak. Check out
the room ahead of time, sit where your audience will be seated, and
look for possible distractions. Then reduce or eliminate distractions
(such as by closing windows or lowering shades to limit visual and
auditory distractions or turning off blinking fluorescent lights, if you
can). Also, tactfully discourage whispering in the audience.

What You Can Do as a Listener When listening, you too can help
manage the speaking and listening environment by being on the
lookout for distractions or potential distractions. If you must, move

Personal concerns and distractions such as texts are
challenges to effective listening for many students. You
can, however, make yourself a better listener by learning
to overcome these and other barriers. Photo: Monkey

52 Chapter 4

to another seat if people near you are talking or a rude smartphone user continues to
text. Make sure you turn off and put away your phone, laptop, and tablet (unless you
are using one of these devices to take notes.) If the speaker has failed to monitor the
listening environment, you may need to close the blinds, turn up the heat, turn off the
lights, close the door, or do whatever is necessary to minimize distractions.

Your buddy is a staunch Democrat. During the broadcast of a speech by the
Republican governor of your state, he constantly argues against each of the gover-
nor’s suggestions. The next day he is surprised to see new editorials praising the gov-
ernor’s speech. “Did those writers hear the same speech I did?” your friend wonders.
Yes, they heard the same speech, but they listened differently. When you prejudge a
message, your ability to understand it decreases.

Sometimes we make snap judgments about a speaker based on his or her
appearance and then fail to listen because we have already dismissed the speaker’s
ideas as inconsequential or irrelevant. For example, if we know someone backs a
different political party, practices a different religion, or supports causes we don’t,
we may be tempted to dismiss their ideas even before we hear them.

On the flip side, some people too readily accept what someone says just because
they like the way the person looks, sounds, or dresses. For example, Tex believes
that anyone with a Texas drawl must be an honest person. Such positive prejudices
can also inhibit your ability to listen accurately to a message. We may have a favor-
able bias because we think the speaker shares our beliefs. We may also prejudge a
message because we are biased for or against the message and messenger.

What You Can Do as a speaker To keep your listeners from making snap judgments
based on prejudice, do your best to get your audience’s attention at the beginning of
your message. Make sure you’re not using examples, words, or phrases that could be
misinterpreted. Keep your message focused on your listeners’ interests, needs, hopes,
and wishes. When addressing an audience that may be critical of or hostile to your
message, ask them to withhold evaluation until they have heard your entire speech.
In addition, use detailed arguments and credible evidence rather than strong emo-
tional appeals.

What You Can Do as a Listener One of the major problems with prejudice is being
unaware of one’s own preconceived notions. Guard against becoming so critical of a
message that you don’t listen to it or so impressed that you decide too quickly that the
speaker is trustworthy without carefully examining the evidence provided.

Differences between Speech
Rate and Thought Rate
Ralph Nichols, a pioneer in listening research and training, has identified a listening
problem that centers on the way you process the words you hear.12 Most people talk
at a rate of 125 words a minute. But you have the ability to listen seven to ten times
faster, to as many as 700 to 1,200 words a minute! The difference between your ability
to process words and the speed at which a speaker can produce them gives you time
to ignore a speaker periodically. Eventually, you stop listening; the extra time allows
you to daydream and drift away from the message.

Nichols suggests that the different rates of speech and thought need not be a
listening liability. Instead of drifting away from the speech, you can enhance your
listening effectiveness by mentally summarizing what the speaker has said from
time to time.

Preconceived opinions, attitudes, and
beliefs about a person, place, thing,
or message

Listening to Speeches 53

What You Can Do as a speaker Avoid trying to speed up your speech. Even if you
could speak 200 words a minute, your listeners would still want you to talk about four
times faster than that. Instead, develop a well-structured message. Build in message
redundancy and internal summaries, use clear transitions, be well organized, and
make your major ideas clear to help your listeners catch your message even when
they’ve tuned out for a bit here and there.

What You Can Do as a Listener Because you have the ability to think much faster
than people speak, you can use that dazzling mental power to stay focused on the
message. Here’s a powerful technique: Periodically making a mental summary of
what a speaker has said can dramatically increase your ability to remember the infor-
mation. The difference in speech rate and thought rate gives you time to sprinkle in
several mental summaries while listening to a message.

How to Become a Better Listener
4.2 Identify and implement strategies for becoming a better listener.

Now that we have examined barriers to effective listening and suggested a few
strategies to overcome those barriers, we offer a basketful of additional strategies for
improving your listening skills. Specifically, we’ll help you listen with your eyes. We’ll
help you be a mindful listener. And, finally, we will note specific behaviors that can
help you listen more skillfully.

Listen with Your Eyes as Well as Your Ears
To listen with your eyes is to be attuned to the unspoken cues of a speaker. Nonverbal
cues play a major role in communicating a message.13 When listening with your eyes,
you need to accurately interpret what you see while ensuring that you don’t allow
yourself to be distracted, even when a speaker has poor delivery.

aCCurateLY interpret nonverbaL Messages Because nonverbal messages play such
a powerful role in affecting how you respond to a speaker, it’s important to accurately
interpret what a speaker expresses nonverbally. A speaker’s facial expressions will
help you identify the emotions being communicated; a speaker’s posture and gestures
often reinforce the intensity of the specific emotion expressed.14 If you have trouble
understanding a speaker because he or she talks too softly or speaks in an unfamiliar

Barrier Listener’s Tasks Speaker’s Tasks

Listener fatigue • Concentrate harder.
• Identify key points.

• Be clear.
• Increase redundancy.
• Use interesting stories and supporting material.

Personal concerns • Focus on the message rather than
your own thoughts.

• Use attention-maintaining strategies, such as startling information,
statistics, or stories to “wake up” listeners.

Outside distractions • Assertively control the listening

• Adjust doors, curtains, windows, or other physical arrangements
of the room.

Prejudice • Focus on the message, not the

• Use strong opening statements that focus on listeners’ interests.

Differences between speech rate
and thought rate

• Mentally summarize the speaker’s
message while you listen.

• Build in redundancy.
• Be well organized.
• Use attention-maintaining strategies.

54 Chapter 4

dialect, move closer so you can see the speaker’s mouth. A good view can increase
your level of attention and improve your understanding.

To increase your skill in accurately interpreting nonverbal messages, consider
the following suggestions:

●● Consider nonverbal cues in context. When interpreting an unspoken message,
don’t just focus on one nonverbal cue; consider the situation you and the speaker
are in.

●● Look for clusters of cues. Instead of focusing on just one bit of behavior, look for
several nonverbal cues to increase the accuracy of your interpretation of a speak-
er’s message.

●● Look for cues that communicate liking, power, and responsiveness. A nonverbal cue
(eye contact, facial expression, body orientation) can often express whether some-
one likes us. We note people’s degree of power or influence over us by the way
they dress, how much space they have around them, or whether they are relaxed
or tense. People who perceive themselves as having more power than those
around them are usually more relaxed. Or we can observe whether someone is
interested or focused on us by his or her use of eye contact, head nods, facial ex-
pressions, and tone of voice.

aDapt to the speaker’s DeLiverY Good listeners focus on a speaker’s message, not
on his or her delivery style. To be a good listener, you must adapt to the particular

idiosyncrasies some speakers have. You may have to ignore or overlook
a speaker’s tendency to mumble, speak in a monotone, or fail to make
eye contact. Perhaps more difficult still, you may even have to forgive a
speaker’s lack of clarity or coherence. Rather than mentally criticizing
an unpolished speaker, you may need to be sympathetic and try harder
to concentrate on the message. Good listeners focus on the message, not
the messenger.

Poor speakers are not the only challenge to good listening. You also
need to guard against glib, well-polished speakers. An attractive style of
delivery does not necessarily mean that a speaker’s message is credible.
Don’t let a smooth-talking salesperson convince you to buy something
without carefully considering the content of his or her message.

Listen Mindfully
Mindful listeners are mentally focused on the listening task. Two listening researchers
found that good listeners do the following:15

●● Put their own thoughts aside

●● Are present mentally as well as physically

●● Make a conscious, mindful effort to listen

●● Invest time in listening, patiently letting the speaker make his or her point

●● Are open-minded

Bad listeners do just the opposite; they are distracted by their own thoughts,
are mentally absent, are impatient, and are less open to what they hear. To be a
mindful listener is to be aware of what you are doing when listening to others.
How do you do that? Here are specific strategies to help you be a mindful listener.

be aWare of Whether You are Listening Listening boils down to this: You are ei-
ther on-task or off-task. If you are not either selecting or attending to a message, then
you are not mentally engaged with what you are hearing. What’s vital, yet simple,
is that you be aware of whether you are on- or off-task when listening to someone.
Unmindful listeners are not conscious of whether they are paying attention or

Accurately interpret nonverbal messages:

• Consider context.
• Look for clusters.
• Look for cues of liking.
• Adapt your listening to the speaker’s


Listening to Speeches 55

daydreaming. As  you listen, occasionally take a moment to think about
your own thoughts. Pretend you are in that class when the professor fires
the gun. At the moment, are you thinking about the message, or have you
allowed your thoughts to stray off-task?

If you become aware that you’re not listening, research has found that
you can increase your motivation to stay on-task by reminding yourself
why listening is important.16 Periodically engage in “self-talk” to tell your-
self why the message you’re hearing can be helpful or useful to you.

Monitor Your eMotionaL reaCtion to a Message Heightened emotions
can affect your ability to understand a message. If you become angry at a
word or phrase a speaker uses, your listening comprehension decreases.
Depending on their cultural backgrounds, religious convictions, and politi-
cal views, listeners may become emotionally aroused by certain words. For
most listeners, words that connote negative opinions about their ethnic ori-
gin, nationality, or religious views can trigger strong emotions. Cursing and
obscene language are red flags for other listeners.

How can you keep your emotions in check when you hear something
that sets you off? First, recognize when your emotional state is affecting
your rational thought. Second, use self-talk to calm yourself down. Say to
yourself, “I’m not going to let this anger get in the way of listening and
understanding.” Finally, focus for a moment on your breathing to calm

be a seLfish Listener Although it may sound crass, being a selfish listener
can help you maintain your powers of concentration. If you find your at-
tention waning, ask yourself questions such as “What’s in it for me?” and
“How can I use information from this talk?” Granted, you will find
more useful information in some presentations than in others—but be
alert to the possibility in all speeches. Find ways to benefit from the
information you are receiving, and try to connect it with your own
experiences and needs.

Listen Skillfully
Besides being aware of nonverbal messages and being mindful
listeners, good listeners exercise several skills that help them stay
focused and remember what they’ve heard. They identify their listening goal, listen
for major ideas, practice good listening methods, adapt their listening style as neces-
sary, and are active listeners.

Listen for Major iDeas In a classic study, both good and poor listeners were asked
what their listening strategies were.17 The poor listeners indicated that they listened
for facts, such as names and dates. The good listeners reported that they listened for
major ideas and principles. Facts are useful only when you can connect them to a prin-
ciple or concept. In speeches, facts as well as examples are used primarily to support
major ideas. As you listen, try to mentally summarize the major ideas that the specific
facts support.

If you heard President Barack Obama deliver his Second Inaugural Address in
Washington, D.C., on the sunny morning of January 22, 2013, you heard him intro-
duce his key idea about two minutes into his speech by repeating these three words:
“We the people . . . .” A good listener would recognize that these words reveal a core
idea of the speech—that it takes a collaborative effort to do good things.

How can you tell what the major ideas in a speech are? A speaker who is well
organized or familiar with good speaking techniques will offer a preview of the
major ideas early in the speech. If no preview is provided, listen for the speaker

LiStEn MindFuLLY
• Be aware of whether you are listening or not.
• Monitor and control your emotional reactions.
• Be a selfish listener.

Good listeners are mentally fully present and invest
effort in listening rather than allowing themselves
to be distracted. Photo: Kzenon/Fotolia.

56 Chapter 4

to enumerate major points: “My first point is that the history of Jackson County is
evident in its various styles of architecture.” Transitional phrases and a speaker’s
internal summaries are other clues that can help you identify the major points. If
your speaker provides few overt indicators, you may have to discover them on
your own. In that event, mentally summarize the ideas that are most useful to you.
Be a selfish listener: Treat a disorganized speech as a river with gold in its sands,
and take your mental mining pan and search for the nuggets of meaning.

praCtiCe Listening Because you spend at least 55 percent of your day listening, you
may wonder why we suggest that you practice listening. The reason is that listening
skills do not develop automatically. You learn to swim by getting proper instruc-
tion; you’re unlikely to develop good aquatic skills just by jumping in the water and
flailing around. Similarly, you will learn to listen more effectively by practicing the
methods we recommend. Researchers believe that poor listeners avoid challenges. For
example, they listen to and watch TV situation comedies rather than documentaries or
other informative programs. Your listening skill develops as you mindfully listen to
speeches, music, and programs with demanding content.

unDerstanD Your Listening stYLe New research suggests that not everyone listens to
information in the same way. There are at least four different listening styles—preferred
ways of making sense out of spoken messages. Listening researchers have discovered
that many listeners have one of the following listening styles: relational, analytical, criti-
cal, or task-oriented.18 Understanding your listening style can help you become a better
and more flexible listener.19About 40 percent of listeners have one primary listening style;
another 40 percent use more than one style; and about 20 percent don’t have a listening
style preference. As you read the descriptions of the four listening styles, see if you can
determine which of these segments of the listening population you belong to.20 There is
evidence that you adapt your style to fit your listening goal.21 The best listeners are flex-
ible listeners who can adapt their style to fit the occasion and the person speaking.22

Relational-Oriented Listeners If you are comfortable listening to people express
feelings and emotions, most likely you are a relational-oriented listener. This type of
listener is highly empathic and attempts to seek common ground with the person he
or she is listening to. Relational-oriented listeners are also easily moved by poignant
illustrations and anecdotes. They enjoy hearing stories about people and personal
relationships. When speaking with others in interpersonal and group situations, they
are generally less apprehensive than other types of listeners.23

Task-Oriented Listeners Task-oriented listeners want to know what to do with the
information they hear. They listen for the verbs—the action words that indicate what
task should be completed after listening to the information. The task-oriented listener
wants people to get to the point and listens for actions that need to be taken. To a task-
oriented listener, a long story or a lengthy personal example without some direction
is less satisfying than a call for action. Task-oriented listeners also seem to be more
skeptical than people with other listening styles. They prefer to be given evidence to
support the recommendations for action.

Analytical Listeners Analytical listeners prefer to listen to complex information laced
with facts and details. They often withhold judgment before reaching a specific conclu-
sion. You’re an analytical listener if you reject messages because they don’t have adequate
evidence to support their conclusions. In addition, analytical listeners don’t like rambling
stories that don’t seem to have a point; they want to know what the key facts are rather
than listen to a long narrative. Analytical listeners make good judges or lawyers because
they enjoy listening to debates and hearing arguments for and against ideas.24

Critical Listeners You’re a critical listener if you spend time evaluating the messages
you hear. Critical listeners are comfortable listening to detailed, complex information

listening styles
Preferred ways of making sense out
of spoken messages



relational-oriented listener
Someone who is comfortable listening to
others express feelings and emotions

task-oriented listener
Someone who prefers information that is
well organized, brief, and precise

analytical listener
Someone who prefers messages that are
supported with facts and details

Listening to Speeches 57

yet can focus on contradictions and inconsistencies in the information presented.
Critical listeners are also likely to catch errors in the overall reasoning and evidence
that are used to reach a conclusion.

Knowing your listening style can help you better adapt to a speaker whose
style is different from your own. The best listeners adapt
their style to fit the situation and the listening goal.25

beCoMe an aCtive Listener An active listener is one who
remains alert and mentally re-sorts, rephrases, and repeats
key information while listening to a speech. Because you can
listen to words much faster than a speaker can say them, it’s
natural for your mind to wander. But you can use the extra
time to focus on interpreting what the speaker says.

1. Re-sort. Use your listening time to re-sort disorga-
nized or disjointed ideas.26 If a speaker is rambling,
seek ways to rearrange his or her ideas into a new,
more logical pattern. For example, re-sort ideas into a
chronological pattern: What happened first, second,
and so on? If the speaker hasn’t used a logical frame-
work, see if you can find a structure to help you reorga-
nize the information. When a speaker isn’t organized,
you’ll benefit if you can turn a jumbled mass of infor-
mation into a structure that makes sense to you.

2. Rephrase. Mentally summarize the key points or infor-
mation you want to remember. Listen for the main ideas
and then paraphrase them in your own words. You are
more likely to remember your mental paraphrase of the
information than the exact words of the speaker. If you can, try to summarize what the
speaker says into a phrase that could fit on a bumper sticker. Listening for “information
handles” in the form of previews, transitions, signposts, and summary statements can
also help you remain actively involved as a listener.

3. Repeat. Finally, do more than just rephrase the information as you listen to it.
Periodically repeat key points you want to remember. Go back to essential ideas
and restate them to yourself every five minutes or so. If you follow these steps for
active listening, you will find yourself feeling stimulated and engaged instead of
tired and bored as you listen to even the dullest of speakers.

critical listener
Someone who prefers to evaluate

LiStEning StYLES

Listeners prefer to attend to feel-
ings and emotions and to search
for common areas of interest when
listening to others.


Listeners are focused on accom-
plishing something; they like ef-
ficient, clear, and brief messages.
They listen for verbs to determine
what action needs to be taken.

Analytical listening Listeners prefer to withhold judg-
ment, listen to all sides of an issue,
and wait until they hear the facts
before reaching a conclusion.

Critical listening Listeners are likely to listen for the
facts and evidence to support key
ideas and an underlying logic; they
also listen for errors, inconsisten-
cies, and discrepancies.

ACtivE LiStEning
Steps Definition Example

Re-sort Reorganize jumbled or disorganized

What the speaker said: “There are several key dates to re-
member in America’s history: 1776, 1492, 1861.”

You re-sort: 1492, 1776, 1861

Rephrase Paraphrase to simplify the speaker’s ideas
rather than trying to remember his or her ex-
act words.

What the speaker said: “If we don’t stop the destructive
overspending of the defense budget, our nation will very
quickly find itself much deeper in debt and unable to meet
the many needs of its citizens.”

You rephrase: “We should spend less on defense, or we will
have more problems.”

Repeat Periodically, mentally restate the key ideas
you want to remember.

Repeat key points to yourself every five minutes or so as you
listen to the speech.

58 Chapter 4

Listen Ethically
An effective listener does more than just gain an accurate understanding of a speak-
er’s message; effective listeners are also ethical listeners. When participating in a com-
munication event, an ethical listener honestly communicates his or her expectations,
provides helpful feedback, and expresses sensitivity to and tolerance for differences
when listening to others. In the fourth century b.c.e., Aristotle warned, “Let men be on
their guard against those who flatter and mislead the multitude.” And contemporary
rhetorician Harold Barrett has said that the audience is the “necessary source of cor-
rection” for the behavior of a speaker.27 The following guidelines for ethical listening
incorporate what Barrett calls “attributes of the good audience.”

CoMMuniCate Your expeCtations anD feeDbaCk As an audience member, you have
the right—even the responsibility—to enter a communication situation with expecta-
tions about the message and how the speaker will deliver it. Know what information
and ideas you want to get out of the communication transaction. Expect a coherent,
organized, and competently delivered presentation. Communicate your objectives and
react to the speaker’s message and delivery with appropriate nonverbal and verbal
feedback. There is evidence that by being a supportive listener (by maintaining eye con-
tact with the speaker, nodding in agreement, and being attentive) you help the speaker
feel more comfortable and less nervous.28 We are not suggesting, however, that you fake
your support for a speaker. If you show, with an honest quizzical look, that you do not
understand a speaker’s point, you can help an attentive, audience-centered speaker rec-
ognize that he or she needs to rephrase the message for better listener comprehension.

be sensitive to anD toLerant of DifferenCes As an ethical listener, remember that your
preferred approach to speaking and listening may differ from the speaker’s. But your
preference doesn’t make the speaker’s approach a wrong one. For example, suppose you
attended a high school baccalaureate ceremony where the speaker was a dynamic African
American minister who used a duet-style, call-and-response type of speaking, in which

the audience periodically responds verbally. If you were to disregard the
minister’s delivery for being too flamboyant, you might miss out on a
powerful message. Different cultures have different styles of speaking.

To summarize, be an attentive and courteous listener. Consider
cultural norms and audience expectations as part of the context within
which you listen to and evaluate a speaker. Making an effort to under-
stand the needs, goals, and interests of both the speaker and other audi-
ence members can help you judge how to react appropriately and ethi-
cally. Table 4.1 summarizes the better listening skills we have discussed.

improving Critical Listening
and thinking Skills
4.3 Identify and implement strategies for improving your critical listening skills

and critical thinking skills.

Critical listening is the process of listening to evaluate the quality, appropriateness,
value, or importance of the information you hear. When listening critically, you sort
good information from inaccurate information or pinpoint unethical communication
strategies. Related to being a critical listener is being a critical thinker.

Critical thinking is the process of making judgments about the conclusions
presented in what you see, hear, and read. The goal of a critical listener and thinker
is to evaluate information to make an informed choice. Whether you are listening to
a political candidate seeking your vote, a radio announcer extolling the virtues of a

critical listening
Evaluating the quality of information, ideas,
and arguments presented by a speaker

critical thinking
Making judgments about the conclusions
presented in what you see, hear, and read

• Communicate your expectations and

• Be sensitive to and tolerant of cultural and

individual differences.

Listening to Speeches 59

new herbal weight-loss pill, or someone asking you to invest in a new technology
company, your goal as a critical listener and thinker is to assess the quality of the
information and the validity of the conclusions presented.

Being a critical listener does not mean you’re only focused on identifying what’s
wrong in a speech; we’re not suggesting that you listen to a speaker just to pounce on
the message and the messenger at the speech’s conclusion. Instead, listen to identify
what the speaker does effectively as well as what conclusions don’t
hold up. The educator John Dewey penned a lasting description of

Criticism . . . is not fault-finding. It is not pointing out evils to be
reformed. It is judgment engaged in discriminating among values. It is
talking through as to what is better and worse . . . with some conscious-
ness of why the worse is worse.29

How does a critical listener do all of this? Consider the following

Separate Facts from Inferences
The ability to separate facts from inferences is a basic critical thinking
and listening skill. Facts are information that has been proven to be
true by direct observation. For example, it has been directly observed
that water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit and that the direction of
the magnetic north pole can be found by consulting a compass. An
inference is a conclusion based on partial information or an evalua-
tion that has not been directly observed. You infer that your favorite
sports team will win the championship or that it will rain tomorrow.
You can also infer that if more Republicans than Democrats are elected
to Congress, the next president might be a Republican. But you can
only know this for a fact after the presidential election. Facts are in the
realm of certainty; inferences are in the realm of probability and opin-
ion—where most arguments advanced by public speakers reside. A
critical listener knows that when a politician running for office claims,
“It’s a fact that my opponent is not qualified to be elected,” this state-
ment is not a fact but an inference.

table 4.1 How to Enhance Your Listening Skills

The Good Listener . . . The Poor Listener . . .

Listen with Your Eyes
as Well as Your Ears

• Looks for nonverbal cues to enhance understanding

• Adapts to the speaker’s delivery

• Focuses only on the words

• Is easily distracted by the delivery of the speech

Listen Mindfully • Is aware of whether or not he or she is listening

• Controls emotions

• Mentally asks himself or herself, “What’s in it for me?”

• Is not aware of whether he or she is on-task or off-task

• Erupts emotionally when listening

• Does not attempt to relate to the information personally

Listen Skillfully • Identifies the listening goal

• Listens for major ideas

• Seeks opportunities to practice listening skills

• Understands and adapts his or her listening style to the

• Listens actively by re-sorting, rephrasing, and repeating
what is heard

• Does not have a listening goal in mind

• Listens for isolated facts

• Avoids listening to difficult information

• Is not aware of how to capitalize on his or her listening

• Listens passively, making no effort to engage with the
information heard

Listen Ethically • Clearly communicates listening expectations

• Is sensitive to and tolerant of differences

• Makes no effort to respond appropriately to a speaker’s

• Expects others to have the same beliefs, values, and
cultural expectations he or she has

Copyrighted by Pearson Education, Hoboken, NJ.

A conclusion based on partial information
or an evaluation that has not been directly

Information that has been proven to be
true by direct observation

Critical listeners must pay close attention and keep an
open mind to separate facts from inferences and to eval-
uate the quality of evidence, logic, reasoning, and the use
of rhetorical strategies. Photo: Rob/Fotolia.

60 Chapter 4

Evaluate the Quality of Evidence
Evidence consists of the facts, examples, opinions, and statistics that a speaker uses to
support a conclusion. Researchers have documented that the key element in swaying a
jury is the quality and quantity of the evidence presented to support a case.30 Without
credible supporting evidence, it would not be wise to agree with a speaker’s conclusion.

What should you listen for when trying to decide whether evidence is credible?
First, determine whether a stated fact is actually a fact. Has it been verified based
on direct observation? If a speaker uses an example, is it representative or atypical?
Are enough examples provided to reach a reasonable conclusion? Another form of
evidence is an opinion. Simply stated, an opinion is a quoted comment from some-
one. The best opinions come from reliable, expert, credible sources. Another kind of
evidence often used, especially with skeptical listeners, is statistics. A statistic is a
number that summarizes a collection of examples. Many of the same questions that
should be asked about other forms of evidence should also be asked about statis-
tics: Are the statistics reliable, unbiased, recent, representative, and valid?

Here we’ve introduced you to the importance of listening for good evidence.
Because evidence is an important element of public speaking we’ll provide more
information about how to use evidence when we discuss gathering supporting mate-

rial in Chapter 7 and using evidence to persuade in
Chapter 15. We will also discuss how evidence can be
used to develop reasonable and logical conclusions.

You might reasonably suspect that a primary goal
of a public-speaking class would be to enhance your
speaking skill, and you’d be right. But in addition to
becoming a better speaker, a study of communication
principles and skills should help you to become a bet-
ter consumer of messages. Becoming a critical listener
and thinker is an important benefit of learning how
messages are constructed. Researchers have found
that a student who has completed any communication
course—debate, argumentation, or public speaking—
is likely to show improved critical thinking ability.
This introduction to critical listening and thinking
skills is reinforced throughout the rest of the text by
discussions on how to become an audience-centered
public speaker.

Analyzing and Evaluating Speeches
4.4 Use criteria to effectively and appropriately evaluate speeches

Your critical thinking and listening skills will help you evaluate not only the speeches
of others but your own speeches as well. When you evaluate something, you judge its
worth and appropriateness. When making a judgment about the value of something,
it’s important to use relevant criteria. Rhetorical criticism is the process of using a
method or standards to evaluate the effectiveness and appropriateness of messages.

To better understand the concept of rhetorical criticism, it’s important to under-
stand the meaning of the words rhetoric and criticism. The term rhetoric is both classical
and contemporary.31 The ancient Greek scholar Aristotle defined rhetoric as the faculty
of discovering in any given case the available means of persuasion.32 A more contem-
porary rhetorical scholar, Kenneth Burke, said that rhetoric is a “symbolic means of
inducing cooperation.”33 In summary, rhetoric is the process of using symbols to cre-
ate meaning to achieve a goal. As a public speaker, you are a rhetorician in that you’re

rhetorical criticism
The process of using a method or stand-
ards to evaluate the effectiveness and
appropriateness of messages

The use of symbols to create meaning to
achieve a goal

iMPROving LiStEning
And CRitiCAL tHinking SkiLLS
Separate facts from inferences

• Are the facts really facts—something that has been proven to
occur or exist?

• Is the conclusion an inference—something that is based on
partial or unobserved evidence?

Evaluate evidence

• Facts: Are the facts from credible sources?
• Examples: Are there enough examples to prove the point?
• Opinions: Are the opinions from knowledgeable experts?
• Statistics: Is the source of the statistic reliable and unbiased?
• Is there enough evidence to support the conclusion?

The facts, examples, opinions, and
statistics that a speaker uses to support
a conclusion

Listening to Speeches 61

using symbols—words, images, nonverbal cues—to create meaning in the minds of
your listeners to achieve a goal (to inform, to persuade, to entertain). To be a rhetori-
cal critic is to evaluate the effectiveness and appropriateness of the message and the
delivery of a presentation as well as to illuminate or make better sense of the message.34

Rhetorician Robert Rowland offers a simple but comprehensive framework
for analyzing and evaluating rhetorical messages: Be conscious of the goal of the
message, its organization, the speaker’s role, the overall tone of the message, the
intended audience, and the techniques the speaker uses to achieve the goal.35
Whether it’s a speaker in your public-speaking class, the president delivering a
State of the Union address, a member of the clergy delivering a sermon, or a par-
ent addressing the school board, each speaker uses rhetorical strategies to achieve
a goal. The more clearly you can identify and analyze the speaker’s methods, the
more effectively you can assess whether the message and the messenger are worthy
of your support—and you become a more discerning rhetorical critic.36

Giving Feedback to Others
As you enhance your ability to effectively listen to messages and identify rhetorical
strategies, you may be asked to evaluate other people’s speeches and provide feed-
back. The speech evaluation questions in Figure 4.2 can serve you well as you evaluate
others’ messages. Your instructor may also provide you with a speech evaluation form
to help you focus on the essential elements of public speechmaking.

When you’re invited to critique your classmates, your feedback will be more
effective if you keep the following general principles in mind. Because the word
criticism means “to judge or discuss,” to criticize a speech is to discuss the speech—
identifying both its strengths and those aspects that could be improved. Effective
criticism stems from developing a genuine interest in the speaker, not from seeking
to find fault.

1. Be Descriptive. In a neutral way, describe what you saw the speaker doing. Act
as a mirror for the speaker to help him or her identify gestures and other non-
verbal signals of which he or she may not be aware. (If you and the speaker are
watching a videotape of the speech together, you can point out these behaviors.)
Avoid providing only a list of your likes and dislikes; describe what you observe.

Effective: Stan, I noticed that about 50 percent of the time you maintained
direct eye contact with your listeners.

Less Effective: Your eye contact was lousy.

2. Be Specific. When you describe what you see a speaker doing, be precise
enough so the speaker has a clear image of your perceptions. Saying that a
speaker had “poor delivery” doesn’t give him or her much information—it’s only
a general evaluative comment. Be as specific and thoughtful as you can.

Effective: Dawn, the use of color in your PowerPoint slides helped to
keep my attention.

Less Effective: I liked your visuals.

3. Be Positive. Begin and end your feedback with positive comments. Beginning
with a negative comment immediately puts the speaker on the defensive and can
create so much internal noise that he or she stops listening. Starting and ending with
positive comments engenders less defensiveness. Some teachers call this approach
the feedback sandwich. First, tell the speaker something he or she did well. Then
share a suggestion or two that may help the speaker improve the presentation. End
your evaluation with another positive comment or restate what you liked best about
the presentation.

Words, images, and behaviors that create

62 Chapter 4

Audience Orientation
Did the speaker make a speci�c effort to adapt to the audience?

Rehearse the Speech
Did the speech sound as though it was well rehearsed?
Did the speaker seem familiar with the speech content?

Deliver Speech
Did the speaker make appropriate eye contact with the audience?
Did the speaker use appropriate volume and vocal variation?
Did the speaker use gestures and posture appropriately?

Did the speaker handle presentation aids effectively?
Did the speaker use presentation aids that were easy to see and of high quality?

Organize Speech
Did the speech have a clear introduction that caught your attention, provided a
preview of the speech, and established the speaker’s credibility?
Did the speaker organize the body of the speech in a logical way?
Did the speaker use transitions, summaries, and signposts to clarify the

Did the speaker appropriately summarize the major ideas and provide closure to
the speech during the conclusion?

Gather Supporting Material
Did the speaker use varied and interesting supporting material?
Did the speaker use effective and appropriate evidence to support conclusions?
Did the speaker use credible supporting material?

Generate Main Ideas
Were the main ideas clearly identi�ed in the introduction of the speech, developed
in the body of the speech, and summarized in the conclusion of the speech?

Develop Central Idea
Was the central idea clear enough to be summarized in one sentence?

Determine Purpose
Was the general purpose (to inform, to persuade, to entertain) clear?
Was the speci�c purpose appropriate for the audience?

Select and Narrow Topic
Was the topic appropriate for the audience, the occasion, and the speaker?
Was the speech narrowed to �t the time limits?

Figure 4.2 Audience-Centered Speaking Evaluation Questions

Copyrighted by Pearson Education, Hoboken, NJ.

Effective: Gabe, your opening statistic was effective in catching my
attention. You also maintained direct eye contact when you
delivered it. Your overall organizational pattern would
have been clearer to me if you had used more signposts
and transition statements. Or perhaps you could use a
visual aid to summarize the main points in the body of
your speech. You did a good job of summarizing your
three points in your conclusion. I also liked the way you
ended your speech by making a reference to your opening

Listening to Speeches 63

Less Effective: I got lost in the body of your speech. I couldn’t figure out
what your major ideas were. I also didn’t know when you
made the transition between the introduction and the body
of your speech. Your intro and conclusion were good, but
the organization of the speech was weak.

4. Be Constructive. Give the speaker suggestions or alternatives for improvement.
It’s not especially helpful to rattle off a list of things you don’t like without offer-
ing some ideas for improvement. As a student of public speaking, your comments
should reflect your growing skill and sophistication in the speechmaking process.

Effective: Jerry, your speech had several good statistics and examples
that suggest you spent a lot of time researching your topic. I
think you could add credibility to your message if you shared
your sources with the listener. Your vocal quality was effective,
and you had considerable variation in your pitch and tone, but
at times the speech rate was a little fast for me. A slower rate
would help me catch some of the details in your message.

Less Effective: You spoke too fast. I had no idea whom you were quoting.

5. Be Sensitive. “Own” your feedback by using I-statements rather than you-
statements. An I-statement is a way of phrasing your feedback so that it is clear that
your comments reflect your personal point of view. “I found my attention drifting
during the body of your speech” is an example of an I-statement. A you-statement is a
less sensitive way of describing someone’s behavior by implying that the other person
did something wrong. “You didn’t summarize well in your conclusion” is an example
of a you-statement. A better way to make the same point is to say, “I wasn’t sure I un-
derstood the key ideas you mentioned in your conclusion.” Here’s another example:

Effective: Mark, I found myself so distracted by your gestures that
I had trouble focusing on the well-organized message.

Less Effective: Your gestures were distracting and awkward.

6. Be Realistic. Provide usable information. Offer feedback about aspects of the pre-
sentation that the speaker can improve rather than about those things he or she can-
not control. Maybe you have heard this advice: “Never try to teach a pig to sing. It
wastes your time. It doesn’t sound pretty. And it annoys the pig.” Saying “You’re too
short to be seen over the lectern,” “Your lisp doesn’t lend itself to public speaking,”
or “You looked nervous” is not constructive. Comments of this kind will only annoy
or frustrate the speaker because they refer to things the speaker can’t do much to
change. Concentrate on behaviors over which the speaker has some control.

Effective: Taka, your closing quote was effective in summarizing your
key ideas, but it didn’t end your speech on an uplifting note.
Another quote from Khalil Gibran that I’ll share with you after
class would also summarize your key points and provide a
positive affirmation of your message. You may want to try it if
you give this speech again.

Less Effective: Your voice isn’t well suited to public speaking.

As you provide feedback, whether in your public-speaking class or to a
friend who asks you for a reaction to his or her speech, remember that the goal
is to offer descriptive and specific feedback that will help a speaker build confi-
dence and skill.



64 Chapter 4

Giving Feedback to Yourself
The goal of public-speaking instruction is to learn principles and skills that enable
you to be your own best critic. As you rehearse your speech, use self-talk to comment
on the choices you make as a speaker. After your speech, take time to reflect both on
the speech’s virtues and on areas needing improvement.37 As an audience-centered
speaker, you must learn to recognize when to make changes on your feet, in the
middle of a speech. For example, if you find that your audience just isn’t interested in
the facts and statistics you are sharing, you may decide to support your points with a
couple of anecdotes instead. We encourage you to consider the following principles to
enhance your own self-critiquing skills.

Look for anD reinforCe Your skiLLs anD speaking abiLities Try to recognize your
strengths and skills as a public speaker. Note how your audience analysis, organiza-
tion, and delivery were effective in achieving your objectives. Such positive reflection
can reinforce the many skills you’ve learned in this course. Resist the temptation to be
too harsh or overly critical of your speaking skill.

evaLuate Your effeCtiveness baseD on a speCifiC speaking situation anD auDienCe
Throughout the text we offer many suggestions and tips for improving your
speaking skill. We also stress that these prescriptions should be considered in light
of your specific audience. Don’t be a slave to rules. If you are giving a pep talk to
the Little League team you coach, you might not have to construct an attention-
getting opening statement. Be flexible. Public speaking is an art as well as a sci-

ence. Give yourself permission to adapt principles and prac-
tices to specific speech situations.

iDentifY one or tWo areas for iMproveMent After each speak-
ing opportunity, identify what you did right and then give
yourself a suggestion or two for ways to improve. You may be
tempted to overwhelm yourself with a long list of things you
need to do as a speaker. Rather than try to work on a dozen goals,
concentrate on two or three, or maybe even just one key skill you
would like to develop. To help you decide which skill to focus on,
keep in mind the audience-centered model of public speaking we
introduced in Chapter 2.

As you receive feedback from your instructor and audience,
use the effective listening skills discussed in this chapter to rein-
force what you are doing well and to focus on specific ways you
can improve. Ultimately, the goal of this course is to teach you
how to listen to your own commentary and become an expert in
shaping and polishing your speaking style.



AnALYzing And
Give feedback to others that is:

• Descriptive
• Specific
• Positive
• Constructive
• Sensitive
• Realistic

Give feedback to yourself that:

• Reinforces your skills and abilities.
• Is appropriate to the occasion and your audience.
• Identifies one or two areas for improvement.

Audience members want you to do well. Many if not most listeners will express their support for your

ideas with eye contact, head nods, and supportive facial expressions. Make a point to look for these

reinforcing nonverbal cues as you deliver your message. (But don’t forget to maintain eye contact

with all members of the audience.) Let these signs of positive support remind you that listeners want

you to succeed.

COnFidEntLY COnnECting witH YOuR AudiEnCE
Look for Positive Listener Support

Listening to Speeches 65

study Guide: Review, Apply, And Assess

Overcoming Barriers to Effective
4.1 List and describe five barriers to effective listening.

revieW: Listening is a process that involves selecting, at-
tending to, understanding, and remembering. Some of the
barriers that keep people from listening at peak efficiency
include information overload, personal concerns, outside
distractions, prejudice, and differences between speech
rate and thought rate.

Key Terms

working memory theory
of listening

appLY: For some reason, when Alberto hears the presi-
dent speak, he just tunes out. What are some barriers that
may be keeping Alberto from focusing on the president’s

assess: The cultural background of your audience will
affect how they listen to your message. What strategies
can you use to adapt your message so that listeners with
a cultural background different from your own will be
more likely to remain attentive to your message?

How to Become a Better Listener
4.2 Identify and implement strategies for becoming

a better listener.

revieW: Overcome barriers to effective listening by prac-
ticing and working to become an active listener. “Listen”
with your eyes as well as your ears to accurately interpret
nonverbal messages and adapt to the speaker’s delivery.
Understand your listening style. Listen mindfully, moni-
toring your emotional reactions to messages, and avoid
jumping to conclusions. Identify your listening goal and
listen for major ideas. Re-sort, restate, or repeat key mes-
sages. Be an ethical listener who communicates expecta-
tions and feedback. Remain sensitive to and tolerant of
differences between you and the speaker.

Key Terms
listening styles
relational-oriented listener
task-oriented listener

analytical listener
critical listener

appLY: During her lectures, one of your professors does
nothing but read in a monotone from old notes. What

strategies can you use to increase your listening effective-
ness in this challenging situation?

assess: Two Web sites offer many classic and contempo-
rary speeches on which you can practice the listening and
analysis skills we’ve emphasized in this chapter. Use the
questions from Figure 4.2 to help you describe and ana-
lyze what you hear.

●● Famous Speeches in History Archives www.history

●● American Rhetoric

improving Critical Listening
and thinking Skills
4.3 Identify and implement strategies for improving your

critical listening skills and critical thinking skills.

revieW: Evaluate the speaker’s use of facts, examples,
opinions, and statistics as evidence. Listen critically to
separate facts, which can be proven, from inferences,
which are conclusions based on partial or unobserved
evidence. When speaking to an audience that may be hos-
tile to or critical of your message, take care to use credible
arguments and evidence rather than relying on emotional

Key Terms
critical listening
critical thinking


appLY: Harper is listening to a speaker argue that global
warming does not exist and that the concept of climate
change was invented only to increase research expendi-
tures. As an audience member, what kinds of evidence
should Harper listen for to support or disagree with the
speaker’s conclusion?

assess: Practice the skill of distinguishing between
facts and inferences. While listening to your classmates’
speeches, make a list of the facts you hear and another
list of the inferences. Later, review your two lists, noting
your reasons for identifying facts as facts and inferences
as inferences.

Analyzing and Evaluating Speeches
4.4 Use criteria to effectively and appropriately evaluate


revieW: When offering feedback to a speaker, be descrip-
tive, specific, positive, constructive, sensitive, and realistic.

66 Chapter 4

Feedback should provide information and suggestions the
speaker can use. Use feedback to learn your own speaking
strengths, evaluate the effectiveness of specific speeches,
and identify areas for improvement.

Key Terms
rhetorical criticism


appLY: Janice was assigned the task of critiquing one
of her classmate’s speeches. Although she thought the

speech was pretty good, she gave the speaker low marks
because she strongly disagreed with what the speaker
said. Was this an appropriate evaluation? What are the
key criteria for evaluating a speech?

assess: When providing an analysis of your classmates’
speeches, take time to evaluate your own feedback. Is
your assessment descriptive, specific, positive, construc-
tive, sensitive, and realistic? Which of these criteria were
most difficult for you to meet? How can you improve
your feedback to others?

5.1 Describe informal and formal methods of gathering
information about your audience.

5.2 Explain how to analyze information about your audience.

5.3 Identify and use strategies for adapting to your

5.4 Develop methods of analyzing your audience before
you speak by seeking demographic, psychological,

and situational information about your audience and
the speaking occasion.

5.5 Identify methods of assessing and adapting to
your audience’s reactions while your speech is
in progress.

5.6 Identify methods of assessing audience reactions
after you have concluded your speech.


After studying this chapter, you should be able to do the following:

Analyzing Your

For of the three elements in

speechmaking—speaker, subject,

and person addressed—it is

the last one, the hearer, that

determines the speech’s end

and object.


Master of Tolentino (14th ce), Listening to
an Augustinian Preach. Detail of a fresco
in the Cappellone of San Nicola, Tolentino,
Italy. Photo: © DeA Picture Library/Art Re-
source, N.Y.

It seemed harmless enough. Charles Williams was asked to speak to the Cub Scout
pack about his experiences as a young cowboy in Texas. The boys were learning to
tie knots, and Williams, a retired rancher, could tell them how to make a lariat and

how to tie and use other knots.
His speech started out well. He seemed to be adapting to his young audience.

However, for some reason Williams thought the boys might also enjoy learning how
to exterminate the screwworm, a pesky cattle parasite. So in the middle of his talk
about roping cattle, he launched into a description of the techniques for sterilizing

68 Chapter 5

male screwworms. The parents in the audience fidgeted in their seats. The seven- and
eight-year-olds didn’t have the foggiest idea what a screwworm was, what steriliza-
tion was, or how male and female screwworms mate.

It got worse; his audience analysis skills deteriorated even further as Williams
next talked about castrating cattle. Twenty-five minutes later, he finally finished
the screwworm–castration speech. The parents were relieved. Fortunately, the boys
hadn’t understood it.

Williams’s downfall resulted from his failure to analyze his audience. He may have
had a clear objective in mind, but he hadn’t considered the background or knowledge
of his listeners. Audience analysis is essential for the success of any speech.

Chapter 1 identified the key elements in communication: source, receiver, message,
and channel. All four elements are important, but perhaps the most important is the
receiver. In public speaking, the receiver is the audience, and the audience is the rea-
son for a speech. We also presented a model that provides an overview of the entire
process of speech preparation and delivery; the model is shown again in Figure 5.1.
We stressed in Chapter 1 and reemphasize here the concept of public speaking as an
audience-centered activity.

The audience-analysis skills and techniques that we present in this chapter will
help you at each stage of the public-speaking process. Consciousness of your audience
will be important as you select a topic, determine the purpose of your speech, develop
your central idea, generate main ideas, gather supporting material, firm up your orga-
nization, and rehearse and deliver your speech.

When you think of your audience, don’t imagine some undifferentiated mass of
people waiting to hear your message. Instead, think of a group of individuals, each
with a unique point of view. Your challenge as an audience-centered public speaker
is to find out as much as you can about these individuals. With this knowledge,









and Narrow





Figure 5.1 Audience analysis is central to the speechmaking process.
SOURCE: Copyrighted by Pearson Education, Hoboken, NJ.

Analyzing Your Audience 69

you can then develop a general profile of your listeners. If you are presenting your
speech online or via video and you can’t literally see your listeners, consider visual-
izing who your listeners are both before and during your message preparation and

How do you become an audience-centered speaker? There are three steps:

1. Step One: Gather Information about Your Audience. Begin by gathering infor-
mation about your audience. You can collect information informally just by observ-
ing your listeners or asking them general questions. Or you can take a more formal
approach and administer a survey to obtain more specific information.

2. Step Two: Analyze Information about Your Audience. Once you have identi-
fied information about your listeners, analyze it. Look for patterns to help you
formulate what you will say and how you will say it. Categorize and evaluate
audience information to determine your listeners’ psychological profile. Also
consider the occasion at which you are speaking.

3. Step Three: Ethically Adapt to Your Audience. After you have gathered and
analyzed information about your audience, use the information to adapt ethically
to your listeners.

In this chapter, we’ll talk about these three steps and discuss the process of analyzing
your audience before, during, and after your speech.

Gathering Information about
Your Audience
5.1 Describe informal and formal methods of gathering information about your


As an audience-centered speaker, you should try to find out as much as you can about
your audience before planning your speech. You may wonder, “How do I go about
gathering this information?” There are two approaches you can take: an informal one
and a formal one.

Gathering Information Informally
The simplest way to informally gather information about your audience is to observe
them and ask questions before you speak. Informal observations can be especially
important in helping you assess obvious demographic characteristics. Demographics
are statistical information on population characteristics such as age, race, gender,
sexual orientation, educational level, and religious views. For example, based on
their physical appearance, you can observe how many members of your audience are
male or female. You can also make inferences about their ethnic or cultural traits and
approximate age.

You could also talk with people who know something about the audience you
will be addressing. If you are invited to present a speech before a group you have not
spoken to before, ask the person who invited you about the audience members: What
is their average age? What are their political affiliations, religious beliefs, and attitudes
toward your topic? Try to collect as much information as possible about your audience
before giving your speech.

Gathering Information Formally
Rather than relying only on inferences drawn from casual observations and conver-
sations with others, you may, if time and resources permit, want to conduct a more

Statistical information about the age, race,
gender, sexual orientation, educational
level, and religious views of an audience

70 Chapter 5

formal survey of your listeners. In addition to demographics, a survey allows you
to gather information about what audience members like or dislike, believe to be
true or false, or think is good or bad about the topic or issues you will discuss. To
gather information formally requires that you develop a carefully written survey or

How do you develop a formal survey? There are four steps:

●● First, think about what you want to know.

●● Second, develop questions to learn more about your listeners.

●● Third, if possible, test your survey on a few people to see if your questions are

●● Finally, distribute your survey and summarize the results.

IdentIfy What you Want to Learn about your audIence Let your topic and the
speaking occasion help you determine the kinds of questions you should pose. You
may want to confirm some of your hunches about demographic information or you
may want to assess how much the audience knows about your topic, as well as their
attitudes toward your ideas.

deveLop cLear QuestIons Once you have an idea of what you would like to know,
ask your potential audience straightforward questions about such demographic infor-
mation as age, sex, occupation, and their membership in professional organizations.
Figure 5.2 shows a sample questionnaire.

To gather useful information about audience members’ attitudes, beliefs, and val-
ues, you can ask two types of questions. Open-ended questions allow for unrestricted
answers without limiting responses to specific choices or alternatives. Essay questions,
for example, are open-ended. Use open-ended questions when you want detailed
feedback from your audience. Closed-ended questions offer alternatives from which
to choose. Multiple-choice, true/false, and agree/disagree questions are examples of
closed-ended questions.

open-ended questions
Questions that allow for unrestricted
answers by not limiting answers to
choices or alternatives

closed-ended questions
Questions that offer alternatives from which
to choose, such as true/false, agree/
disagree, or multiple-choice questions

Demographic Audience-Analysis Questionnaire

1. Name (optional):

2. Sex: Male Female

3. Occupation:

4. Religious affiliation:

5. Marital status: Married Single Divorced

6. Years of schooling beyond high school:

7. Major in college:

8. Annual income:

9. Age:

10. Ethnic background:

11. Hometown and state:

12. Political affiliation: Republican Democrat Other None

13. Membership in professional or fraternal organizations:

Figure 5.2 You can use a questionnaire like this to gather demographic
information about the people in your audience.

SOURCE: Copyrighted by Pearson Education, Hoboken, NJ.

Analyzing Your Audience 71

Open-Ended Questions
1. What are your feelings about having high-school health clinics dispense birth-control pills?
2. What are your reactions to the current rate of teenage pregnancy?
3. What would you do if you discovered your daughter was receiving birth-control pills from her high-school health clinic?

Closed-Ended Questions
1. Are you in favor of school-based health clinics dispensing birth-control pills to high-school students?

Yes No

2. Birth-control pills should be given to high-school students who ask for them in school-based health clinics. (Circle the
statement that best describes your feeling.)

Agree strongly Agree Undecided Disagree Disagree strongly

3. Check the statement that most closely reflects your feelings about school-based health clinics and birth-control pills.
Students should receive birth-control pills in school-based health clinics whenever they want them,
without their parents’ knowledge.
Students should receive birth-control pills in school-based health clinics whenever they want them,
as long as they have their parents’ permission.
I am not certain whether students should receive birth-control pills in school-based health clinics.

Students should not receive birth-control pills in school-based health clinics.

4. Rank the following statements from most desirable (1) to least desirable (5).
Birth-control pills should be available to all high-school students in school-based health clinics, whenever students
want them, and even if their parents are not aware that their daughters are taking the pills.
Birth-control pills should be available to all high-school students in school-based health clinics, but only if their
parents have given their permission.
Birth-control pills should be available to high-school students without their parents’ knowledge, but not in
school-based health clinics.
Birth-control pills should be available to high-school students, but not in school-based health clinics, and only with
their parents’ permission.
Birth-control pills should not be available to high-school students.

Figure 5.3 Samples of open-ended and closed-ended questions.
SOURCE: Copyrighted by Pearson Education, Hoboken, NJ.

test the cLarIty of your QuestIons After you develop
the questions, test them out on a small group of people to
make sure they are clear and encourage meaningful answers.
Suppose you plan to address an audience about in-school
health clinics that dispense birth-control pills to high-school
students. The sample open-ended and closed-ended questions
in Figure 5.3 might yield useful audience information on this

dIstrIbute the survey Instead of, or in addition to, a paper-
and-pencil survey, you have the option of distributing your
survey electronically. You could use e-mail, send text messages,
or invite people to click on a Web site or a Facebook page that
you’ve designed to identify audience-member demographics
and assess their attitudes and opinions. Several companies,
such as Polldaddy or SurveyMonkey, offer free online survey

GAtheRInG InFoRmAtIon
to AdApt YouR messAGe
to YouR AudIence
Gather demographic information informally.

• Observe your audience and ask questions before
you speak.

Formally survey demographics and attitudes:

• Closed-ended questions
• Open-ended questions

Ethically adapt your message:

• Topic
• Objectives
• Content
• Delivery

72 Chapter 5

Analyzing Information about
Your Audience
5.2 Explain how to analyze information about your audience.

Audience analysis is the process of examining information about the listeners who
will hear your speech. That analysis helps you adapt your message so your listeners
will respond as you wish. Whether you realize it or not, you analyze audiences every
day as you speak to others or join in group conversations. For example, most of us do
not deliberately make offensive comments to family members or friends. Rather, we
quickly analyze our audience and then adapt our messages to them. Public speaking
involves the same sort of process.

Precisely what do you look for when analyzing the information you have gathered
about your audience? Ask yourself the following questions:

1. How are audience members similar to one another?

2. How are audience members different from one another?

3. Based on audience members’ similarities and differences, how can I establish
common ground with them?

Identify Similarities
Knowing what several members of your audience have in common can help you
craft a message that resonates with them. For example, if your audience members
are approximately the same age, you will have some basis for selecting examples and
illustrations that your listeners will understand.

When looking for similarities, consider the following questions: What ethnic and
cultural characteristics do audience members have in common? Are they all from the
same geographic region? Do they (or did they) attend the same college or university?
Do they have similar levels of education? Answering these and other questions will
help you develop your own ideas and better relate your message to your listeners.

Identify Differences
Besides noting similarities, you should note differences among your audience mem-
bers. It is unlikely that audience members for the speeches you give in class will have
similar backgrounds. The range of cultural backgrounds, ethnicities, and religious
traditions among students at most colleges and universities is rapidly expanding. You
can also note the range of differences in age and gender, as well as the varying per-
spectives about your topic.

Identify Common Ground
When you know what your audience members have in common as well as how they
differ, then you can seek to establish a common ground. To establish common ground
with your audience is to identify ways in which you and your listeners are alike.

Sometimes you may find that the only common ground is that both you and your
listeners believe the issue you are addressing is a serious problem; you may have different
views about the best solution. If, for example, you were addressing a group of people who
were mostly against increasing taxes to pay teachers higher salaries, but you were in favor
of a tax increase, you could establish common ground by noting that both you and your
listeners value education and want high-quality teachers in classrooms.

When you meet someone for the first time, you may spend time identifying
people whom you both know or places you’ve both visited; in this way you begin

audience analysis
The process of examining information
about those who are expected to listen to
a speech

common ground
Similarities between a speaker and audi-
ence members in attitudes, values, beliefs,
or behaviors

Analyzing Your Audience 73

to establish a relationship. A relationship is an ongoing connection
you have with another person. A public speaker seeks to establish a
relationship with audience members by identifying common ground
with them. Use the information from your audience analysis to estab-
lish a relationship with your listeners; build bridges between you and
your audience.

Adapting to Your Audience
5.3 Identify and use strategies for adapting to your audience.

Audience adaptation is the process of ethically using information you’ve gathered
when analyzing your audience to help your listeners clearly understand your mes-
sage and to achieve your speaking objective. To adapt is to modify your message to
enhance its clarity and to increase the likelihood that you will ethically achieve your
goal. When adapting to your listeners, the goal is not merely to appease them but also
to ensure that your listeners remain listeners. You don’t want audience members to
prematurely dismiss your ideas before they understand them. By learning about your
audience and adapting to them, you can help your listeners maintain their attention
and become more receptive to your ideas.

Here’s an example of how analyzing and adapting to others works: Imagine you
live in an apartment complex that doesn’t allow pets without the landlord’s approval.
You see an adorable cocker spaniel puppy that you’d like to buy. In fact, you’ve already
named him Martin. Before you bring Martin home, however, you need your landlord’s
approval as well as your roommate’s blessing.

When trying to convince your landlord you say, “I’ve always paid the rent on
time and never caused a problem. I will also pay an extra $300 security deposit if I can
have a dog in my apartment.” Your message to your roommate is, “No worries about
you getting stuck with taking care of Martin if I go out of town. My friend Chris, who
also lives in our apartment complex, has agreed to step in for me whenever I’m out of
town.” You had the same goal for each audience—approval for having a dog in your
apartment—but you customized your message, tailoring your appeal to each listener
based on his or her interests and concerns. You adapted to your audience.

An ongoing connection you have with
another person

audience adaptation
The process of ethically using information
about an audience in order to adapt one’s
message so that it is clear and achieves
the speaking objective

What are some possible areas of
common ground this speaker might
find with his audience? Photo: Jamie

AnAlYzInG InFoRmAtIon
About YouR AudIence
Look for:

• Similarities among listeners
• Differences among listeners
• Common ground with listeners

74 Chapter 5

When you speak in public, you should follow the same process. The principle is
simple yet powerful: An effective public speaker is audience-centered. The key ques-
tions in Table 5.1 can help you formulate an effective approach to your audience.

Being audience-centered does not mean you should tell your listeners only what they want
to hear or that you should fabricate information simply to please your audience or achieve your
communication goal. You also don’t want to tell listeners things you know are not true.
If you adapt to your audience by abandoning your own values and sense of truth,
then you will become an unethical speaker rather than an audience-centered one. It
was President Truman who pondered, “I wonder how far Moses would have gone if
he’d taken a poll in Egypt?”1 The audience-centered speaker ethically adapts his or
her topic, purpose, central idea, main ideas, supporting material, organization, and
even delivery so as to encourage the audience to listen to his or her ideas. The goal is
to make the audience come away from the speaking situation, if not persuaded, then at
least feeling thoughtful rather than offended or hostile.

Analyzing Your Audience before
You speak
5.4 Develop methods of analyzing your audience before you speak by seeking

demographic, psychological, and situational information about your audience
and the speaking occasion.

Learning about your audience members’ backgrounds and attitudes can help you select
a topic, define a purpose, develop an outline, and carry out virtually all other speech-
related activities. You can gather and analyze three primary types of information:

1. Demographic

2. Psychological

3. Situational

Demographic Audience Analysis
As we noted previously, demographics are statistics about such audience character-
istics as age, gender, sexual orientation, race and culture, group membership, and
socioeconomic status. Some demographic audience characteristics can be inferred

table 5.1 Audience-Centered Adaptation

SOURCE: Copyrighted by Pearson Education, Hoboken, NJ.

Consider Your Audience

•  To whom am I speaking?

•  What topic would be most suitable for my audience?

Consider Your Speech Goal

•  What is my general objective (to inform, persuade, or entertain)?

•  What is my specific objective (precisely what do I want the audience to do)?

Consider Your Speech Content

•  What kind of information should I share with my audience?

•  How should I present the information to them?

•  How can I gain and hold their attention?

•  What kind of examples would work best?

•  What method of organizing information will be most effective?

Consider Your Delivery

•  What language differences and expectations do audience members have?

•  What style of delivery will my audience members expect?

Analyzing Your Audience 75

through observation (such as age), but not all are as easily determined (such as sexual
orientation, cultural background, and group membership). If you are presenting your
speech online or via video where you can’t see your listeners, it’s especially important
to do some pre-speech analysis to make sure your inferences about the demographic
characteristics of your audience are accurate. Now let’s consider how examining
demographic information, or demographic audience analysis, can help you better
understand and adapt to your audience.

age Although you must use caution in generalizing from only one factor, informa-
tion about the age of audience members can suggest the kinds of examples, humor,
illustrations, and other types of supporting material to use in your speech. Many
students in your public-speaking class will probably be in their late teens or early
twenties; some may be older. The younger students may know the latest hip-hop
performers or musicians, for example, but the older ones may not be familiar with
Wiz Khalifa, Lil Wayne, A$AP Rocky, or Nicki Minaj. If you are going to give a talk on
music, you will have to explain who the performers are and describe or demonstrate
their style if you want all the members of your class to understand what you are talk-
ing about.

For centuries, adults have lamented that younger generations don’t seem to share
the same values as older generations. More than two thousand years ago, the ancient
Greek philosopher Socrates is reported to have complained, “The children now love
luxury; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise . . . . They
contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross
their legs, and tyrannize over their teachers.”2 Table 5.2 summarizes the values and
generational characteristics of five generations—matures, baby boomers, generation
X, millennials, and generation Z.3

demographic audience analysis
Examining demographic information about
an audience so as to develop a clear and
effective message

table 5.2 Summary of Generational Characteristics

SOURCE: Copyrighted by Pearson Education, Hoboken, NJ.

Generation Name Birth Years Typical Values and Characteristics

Matures 1925–1942 •  Duty

•  Sacrifice

•  A sense of what is right

•  Work hard

•  Work fast

Baby Boomers 1943–1960 •  Personal fulfillment and optimism

•  Crusading causes

•  Buy now/pay later

•  Everybody’s rights

•  Work efficiently

Generation X 1961–1981 •  Live with uncertainty

•  Balance is important

•  Enjoy today

•  Every job is a contract

•  Save to prepare for uncertainty

Millennials 1982–2002 •  Close to parents

•  Feel “special”

•  Goal-oriented

•  Team-oriented

•  Focus on achievement

Generation Z 2003- •  Diversity is important

•  It’s a challenge to achieve the “American Dream”

•  They will likely have multiple jobs

•  Technology and social media are integral to their lives

•  Multitasking is normal

76 Chapter 5

What do these generational differences have to do with public speaking? Aristotle
noted that a good speaker knows how to adapt to audiences of different age levels.
Your credibility as a speaker—how positively you are perceived by your audience—
depends on your sensitivity to the values and assumptions of your listeners. Of course,
the broad generalizations we’ve summarized here don’t apply across the board, but
it’s wise to consider how generational differences may affect how your message is

gender Josh began his speech by thanking his predominantly female audience
for taking time from their busy schedules to attend his presentation on managing
personal finances. Not a bad way to begin a talk. He continued, however, by noting
their job of raising children, keeping their homes clean, and feeding their families was
among the most important of jobs. Josh thought he was paying his audience a compli-
ment. He did not consider that most women today work outside the home as well as
in it. Many of his listeners were insulted. Many of his listeners stopped listening.

A key question to ask when considering your audience is “What are the gender
roles and gender identifications of my audience?” Gender is the culturally constructed
and psychologically based perception of one’s self as feminine or masculine. One’s
gender-role identity, which falls somewhere on the continuum from masculine to femi-
nine, is learned or socially reinforced by others as well as by one’s own personality and
life experiences; genetics also plays a part in shaping gender-role identity.

Try to ensure that your remarks reflect sensitivity to the diversity in your listeners’
points of view and gender identities. No matter what the mix, you don’t want to make
judgments based on gender stereotypes, as Josh did.

Just knowing the sex of your audience members—the number of males and
females—doesn’t tell you the whole story about your listeners. A person’s sex is
determined by biology, as reflected in his or her anatomy and reproductive system;
someone is born either male or female. Drawing conclusions about members of your
audience based only on their biological sex profile could lead you to adapt to your
listeners inappropriately. For example, many of the men in Josh’s audience were the
ones who took a prime role in caring for their children.

Also be cautious about assuming that men and women will respond differently
to your message. Early social science research found some evidence that females were
more susceptible to persuasive efforts than were males.4 For many years, communi-
cation teachers and texts presented this conclusion to students. More contemporary
research, however, suggests there is no major difference between men and women in
their susceptibility to persuasive messages.5

And finally, avoid sexist language or remarks. A sexist perspective stereotypes or
prejudges how someone will react based on his or her biological sex or gender orienta-
tion. Remember, it’s your audience, not you, who determines whether a comment is
sexist or not. Think carefully about the implications of words and phrases you take
for granted. For example, many people still use the words ladies and matrons without
thinking about their connotations in U.S. culture. Take time to educate yourself about
what words, phrases, or perspectives are likely to offend or create psychological noise
for your listeners.

sexuaL orIentatIons An audience-centered speaker is sensitive to issues and atti-
tudes not only about gender but also about sexual orientation and gender identifica-
tion in contemporary society. Sexual and gender orientations are not easily sorted into
exclusive either-or categories.

The audience-centered speaker’s goal is to enhance understanding rather than create
noise that may distract an audience from listening. Sometimes our unintentional use or
misuse of language can offend others. For example, gays and lesbians typically prefer to
be referred to as “gay” or “lesbian” rather than “homosexual.” Stories, illustrations, and
humor whose point or punch line rely on ridiculing a person because of his or her sexual

The culturally constructed and psycho-
logically based perception of one’s self as
feminine or masculine

A person’s biological status as male or
female, as reflected in his or her anatomy
and reproductive system

Analyzing Your Audience 77

or gender orientation as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender/transsexual, questioning,
intersex, or asexual (LGBTQIA) may lower perceptions of your credibility among the
LGBTQIA members of your audience as well as those who disdain bias. Further, it is not
appropriate to single out separate categories of people who are assumed to hold politi-
cal, ideological, or religious views consistently different from those of straight people.
Monitor your language choice and use of illustrations so you don’t alienate members
of your audience.6 Be sensitive and audience-centered as you interact with those whose
sexual orientation is different from your own.

cuLture, ethnIcIty, and race Culture is a learned system of knowledge, behavior,
attitudes, beliefs, values, and norms shared by a group of people. Ethnicity is that
portion of a person’s cultural background that includes such factors as nationality,
religion, language, and ancestral heritage, which are shared by a group of people who
have a common geographic origin. Race is a term that has evolved to include a group
of people with a common cultural history, nationality, or geographical location, as
well as genetically transmitted physical attributes.7 One geneticist has concluded that
there is much more genetic variation within any given racial category than between one
race and another.8 The cultural, ethnic, or racial background of your audience influ-
ences the way they perceive your message. An effective speaker adapts to differences
in culture, race, and ethnicity.9

As you approach any public-speaking situation, avoid an ethnocentric mind-set.
Ethnocentrism is the assumption that your own cultural approaches are superior to
those of other cultures. The audience-centered speaker is sensitive to cultural differ-
ences and avoids saying anything that would disparage the cultural background of
the audience.

You need not have international students in your class to have a culturally diverse
audience. Different ethnic and cultural traditions thrive among people who have lived
in the United States all their lives. Students from a Polish family in Chicago, a German
family in Texas, or a Haitian family in Brooklyn may all be native U.S. citizens and all
have cultural traditions different from your own. Effective public speakers learn as
much as possible about the cultural values and knowledge of their audience so that
they can understand the best way to deliver their message.

Researchers classify or describe cultural value differences along several lines.10
We summarize six categories of differences in Table 5.3 and discuss them here.
Understanding these value classifications may provide clues to help you adapt your
message when you speak before diverse audiences.

●● Individualistic and collectivistic cultures. Some cultures place a greater value
on individual achievement; others place more value on group or collective
achievement. Among the countries that tend to value individual accomplishment
are Australia, Great Britain, the United States, Canada, Belgium, and Denmark.

A learned system of knowledge, behavior,
attitudes, beliefs, values, and norms
shared by a group of people

The portion of a person’s cultural back-
ground that includes such factors as na-
tionality, religion, language, and ancestral
heritage, which are shared by a group of
people who also share a common geo-
graphic origin

A group of people with a common cultural
history, nationality, or geographical loca-
tion, as well as genetically transmitted
physical attributes

The assumption that one’s own cultural
perspectives and methods are superior to
those of other cultures

By learning about your audience’s interests, attitudes, and beliefs as well as their demographic

details, you’ll be better able to customize a message for your listeners. The more you tailor your

message directly to your audience, the more you’ll be able to confidently connect with them.

Because you have customized your message, they will want to hear it, and you’ll be speaking

directly to their interests and needs. Also, by focusing on your audience instead of on your nervous-

ness about speaking, you will enhance your confidence. Because you’re not dwelling on your own

anxieties, you’ll be focused on communicating your audience-centered message.

conFIdentlY connectInG wIth YouR AudIence
Learn as Much as You Can about Your Audience

78 Chapter 5

By contrast, Japan, Thailand, Colombia, Taiwan, and Venezuela are among coun-
tries that have more collectivistic cultures.

How to adapt to listeners from individualistic and collectivistic cultures. Audience
members from individualistic cultures, such as the majority of people in the
United States, value and respond positively to appeals that encourage personal ac-
complishment and recognize individual achievement. People from individualistic
cultures are expected to speak up to champion individual rights.

Audience members from collectivistic cultures, such as many people who were
raised in an Asian culture, may be more likely to value group or team recognition.
They may not like to be singled out for individual accomplishments. Community
is an important value for those from collectivistic cultures. And they value making
sure others are perceived in a positive way; it’s important for them and others to
be seen as valued people. When speaking to a predominantly collectivistic audi-
ence, you might want to emphasize areas of consensus or community agreement

table 5.3 Describing and Adapting to Cultural Differences

SOURCE: Copyrighted by Pearson Education, Hoboken, NJ.

Cultural Value Cultural Characteristic How to Adapt to Cultural Characteristics

Individualistic Culture Individual achievement is emphasized more
than group achievement.

•  Stress the importance of individual rewards and recognition.

•  Identify how audience members will benefit from your ideas or

Collectivistic Culture Group or team achievement is emphasized
more than individual achievement.

•  Stress the importance of community values.

•  Help audience members save face and be perceived in a
positive way.

High-Context Culture The context of a message—including
nonverbal cues, tone of voice, posture,
and facial expression—is often valued
more than the words.

•  Don’t boast about your specific accomplishments.

•  Use a more subtle, less dramatic delivery style.

Low-Context Culture The words in a message are valued more
than the surrounding context.

•  Be sure to make your ideas and recommendations explicit.

•  Although delivery cues are important, listeners will expect your
message to be clear.

Tolerance for Uncertainty People can accept ambiguity and are
not bothered when they do not know
all the details.

•  It is not so important to develop a specific solution to a problem
you may present in your speech.

•  The purpose of the speech need not be clearly explicated.

Need for Certainty People want specifics and dislike ambiguity. •  Provide an explicit overview of what you will present in your speech.

•  Create a logical and clear organizational pattern for your speech.

High-Power Culture Status and power differences are emphasized;
roles and chains of command are clearly defined.

•  Remember that listeners perceive people in leadership positions as
powerful and credible.

•  Develop messages that acknowledge differences in status among

Low-Power Culture Status and power differences receive less
emphasis; people strive for equality rather
than exalting those in positions of leadership.

•  Discuss shared approaches to governance and leadership.

•  Develop solutions that involve others in reaching consensus.

Long-Term Time Orientation Time is abundant, and accomplishing goals
may take considerable time.

•  Appeal to listeners’ persistence, patience, and delayed gratification.

•  Emphasize how ideas and suggestions will benefit future generations.

Short-Term Time Orientation Time is an important resource. •  Identify how the ideas and proposals you discuss will have an
immediate impact on listeners.

•  Note how actions will have a direct impact on achieving results.

High-Indulgence Culture The pursuit of happiness is important. •  Motivate listeners by highlighting opportunities for leisure and fun.

•  Appeal to people’s enjoyment of the pleasures life has to offer.

Low-Indulgence Culture Hard work is valued and expected. •  Emphasize the importance of making an effort to get ahead.

•  Remember that listeners tend to control their impulses and desires.

Analyzing Your Audience 79

on issues, use examples of community involvement, or ethically highlight the im-
portance of shared effort and achievement in your proposals or appeals.

●● High-context and low-context cultures. The terms high-context and low-context
cultures refer to the importance of unspoken or nonverbal messages. In high-context
cultures, people place considerable importance on contextual factors such as tone of
voice, gestures, facial expression, movement, and other nonverbal aspects of com-
munication. People from low-context traditions place greater emphasis on the words
themselves; the surrounding context has a relatively low impact on the meaning of
the message. The Arab culture is a high-context culture, as are the cultures of Japan,
Asia, and southern Europe. Low-context cultures, which place a higher value on
words, include those of Switzerland, Germany, the United States, and Australia.

How to adapt to listeners from high-context and low-context cultures. Listeners from
low-context cultures will need and expect more detailed and explicit information
from you as a speaker. Subtle and indirect messages are less likely to be effective.

People from high-context cultures will pay particular attention to your de-
livery and to the communication environment when they try to interpret your
meaning. They will be less impressed by a speaker who boasts about his or her
accomplishments; such an audience will expect and value more indirect ways of
establishing credibility. A listener from a high-context culture will also expect a
less dramatic and dynamic style of delivery.

●● Tolerance of uncertainty and need for certainty. Some cultures are more
comfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty than others. In contrast, cultures
in which people need to have details nailed down tend to develop very specific
regulations and rules. People from cultures with a greater tolerance of uncertainty
are more comfortable with vagueness and are not upset when all the details aren’t
spelled out. Cultures with a high need for certainty include those of Russia, Japan,
France, and Costa Rica. Cultures that have a higher tolerance for uncertainty
include those of Great Britain and Indonesia. The United States is about in the
middle of the scale for tolerance of uncertainty.11

How to adapt to listeners from cultures that tolerate or avoid uncertainty. If you are
speaking to an audience of people who have a high need for certainty, make sure
you provide concrete details when you present your message; they will also want
and expect to know what action steps they can take. People who value certainty
will respond well if you provide a clear and explicit preview of your message in
your introduction; they also seem to prefer a clear, logical, and linear step-by-step
organizational pattern.

People from cultures that are more comfortable with uncertainty do not neces-
sarily need to have the explicit purpose of the message spelled out for them. In ad-
dition, they are generally less likely to need specific prescriptions to solve problems,
compared to listeners who want to avoid uncertainty. Telling a story in which the
main point is implied rather than explicitly identified may be an effective approach
when communicating with listeners who have a high tolerance for uncertainty.

●● High-power and low-power cultures. Power is the ability to influence or control
others. Some cultures prefer clearly defined lines of authority and responsibility;
these are said to be high-power cultures. People in low-power cultures are more
comfortable with blurred lines of authority and less formal titles. Austria, Israel,
Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, and Great Britain typically have an equitable ap-
proach to power distribution. Cultures with high power dimensions include those
of the Philippines, Mexico, Venezuela, India, Brazil, and France. The United States
is slightly lower (40 points out of 100) on this scale, meaning there is some expecta-
tion for shared authority.12

How to adapt to listeners from high-power and low-power cultures. People from high-
power cultures are more likely to perceive people in leadership roles—including

80 Chapter 5

speakers—as credible. They will also be more comfortable with proposals or solutions
that identify or acknowledge differences in social class.

Those from low-power cultures often favor more shared approaches to lead-
ership and governance. When speaking to people from low-power cultures, you
may want to emphasize democratic collaborative approaches to solving problems
or areas of consensus on an issue.

●● Long-term and short-term time orientation. Some cultures take the view that
it may take a long time to accomplish certain goals. People from Asian cultures,
for example, and from some South American cultures such as that of Brazil often
value patience, persistence, and deferred gratification more than people from
cultures with a short-term orientation to time. People with a short-term time ori-
entation, which is often a characteristic of industrialized Western cultures such as
those of Canada and the United States, are attuned to time and time management.
Short-term cultures also value quick responses to problems.

How to adapt to listeners from cultures with long-term and short-term time orientations.
When speaking to people who take a long-term orientation to time, you should stress
how issues and problems affect not only the present but also the future, especially
future generations. It’s not that people with a long-term orientation don’t value effi-
ciency and effectiveness; they simply accept that things don’t always happen quickly.

People with a short-term orientation to time will want to learn about immedi-
ate action steps that can solve a problem. They are also results-oriented and expect
that individual or group effort should result in a specific positive outcome. When
possible, provide statistics or other evidence that documents results.

●● High-indulgent and low-indulgent cultures. Some cultures place a high priority
in indulging in activities to pursue happiness. The more indulgent a culture, the
less focused they are on controlling their desires and impulses. High-indulgent
cultures actively seek and expect freedom. They also tend to place a high value
on leisure activities and sports. Other cultures are less indulgent; they are more
restrained and do not expect to have all of their needs met to be happy. The United
States scores high on indulgence compared to many other cultures.13

How to adapt to listeners from cultures with high-indulgent and low-indulgent orientations.
High-indulgent cultures, such as the United States, will value and appreciate appeals
to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Motivating factors for highly indulgent
cultures include having the time and opportunity for sports, leisure activities, and
fun. Those from lower indulgent cultures, such as Russia, China, and much of Eastern
Europe, tend to be less motivated by these kinds of opportunities. Instead, appealing
to hard work and accomplishment are more likely to be strong, positive motivators.

group MeMbershIp It’s said we are all members of a gang—it’s just that some gangs
are more socially acceptable than others. We are social creatures; we congregate in
groups to gain an identity, to help accomplish projects we support, and to have fun.
So it’s reasonable to assume that many of your listeners belong to groups, clubs, or
organizations. One way to gather information about a specific group you plan to
speak to is to see if the group or organization has a Web site, Facebook page, or other
social media presence. Knowing something about the history, purpose, values, and
accomplishments of a group can help you customize your message.

●● Religious groups. When touching on religious beliefs or an audience’s values,
use great care in what you say and how you say it. Remind yourself that some
members of your audience will undoubtedly not share your beliefs, and that few
beliefs are held as intensely as religious ones. If you do not wish to offend your
listeners, plan and deliver your speech with much thought and sensitivity.

●● Political groups. Are members of your audience active in politics? Knowing
whether your listeners are active in such groups as Young Republicans, Young

Analyzing Your Audience 81

Democrats, or Young Libertarians can help you address political topics. Members
of environmental groups may also hold strong ecological opinions on issues and
political candidates.

●● Work groups. Most professions give rise to professional organizations or associa-
tions to which people can belong. If you are speaking to an audience of profession-
als, it’s important to be aware of the professional organizations they may belong to
(there may be several) and to know, for example, whether those organizations have
taken formal stands that may influence audience members’ views on certain issues.
Work groups may also have abbreviations or acronyms that may be useful to know.
Your communication instructor, for example, may be a member of the National
Communication Association (NCA) and may also belong to a specific division of
the NCA, such as the IDD (Instructional Development Division).

●● Social groups. Some groups exist just so that people can get together and enjoy
a common activity. Book clubs, film clubs, cycling clubs, cooking groups, dancing
groups, and bowling teams exist to bring people with similar ideas of fun together
to enjoy an activity. Knowing whether members of your audience belong to such
groups may help you adapt your topic to them or, if you are involved in similar
groups, to establish common ground with them.

●● Service groups. Many people are actively involved in groups that emphasize
community service as their primary mission. If you are speaking to a service group
such as the Lions Club or the Kiwanis Club, you can reasonably assume that your
listeners value community service and will be interested in learning how to make
their community a better place.

socIoeconoMIc status Socioeconomic status is a person’s perceived importance and
influence based on such factors as income, occupation, and education level. In Europe,
Asia, the Middle East, and other parts of the world, centuries-old traditions of ac-
knowledging status differences still exist today. Status differences in the United States
and Canada are often subtler. A general estimate of your audience members’ incomes,
occupations, and education levels can be helpful as you develop a message that con-
nects with listeners.

●● Income. Having some general idea of the income level of your listeners can be of
great value to you as a speaker. For example, if you know that most audience mem-
bers are struggling to meet weekly expenses, it will be unwise to talk about how to
see the cultural riches of Europe by traveling first class. But talking about how to get
paid to travel to Europe by serving as a courier may hold considerable interest.

●● Occupation. Knowing what people do for a living can give you useful informa-
tion about how to adapt your message to them. Speaking to teachers, you will want
to use different examples and illustrations than if you were speaking to lawyers,
ministers, or automobile assembly-line workers. Many college-age students may
hold jobs but not with the kinds of employers they aspire to after graduation.
Knowing their future career plans can help you adjust your topic and supporting
material to your listeners’ professional goals.

●● Education. About 30 percent of American adults obtain a college degree. Slightly
more than 10 percent of the population earns graduate degrees.14 The educational
background of your listeners is yet another component of socioeconomic status
that can help you plan your message. For example, you have a good idea that your
classmates in your college-level public-speaking class value education because they
are striving, often at great sacrifice, to advance their education. Knowing the educa-
tional background of your audience can help you make decisions about your choice
of vocabulary, language style, and use of examples and illustrations.

adaptIng to dIverse LIsteners We live in an increasingly diverse society. The
U.S. Census predicts that in about three decades, the United States will become a

socioeconomic status
A person’s perceived importance and
influence based on income, occupation,
and education level

82 Chapter 5

“majority-minority” nation, with no single ethnic group making up a majority of the
population.15 This swell of immigrants translates to increased diversity in all aspects
of society, including in most audiences you’ll face—whether in business, at school
board meetings, or in your college classes.

Audience diversity, however, involves factors beyond ethnic and cultural differ-
ences. Central to our point about considering your audience is examining the full spec-
trum of audience diversity, not just cultural differences. Each topic we’ve reviewed
when discussing demographic and psychological aspects of an audience contributes
to overall audience diversity. Diversity simply means differences. Audience members
are diverse. The question and challenge for a public speaker is, “How do I ethically
adapt to listeners with such different backgrounds and experiences?” We offer several
general strategies. You could decide to focus on a target audience, consciously use a
variety of methods of adapting to listeners, seek common ground, or consider using
powerful visual images to present your key points.

●● Focus on a target audience. A target audience is a specific segment of your audi-
ence that you most want to address or influence. When consciously focusing on a
target audience, the challenge is not to lose or alienate the rest of your listeners—to
keep the entire audience in mind while simultaneously making a specific attempt
to hit your target segment. For example, Sasha was trying to convince his listeners
to invest in the stock market instead of relying only on Social Security. He wisely
decided to focus on the younger listeners; those approaching retirement age have
already made their major investment decisions. Although he focused on the younger
members of his audience, however, Sasha didn’t forget the mature listeners. He sug-
gested that older listeners encourage their children or grandchildren to consider his
proposal. He focused on a target audience, but he didn’t ignore others.

●● Use diverse strategies for a diverse audience. Another approach you can adopt,
either separately or in combination with a target audience focus, is to use a variety
of strategies to reflect the diversity of your audience. If you’ve made an effort to
gather information about your audience, you should know the various constitu-
encies that will likely be present for your talk. Consider using several methods to
reach the different listeners in your audience. For example, review the following

●● Use a variety of supporting materials, including illustrations, examples, sta-
tistics, and opinions. Learn more about supporting materials in Chapter 7.

target audience
A specific segment of an audience that
you most want to influence

If a graduation speaker focuses on the
target audience of graduating students,
how can the speaker address the inter-
ests of graduates’ families and friends
too? Photo: Mat Hayward/Fotolia.

Analyzing Your Audience 83

●● Remember the power of stories. People from most cultures appreciate a
good story. And some people, such as those from Asian and Middle Eastern
cultures, prefer hearing stories and parables used to make a point or sup-
port an argument rather than facts and statistics.

●● If you’re uncertain about cultural preferences, use a balance of both logical
support (statistics, facts, specific examples) and emotional support (stories
and illustrations).

●● Consider showing the audience a brief outline to provide an overview of
your key ideas, using PowerPoint™ or Prezi™. If there is a language barrier
between you and your audience, being able to read portions of your speech
as they hear you speaking may improve audience members’ comprehension.
If an interpreter is translating your message, an outline can also help ensure
that your interpreter will communicate your message accurately.

●● Identify common values. People have long debated whether there are univer-
sal human values. Several scholars have made strong arguments that common
human values do exist. Communication researcher David Kale suggests that all
people can identify with the individual struggle to enhance one’s own dignity
and worth, although different cultures express that struggle in different ways.16 A
second common value is the search for a world at peace. Underlying that quest is a
fundamental desire for equilibrium, balance, and stability. Although there may al-
ways be a small but corrosive minority of people whose actions do not support the
universal value of peace, the prevailing human values in most cultures ultimately
do. Intercultural communication scholars Larry Samovar and Richard Porter sug-
gest other commonalities that people from all cultures share. They propose that all
humans seek physical pleasure as well as emotional and psychological pleasure
and confirmation, and seek to avoid personal harm.17 These similarities offer some
basis for developing common messages with universal meaning.

Identifying common cultural issues and similarities can help you establish
common ground with your audience, a goal we introduced in this chapter. If you
are speaking about an issue on which you and your audience have
widely different views, identifying a larger common value that is
relevant to your topic (such as the importance of peace, prosperity,
or family) can help you find a foothold so that your listeners will at
least listen to your ideas.

●● Rely on visual materials that transcend language differences.
Pictures and other images can communicate universal messages—
especially emotional ones. Although there is no universal language,
most listeners, regardless of culture and language, can comprehend
visible expressions of pain, joy, sorrow, and happiness. An image
of  a mother holding the frail, malnourished body of her dying
child communicates the ravages of famine without elaborate verbal
explanations. The more varied your listeners’ cultural experiences,
the more effective it can be to use visual materials to illustrate
your ideas.

Psychological Audience Analysis
Demographic information lets you make useful inferences about your audience and
predict likely responses. A psychological audience analysis explores an audience’s
attitudes toward a topic, purpose, and speaker while probing the underlying beliefs
and values that might affect these attitudes. Learning whether members of your
audience agree or disagree with your purpose may provide specific clues to help you
anticipate their reactions to your message.

psychological audience analysis
Examining the attitudes, beliefs, values,
and other psychological information about
an audience in order to develop a clear
and effective message

AdAptInG to dIveRse
• Focus on a target audience without losing

or alienating the rest of your listeners.
• Use diverse supporting materials that

reflect a balance of logical and emotional

• Tell stories.
• Use visual aids, including both images

and an outline of your key points.
• Appeal to such common values as peace,

prosperity, and family.

84 Chapter 5

It is important for a speaker to distinguish among attitudes, beliefs, and values. The
attitudes, beliefs, and values of an audience may greatly influence a speaker’s selec-
tion of a topic and specific purpose, as well as other aspects of speech preparation and

An attitude reflects likes or dislikes. Do you like health food? Are you for or
against capital punishment? Should movies be censored? What are your views on gun
control? Your answers to these widely varied questions reflect your attitudes.

A belief is what you hold to be true or false. If you think the sun will rise in the
east in the morning, you hold a belief about the sun based on what you perceive to be
true or false.

A value is an enduring concept of good and bad, right and wrong. More deeply
ingrained than either attitudes or beliefs, values are therefore more resistant to change.
Values support both attitudes and beliefs. For example, you like health food because
you believe that natural products are more healthful. And you value good health. You
are against capital punishment because you believe that it is wrong to kill people. You
value human life. As with beliefs, a speaker who has some understanding of an audi-
ence’s values is better able to adapt a speech to them.

anaLyzIng attItudes toWard the topIc It is useful to know how members of an
audience feel about your topic. Are they interested or apathetic? If the topic is contro-
versial, are they for or against it? Knowing the answers to these questions from the
outset lets you adjust your message accordingly. For example, if you plan to talk about
increasing taxes to improve education in your state, you probably want to know how
your listeners feel about taxes and education.

When you analyze your audience, it may help to categorize the group along three
dimensions: interested–uninterested, favorable–unfavorable, and captive–voluntary.
These dimensions are summarized in Table 5.4.

With an interested audience, your task is simply to hold and amplify their interest
throughout the speech. If your audience is uninterested, you need to find ways to hook
them. In Chapter 14, we describe ways to motivate an audience by addressing issues
related to their needs and interests. Given our visually oriented culture, consider using
visual aids to gain and maintain the attention of apathetic listeners.

You may also want to gauge how favorable or unfavorable your audience may
feel toward you and your message before you begin to speak. Some audiences, of

An individual’s likes or dislikes

An individual’s perception of what is true
or false

Enduring concept of good and bad, right
and wrong

Developing your Speech Step By Step

conSiDer your AuDience

A Chinese proverb says that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Developing and

delivering a speech may seem like a daunting journey. But if you take it one step at a time and keep your

focus on your audience, you’ll be rewarded with a well-crafted and well-delivered message.

To help you see how the audience-centered public speaking process unfolds step by step, we will

explore how one student prepared and delivered a successful speech. Matthew, an undergraduate student

at Texas State University, developed the informative presentation titled “Public-Speaking Anxiety,” which is

outlined in Chapter 8.18 In the chapters ahead, we will walk you through the process Matthew followed to

develop his speech.

Matthew thought about his audience even before selecting his topic. Realizing that his listeners would

be student peers, he knew he had to find a topic of interest and relevance to them. And he knew he could

discuss complex issues, using a fairly advanced vocabulary.

The Developing Your Speech Step by Step feature in the chapters ahead will provide a window through

which you can watch Matthew at work on each step of the audience-centered public speaking process.



Analyzing Your Audience 85

course, may be neutral, apathetic, or simply uninformed about what you plan to say.
We provide explicit suggestions for approaching favorable, neutral, and unfavorable
audiences in Chapter 15 when we discuss persuasive speaking. But even if your objec-
tive is simply to inform, it is useful to know whether your audience is predisposed
to respond positively or negatively toward you or your message. Giving an informa-
tive talk about classical music would be quite challenging, for example, if you were
addressing an audience of die-hard punk-rock fans. You might decide to show the
connections between classical music and punk to arouse their interest.

your speech cLass as audIence You may think that your public-speaking class is not
a typical audience because class members are required to attend: Your speech class
is a captive audience rather than a voluntary one. A captive audience has externally
imposed reasons for being there. Because class members must show up to earn credit
for class, you need not worry that they will get up and leave during your speech.
However, your classroom speeches are still real speeches. Your class members are cer-
tainly real people with likes, dislikes, beliefs, and values.

Your classroom speeches should connect with your listeners so they forget they are
required to be your audience. Class members will listen if your message gives them
new, useful information; touches them emotionally; or persuades them to change their
opinion or behavior in support of your position.

You will undoubtedly give other speeches to other captive audiences. Audiences
at work or at professional meetings are often captive in the sense that they may be
required to attend lectures or presentations to receive continuing-education credit or
as part of their job duties. Your goal with a captive audience is the same as with other
types of audiences. You should make your speech just as interesting and effective as
one designed for a voluntary audience. You still have an obligation to address your
listeners’ needs and interests and to keep them engaged in what you have to say.

anaLyzIng attItudes toWard you, the speaker The attitude of audience members
toward you in your role as speaker is another factor that can influence reactions
to your speech. Regardless of how audience members feel about your topic or
purpose, if they regard you as credible—others’ perception of you as trustworthy,
knowledgeable, and interesting—they will be much more likely to be interested in,
and supportive of, what you have to say.

table 5.4 Adapting Your Message to Different Types of Audiences

SOURCE: Copyrighted by Pearson Education, Hoboken, NJ.

Type of Audience Example How to be Audience-Centered

Interested Mayors who attend a talk by the governor
about increasing security and reducing the
threat of terrorism

Acknowledge audience interest early in your speech; use the interest they
have in you and your topic to gain and maintain their attention.

Uninterested Junior-high students attending a lecture
about retirement benefits

Make it a high priority to tell your listeners why your message should be of
interest to them. Remind your listeners throughout your speech how your
message relates to their lives.

Favorable A religious group that meets to hear a
group leader talk about the importance
of their beliefs

Use audience interest to move them closer to your speaking goal; you may
be more explicit in telling them in your speech conclusion what you would like
them to do.

Unfavorable Students who attend a lecture by the
university president explaining why tuition
and fees will increase 15 percent next year

Be realistic in what you expect to accomplish; acknowledge listeners’ opposing
point of view; consider using facts to refute misperceptions they may hold.

Voluntary Parents attending a lecture by the new
principal at their children’s school

Anticipate why listeners are coming to hear you, and speak about the issues
they want you to address.

Captive Students in a public-speaking class Find out who will be in your audience and use this knowledge to adapt your
message to them.

86 Chapter 5

If you establish your credibility before you begin to discuss your topic, your listen-
ers will be more likely to believe what you say and to think that you are knowledge-
able, interesting, and dynamic. Make a connection between you, your topic, and your
audience: Tell your listeners why you are interested in the topic, describe your personal
experience with the subject matter, or explain why you are passionate about your mes-
sage.19 We will provide additional strategies for enhancing your credibility in Chapters
9 and 15.

Situational Audience Analysis
So far we have concentrated on the people who will be your listeners, as the primary
focus of being an audience-centered speaker. You should also consider your speak-
ing situation. Situational audience analysis includes an examination of the time and
place of your speech, the size of your audience, and the speaking occasion. Although
these elements are not technically characteristics of the audience, they can have a major
effect on how listeners respond to you.

tIMe You may have no control over when you will be speaking, but when designing
and delivering a talk, a skilled public speaker considers the time of day as well as audi-
ence expectations about the speech length. If you are speaking to a group of exhausted
parents during a midweek evening meeting of the band-boosters club, you can bet they
will appreciate a direct, to-the-point presentation more than a long oration. If you are
on a program with other speakers, speaking first or last on the program carries a slight
edge because people tend to remember what comes first or last. Speaking early in the
morning when people may not be quite awake, after lunch when they may feel a bit
drowsy, or late in the afternoon when they are tired may mean you’ll have to strive
consciously for a more energetic delivery to keep your listeners’ attention.

Be mindful of your time limits. If your audience expects you to speak for 20 min-
utes, it is usually better to end either right at 20 minutes or a little earlier; most North
Americans don’t appreciate being kept overtime for a speech. In your public-speaking
class you will be given time limits, and you may wonder whether such strict time-limit
expectations occur outside public-speaking class. The answer is a most definite yes.
Whether it’s a business presentation or a speech to the city council or school board,
time limits are often strictly enforced.

sIze of audIence The size of your audience directly affects speaking style and audi-
ence expectations about delivery. As a general rule, the larger the audience, the more
likely they are to expect a more formal style. With an audience of ten or fewer, you can
punctuate a conversational style by taking questions. If you and your listeners are so
few that you can fit around a table, they may expect you to stay seated for your pre-
sentation. Many business “speeches” are given around a conference table.

A group of 20 to 30 people—the size of most public-speaking classes—will expect
more formality than an audience of a dozen or fewer. Your speaking style can still be
conversational, but your speech should be appropriately structured and well orga-
nized; your delivery may include more expansive gestures than you would display
during a one-on-one chat with a friend or colleague. If you are speaking to a much
larger group in a lecture hall, you may also want to use more expansive gestures as
well as a microphone to amplify your voice.

LocatIon In your speech class, you have the advantage of knowing what the room
looks like, but in a new speaking situation, you may not have that advantage. If at all
possible, visit the place where you will speak to examine the physical setting and find
out, for example, how far the audience will be from the lectern. Physical conditions
such as room temperature and lighting can affect your performance, the audience re-
sponse, and the overall success of the speech.

situational audience analysis
Examination of the time and place of a
speech, the audience size, and the speak-
ing occasion in order to develop a clear
and effective message

Analyzing Your Audience 87

occasIon Another important way to gain clues about your listeners
is to consider the reason why they are here. What occasion brings this
audience together? The mind-set of people gathered for a funeral will
obviously be different from that of people who’ve asked you to say a
few words after a banquet. Knowing the occasion helps you predict
both the demographic characteristics of the audience and their state
of mind.

If you’re presenting a speech at an annual or monthly meeting,
you have the advantage of being able to ask those who’ve attended
previous presentations what kind of audience typically gathers for
the occasion. Your best source of information may be either the per-
son who invited you to speak or someone who has attended similar
events. Knowing when you will speak on the program or whether
a meal will be served before or after you talk will help you gauge
audience expectations.

Advance preparation will help you avoid last-minute surprises
about the speaking environment and the physical arrangements for
your speech. Table 5.5 provides a list of essential questions you should
ask when preparing for a speaking assignment, as well as several sug-
gestions for adapting to your speaking situation. A well-prepared
speaker adapts his or her message not only to the audience but also to
the speaking environment.

Adapting to Your Audience
as You speak
5.5 Identify methods of assessing and adapting to your audience’s reactions while

your speech is in progress.

So far, we have focused on discovering as much as possible about an audience before
the speaking event. Pre-speech analyses help with each step of the public-speaking
process: selecting a topic, formulating a specific purpose, gathering supporting mate-
rial, identifying major ideas, organizing the speech, and planning its delivery. Each
of these components depends on your understanding your audience. But audience

How can a speaker analyze and
adapt to a videoconference speaking
situation? Photo: Blend Images/John
Fedele/Vetta/Getty Images.

elements oF AudIence
Demographic Characteristics
• Age
• Gender
• Sexual orientation
• Cultural, ethnic, or racial background
• Group membership
• Socioeconomic status

Psychological Characteristics
• Attitudes: Likes and dislikes
• Beliefs: What is perceived to be true or false
• Values: What is perceived to be good or bad

Situational Characteristics
• Time
• Audience size
• Location
• Occasion

88 Chapter 5

analysis and adaptation do not end when you have crafted your speech. They con-
tinue as you deliver your speech.

Generally, a public speaker does not have an exchange with an audience unless
the speech is part of a question-and-answer or discussion format. Once the speech
is in progress, the speaker must rely on nonverbal cues to judge how people are
responding to the message.

Identifying Nonverbal Audience Cues
Once, when speaking in India, Mark Twain was separated from his audience by a cur-
tain. Mark Twain’s daughter, Clara, recalled this experience:

One of Father’s first lectures was before a Purdah audience; in other words, the
women all sat behind a curtain through which they could peek at Mark Twain
without being seen by him . . . a deadly affair for the poor humorist, who had not
even the pleasure of scanning the faces of his mute audience.20

Because he could not make eye contact with his listeners as he was speaking, Mark
Twain missed learning how well his speech was being received. If you fail to look at
your listeners while you speak, you could experience this same disadvantage.

Many beginning public speakers may find it challenging at first not only to have
the responsibility of presenting a speech they have rehearsed, but also to have to change

table 5.5 Analyzing and Adapting to the Speaking Situation

SOURCE: Copyrighted by Pearson Education, Hoboken, NJ.

Questions to Ask Adaptation Strategies


What time of the day will I be speaking? If your audience may be tired or not yet fully awake, consider increasing the energy level of your

Where will I appear on the program? Audiences are more likely to get the strongest impressions from those who speak first or last. If you
are in the middle of the lineup, you will need to be dynamic in your delivery and build repetition into
your speech, to aid your audience’s memory.

What are the time limits for the speech? Most listeners do not appreciate speakers who exceed their time limit. Unless you are a spellbinding
speaker, don’t speak longer than your listeners expect you to speak.


How many people will be in the audience? Smaller audiences usually expect a more conversational, informal delivery; larger audiences
usually expect a more formal presentation.

Will the audience be so large I’ll need a microphone? Make sure you understand the mechanics of the microphone system before you rise to speak.


How will the room be arranged? If you want a more informal speaking atmosphere, consider arranging the chairs in a circle.
In a large room, consider inviting people in the back to move closer to the front if necessary.

What is the room lighting like? If an audience is in the dark, it’s more difficult to gauge their nonverbal responses. If you need
to use presentation aids, make sure the lighting is easy to adjust to a level that lets listeners see
your images but also allows you to see your listeners.

Will there be noise or distractions outside the room? Before the speech begins, consider strategies to minimize outside noise, such as closing windows
and doors, adjusting window blinds or shades, or politely asking people in nearby rooms to be
mindful of your presentation.


What occasion brings the audience together? Make sure you understand what your listeners expect, and strive to meet those expectations.

Is the speech an annual or monthly event? Has
a similar speaking occasion occurred with this
audience before?

Learn how other speakers have adapted to the audience. Ask for examples of what successful
speakers have done to succeed with this audience. Or ask whether certain issues or topics may
offend your audience.

Analyzing Your Audience 89

or modify that speech on the spot. We assure you that with experience you can develop
the sensitivity to adapt to your listeners, much like a jazz or jam-band musician adapts
to the other musicians in an ensemble. But it will take practice. Although it’s impos-
sible to read your listeners’ minds, it is important to analyze and adapt to cues that can
enhance the effectiveness of your message. The first step in developing this skill is to
be aware of the often unspoken cues that let you know whether your audience either
is hanging on every word or is bored. After learning to “read” your audience, you then
need to develop a repertoire of behaviors to help you better connect with them.

eye contact Perhaps the best way to determine whether your listeners are maintain-
ing interest in your speech is to note the amount of eye contact they have with you.
The more contact they have, the more likely it is that they are listening to your mes-
sage. If you find them repeatedly looking at their phones, checking e-mail, tapping
out a text message, looking down at the program or, worse yet, closing their eyes, you
can reasonably guess that they have lost interest in what you’re talking about.

facIaL expressIon Another clue to whether an audience is with you is facial expres-
sion. Members of an attentive audience not only make direct eye contact but also have
attentive facial expressions. Beware of a frozen, unresponsive face; we call this sort of
expression the “listener-stupor” look. The classic listener-stupor expression consists
of a slightly tilted head, a faint, frozen smile, and often a hand holding up the chin.
This expression may give the appearance of interest, but more often it means that the
person is daydreaming or thinking of something other than your topic.

MoveMent and posture An attentive audience doesn’t move much. An early sign of
inattentiveness is fidgeting fingers, which may escalate to pencil wagging, leg jiggling,
and arm wiggling. Seat squirming, feet shuffling, and general body movement often
indicate that members of the audience have lost interest in your message. A slight for-
ward lean is a good sign your listeners are interested and paying attention.

nonverbaL responsIveness Interested audience members may respond in other non-
verbal ways when encouraged or invited to do so by the speaker. When you ask for
a show of hands and audience members sheepishly look at one another and eventu-
ally raise a finger or two, you can reasonably infer a lack of interest and enthusiasm.
Frequent applause and nods of agreement with your message are indicators of interest
and support.

What do the nonverbal cues of this
audience indicate about their level of
interest in the speaker? How should
the speaker respond? Photo: Robert

90 Chapter 5

Responding to Nonverbal Cues
The value in recognizing nonverbal cues from your listeners is that you can respond to
them appropriately. If your audience seems interested, supportive, and attentive, your
pre-speech analysis has clearly guided you to make proper choices in preparing and

delivering your speech.
When your audience becomes inattentive, however, you may need to

make some changes while delivering your message. If you think audience
members are drifting off into their own thoughts or disagreeing with what
you say, or if you suspect that they don’t understand what you are saying,
then a few spontaneous adjustments may help. It takes experience and skill
to make on-the-spot changes in your speech. Consider the tips in Table 5.6
for adapting to your listeners from seasoned public speakers.21

Strategies for Customizing Your Message
to Your Audience
Many people value having something prepared especially for them.
Perhaps you’ve bought a computer that you ordered to your exact speci-
fications. In a restaurant you order food prepared to your specific taste.
Audiences, too, prefer messages that are adapted just to them; they don’t

ReAdInG AudIence cues
Identify and respond to nonverbal cues that
your audience is bored, doesn’t understand,
or disagrees:

• Lack of eye contact
• “Listener-stupor” expression
• Physical restlessness
• Sending or receiving e-mail or text

• No response to humor or speaker

• Talking to other listeners

table 5.6 Responding to Nonverbal Cues

SOURCE: Copyrighted by Pearson Education, Hoboken, NJ.

If your audience seems inattentive
or bored . . .

•  Tell a story.

•  Use an example to which the audience can relate.

•  Use a personal example.

•  Remind your listeners why your message should be of interest to them.

•  Eliminate some abstract facts and statistics.

•  Use appropriate humor. If listeners do not respond to your humor, use more stories or personal illustrations.

•  Consider making direct references to listeners, using audience members’ names or mentioning something
about them.

•  Encourage audience participation by asking questions or requesting examples.

•  Ask for a direct response, such as a show of hands, to see whether they agree or disagree with you.

•  Pick up the pace of your delivery.

•  Increase your speaking energy.

•  Pause for dramatic effect while making eye contact to gain attention.

If your audience seems confused
or doesn’t seem to understand
your point . . .

•  Be more redundant.

•  Try phrasing your information in another way.

•  Use more concrete examples to illustrate your point.

•  Use a visual such as a chalkboard or flip chart to clarify your point.

•  If you have been speaking rapidly, slow your speaking rate.

•  Clarify the overall organization of your message by using transitions or internal summaries.

•  Ask audience members whether they understand your message.

•  Ask for feedback from audience members to help you discover what may be unclear to them.

•  Ask someone in the audience to summarize the key point you are making.

If your audience seems to be
disagreeing with your message . . .

•  Provide additional data and evidence to support your point.

•  Identify issues about which you agree with your listeners.

•  Remind your listeners of your credibility, credentials, or background.

•  Rely less on anecdotes and more on facts to present your case.

•  Write facts and data on a chalkboard, whiteboard, or flip chart if one is available.

•  If you don’t have the answers and data you need, tell listeners you will provide more information by mail,
telephone, e-mail, or social media (and make sure you get back in touch with them).

Analyzing Your Audience 91

like hearing a canned message. As a speaker, you may have worked hard to adapt your
message to your audience, but your audience won’t give you credit for it unless you let
them know what you’ve done. What are some ways to communicate to your listeners
that your message is designed specifically for them? Here are a few suggestions:

●● Appropriately use audience members’ names. Consider using audience mem-
bers’ names in your talk to relate specific information to individual people.
Selectively mention people you know who are in the audience. If you are uncertain
whether you should mention someone by name, before you speak, ask the person
for permission to use his or her name in your talk.

●● Refer to the town, city, or community. Make a specific reference to the place
where you are speaking. If you are speaking to a college audience, relate your
message and illustrations to the school where you are speaking. Many politicians
use this technique: They have a standard stump speech to tout their credentials
but adapt the opening part of their message to the specific city or community
where they are speaking.

●● Refer to a significant event that happened on the date of your speech. An easy
way to find out what happened on any given day in history is to go to www.history
.com and click on the link called “This Day in History.” Or just type “This Day in
History” in most any search engine, and you’ll find out what happened on the day
of your speech. For example, on the day this paragraph was written, Julius Caesar
was assassinated in 44 b.c.e. It’s also known as the Ides of March—a day Caesar was
warned about in Shakespeare’s famous play. If you were giving a speech on this
day, a reference to the Ides of March might be especially apropos if your goal was to
encourage your audience to beware of whatever issue or topic you were discussing.

●● Refer to a recent news event. Always check the local media to see whether
there is a news story you can connect to the central idea of your talk. Or perhaps
you can use a headline or recent story appearing in your university newspaper or
Web site. If there is a newspaper headline that connects with your talk, consider
holding up the paper as you refer to it—not so that people will be able to read the
headline, but to emphasize the immediacy of your message.

●● Refer to a group or organization. If you’re speaking to an audience of service,
religious, political, or work group members, by all means make specific positive
references to the group. But be honest—don’t offer false praise; audiences can
sniff out phony flattery. A sincere compliment about the group will be appreci-
ated, especially if you can link the goals of the group to your talk.

●● Relate information directly to your listeners. Find ways to apply facts, statistics,
and examples to the people in your audience. If, for example, you know that four out
of ten women are likely to experience gender discrimination, customize that statistic by
saying, “Forty percent of women listening to me now are likely to experience gender
discrimination. That means that of the twenty women in this audience, eight of you
are likely to be discriminated against. Relating abstract statistics and examples to your
listeners communicates that you have them in mind as you develop your message.

Analyzing Your Audience after
You speak
5.6 Identify methods of assessing audience reactions after you have concluded

your speech.

After you have given your speech, you’re not finished analyzing your audience. It
is important to evaluate your audience’s positive or negative response to your mes-
sage. Why? Because this evaluation can help you prepare your next speech. Audience

92 Chapter 5

analysis after you have presented helps you polish your speaking skill, regardless
of whether you will face the same audience again. From that analysis you can learn
whether your listeners thought your examples were clear and accepted your message.
Let’s look at specific methods for assessing your audience’s response to your speech.

Nonverbal Responses
The most obvious nonverbal response is applause. Is the audience simply clapping
politely, or is the applause robust and enthusiastic, indicating pleasure and accep-
tance? Responsive facial expressions, smiles, and nods are other nonverbal signs that
the speech has been well received.

Realize, however, that audience members from different cultures respond to
speeches in different ways. Japanese audience members, for example, are likely to be
restrained in their response to a speech and to show little expression. Some Eastern
European listeners may not maintain eye contact with you; they may look down at the
floor when listening.

Verbal Responses
What might members of the audience say to you about your speech? General com-
ments, such as “I enjoyed your talk” and “Great speech,” may boost your ego—which
is important—but do not provide much analytic help. Specific comments can indicate
where you succeeded and where you failed. If you have the chance, ask audience
members how they responded to the speech in general as well as to points you are
particularly interested in. In some contexts, African American listeners may enthusi-
astically voice their agreement or disagreement with something you say during your

Survey Responses
You are already aware of the value of conducting audience surveys before speaking
publicly. You may also want to survey your audience after you speak. You can then
assess how well you accomplished your objectives. Use the same survey techniques
discussed previously. Develop survey questions that will help you determine the gen-
eral reactions to you and your speech, as well as specific responses to your ideas and
supporting materials. Professional speakers and public officials often conduct such
surveys. Surveys administered after a speech are especially useful when you are try-
ing to persuade an audience.

Behavioral Responses
If the purpose of your speech was to persuade your listeners to do
something, you will want to learn whether they ultimately behave
as you intended. If you wanted them to vote in an upcoming elec-
tion, you might survey your listeners to find out how many did
vote. If you wanted to win support for a particular cause or organi-
zation, you might ask them to sign a petition after your speech. The
number of signatures would be a clear measure of your speech’s
success. Some religious speakers judge the success of their ministry
by the amount of contributions they receive. Your listeners’ actions
are the best indicators of your speaking success.

wAYs to AnAlYze YouR
AudIence AFteR speAkInG
• Quality and volume of applause and other

nonverbal responses
• Content and tone of specific verbal responses
• Formal survey or posttest responses
• Behavioral responses: Did they do what you

asked them to do?

Analyzing Your Audience 93

strategies could Brendon use to establish common ground
with his listeners?

Adapting to Your Audience
5.3 Identify and use strategies for adapting to your


revIeW: Ethical speakers use their audience analysis to
adapt their message so that audience members will listen.
They first consider their audience; then they adapt their
speech goal, speech content, and speech delivery to con-
nect to listeners.

Key Term
audience adaptation

appLy: Previously in this chapter, President Harry
Truman was quoted as saying, “I wonder how far Moses
would have gone it he’d taken a poll in Egypt?” What are
the implications of President Truman’s quotation for an
ethical, audience-centered speaker?

assess: Answer the questions in Table 5.5 about a speech
you have already presented. Describe how your knowl-
edge of your audience influenced the choices you made in
designing your speech.

Analyzing Your Audience
before You speak
5.4 Develop methods of analyzing your audience before

you speak by seeking demographic, psychological,
and situational information about your audience and
the speaking occasion.

revIeW: Before your speech, you can perform three
kinds of analysis: demographic, psychological, and situ-
ational. Demographic analysis assesses audience diversity.
Psychological audience analysis helps you gauge the inter-
ests, attitudes, beliefs, and values of listeners. Situational
audience analysis includes examining the time and place of
your speech, the size of your audience, and the speaking oc-
casion. Strategies for adapting to a diverse audience include
(1) focusing on a target audience, (2) using diverse strate-
gies, (3) using common audience perspectives, and (4) rely-
ing on visual materials that transcend language differences.

Key Terms
demographic audience

socioeconomic status
target audience

Gathering Information about
Your Audience
5.1 Describe informal and formal methods of gathering

information about your audience.

revIeW: You can gather information about your audience
by informally observing their demographics. Formal sur-
veys, with either open-ended or closed-ended questions,
can provide more specific information about their opinions.

Key Terms
open-ended questions
closed-ended questions

appLy: Tynisha wants to convince her audience to ban
alcohol in all city parks. Her survey results suggest that 85
percent of her audience wants to continue the current pol-
icy of permitting alcohol in city parks. Should she change
her purpose to fit the existing attitudes of her audience?

assess: Phil Owens is running for a seat on the school
board. He has agreed to speak to the chamber of com-
merce about his views, but he wants to know what his
audience believes about a number of issues. How can he
gather this information?

Analyzing Information about
Your Audience
5.2 Explain how to analyze information about your


revIeW: Your audience analysis involves looking at the
information you’ve gathered to find (1) similarities among
audience members, (2) differences among audience mem-
bers, and (3) ways to establish a relationship, or common
ground, with listeners.

Key Terms
audience analysis
common ground

appLy: Can you be come too reliant on what your audi-
ence thinks as you develop your message? Do most politi-
cians place too much emphasis on the results of political-
opinion polls to shape their stands on issues? Explain
your position.

assess: Brendon wants to convince his audience of
homeowners that the zoning laws should be changed so
that he and his company can build a new apartment com-
plex next to their quiet, residential neighborhood. What

study Guide: Review, Apply, And Assess

94 Chapter 5

while driving. He recalled reading an article online that
included statistics supporting his point, but he couldn’t
remember the precise statistics or the source of the article.
Is it appropriate for Kale to use approximate versions of
the statistics to convince his audience, knowing the num-
bers are not quite accurate?

assess: How would you adapt your message if, while
you were speaking, you realized you were not holding
your listeners’ attention?

Analyzing Your Audience
after You speak
5.6 Identify methods of assessing audience reactions after

you have concluded your speech.

revIeW: Evaluate audience reaction after your speech.
Again, nonverbal and verbal cues will help you judge
your speaking skill. The best indicator of your success is
whether your audience is able or willing to follow your
advice or remembers what you have told them.

appLy: Adeline’s speaking goal was to convince listen-
ers to support spaying or neutering all pets in the com-
munity. She asked them to take three actions: to visit her
Web site and sign a petition, to write to their city council
members, and to tell their neighbors to support her
proposition. How can Adeline assess whether her speech
achieved her goal?

assess: After your next speech, describe the extent to
which you accomplished your speaking goal based on as-
sessment techniques described earlier in this chapter.

psychological audience

situational audience

appLy: Maria strongly believes the drinking age in her
state should be increased to twenty-two years of age. Yet
when she surveyed her classmates, the overwhelming
majority thought the drinking age should be lowered to
eighteen years of age. Should Maria change her speech
topic and her purpose to avoid facing a hostile audience?
Why or why not?

assess: Dr. Ruiz assumes the audience for her speech
on birth control would be women of child-bearing age.
However, after writing her speech, she discovers that the
women in her audience are at least twenty years older
than she expected. What changes, if any, should she make?

Adapting to Your Audience as You speak
5.5 Identify methods of assessing and adapting to your

audience’s reactions while your speech is in progress.

revIeW: While speaking, look for feedback from your
listeners. Audience eye contact, facial expression, move-
ment, and general verbal and nonverbal responsiveness
provide clues to how well you are doing. Listeners’ non-
verbal reactions may indicate that you need to change
or adjust your message to maintain interest and achieve
your speaking objective.

appLy: Kale realized his listeners were not responding
favorably to his message about the hazards of texting

Ed Garcia has arranged the books and papers on his desk into neat, even piles.
He has sharpened his pencils and laid them out parallel to one another. He has
even dusted his desktop and cleaned the computer monitor’s screen. Ed can

think of no other way to delay writing his speech. He opens a new word-processing
document, carefully centers the words “Informative Speech” at the top of the first
page, and then slouches in his chair, staring glumly at the blank expanse that threat-
ens his well-being. Finally, he types the words “College Football” under the words
“Informative Speech.” Another long pause. Hesitantly, he begins his first sentence:
“Today I want to talk to you about college football.” Rereading his first ten words, Ed
decides they sound moronic. He deletes the sentence and tries again. This time the
screen looks even blanker than before. He writes—deletes—writes—deletes. Half an

6.1 Select and narrow a speech topic that is appropriate
to the audience, the occasion, the time limits, and

6.2 Write an audience-centered specific-purpose
statement for a speech.

6.3 State a single audience-centered central idea with
direct, specific language in a complete declarative

6.4 Apply three ways of generating main ideas from a
central idea.


After studying this chapter, you should be able to do the following:

Developing Your

Rebecca Campbell, Do Not Disturb (oil on
linen). Private collection. Photo: Private
Collection/Courtesy of Jonathan Cooper,
Park Walk Gallery, London/Bridgeman Images.

In all matters, before begin-

ning, a diligent preparation

should be made.


96 Chapter 6

hour later, Ed is exhausted and still mocked by a blank screen. And he is frantic—this
speech has to be ready by 9 in the morning.

Getting from a blank screen or sheet of paper to a speech outline may be the biggest
hurdle you will face as a public speaker. Fortunately, however, it is one you can learn to
clear. If your previous efforts at speech writing have been like Ed Garcia’s, take heart.
Just as you learned to read, drive a car, or register for your college classes, so too can
you learn to prepare a speech.

The first steps in preparing a speech are as follows:

1. Select and narrow your topic.

2. Determine your purpose.

3. Develop your central idea.

4. Generate your main ideas.

At the end of step 4, you will have a plan for the speech, and you will be ready to de-
velop and polish your main ideas further.

For most brief classroom speeches (under ten minutes), you should allow at least
one week to develop and research your speech. Many habitual procrastinators like Ed
learn to their surprise that the whole process is far easier when they grudgingly begin
an assignment a week in advance than it would be if they put off working until the
night before they are supposed to deliver their speech.

As we observed in Chapter 5, audience-centered speakers consider the needs, inter-
ests, and expectations of their audience during the entire speech-preparation process—
needs, interests, and expectations that will be as diverse as the audiences themselves.
Always keep the audience as your central focus.

Select and Narrow Your Topic
6.1 Select and narrow a speech topic that is appropriate to the audience,

the occasion, the time limits, and yourself.

Your first task, as illustrated in Figure 6.1, is to choose a topic on which to speak.
You will then need to narrow this topic to fit your time limits. Sometimes you can
eliminate one or both of these steps because the topic has been chosen and properly
defined for you. For example, knowing that you chair the local drug-abuse task force,
the Lions Club asks you to speak at its weekly meeting about your group’s work.

At other times, the choice of topic may be left entirely to you. In your public-
speaking class, your instructor may specify a time limit and the type of speech
(informative, persuasive, or entertaining) but allow you to choose your topic. How do
you go about choosing an appropriate, interesting topic?

Guidelines for Selecting a Topic
Several years ago communication scholar and then-president of the National
Communication Association Bruce Gronbeck reminded an audience of communica-
tion instructors that students should be giving “the important kinds of . . . speeches
that show . . . people how to confront the issues that divide them.”1

In addition to choosing a topic that is important, speakers in search of a
topic should consider their audience, the occasion, and their own knowledge and

Consider the AudienCe In Chapter 5 we discussed the reasons and methods for
learning more about your audience. “What interests and needs do the members of
this audience have in common?” and “Why did they ask me to speak?” are impor-
tant questions to ask yourself as you search for potential speech topics. For example,



Developing Your Speech 97

autism activist and animal behaviorist Temple Grandin notes that when she is invited
to deliver a commencement address, she makes it a point to find out about “each cam-
pus, the place, and the people,” and to adapt her speech accordingly.2

Not only should a speaker’s choice of topic be relevant to the interests and expec-
tations of his or her listeners, it should also take into account the knowledge listeners
already have about the subject. For example, the need for a campus-wide office for dis-
ability services would not be a good topic to discuss in a speech to a group of students
with disabilities, who would already be well aware of such a need. The speech would
offer them no new information.

Table 6.1 offers examples of topics appropriate for the interests, expectations,
knowledge, and concerns of given audiences.

Consider the oCCAsion In December 1877, Mark Twain was invited to be one of the
after-dinner speakers at American poet John Greenleaf Whittier’s seventieth-birthday
celebration.3 The guest list included Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Ralph Waldo
Emerson, and Oliver Wendell Holmes.









and Narrow





Figure 6.1 Selecting and narrowing the topic and determining the general and
specific purposes of the speech are early speechmaking tasks.

SOURCE: Copyrighted by Pearson Education, Hoboken, NJ.

Table 6.1 Sample Audience-Centered Topics

SOURCE: Copyrighted by Pearson Education, Hoboken, NJ.

Audience Topic

Retirees Prescription drug benefits

Civic organization The Special Olympics

Church members Starting a community food bank

First graders What to do in case of a fire at home

Teachers Building children’s self-esteem

College fraternity Campus service opportunities

98 Chapter 6

When it was Twain’s turn to speak, he began with a humorous sketch fea-
turing Longfellow, Emerson, and Holmes as drunken card-playing travelers in
Nevada. Used to laughter and applause from his audiences, Twain was stunned
by the silence.

What had gone wrong? Was Mark Twain’s topic of interest to his listeners?
Undoubtedly. Did they expect to hear someone talk about the distinguished
guests? Yes. Could Twain add to their knowledge of the subject? Probably. Was his
topic appropriate to the occasion? Definitely not!

Although after-dinner speeches are usually humorous, Twain’s irreverence
was inappropriate, given the dignity of the birthday observance. Even though
he had considered his audience, he had not thought carefully enough about the
demands of the occasion. Twain’s irreverent talk aroused quite a commotion
at the time and is said to have embarrassed him for years afterward. To be suc-
cessful, a topic must be appropriate to both audience and occasion.

Consider Yourself What do you talk about with your friends? You probably
discuss school, mutual friends, political or social issues, hobbies or leisure ac-
tivities, or other topics of interest and importance to you.

The best public-speaking topics are also those that reflect your per-
sonal experience or especially interest you. Where have you lived? Where
have you traveled? Describe your family or ancestors. Have you held a
part-time job? Describe your first days at college. What are your favorite
classes? What are your hobbies or interests? What is your favorite sport?

What social issues especially concern you? Here is one list of topics generated by
such questions:

Blues music

“Yankee, go home”: the American tourist abroad

Why most diets fail

Behind the counter at McDonald’s

My first day at college

Maintaining family ties while living a long distance from home

Getting involved in political campaigns

An alternative to selecting a topic with which you are already familiar is to select
one you would like to know more about. Your interest will motivate both your research
and your delivery of the speech.

Strategies for Selecting a Topic
All successful topics reflect audience, occasion, and speaker. But just contemplating
those guidelines does not automatically yield a good topic. Sooner or later, we all find
ourselves unable to think of a good speech topic, whether for the first speech of the
semester, for that all-important final speech, or for a speaking engagement long after
our school years are over. Nothing is so frustrating to a public speaker as floundering
for something to talk about! In such an instance, you may want to turn to one of the
following strategies to help generate a speech topic.

BrAinstorming A problem-solving technique widely used in such diverse fields as
business, advertising, writing, and science is brainstorming, which can easily be used
to generate ideas for speech topics as well.4 To brainstorm a list of potential topics, get
a sheet of paper and a pencil or pen, or open a new document on your computer. Set a
time limit of, say, three to five minutes. Write down the first topic that comes to mind.
Do not allow yourself to evaluate it. Just write it down in a word or a phrase, whether
it’s a vague idea or a well-focused one.

A creative problem-solving technique used
to generate many ideas

As you search for a topic, think about your own
experiences. Photo: mangostock/Fotolia.

Developing Your Speech 99

The first topic may remind you of a second possibility. Such
“piggybacking” of ideas is perfectly okay. In fact, a concept mapping
strategy sometimes called clustering can help you visualize connec-
tions between ideas and generate additional topics. The cluster of
topics shown in Figure 6.2 resulted from a brainstorming session of
about three minutes.

Continue without any restraints until your time is up. At this
stage, anything goes. Your goal is quantity—as long a list as you can
think up in the time allotted.

If your brainstorming yields several good topics, so much the
better. Set aside a page or two in your class notebook where you can
list the topic ideas you don’t end up choosing. You can reconsider
them when you receive your next assignment.

listening And reAding for topiC ideAs Often something you see,
hear, or read triggers an idea for a speech. A story on the evening news
or your favorite online news site may suggest a topic. The following
list of topics came to mind after reading recent stories in a large daily news source:


Money laundering in the luxury real estate market

Issues for same-sex married couples

The rising cost of flood insurance

The refugee crisis in Europe

Optimal advance warning time for tornadoes

A concept mapping strategy that illustrates
connections between ideas






movies of the










Key West,





the Titanic
(the ship)

Figure 6.2 Cluster of Topics from a Brainstorming Session

How To BRaiNSToRm
FoR a Topic
• Start with a blank sheet of paper or computer

• Set a time limit for brainstorming.
• Begin writing as many possible speech topics

as you can.
• Do not stop to evaluate your topics; just write

them down.
• A cluster may help you piggyback off your

own ideas.
• Keep writing until your time is up.

100 Chapter 6

In addition to discovering topics in news stories, you might find them in an inter-
esting YouTube video, Twitter feed, or network television daytime talk show. Chances
are that a topic covered in one medium has been covered in another as well, allowing
for extended research. For example, Dr. Oz’s report on the germiest places in your
home may be paralleled by Time’s article on the dangers posed by the overuse of anti-
bacterial cleaning products.

You may also find speech topics in one of your other classes. A lecture in an eco-
nomics or political science class may arouse your interest and provide a good topic for
your next speech. The instructor of that class could probably suggest additional refer-
ences on the subject.

Sometimes even a subject you discuss casually with friends can be developed into
a good speech topic. You have probably talked with classmates about such campus
issues as dormitory regulations, inadequate parking, or your frustration with registra-
tion and advising. Campus-wide concerns would be relevant to the student audience
in your speech class, as would such matters as how to find a good summer job and the
pros and cons of living on or off campus.

Just as you jotted down possible topics generated by brainstorming sessions,
remember to write down topic ideas you get from what’s trending among your
Facebook friends or on your Twitter feed, other media, class lectures, or informal con-
versations. If you rely on memory alone, what seems like a great topic today may be
only a frustrating blank tomorrow.

sCAnning WeB direCtories By now you probably have a list of topics from which to
choose. But if all your efforts have failed to produce an idea that satisfies you, try the

following strategy.
Access a Web directory, such as DMOZ (, and select

a category at random. Click on it, and look through the subcate-
gories that come up. Click on one of them. Continue to follow the
chain of categories until you see a topic that piques your interest—
or until you reach a dead end, in which case you can return to
the directory homepage and try again. A recent random directory
search is illustrated in Figure 6.3.

An advantage of this strategy is that in addition to a topic,
you will also have one or more potential sources for your speech.

Narrowing the Topic
For some students, the toughest part of the assignment is over once they have found a
topic. But others soon experience additional frustration because their topic is so broad
that they find themselves overwhelmed with information. How can you cover all
aspects of a topic as large as “television” in three to five minutes? Even if you trained
yourself to speak as rapidly as an auctioneer, it would take days to get it all in!

SelecTiNg a Topic
Strategies Guidelines

Brainstorm. Consider the audience.

Listen and read. Consider the occasion.

Scan Web directories. Consider yourself.

The more confident you feel about the topic you have selected, the more confident you will be when

speaking to your listeners. Your own interest in and passion about a topic can replace some of the

anxiety you may feel about public speaking. Instead of focusing on your fear, you will more naturally

express your interest to your audience, who in turn will find your topic more interesting because you

do. Selecting an interesting topic will help you speak with confidence.

coNFiDeNTlY coNNecTiNg wiTH YouR auDieNce
Selecting an Interesting Topic

Developing Your Speech 101

The solution is to narrow your topic so it fits within the time limits set by your
assignment. The challenge lies in how to do this. If you have a broad, unmanageable
topic, you might first try narrowing it by constructing categories similar to those cre-
ated by Web directories. Write your general topic at the top of a list, and then make
each succeeding word in the list a more specific or concrete topic. For example, Megan
uses categories to help narrow her general topic, music. She writes “Music” at the top
of a sheet of paper and constructs the categorical hierarchy illustrated in Figure 6.4.

Megan soon discovers that her topic is still too broad. She simply cannot cover all
the forms of Irish folk music popular in the United States in a talk of no more than five
minutes. So she chooses one form of music—dance—and decides to talk about the kind
of Irish hard-shoe dance music featured in Riverdance.

Be careful not to narrow your topic so much that you cannot find enough information
for even a three-minute talk. But if you do, just go back a step. In our example, Megan
could return to the broader topic of the popularity of Irish folk music in the United States.





How to
fund study


Figure 6.3 Increasingly Specific Categories from a Web Directory Search


Folk music

Irish folk music

The popularity of Irish folk music in
the United States

Figure 6.4 Narrowing a Broad Topic

102 Chapter 6

Developing Your Speech Step BY Step

Select anD narrow Your topic

After Matthew reads Chapter 2, listens to his instructor’s discussion of public-speaking anxiety, and

hears his classmates talk about how nervous they feel about their upcoming informative speech

assignment, it dawns on him that public-speaking anxiety might make a good speech topic. His

classmates would find the topic relevant and important, and he could contribute to their understanding

of, and strategies for managing, public speaking anxiety. The topic also seems appropriate for his

three- to five-minute time limit.



Determine Your purpose
6.2 Write an audience-centered specific-purpose statement for a speech.

Now that you have selected and narrowed your topic, you need to decide on a pur-
pose (the next step in Figure 6.1). If you do not know what you want your speech
to achieve, chances are your audience won’t either. Ask yourself “What is really
important for the audience to hear?” and “How do I want the audience to respond?”
Clarifying your objectives at this stage will ensure a more interesting speech and a
more successful outcome.

General Purpose
The general purpose of any speech is to inform, persuade, or entertain. The speeches
you give in class will generally be either informative or persuasive. It is important that
you fully understand what constitutes each type of speech so you do not confuse them
and fail to fulfill an assignment. Although Chapters 13 through 16 discuss the three
general purposes at length, we summarize them here so that you can understand the
basic principles of each.

speAking to inform An informative speaker is a teacher. Informative speak-
ers give listeners information. They define, describe, or explain a thing, person,
place, concept, process, or function. In this excerpt from an informative speech
on anorexia nervosa, the student describes the disorder and its magnitude for her

Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder that affects 1 out of every 200 American
women. It is a self-induced starvation that can waste its victims to the point that
they resemble victims of Nazi concentration camps.

Who gets anorexia nervosa? Ninety-five percent of its victims are females
between the ages of twelve and eighteen. Men are only rarely afflicted with the

Most lectures you hear in college are informative, as is a university president’s
annual “state of the university” speech or a museum tour guide’s talk. Such speak-
ers are all trying to increase the knowledge of their listeners. Although they may use
an occasional bit of humor in their presentations, their main objective is not to enter-
tain. And although they may provoke an audience’s interest in the topic, their main
objective is not to persuade. Chapter 13 provides specific suggestions for preparing an
informative speech.

speAking to persuAde Persuasive speakers may offer information, but they use this
information to try to change or reinforce an audience’s convictions and often to urge

general purpose
The broad reason for a speech: to inform,
to persuade, or to entertain an audience

Developing Your Speech 103

some sort of action. For example, Nick told a compelling personal story to help per-
suade his audience to support regulation of the supplement industry:

I myself fell victim to the claims the supplement industry was making. In an at-
tempt to “get fit quick,” I became heavily reliant on diet pills and other supple-
ments. It took losing all of my savings, coughing up blood, and losing half of my
hair … to get my attention.5

The representative from Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) who spoke at
your high-school assembly urged you not to drink and drive and to help others realize
the inherent dangers of the practice. Appearing on television during the last election,
the candidates for president of the United States asked for your vote. All these speak-
ers gave you information, but they used that information to try to get you to believe or
do something. Chapters 14 and 15 focus on persuasive speaking.

speAking to entertAin The entertaining speaker tries to get the members of
an audience to relax, smile, perhaps laugh, and generally enjoy themselves.
Storyteller Garrison Keillor spins tales of the town
and residents of Lake Wobegon, Minnesota, to amuse
his listeners. Comedian Louis C.K. delivers comic
patter to make his audience laugh. As we describe
in Chapter 16, most after-dinner speakers talk to
entertain banquet guests. Like persuasive speakers,
entertaining speakers may inform their listeners, but
providing knowledge is not their main goal. Rather,
their objective is to produce at least a smile and at best
a belly laugh.

Early on, you need to decide which of the three gen-
eral purposes your speech will have. The way you organ-
ize, support, and deliver your speech depends, in part,
on your general purpose.

Specific Purpose
Now that you have a topic and you know generally whether your speech should
inform, persuade, or entertain, it is time you decided on its specific purpose. A specific
purpose is a concise audience-centered statement of what your listeners should be able
to do by the time you finish your speech. Table 6.2 provides sample specific purpose
statements for an informative speech, a persuasive speech, and a speech to entertain.

formulAting the speCifiC purpose Note that all of the specific-purpose statements
in Table 6.2 begin with the same nine words: “At the end of my speech, the audience
will… .” The next word should be a verb that names an observable, measurable action
that the audience should perform or be able to perform by the end of the speech. Use
verbs such as list, explain, describe, or write. Do not use words such as know, understand,
or believe. You can discover what your listeners know, understand, or believe only by
having them show their increased capability in some measurable way.

specific purpose
A statement of what listeners should be
able to do by the end of the speech

geNeRal puRpoSeS FoR SpeecHeS
To inform To share information with listeners by

defining, describing, or explaining a
thing, person, place, concept, pro-
cess, or function

To persuade To change or reinforce a listener’s
attitude, belief, value, or behavior

To entertain To help listeners have a good time by
getting them to relax, smile, and laugh

Table 6.2 Specific Purpose Statements

General Purpose Specific Purpose

To inform At the end of my speech, the audience will be able to use the principles of feng
shui to select wall colors.

To persuade At the end of my speech, the audience will join the campaign for stable Internet
access for all Americans.6

To entertain At the end of my speech, the audience will laugh and applaud.

104 Chapter 6

Note too that a specific purpose statement should not express what the speaker will
do. To say, “In my speech, I will talk about the benefits of studying classical dance”
emphasizes your performance as a speaker. Instead, say “At the end of my speech, the
audience will be able to list three ways in which studying classical dance can benefit
them.” This statement places the audience members and their behavior at the center of
your concern. This latter statement provides a tangible goal that can guide your prepa-
ration and by which you can measure the success of your speech.

The guidelines and examples in Figure 6.5 will help you pre-
pare your specific purpose statement.

using the speCifiC purpose Everything you do while preparing
and delivering the speech should contribute to your specific pur-
pose. For example, the specific purpose can help you assess the
supporting material you gather for your speech. You may find that
an interesting statistic, although related to your topic, does not help
achieve your specific purpose. In that case, you should not use it.
Instead, find material that directly advances your purpose.

As soon as you have decided on it, write the specific purpose
on a 3-by-5-inch note card. That way you can refer to it as often as
necessary while developing your speech.



The specific purpose of a speaker
whose general purpose is to entertain
is often simply to help the audience
laugh and smile about the topic of the
speech. The late entertainer Missis-
sippi Slim (Walter Horn) also hoped
these students would be able to recall
and use information about the blues
musical tradition. Photo: Delta Demo-
crat Times/Bill Johnson/AP Images.

Use words that refer
to observable or

measurable behavior.

At the end of my speech,
the audience will be able
to write a simple computer
program in Just BASIC and
play the video game Fallout 4.

Two Ideas: Inappropriate for a college
At the end of my speech,
the audience will be able to
write a successful college
admission essay.

� Appropriate for a college
At the end of my speech,
the audience will be able to
write a coherent, organized
essay exam.

� One Idea:
At the end of my speech,
the audience will be able
to write a simple
computer program in

Limit the specific
purpose to a single


Reflect the interests,
expectations, and
knowledge level of

your audience.

Not Observable:
At the end of my speech,
the audience will know
some things about
Hannibal, Missouri.

� Observable:
At the end of my speech,
the audience will be able
to list five points of
interest in the town of
Hannibal, Missouri.

Figure 6.5 Guidelines for a Specific Purpose

SpeciFic puRpoSeS FoR
Your specific purpose should …

Use words that refer to observable or measur-
able behavior.

Be limited to a single idea.
Reflect the needs, interests, expectations, and

level of knowledge of your audience.

Developing Your Speech 105

Develop Your central idea
6.3 State a single audience-centered central idea with direct,

specific language in a complete declarative sentence.

Having stated the specific purpose of your speech, you are ready to develop your
central idea, the first step highlighted in Figure 6.6. The central idea (sometimes
called the thesis) states in one sentence what the speech is about. You can use
your purpose statement to help you as you write your central idea. However, as
Table 6.3 summarizes, a central idea differs from a purpose statement in both focus
and application. A purpose statement focuses on audience behavior; the central

central idea
A one-sentence statement of what a
speech is about

Developing Your Speech Step BY Step

Determine Your purpoSe

Because Matthew’s assignment is an informative speech, he knows that his general purpose is to inform.

He will define public-speaking anxiety, explain its causes, and explore strategies for managing it.

Matthew also knows that his specific purpose must begin with the phrase, “At the end of my speech,

the audience will . . . .” So he jots down,

At the end of my speech, the audience will understand public-speaking anxiety and how to

manage it.

As Matthew thinks further about his draft specific purpose, he sees problems with it. How can he determine

whether or not his audience “will understand” something? He edits his purpose statement to read,

At the end of my speech, the audience will take steps to manage public-speaking anxiety.

This version is more observable, but “take steps to manage” seems more appropriate for a persuasive

speech than an informative one. He wants his audience to demonstrate their understanding of public-

speaking anxiety and how to manage it. Maybe a better informative purpose statement would be:

At the end of my speech, the audience will be able to explain the physiology of public-speaking

anxiety and strategies for managing it.

Matthew is pleased with this third version. It reflects an informative general purpose and specifies an

observable behavioral objective. He is ready to move on to the next step of the process.



Table 6.3 Purpose Statement Versus Central Idea

SOURCE: Copyrighted by Pearson Education, Hoboken, NJ.

The Purpose Statement The Central Idea

Indicates what the audience should know or be able
to do by the end of the speech

Summarizes the speech in one sentence

Guides the speaker’s choices throughout the prepa-
ration of the speech, but is not stated in the speech

Guides the speaker’s choices throughout the
preparation of the speech, and is stated in the

The Central Idea Should . . .

Be a complete declarative sentence

Use direct, specific language

Be a single idea

Be an audience-centered idea

106 Chapter 6

idea focuses on the content of the speech. A purpose statement guides your deci-
sions and choices as you prepare your speech; the central idea becomes part of
your final speech.

Professional speech coach Judith Humphrey explains the importance of a central

Ask yourself before writing a speech . . . “What’s my point?” Be able to state that
message in a single clear sentence. Everything else you say will support that single

The following guidelines can help you put your central idea into words.

A Complete Declarative Sentence
The central idea should be a complete declarative sentence—not a phrase or clause,
and not a question, but a grammatically complete sentence. Figure 6.7 illustrates this

In Figure 6.7, the phrase “car maintenance” is a topic, not a central idea. It does
not tell you anything about car maintenance. The question “Is regular car maintenance
important?” is more complete but does not reveal whether the speaker is going to sup-
port an affirmative or negative answer. By the time you have finalized the wording
of your central idea, you should be ready to summarize your stand on your topic in a
complete declarative sentence.

declarative sentence
A grammatically complete sentence, rather
than a clause, phrase, or question









and Narrow





Figure 6.6 State your central idea as a one-sentence summary of your speech,
and then generate main ideas by looking for natural divisions, reasons, or steps to
support your central idea.

SOURCE: Copyrighted by Pearson Education, Hoboken, NJ.

Developing Your Speech 107

Direct, Specific Language
The central idea should be stated in direct, specific language rather than qualifiers
and vague generalities. Figure 6.8 illustrates how the language of a central idea can be
revised from qualified to direct, and from vague to specific.


(A phrase)

Is regular car

(A question)

�Maintaining your car
regularly can ensure that
it provides reliable

(A complete declarative sentence)

Figure 6.7 The central idea should be a complete declarative sentence.

� Censorship of school textbooks
threatens the rights of

(Direct language)

In my opinion, censorship of
school textbooks threatens the
rights of schoolchildren.

(Qualified language)

Meteorologists blamed the
unusual winter weather on
an ocean phenomenon.

( Vague language)

� In December 2015,
meterologists blamed the
Mississippi River flooding and
Texas tornadoes on a strong
EI Niño.

(Specific language)

Figure 6.8 The central idea should be worded in direct and specific language.

A Single Idea
The central idea should be a single idea. Figure 6.9 illustrates this guideline.

Having more than one central idea, like more than one idea in a purpose state-
ment, only leads to confusion and a lack of coherence in a speech.

108 Chapter 6

An Audience-Centered Idea
The central idea should reflect consideration of the audience. You considered your
audience when selecting and narrowing your topic and when composing your pur-
pose statement. In the same way, you should take into account your audience’s needs,
interests, expectations, and knowledge when stating your central idea. If you do not
consider your listeners, you run the risk of losing their attention before you even
begin developing the speech. For example, only one of the central ideas in Figure 6.10
would be appropriate for an audience consisting mainly of college juniors and seniors.



Scholarships from a
variety of sources are
readily available to first-
year college students.

( Inappropriate for audience)

� Although you may think of
scholarships as a source of money
for freshmen, a number of
scholarships are only available to
students who have completed
their first year of college.

(Appropriate for audience)

Figure 6.10 The central idea should be appropriate for the audience.

generate and preview
Your main ideas
6.4 Apply three ways of generating main ideas from a central idea.

Next to selecting a topic, probably the most common stumbling block in developing
speeches is coming up with a speech plan. Trying to decide how to subdivide your
central idea into two, three, or four main ideas—detailed points of focus that help
you develop your central idea—can make you chew your pencil, scratch your head,
and end up as you began, with a blank sheet of paper. The task will be much easier if
you use the following strategy.

main ideas
Detailed points of focus for developing
your central idea

Deforestation by lumber
interests and toxic-waste
dumping are major
environmental problems in the
United States today.

( Two ideas)

� Toxic-waste dumping is a major
environmental problem in the
United States today.

(One idea)

Figure 6.9 The central idea should be a single idea.

Developing Your Speech 109

Generating Your Main Ideas
Write the central idea at the top of a clean sheet of paper or computer screen. Then ask
these three questions:

●● Does the central idea have logical divisions? (They may be indicated by such
phrases as “three types” or “four means.”)

●● Can you think of several reasons the central idea is true?

●● Can you support your central idea with a series of steps or a chronological progression?

You should be able to answer yes to one or more of these questions. With your
answer in mind, write down the divisions, reasons, or steps you thought of. Let’s see
this technique at work with some sample central idea statements.

finding logiCAl divisions Suppose your central idea is “A liberal arts education benefits
the student in two ways.” You now consider the first of the three questions listed previously.
Does the central idea have logical divisions? The phrase “two ways” indicates that it does.
So you can logically divide your speech into the two ways
the student benefits:

1. Appreciation of culture

2. Concern for humankind

A brief brainstorming session at this point could help
you come up with more specific examples of ways a lib-
eral arts education might benefit students.

At this stage, you needn’t worry about Roman numer-
als, parallel form, or even the order in which the main ideas
are listed. We will discuss these and the other features of
outlining in Chapter 8. Your goal now is simply to generate
ideas. Moreover, just because you write them down, don’t
think that the ideas you come up with now are engraved
in stone. They can—and probably will—change. After all,
this is a preliminary plan. It may undergo many revisions
before you actually deliver your speech.

estABlishing reAsons Suppose your central idea is
“Upholstered-furniture fires are a life-threatening hazard.”8
Asking yourself whether this idea has logical divisions is no
help at all. There are no key phrases indicating logical divi-
sions—no “ways,” “means,” “types,” or “methods” appear
in the wording. The second question, however, is more pro-
ductive: Having done some initial reading on the topic, you
can think of reasons this central idea is true. Asking yourself
“Why?” after the statement yields three answers:

Developing Your Speech Step BY Step

Develop Your central iDea

From reading this chapter, Matthew knows his central idea should be a complete declarative statement

reflecting a single audience-centered idea. He knows, too, that sometimes you can extract your central

idea from your specific-purpose statement. He writes,

Both cognitive and physical public-speaking anxiety can be managed with specific strategies.



A student can use logical divisions to divide the contents of her closet
into three main categories: bedding, clothing, and towels. You might
also be able to use logical divisions to divide your central idea into main
ideas. Photo: Kekyalyaynen/Shutterstock.

110 Chapter 6

1. Standards to reduce fires caused by smoldering cigarettes have lulled furniture
makers into a false sense of security.

2. Government officials refuse to force the furniture industry to reexamine its standards.

3. Consumers are largely ignorant of the risks.

Notice that these main ideas are expressed in complete sentences, whereas the
ones in the preceding example were in phrases. At this stage, it doesn’t matter. What
does matter is getting your ideas down on paper; you can rewrite and reorganize
them later.

trACing speCifiC steps “NASA’s space shuttle program resulted in both great
achievement and tragic failure.” You stare glumly at the central idea you so care-
fully formulated yesterday. Now what? You know a lot about the subject; your
aerospace science professor has covered it thoroughly this semester. But how can
you organize all the information you have? Again, you turn to the three-question

Does the main idea have logical divisions? You scan the sentence hopefully, but
you can find no key phrases suggesting logical divisions.

Can you think of several reasons why the central idea is true? You read the cen-
tral idea again and ask “Why?” Answering that question may indeed produce a plan
for a speech, one in which you would talk about the reasons for the achievements
and failures. But your purpose statement reads, “At the end of my speech, the audi-
ence will be able to trace the history of the space shuttle.” Giving reasons for the
space shuttle program’s achievements and failures would not directly contribute to
your purpose. So you turn to the third question.

Can you support your central idea with a series of steps? By answering this third
question, you can generate main ideas for a speech about almost any historical topic

Developing Your Speech Step BY Step

generate Your main iDeaS

With his central idea in hand, Matthew knows that he needs to generate his main ideas next. He asks

himself three questions:

• Does my central idea have logical divisions?

• Can I establish several reasons my central idea is true?

• Can I support my central idea by tracing specific steps?

Matthew can’t think of reasons his central idea is true. He could possibly support it by tracing specific

steps his listeners can take to manage public-speaking anxiety. But he also wants his audience members

to be able to explain both the cognitive and physical components of public-speaking anxiety. Maybe his

central idea has natural divisions:

1. Cognitive anxiety

2. Physical anxiety

Matthew now has two possible main ideas—a good start. But he looks back at his specific-purpose

statement and remembers that he also wants his listeners to be able to manage public-speaking anxiety.

So he adds a third main idea:

3. Strategies for managing public speaking-anxiety

Now Matthew has three main ideas that both support his central idea and fulfill his specific purpose.



Developing Your Speech 111

or any topic requiring a chronological progression (for example, topics
for how-to speeches). You therefore decide that your main ideas will be a
chronology of important space shuttle flights:9

1. April 1981: Test flight of the space shuttle.

2. January 1986: Shuttle Challenger explodes on launch.

3. April 1990: Hubble space telescope deployed.

4. May–June 1999: Shuttle Discovery docks with the International
Space Station.

5. February 2003: Shuttle Columbia disintegrates on re-entry.

6. July 2011: Shuttle Atlantis makes the program’s final flight.

You know that you can add to, eliminate, or reorganize these ideas later. But now
you have a place to start.

Notice that for this last example, you consulted your purpose statement as you
generated your main ideas. If these main ideas do not help achieve your purpose, you
need to rethink your speech. You may change either your purpose or your main ideas;
but whichever you do, you need to synchronize them. Remember, it is much easier to
make changes at this point than after you have done your research and produced a
detailed outline.

Previewing Your Main Ideas
Once you have generated your main ideas, you can produce a blueprint for your
speech by adding a preview of those main ideas to your central idea. Preview the
ideas in the same order you plan to discuss them in the speech. (In Chapter 8, we dis-
cuss how to organize your speech.)

Some speakers, like Nicole, integrate their central idea and preview into one blue-
print sentence:

Obsolete computers are straining landfills because they contain hazardous materi-
als and take a distinctively long time to decay.10

In this example, Nicole started with her central idea: “Obsolete computers are
straining landfills.” Asking herself “Why?” yielded two reasons, which became her
two main points: “They contain hazardous materials” and “They take a distinc-
tively long time to decay.” Combining these reasons with her central idea produced
a blueprint.

Other speakers, like Patrick in his speech on problems associated with mining oil
by hydraulic fracturing, state their blueprint in several sentences:

In order to understand the fundamental threat fracturing poses, we must first un-
derstand the dangers at each step of the process. Second, we need to expose the
corrupt legal maneuvering which protects it. And, finally, we must champion the
simple solution that will save American lives.11

Patrick also started with a central idea: Fracturing poses a fundamental threat.
Like Nicole, he generated reasons for his central idea, which in this case were
“dangers at each step of the process” and “corrupt legal maneuvering which pro-
tects it.” At this early point in the speech, he decided simply to mention that there
is a “simple solution that will save American lives.” Thinking that a single sen-
tence might become unwieldy, Patrick decided to use three shorter sentences for
his blueprint.

The central idea of a speech plus
a preview of the main ideas

geNeRaTiNg maiN iDeaS
Ask whether your central idea …

Has logical divisions
Is true for a number of reasons
Can be supported with steps

112 Chapter 6

meanwhile, Back at the computer . . .

It’s been a while since we abandoned Ed Garcia, the procrastinating student in the opening paragraphs of this chapter

who was struggling to write a speech on college football. If he gets down to work and follows the steps we have

discussed, he should still be able to plan a successful informative speech.

Ed has already chosen his topic. His audience is likely to be interested in his subject. Because Ed is a varsity

defensive tackle, the audience will probably expect him to talk about college football. And he himself is passionately

interested in and knowledgeable about the subject. It meets all the requirements of a successful topic.

But “college football” is too broad a subject for a three- to five-minute talk. Ed needs to narrow his topic to

a manageable size. He goes online to the DMOZ Web directory and clicks on the category Sports, then in rapid

succession, clicks on Football, American Colleges and Universities, News and Media, and CBS There, a

recent story on traumatic brain injury catches his eye. Hmmmm . . . . Ed himself once suffered a concussion and has a

personal interest in this aspect of football. Ed doesn’t need to go further. He has his topic: “traumatic brain injuries in

college football.”

Now that he has narrowed the topic, Ed needs a purpose statement. He decides that his audience may know

something about concussions, but they probably do not know about the potential long-term consequences of such

injuries. He types, “The audience will be able to list and explain three possible long-term consequences of traumatic

brain injuries suffered by college football players.”

A few minutes later, Ed derives his central idea from his purpose: “Former college football players may experience at

least three long-term consequences of traumatic brain injuries suffered during their days as players.”

Generating main ideas is also fairly easy now. Because his central idea mentions three consequences, he can plan

his speech around those three ideas (logical divisions). Under the central idea, Ed lists

1. Loss of cognitive function

2. Impaired sensation

3. Emotional changes

Now Ed has a plan and is well on his way to developing a successful three- to five-minute informative speech.

Developing Your Speech 113

Key Terms
general purpose
specific purpose

ApplY: In Chapter 3, we define ethical speech as speech
that offers the listener choices. Do specific-purpose state-
ments preclude listeners’ right to choose?


1. Consider the following specific-purpose statements.
Analyze each according to the criteria presented in this
chapter. Rewrite the statements to correct any problems.

●● At the end of my speech, the audience will know
more about the Mexican Free-Tailed Bat.

●● I will explain some differences in nonverbal com-
munication between Asian and Western cultures.

●● At the end of my speech, the audience will be able
to list some reasons for xeriscaping one’s yard.

●● To describe the reasons I enjoy spelunking as a

2. As you develop your specific purpose for your next
speech, explain how you will be able to observe or
measure your audience’s response.

Develop Your central idea
6.3 State a single audience-centered central idea with

direct, specific language in a complete declarative

revieW: Specific-purpose statements indicate what speak-
ers hope to accomplish; they tell what the speaker wants
the audience to be able to do. Your central idea, in contrast,
summarizes what you, the speaker, will say. The central idea
should be a single idea, stated in a complete declarative sen-
tence. Be direct and specific without using qualifiers.

Key Terms
central idea
declarative sentence

ApplY: Below are the topic, general purpose, and specific
purpose Marylin has chosen for her persuasive speech.

●● Topic: America’s crumbling roads and bridges

●● General Purpose: To persuade

●● Specific Purpose: At the end of my speech, the audi-
ence will be able to list and explain three reasons
America should invest in its roads and bridges.

Write an appropriate central idea for Marylin’s speech.

Select and Narrow Your Topic
6.1 Select and narrow a speech topic that is appropriate

to the audience, the occasion, the time limits, and

revieW: As a speaker, you may be asked to address a
specific topic or given only broad guidelines, such as a
time limit and an idea of the occasion. Being aware of
several boundaries can help you select an appropriate
speech topic. Keep in mind the interests, expectations,
and knowledge levels of the audience. Choose an impor-
tant topic. Consider the special demands of the occasion.
Be sure to take into account your own interests, abilities,
and experiences. If you are still undecided, brainstorming
strategies, such as consulting the media or scanning Web
directories for potential topics, may give you topic ideas.
After choosing a broad topic area, narrow the topic so it
fits within the time limits that have been set.

Key Terms


1. Some speakers prepare a stock speech and deliver it to
a variety of audiences and on a variety of occasions. Is
this practice ethical? Explain your answer.

2. A candidate for the state legislature visits your public-
speaking class and talks for thirty minutes on the topic
“Why the state should increase public transportation
funding.” Analyze the candidate’s choice of topic ac-
cording to the guidelines presented in this chapter.

Assess: Review Table 6.1. For each of the audiences
listed in the left-hand column, generate at least one addi-
tional audience-centered topic.

Determine Your purpose
6.2 Write an audience-centered specific-purpose

statement for a speech.

revieW: After choosing a topic, first decide on your gen-
eral purpose and then your specific purpose. Your general
purpose for speaking will be to inform, to persuade, or
to entertain your listeners. Your specific purpose should
state what your audience will do at the end of the speech.
Specifying target behaviors in your specific-purpose state-
ment provides a yardstick for you to measure the relevance
of your ideas and supporting materials.

study Guide: Review, Apply, And Assess

114 Chapter 6

ApplY: You have already written a central idea for
Marylin’s persuasive speech on America’s crumbling
roads and bridges. Now use your central idea to gener-
ate main ideas for this speech. Be prepared to explain how
you derived the main ideas from the central idea.

Assess: Check the main ideas you drafted for the previ-
ous “apply” question against Marylin’s specific-purpose
statement. If any main idea does not contribute to what
she wants the audience to do at the end of her speech,
make appropriate revisions to either the specific purpose
or the main idea(s).

generate and preview Your main ideas
6.4 Apply three ways of generating main ideas

from a central idea.

revieW: After formulating your central idea, use it to
generate main ideas. Determine whether the central idea
(1) has logical divisions, (2) can be supported by several
reasons, or (3) can be traced through a series of steps.
These divisions, reasons, or steps become the blueprint, or
plan, of your speech. You will preview them in your intro-
duction and summarize them in your conclusion.

Key Terms
main ideas

A pple pie is your specialty. Your family and friends relish your flaky crust,
spicy filling, and crunchy crumb topping. Fortunately, not only do you have
a never-fail recipe and technique, but you also know where to go for the best

ingredients. Fette’s Orchard has the tangiest pie apples in town. For your crust, you
use only Premier shortening, which you buy at Meyer’s Specialty Market. Your crumb
topping requires both stone-ground whole-wheat flour and fresh creamery butter,
available on Tuesdays at the farmer’s market on the courthouse square.

Just as making your apple pie requires that you know where to find specific ingre-
dients, creating a successful speech requires knowledge of sources, research strategies,
and types of supporting material that speechmakers typically use. This chapter covers
the speech-development step highlighted in Figure 7.1: Gather Supporting Material.

7.1 List five potential sources of supporting material
for a speech.

7.2 Explain five strategies for a methodical research

7.3 List and describe six types of supporting material.

7.4 List six criteria for determining the best supporting
material to use in a speech.


After studying this chapter, you should be able to do the following:

Gathering and
Using Supporting

George Adamson, (1913–2005). Modern
Young Writer Gets Inspiration from
Multimedia Muses. Gouache on card,
Private Collection/Bridgeman Images.

Learn, compare, collect the facts!

… always have the courage to

say to yourself—I am ignorant.

—Ivan Petrovich Pavlov

116 Chapter 7

Sources of Supporting Material
7.1 List five potential sources of supporting material for a speech.

Supporting material for your speech can come from a variety of sources, including
personal knowledge and experience, the Internet, online databases, traditional library
holdings, and interviews.

Personal Knowledge and Experience
Because you will probably give speeches on topics you are particularly interested in,
you may find that you are your own best source. You may be able to provide an effec-
tive illustration, explanation, definition, or other type of supporting material from
your own knowledge and experience. As an audience-centered speaker, you should
realize, too, that personal knowledge often has the additional advantage of heighten-
ing your credibility in the minds of your listeners. They will accord you more respect
as an authority when they realize that you have firsthand knowledge of a topic.

The Internet
When facing a research task, most people turn first to the Internet. Understanding
how to locate and evaluate Internet resources can help make your search for support-
ing material more productive.

Locating internet resources If you feel overwhelmed by the number of hits gener-
ated from your Google search, you can use various strategies to narrow your results.
For example, try enclosing your search phrase in quotation marks or parenthesis so
that your search yields only those sites on which the exact phrase appears. Another











and Narrow





Figure 7.1 Finding, identifying, and effectively using supporting material
are activities essential to the speech-preparation process.

Source: Copyrighted by Pearson Education, Hoboken, NJ.

Gathering and Using Supporting Material 117

option is to use a more specialized vertical search engine. For example, Google
Scholar indexes academic sources, and Indeed indexes job sites.

expLoring internet resources As you begin to explore the search results you’ve
generated, you will discover a wide variety of sites—from Web pages that try to sell
you something, to the official sites of government agencies and news organizations.
One clue to the type of site you have found is the domain, indicated by the last three
letters of the site’s URL (for example, .com or .org).

Although sites can be classified in a number of different ways, most fall into one of
the nine types listed in Figure 7.2.1

evaLuating internet resources Although the Web was founded on the
principle of free speech, the lack of legal, financial, or editorial restriction
on what is published online presents both a logistical and an ethical chal-
lenge to researchers.

As you begin to explore the sites you discover, you will need to eval-
uate them according to a consistent standard. The six criteria in Table 7.1
can serve as such a standard.2 The first four criteria can act as guidelines
for evaluating any resource, regardless of whether it is a Web site, a print
document, or even information you obtain in an interview.

No discussion of evaluating Internet resources would be complete
without mentioning Wikipedia, the resource that often appears as the first
hit from a Web search. As Wikipedia’s own site project page notes, the

vertical search engine
A Web site that indexes World Wide Web
information in a specific field

Category in which a Web site is located
on the Internet, indicated by the last three
letters of the site’s URL



.uk (Britain)
.ca (Canada).com




.gov .mil



(a variety of



Figure 7.2 Nine Types of Web Sites

FindinG SUppoRtinG
MateRial on the Web
1. Use a directory or search engine

to find relevant Internet sites.
2. Evaluate sites according to these

six criteria: accountability, accuracy,
objectivity, timeliness, usability, and

“may contain

errors, or vandalism”

“continually created

and updated”

Figure 7.3 Limitations and Advantages of Wikipedia

Source: “About Wikipedia,” Site project page,

118 Chapter 7

criterion Applying the criterion Drawing conclusions

Accountability: Who is responsible for
the site?

•  The individual or organization responsible for the site
may be clear from the title of the site and/or its URL.

•  See whether the site is signed.

•  Follow links or search the author’s name to determine
his or her expertise and authority.

•  If the site is unsigned, search for a sponsoring organi-
zation. Follow links, search the organization’s name,
or consider the domain to determine reputability.

•  If you cannot identify or verify an author or
sponsor, be wary of the site.

Accuracy: Is the information correct? •  Consider whether the author or sponsor is a credible

•  Assess the care with which the site has been written.

•  Conduct additional research into the information on
the site.

•  If the author or sponsor is a credible authority,
the information is more likely to be accurate.

•  A site should be relatively free of writing errors.

•  You may be able to verify or refute the informa-
tion by consulting another resource.

objectivity: Is the site free of bias? •  Consider the interests, philosophical or political
biases, and the source of financial support for the
author or sponsor of the site.

•  Does the site include advertisements that might
influence its content?

•  The more objective the author and sponsor of
the site are, the more credible their information
may be.

Timeliness: Is the site current? •  Look at the bottom of the site for a statement indicat-
ing when the site was created and when it was last

•  If you cannot find a date on the site, click on Page
Info (for example, from the Tools menu at the top
of the browser screen in Firefox) to find a “Last
Modified” date.

•  Enter the title of the site in a search engine. The
resulting information should include a date.

•  In general, when you are concerned with factual
data, the more recent it is, the better.

usability: Do the layout and design of the
site facilitate its use?

•  Does the site load fairly quickly?

•  Is a fee required to gain access to any of the informa-
tion on the site?

•  Balance graphics and any fees against practical

Diversity: Is the site inclusive? •  Do language and graphics reflect and respect
differences in gender, ethnicity, race, and sexual

•  Do interactive forums invite divergent perspectives?

•  Is the site friendly to people with disabilities (e.g.,
does it offer a large-print or video option)?

•  A site should be free of bias, representative of
diverse perspectives, and accessible by people
with disabilities.

table 7.1 Six Criteria for Evaluating Internet Resources

Source: Copyrighted by Pearson Education, Hoboken, NJ.

resource has both advantages and disadvantages, which are summarized in Figure 7.3.
Wikipedia can be useful for general information about current events and new technol-
ogy that may not find its way into print resources for years. But users need to keep in
mind that because anyone, regardless of expertise, can add to or change the content of a
Wikipedia entry, the site’s reliability and appropriateness for academic use are limited.

Later in this chapter we provide additional criteria to help you make your final
selection of supporting material from both electronic and print resources.

Online Databases
Online databases provide access to bibliographic information, abstracts, and full
texts for a variety of resources, including periodicals, newspapers, government docu-
ments, and even books. Like Web sites, online databases are reached via a networked
computer. Unlike Web sites, however, most databases are restricted to the patrons of
libraries that subscribe to them.

Locating and searching databases To use a database to which your library sub-
scribes, you will probably first have to go to your library’s homepage and log in with
your username and password. You can then find the names of the available databases,
usually listed according to type or subjects, as well as alphabetically.

online databases
Subscription-based electronic resources
that may offer access to abstracts or the
full texts of entries, as well as biblio-
graphic data

Gathering and Using Supporting Material 119

Searching a database is relatively simple. Each database opens with a search box
where you can type relevant information such as keywords and date ranges. Most also
allow other types of advanced searches.

In some cases, you may be able to search more than one database at a time by using
providers that offer access to multiple databases. ProQuest, for example, provides sin-
gle source access to databases of alternative newspapers, criminal justice periodicals,
doctoral dissertations, and education journals as well as its popular ABI/INFORM
Global database of business and finance publications.

expLoring database resources Many online databases that began as computerized
indexes now provide access to full texts of the resources themselves. Your library may
subscribe to several or all of the following popular full-text databases:

●● Academic Search Complete. This database offers many full-text articles from
1887 to the present, covering a wide variety of subjects.

●● JSTOR. This is a multi-subject, full-text database of journal articles from the first
volume to the present.

●● LexisNexis Academic. Focusing on business and law, this database provides
many full-text articles from newspapers, magazines, journals, newsletters, and
wire services. Dates of coverage vary.

●● Newspaper Source. This database offers many full-text articles from more than 40
U.S. and international newspapers; television and radio news transcripts from CBS
News, CNN, CNN International, FOX News, NPR, and others; and selected full-
text articles from more than 330 regional (U.S.) newspapers.

Traditional Library Holdings
Despite the rapid development of Internet and database resources, the more tradi-
tional holdings of libraries, both paper and electronic, remain rich sources of support-
ing material.

Locating traditionaL Library hoLdings Spend some time becoming familiar with
your library’s services and layout so that you know how to access and locate books
and reference materials. Many encyclopedias, dictionaries, directories, atlases, alma-
nacs, yearbooks, books of quotations, and biographical dictionaries are now avail-
able online. But if you are not able to find a specific reference resource online, you
may be able to locate a print version through your library’s online holdings catalog.
As shown in the example in Figure 7.4, the catalog supplies each book’s call number,
which you will need to find the title.

Figure 7.4 An online catalog entry for a book. The same entry will appear on the screen
regardless of whether the work is accessed using its title, author, or subject area.

Source: Courtesy of Albert B. Alkek Library, Texas State University.

120 Chapter 7

expLoring traditionaL Library hoLdings Once you have the call number, you are
ready to venture into the library to obtain the item you want. It is a good idea to
become familiar with your library’s layout before you have to do research under the
pressure of a deadline.

●● Books. Libraries’ collections of books are called the stacks. The stacks are or-
ganized by call numbers, which consist of a combination of letters and numbers.
You can search for a book’s call number in the library’s card catalog. Many librar-
ies offer a location guide or map to help you find the floor or section of the stacks
housing the books with the call numbers you are interested in.

Do not wait until the last minute to conduct library research for your speech.
Increasing numbers of libraries are beginning to house some of their stacks off-site,
meaning that you may have to fill out a request form and allow some wait time
before a book becomes available to you.

●● Reference resources. The call numbers of print reference resources will have the
prefix ref, indicating that they are housed in the reference section of the library.
Print reference resources are usually available only for in-house research and can-
not be checked out.

Reference librarians are specialists in the field of information science. They
are often able to suggest print or electronic resources that you might otherwise
overlook. If you plan to use the reference section, visit the library during daytime
working hours. A full-time reference librarian is more likely to be on hand and
available to help you at that time than in the evenings or on weekends.

In Chapter 5, we discuss using SurveyMonkey and other survey tools to access audi-
ence demographics, attitudes, and opinions. Surveys can also be useful tools for gath-
ering supporting material.

However, if you need more in-depth information from a single person, you
may wish to conduct an interview instead. For example, if you want to discuss the
pros and cons of building a new prison in an urban area, you might interview a
correctional service official, a city administration representative, and a resident of
the area.

Before you decide that an interview is necessary, be sure that your questions can-
not be answered easily by looking at a Web site or by reading a newspaper article or a
book. If you decide that only an interview can give you the information you need, the
strategies outlined in Figure 7.5 can help you conduct a successful interview that will
yield useful supporting material for your speech.

The collection of books in a library

Gathering relevant and credible supporting material for your speech takes time. So it’s a good idea

to give yourself plenty of time to gather examples, stories, statistics, opinions, quotations, and other

supporting material. By starting your speech preparation early, you’ll get a bonus: Research suggests

that people who prepare early rather than waiting until the last minute experience less apprehension

about speaking in public.3 So preparing early will give you more time to find good supporting material

and help you manage your anxiety.

conFidently connectinG With yoUR aUdience
Prepare Early

Gathering and Using Supporting Material 121

Research Strategies
7.2 Explain five strategies for a methodical research process.

Methodical research strategies will make finding supporting material easier and more
efficient. You need to develop a preliminary bibliography, locate potential resources,
evaluate their usefulness, take notes, and identify possible visual aids.

Develop a Preliminary Bibliography
Creating a preliminary bibliography, or list of promising
resources, should be your first research goal. You will probably
discover more resources than you will actually look at or refer
to in your speech; at this stage, the bibliography simply serves
as a menu of possibilities. How many resources should you list
in a preliminary bibliography for, say, a ten-minute speech? A
reasonable number might be ten or twelve. If you have more,
you may feel overwhelmed; if you have fewer, you may find too
little information.

You will need to develop a system for keeping track of
your resources. Web browsers let you bookmark pages for
future reference and ready access. If you are searching an
online catalog or database, you can compile a record of the
references you find.

Consider using a Web-based citation manager to collect,
organize, and format citation information for the resources
you discover. RefWorks and EndNote are examples of pop-
ular citation managers that may be available through your
university library.

Locate Resources
You should have no trouble obtaining full texts of resources
from the Web and online databases. If you have used a cita-
tion manager, you can locate resources by simply clicking on

preliminary bibliography
A list of potential resources to be used in
the preparation of a speech

citation manager
Web-based software package for collect-
ing, organizing, and formatting citation

After an Interview

1. Edit your notes to
ensure clarity.

2. Send a note of thanks
to your interviewee.

1. Determine your purpose.
What do you need to find out?

Arrange a face-to-face or
mediated meeting.

2. Schedule the interview.

Explore your interviewee’s
knowledge with both closed-
ended (yes/no) and open-
ended (Why? How?) questions.

3. Plan your questions. 3. Go!
Use your prepared questions as a
guide; listen and ask follow-up
questions. Request clarification
if needed.

2. Get set…
Arrive a few minutes early and
prepare to write notes or record
the interview.

1. On your mark…
Dress appropriately; gather
note-taking or recording devices.

During an InterviewBefore an Interview

Figure 7.5 Before, During, and After an Interview: Strategies for Success

If both parties are comfortable recording the interview, doing so
can free the interviewer and the interviewee from the need to con-
centrate on careful note-taking. Photo: ArenaCreative/Fotolia.

122 Chapter 7

your entries. For other items in your preliminary bibliography, you will need to locate
the resources yourself. See the discussion earlier in this chapter on traditional library

Assess the Usefulness of Resources
It makes sense to gauge the potential usefulness of your resources before you
begin to read closely and take notes. Think critically about how the various
resources you have found are likely to help you achieve your purpose and about
how effective they are likely to be with your audience. Glance over the tables of
contents of books, and quickly flip through the texts to note any charts, graphs, or
other visual materials that might be used as visual aids. Skim a key chapter or two.
Skim articles and Web sites as well.

Take Notes
Once you have located and assessed the usefulness of your resources, you are ready to
begin careful reading and note-taking.

●● Beginning with the resources that have the greatest potential, record any exam-
ples, statistics, opinions, or other supporting material that might be useful to your
speech. Depending on the resource, you can save supporting material on your
computer, photocopy it, or print it out.

●● If you copy a phrase, sentence, or paragraph verbatim from a source, be sure to
put quotation marks around it. You may need to know later whether it is a direct
quote or a paraphrase. (This information will be obvious, of course, on printouts

or photocopies.)

●● To avoid the possibility of committing unintentional plagiarism, keep
track of your sources as you take notes.

Identify Possible Presentation Aids
In addition to discovering verbal and written source material, you may
also find charts, graphs, photographs, or other potentially valuable visual
material. In Chapter 12 we discuss various types of presentation aids and
provide guidelines for their use.



Developing Your Speech Step BY Step

gather Supporting Material

With his purpose statement, central idea, and main ideas in hand, Matthew begins to research public-

speaking anxiety.

Matthew begins by seeking sources via the Web that meet the criteria of accountability, accuracy,

timeliness, usability, and diversity. He discovers a potentially interesting Mayo Clinic Web page and

bookmarks it.

He turns next to his university library’s general research databases. Newspaper Source and Academic

Search Complete both provide some sources, as does Medline, a medical database.

With these sources in hand, Matthew begins to read and take notes. He is careful to copy material

verbatim and to put quotation marks around it.



ReSeaRch StRateGieS
• Develop a preliminary bibliography.
• Locate sources.
• Assess the usefulness of sources.
• Take notes.
• Identify possible presentation aids.

Gathering and Using Supporting Material 123

types of Supporting Material
7.3 List and describe six types of supporting material.

Once you have discovered likely sources, developed a preliminary bibliography of
those sources, read them, assessed their usefulness, taken notes, and identified pos-
sible presentation aids, you are ready to make decisions about how to use this infor-
mation to best advantage. You will need to look at your speech from your listeners’
perspective and decide where an explanation might help them understand a point,
where statistics might convince them of the significance of a problem, and where an
illustration might stir their emotions. Next we will discuss these and other types of
supporting material and present guidelines for using them effectively.

Novelist Michael Cunningham often reads to standing-room-only crowds. He explains
the appeal of live readings in this way:

It’s very much about storytelling. . . . you’re all gathered around the campfire—
“I’m going to tell you about these people, and what happened then.”4

Cunningham is right. A story or anecdote—an illustration—almost always guarantees
audience interest by appealing to their emotions. “Stories get you out of your head and
into your gut” is how one professional speech coach explains the universal appeal of

Let’s look more closely at three kinds of illustrations and examine some guidelines
for using them.

brief iLLustrations A brief illustration is often no longer than a sentence or two. In
a speech to the American Medical Association, president Steven Stack
used the following brief illustrations:

The birth of a child. The loss of a loved one. An unexpected diagnosis.
The physician’s life is defined not by one, but by hundreds of these

Sometimes a series of brief illustrations can have more impact than
either a single brief illustration or a more detailed, extended illustra-
tion. In addition, although an audience could dismiss a single illustra-
tion as an exception, two or more strongly suggest a trend or norm.

extended iLLustrations Longer and more detailed than a brief illus-
tration, an extended illustration resembles a story. It is more vividly
descriptive than a brief illustration, and it has a plot—an opening,
complications, a climax, and a resolution.

Valedictorian Haisam Hassanein used this moving extended illus-
tration during his address at Tel Aviv University’s master’s graduation

[I]n spite of all the conflicting histories and identities, people are still
able to live their daily lives in a spirit of cooperation. In my first
weeks here, I had a conversation with a nice Arab-Israeli student,
wherein she lectured me on the importance of Arab nations boycot-
ting Israel. As our conversation came to a close, a Jewish boy, about
eight years old, skipped up to us, excited to see her. It turns out she
was his teacher. She gave him a big hug, and a kiss on his cheek. . . .
No matter how deeply rooted the conflicts, the human side always

To use an extended illustration takes more time than to cite a brief
example, but longer stories can be more dramatic and emotionally

A story or anecdote that provides an
example of an idea, issue, or problem a
speaker is discussing

brief illustration
An unelaborated example, often only a
sentence or two long

extended illustration
A detailed example

Everybody loves a good story. Including appropriate
illustrations and telling them well will help you keep
your audience’s attention and help them remember your
main ideas. Photo: alersandr hunta/Shutterstock.

124 Chapter 7

compelling. As we discuss in Chapter 9, extended illustrations can work well as
speech introductions. And Chapter 13 considers the use of extended illustrations in
informative speeches.

personaL iLLustrations A speaker can gain conviction and credibility by using
a personal illustration to share an experience with the audience. Student speaker
Rebecca told her audience about her personal reason for being concerned about how
students with mental illnesses are served by public education:

If you had been in a class with Luke, you would probably only know that he was
smart, funny, and had a laugh that filled the room. You would never guess how
hard he fought the system, or how devastated he was when he lost. Luke is more
than just a classmate to me. He’s my younger brother. Mental illness is something
that Luke comes face to face with every single day.8

If you have had personal experience with your topic, consider relating that experience
to the audience.

hypotheticaL iLLustrations A hypothetical illustration describes a situation or
event that has not actually occurred. Rather, it is a scenario that might happen.
Plausible hypothetical illustrations enable your listeners to imagine themselves or
another person in a particular situation. The following hypothetical illustration comes
from a speech on how cell phone technology can change communication in develop-
ing countries:

Imagine someone in China or Africa who is gaining access to e-mail for the first
time, how it will improve [his or her] efficiency and ability to connect with others.9

Notice the word imagine in this illustration. The purpose of a hypothetical illustra-
tion is not to trick your listeners into believing a bogus story. As Chapter 3 describes,
ethical speakers make their listeners aware from the beginning if an illustration is

Illustrations are almost guaranteed attention getters, as well effective supporting
material for your points. The suggestions in Figure 7.6 can help you use illustrations
more effectively in your speeches.

Descriptions and Explanations
Probably the most commonly used forms of support are descriptions and explana-
tions. A description provides the details that allow audience members to develop
mental pictures of what a speaker is talking about. An explanation is a statement that
clarifies how something is done or why it exists in its present form or existed in its
past form.

personal illustration
An anecdote drawn from the speaker’s

hypothetical illustration
An example that might happen but that
has not actually occurred

A word picture of something

A statement that clarifies how something is
done or why it exists in its present form or
existed in its past form

Relevant to
the point

of a trend


Vivid and



Figure 7.6 Using Illustrations Effectively

Gathering and Using Supporting Material 125


Write for the eye, the ear, the nose, and all the senses. In other words, be as vivid
as you possibly can.10

This advice from a professional speechwriter acknowledges that effective
description creates images that make people, places, and events come alive for
the audience. More specific instructions for constructing word pictures are given
in Chapter 13.

Description may be used in a brief example, an extended illustration, a hypo-
thetical instance, or by itself. British Prime Minister David Cameron vividly described
World War II as

A war which saw the streets of European cities strewn with rubble. The skies of
London lit by flames night after night.11

expLaining how In a speech about the dangers of lithium cell batteries, student
speaker Alexandria explained how batteries can injure children who ingest them:

When in contact with fluid-filled tissues such as a child’s esophagus or stomach,
the battery undergoes a chemical reaction [that] can cause anything from severe
burns and internal bleeding to larger issues. . . .12

Speakers who discuss or demonstrate processes of any kind rely at least in part on
explanations of how those processes work.

expLaining why Explaining why involves giving reasons for or the consequences of
a policy, principle, or event. In her speech about the flaws in the 911 system, student
speaker Karin explained why 911 failed a young woman who used her cell phone to
call for help in an emergency:

[I]t’s the physical address of the cell tower . . . not the telephone . . . that determines
which 911 center that call goes to.13

When large sections of a speech contain long, nonspecific explanations, audience
eyelids are apt to fall. The suggestions in Figure 7.7 can help you use descriptions and
explanations effectively in your speeches.

A definition has two justifiable uses in speeches. First, a speaker should be sure to define
any and all specialized, technical, or little-known terms in his or her speech. Such defi-
nitions are usually achieved by classification, the kind of definition you would find in a
dictionary. Alternatively, a speaker may define a term by showing how it works or how it
is applied in a specific instance—what is known as an operational definition.



A statement about what a term means or
how it is applied in a specific instance




Specific and

Not too

Figure 7.7 Using Descriptions and Explanations Effectively

126 Chapter 7

definitions by cLassification A definition by classification both places a term in
the general class, group, or family to which it belongs and differentiates it from all
the other members of that class. Student speaker Patrick defined the term hydraulic
fracturing as “a drilling technique” (the general class to which it belongs) “which har-
nesses incredible amounts of natural gas, but at the cost of destroying our most pre-
cious resource: our drinking water” (differentiation of hydraulic fracturing from other
drilling techniques).14

operationaL definitions Sometimes a word or phrase may be familiar to an au-
dience, but as a speaker you may be applying it in a specific way that needs to be
clarified. In such cases you might provide an operational definition, explaining how
something works or what it does.

In her speech on vitamin D deficiency, student speaker Nicole operationally
defined rickets for her audience:

Rickets leads to weakened bones that produce deformities such as bowed legs and
curvature of the spine, making for consistent and sometimes life-long pain.15

Whenever using a definition by classification or an operational definition,
remember to include an oral citation. Although not specifically noted in the preceding
examples, both Nicole and Patrick did provide oral citations of the sources of their
definitions when presenting their speeches.

The suggestions in Figure 7.8 can help you use definitions more effectively in your

An analogy is a comparison. Like a definition, it increases
understanding; unlike a definition, it deals with relationships
and comparisons—between the new and the old, the unknown
and the known, or any other pair of ideas or things. Analogies
can help your listeners understand unfamiliar ideas, things,
and situations by showing how they are similar to something
they already know.

There are two types of analogies. A literal analogy com-
pares things that are actually similar (two sports, two cities,
two events). A figurative analogy may take the form of a simile
or a metaphor.

definition by classification
A “dictionary definition,” constructed by
both placing a term in the general class to
which it belongs and differentiating it from
all other members of that class

operational definition
A statement that shows how something
works or what it does

A comparison







Figure 7.8 Using Definitions Effectively

As a speaker, you can use words to
paint pictures for your listeners. This
speaker uses sensory descriptions of
sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch to
help her audience feel as though they
are sharing her experiences as a war
refugee. Photo: ton koene/Alamy Stock

Gathering and Using Supporting Material 127

LiteraL anaLogies Student speaker James compared insects with ocean crustaceans
when he advocated using insects for food:

Crustaceans are literally the insects of the sea: They’re both arthropods. But where
crustaceans feed on trash, insects feed on nature’s salad bar.16

James’s comparison is a literal analogy—a comparison between two similar things. If
your listeners are from a culture or group other than your own or the one from which
the speech derives, literal analogies that draw on the listeners’ culture or group may
help them more readily understand less familiar places, things, and situations.

Also be sure that the two things you compare in a literal analogy are very similar.
The more alike they are, the more likely the analogy will stand up under attack.

figurative anaLogies In a recent commencement speech at the University of
Pittsburgh, NASA administrator Charles F. Bolden, Jr. compared graduation to a bridge:

Pittsburgh is sometimes called “The City of Bridges.” It is said to have more
bridges than any American city or region. One of these bridges is right here where
you’re sitting. You see, a graduation is a bridge. It’s a bridge between classroom
and career. It’s a bridge between present and future. In a sense, it’s a bridge be-
tween this generation and the next.17

Because it relies not on facts or statistics but rather on imaginative insights, the
figurative analogy is not considered hard evidence. But because it is creative, it is
inherently interesting and should help grab an audience’s attention. However, make
sure that the essential similarity between the two objects in a figurative analogy is
readily apparent. If you do not, your audience will end up wondering what in the
world you are talking about.

As illustrated in Figure 7.9, a single suggestion can help you use both literal and
figurative analogies more effectively.

Many of us live in awe of numbers, or statistics. Perhaps nowhere is our respect for
statistics so evident—and so exploited—as in advertising. If three out of four doctors sur-
veyed recommend Pain Away aspirin, it must be the best. If Sudsy Soap is 99.9 percent
pure (whatever that means), surely it will help our complexions. And if nine out of ten
people like Sloppy Catsup in a taste test, we will certainly buy it for this weekend’s bar-
becue. How can the statistics be wrong?

The truth about statistics lies somewhere between an unconditional faith in num-
bers and the wry observation that “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and

using statistics as support Statistics can be expressed as either
counts or percentages. Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg used a count
and a percentage in the same sentence in his speech at a communi-
cations conference:

Using smart grids and mobile technologies to manage electric
power could create 280,000 new jobs and cut carbon emissions by
more than 20 percent by 2020.18

The guidelines in Figure 7.10 can help you analyze and use statis-
tics effectively and correctly.

using reLiabLe, authoritative, and unbiased sources When using
statistics in your speeches, make sure you cite authoritative and
unbiased sources. When possible, always use a primary source—the
original collector and interpreter of the data. Do not assume that a
secondhand account, or secondary source, has reported the statistics

literal analogy
A comparison between two similar things

figurative analogy
A comparison between two essentially
dissimilar things that share some common
feature on which the comparison depends

Numerical data that summarize facts or



between things
being compared

Figure 7.9 Using Analogies







Figure 7.10 Using Statistics Effectively

128 Chapter 7

accurately or fairly. As you evaluate sources, try to find out how the statistics were gath-
ered. Of course, finding out about the statistical methodology may be more difficult than
discovering the source of the statistic, but if you can find it, the information will help you
to analyze its value.

interpreting statistics accurateLy People are often swayed by statistics that sound
good but have in fact been wrongly calculated or misinterpreted. For example, a
speaker might say that the number of children killed by guns in the United States
has doubled every year since 1950. But Joel Best, author of Damned Lies and Statistics:
Untangling Numbers from the Media, Politicians, and Activists, points out that actually
doing the math quickly demonstrates how wildly inaccurate this statistic is. If one
child was killed in 1950, two in 1951, four in 1952, and so on, the annual number by
now would far exceed the entire population of not just the United States, but also of
the entire Earth.19

Both as a user of statistics in your own speeches and as a consumer of statistics
in articles, books, and speeches, be constantly alert to what the statistics actually

Making statistics understandabLe and MeMorabLe You can make your statistics
easier to understand and more memorable in several ways:

1. First, you can dramatize a statistic by strategically choosing the perspective from
which you present it. Authors of a popular book about statistics offer this example
of how dramatizing a statistic attracted the attention of the press:

Researchers found that a genetic variant . . . present in 10 percent of the popula-
tion protected them against high blood pressure. Although published in a top
scientific journal, the story received negligible press coverage until a know-
ing press officer rewrote the press release to say that a genetic variant . . . had
been discovered which increased the risk of high blood pressure in 90 percent
of people.20

2. Second, you can compact a statistic, or express it in units that are more meaningful
or more easily understandable to your audience. The president and CEO of the
nonprofit Heifer International, compacted a statistic to drive home the appalling
poverty of a family:

Virginia Carrillo, a coffee farmer in Guatemala … and her husband have
eight children, and their annual household income from all activities is
$3,285. At 90 cents per person per day, this family clearly lives in extreme

3. You might also make your statistics more memorable by exploding them. Ex-
ploded statistics are created by adding or multiplying related numbers—for
example, cost per unit times number of units. Because it is larger, the explod-
ed statistic seems more significant than the original figures from which it was
derived. The CEO of AARP used the “exploding” strategy to emphasize the
impact of lowering the growth rate of health care costs by just 1.5 percentage
points per year:

[L]owering the growth rate of health care costs by 1.5 percentage points per
year will increase the real income of middle-class families by $2,600 in 2020;
$10,000 in 2030; and $24,300 by 2040. That’s real relief for real people.22

4. Finally, you can compare your statistic with another that heightens its impact. To
communicate to her audience the brightness of a recently discovered supernova,
a speaker might say,

It is more than twice as luminous as any supernova observed to date, includ-
ing the previous record-holders.

Gathering and Using Supporting Material 129

At its peak intensity, is believed to be 20 times more luminous than the
entire Milky Way. Some estimates put it at 50 times brighter.

And try this statistic on for size: It is 570 billion times brighter at its peak
than our sun.23

Three types of opinions may be used as supporting material in speeches: the testi-
mony of an expert authority, the testimony of an ordinary (lay) person with firsthand
or eyewitness experience, and a quotation from a literary work.

expert testiMony Having already offered statistics on the number of cigars
Americans smoke annually, Dena emphasized the danger to both smokers and re-
cipients of secondhand smoke by providing expert testimony from a National Cancer
Institute adviser:

James Repace, an adviser to the National Cancer Institute, states, “If you
have to breathe secondhand smoke, cigar smoke is a lot worse than cigarette

In Chapter 3, we discuss the importance of citing your sources orally. In the course
of doing so, you can provide additional information about the qualifications of those
sources, as illustrated in the previous example.

The testimony of a recognized authority can add a great deal of weight to your
arguments. Or if your topic requires that you make predictions—statements that can
be supported in only a marginal way by statistics or examples—the statements of
expert authorities may prove to be your most convincing support.

Lay testiMony You are watching the nightly news. Newscasters reporting on the
forest fires that continue to rage in Colorado explain how these fires started. They
provide statistics on how many thousands of acres have burned and how many hun-
dreds of homes have been destroyed. They describe the intense heat and smoke at the
scene of one of the fires, and they ask an expert—a veteran firefighter—to predict the
likelihood that the fires will be brought under control soon. But the most poignant
moment of this story is an interview with a woman who has just returned to her
home and has found it in smoldering ashes. She is a layperson—not a firefighter or
an expert on forest fires, but someone who has experienced the tragedy firsthand.

Like an illustration, lay testimony can stir an audience’s emotions. And, although
neither as authoritative nor as unbiased as expert testimony, lay testimony is often
more memorable.

Literary Quotation Another way to make a point
memorable is to include a literary quotation in
your speech. Speaking on changes essential to
the survival of the automotive industry, Chrysler
Corporation CEO Sergio Marchionne drew on the
words of philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche:

The philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once
said that “what really arouses indignation
against suffering is not suffering as such but
the senselessness of suffering… .” And a cri-
sis that does not result in enduring changes,
in fundamental changes, will have been very
senseless indeed.25

Note that the Nietzsche quotation is short. Brief,
pointed quotations usually have greater audience
impact than longer, more rambling ones.

Statements expressing an individual’s
attitudes, beliefs, or values

expert testimony
An opinion offered by someone who is an
authority on a subject

lay testimony
An opinion or description offered by a
nonexpert who has firsthand experience

literary quotation
An opinion or description by a writer who
speaks in a memorable and often poetic way

typeS oF SUppoRtinG MateRial
Illustrations Relevant stories

Explanations Statements that clarify how something is
done or why it exists in its present form or
existed in a past form

Descriptions Word pictures

Definitions Concise explanations of a word or concept

Analogies Comparisons between two things

Statistics Numbers that summarize data or examples

Opinions Testimony or quotations from someone else

130 Chapter 7

Literary quotations have the additional advantage of being easily accessible.
You’ll find any number of quotation dictionaries on the Web and in the reference
sections of most libraries. Arranged alphabetically by subject, these compilations are
easy to use.

Figure 7.11 provides six suggestions for using opinions effectively in your

the best Supporting Material
7.4 List six criteria for determining the best supporting material to use in a speech.

In this chapter, we discussed six criteria for evaluating Web sites: accountability, accu-
racy, objectivity, timeliness, usability, and diversity. We also presented guidelines for
using each of the six types of supporting material effectively. However, even after you
have applied these criteria and guidelines, you may still have more supporting mate-
rial than you can possibly use for a short speech. How do you decide what to use and
what to eliminate? The criteria presented in Figure 7.12 and discussed here can help
you make that final cut.

●● Magnitude. Bigger is better. The larger the numbers, the more convincing your
statistics. The more experts who support your point of view, the more your expert
testimony will command your audience’s attention.

●● Relevance. The best supporting material is whatever is the most relevant to
your listeners, or the closest to home. If you can demonstrate how an incident
could affect audience members themselves, that illustration will have far greater
impact than a more remote one.

●● Concreteness. If you need to discuss abstract ideas, explain them using concrete
examples and specific statistics.

●● Variety. A mix of illustrations, opinions, definitions, and statistics is much more
interesting and convincing than the exclusive use of any one type of supporting

●● Humor. Audiences usually appreciate a touch of humor in an example or opin-
ion. However, humor is not appropriate if your audience is unlikely to under-
stand it or if your speech is on a somber or serious topic.


of prevailing





Not too


Figure 7.11 Using Opinions Effectively

Gathering and Using Supporting Material 131

●● Suitability. Your final decision about whether to use a certain piece of supporting
material will depend on its suitability to you, your speech, the occasion, and—as
we continue to stress throughout the text—your audience. For example, you would
probably use more statistics in a speech to a group of scientists than in an after-
luncheon talk to the local Rotary Club.










Figure 7.12 Criteria for the Best Supporting Material

132 Chapter 7

study Guide: Review, Apply, And Assess

Sources of Supporting Material
7.1 List five potential sources of supporting material

for a speech.

review: Five sources of supporting material are personal
knowledge and experience, the Internet, online databases,
traditional library holdings, and interviews. You may be
able to draw on your own knowledge and experience for
some supporting material. Internet resources are acces-
sible through Web searches, but you must evaluate who
is accountable for the sources you find and whether the
sources are accurate, objective, current, usable, and sensi-
tive to diversity. Online databases, accessed by library
subscription via a networked computer, provide access
to bibliographic information, abstracts, and full texts for
a variety of resources, including periodicals, newspapers,
government documents, and even books. Traditional li-
brary holdings include books and other types of reference
resources. When conducting an interview, take written
notes or record the interview.

Key Terms
vertical search engine

online databases


1. Electronic and print indexes and databases sometimes
include abstracts of books and articles rather than full
texts. If you have read only the abstract of a source,
is it ethical to include that source in your preliminary

2. Explain how you might use each of the five key sources
of supporting material to help you develop an informa-
tive speech on how to choose a new computer.

Research Strategies
7.2 Explain five strategies for a methodical research


review: A methodical research process includes the fol-
lowing strategies: Develop a preliminary bibliography,
locate resources, assess the usefulness of resources, take
notes, and identify possible presentation aids.

Key Terms
preliminary bibliography citation manager

appLy: You neglected to record complete bibliographic
information for one of your best information sources, a
journal article you found on a database. You discover
your omission as you are reviewing your outline just
before you deliver your speech, and you have no way to

look up the information now. How can you solve your
problem in an ethical way?

types of Supporting Material
7.3 List and describe six types of supporting material.

review: You can choose from various types of sup-
porting material, including illustrations, descriptions
and explanations, definitions, analogies, statistics, and
opinions. A mix of supporting material is more interest-
ing and convincing than the exclusive use of any one

Key Terms
brief illustration
extended illustration
personal illustration
hypothetical illustration
definition by classification

operational definition
literal analogy
figurative analogy
expert testimony
lay testimony
literary quotation

appLy: Is it ever ethical to invent supporting material
if you have been unable to find what you need for your
speech? Explain your answer.

assess: Review the guidelines for each type of support-
ing material. Which of these guidelines for the effective use
of supporting material might also be considered a guide-
line for the ethical use of supporting material? Explain
your choice(s).

the best Supporting Material
7.4 List six criteria for determining the best supporting

material to use in a speech.

review: Once you have gathered a variety of support-
ing material, look at your speech from your audience’s
perspective and decide where an explanation might help
listeners understand a point, where statistics might con-
vince them of the significance of a problem, and where
an illustration might stir their emotions. Six criteria—
magnitude, proximity, concreteness, variety, humor, and
suitability—can help you choose the most effective sup-
port for your speech.

assess: The best supporting material is whatever is the
most relevant to your listeners or “closest to home.”
Applying this criterion to the supporting material you
gather for your next speech, determine which item or
items are likely to be most effective.

Maria went into the lecture hall feeling exhilarated. After all, Dr. Anderson
was a Nobel laureate in literature. He would be teaching and lecturing on
campus for at least a year. What an opportunity! Maria took a seat in the

middle of the fourth row, where she had a clear view of the podium. She opened the
notebook she had bought just for this lecture series, took out one of the three pens
she had brought with her, and waited impatiently for Dr. Anderson’s appearance.
She didn’t have to wait long. Dr. Anderson was greeted by thunderous applause
when he walked onto the stage. Maria was aware of an almost electric sense of
expectation among the audience members. Pen poised, she awaited his first words.

Five minutes later, Maria still had her pen poised. He had gotten off to a slow start.
Ten minutes later, she laid her pen down and decided to concentrate just on listen-
ing. Twenty minutes later, she still had no idea what point Dr. Anderson was trying

8.1 List and describe five patterns for organizing the main
ideas of a speech.

8.2 Explain how to organize supporting material.

8.3 Use verbal and nonverbal signposts to organize
a speech for the ears of others.

8.4 Develop a preparation outline and speaking notes
for a speech.


After studying this chapter, you should be able to do the following:

Organizing and
Outlining Your

Anne Desmet (b. 1964), Tower of Babble,
2000. Wooden type, wood engraving
and collage on paper. Private Collection/
Bridgeman Images.

Organized thought is the basis

of organized action.

—Alfred North Whitehead

134 Chapter 8

to make. And by the time the lecture was over, Maria was practically asleep. Disap-
pointed, she gathered her pens and her notebook (which now contained one page of
lazy doodles) and decided she would skip the remaining lectures in the series.

Dr. Anderson was not a dynamic speaker. But his motivated audience of young
would-be authors and admirers might have forgiven that shortcoming. What they
were unable to do was to unravel his seemingly pointless rambling—to get some sense
of direction or some pattern of ideas from his talk. Dr. Anderson had simply failed to
organize his thoughts.

This scenario actually happened. Dr. Anderson (not his real name) disappointed
many who had looked forward to his lectures. His inability to organize his ideas made
him an ineffectual speaker. You, too, may have had an experience with a teacher who
possessed expertise in his or her field but could not organize his or her thoughts well
enough to lecture effectively. No matter how knowledgeable speakers may be, they
must organize their ideas in logical patterns to ensure that their audience can follow,
understand, and remember what is said. Our model of audience-centered communica-
tion, shown in Figure 8.1, emphasizes that speeches are organized for audiences. Deci-
sions about organization should be based in large part on an analysis of the audience.

In the first seven chapters of this book, you learned how to plan and research
a speech based on audience needs, interests, and expectations. The planning and re-
search process has taken you through five stages of speech preparation:

●● Selecting and narrowing a topic

●● Determining your purpose

●● Developing your central idea

●● Generating main ideas

●● Gathering supporting material











and Narrow





Figure 8.1 Organize your speech to help your audience remember your key
ideas and to give your speech clarity and structure.

Source: Copyrighted by Pearson Education, Hoboken, NJ.

Organizing and Outlining Your Speech 135

As the arrows in the model in Figure 8.1 suggest, you may have moved recursively
through these first five stages, returning at times to previous stages to make changes
and revisions based on your consideration of the audience. Now, with the results of
your audience-centered planning and research in hand, it is time to move to the next
stage in the audience-centered public-speaking process:

●● Organizing your speech

In this chapter, we will discuss the patterns of organization commonly used to
arrange the main ideas of a speech. Then we will explain how to organize supporting
material. We will talk about previews, transitions, and summaries. And, finally, we will
discuss and illustrate two types of speech outlines: the preparation outline and speak-
ing notes. Chapter 9 discusses introductions and conclusions, the final component of
the organizational stage of the preparation process.

Organizing Your Main Ideas
8.1 List and describe five patterns for organizing the main ideas of a speech.

In Chapter 6, we discussed how to generate a preliminary plan for your speech by
determining whether your central idea has logical divisions, could be supported by
several reasons, or could be explained by identifying specific steps. These divisions,
reasons, or steps become the main ideas of the body of your speech and the basis for
the organization task highlighted in Figure 8.1.

Now you are ready to decide which of your main ideas to discuss first, sec-
ond, and so on. As summarized in Table 8.1, you can choose from among five
organizational patterns: (1) topical, (2) chronological, (3) spatial, (4) causal, and
(5)  problem-solution. Or you can combine several of these patterns. One additional
variation of the problem-solution pattern is the motivated sequence. Because it is
used almost exclusively in persuasive speeches, the motivated sequence is dis-
cussed in Chapter 15.

Taking the time to plan a well-organized message can boost your confidence. A jumble of ideas

and information without a logical structure is more difficult to remember and present than a

well-organized speech. Researchers have discovered that the less organized you are, the more

apprehensive you may feel.1 A logically organized speech can help you feel more confident

about the content you’re presenting.

COnFIdentlY COnneCtIng wIth YOur AudIenCe
Organize Your Message

Pattern Description

Topical Organization according to primacy, recency, or complexity

Chronological Organization by time or sequence

Spatial Organization based on location or direction

Cause and effect Organization that focuses on a situation and its causes or a
situation and its effects

Problem-solution Organization that focuses on a problem and then its solutions
or on a solution and then the problems it would solve

table 8.1 Organizing Your Main Points

Source: Copyrighted by Pearson Education, Hoboken, NJ.

136 Chapter 8

Organizing Ideas Topically
If your central idea has natural divisions, you can often organize your speech topi-
cally. Speeches on such diverse topics as factors to consider when selecting a moun-
tain bike, types of infertility treatments, and the various classes of ham-radio licenses
could all reflect topical organization.

Natural divisions are often essentially equal in importance. It may not matter
which point you discuss first, second, or third. You can simply arrange your main
ideas as a matter of personal preference. At other times, you may want to organize
your main points based on one of three principles: primacy, recency, or complexity.

Primacy The principle of primacy suggests that you discuss your most important or
convincing point first in your speech. The beginning of your speech can be the most
important position if your listeners are either unfamiliar with your topic or hostile
toward your central idea.

When your listeners are uninformed, your first point must introduce them to the
topic and define unfamiliar terms integral to its discussion. What you say early in your
speech will affect your listeners’ understanding of the rest of your speech. If your lis-
teners are likely to be hostile toward your central idea, putting your most important or
convincing point first will lessen the possibility that you might lose or alienate them
before you reach the end of your speech. In addition, your strongest idea may so influ-
ence your listeners’ attitudes that they will be more receptive to your central idea.

Recognizing the controversial nature of stem-cell research, the speaker in the fol-
lowing example arranges the three main ideas of the speech according to primacy,
advancing the most persuasive argument first.

PURPOSE STATEMENT: At the end of my speech, the audience will be able
to explain the applications of stem-cell research.2

CENTRAL IDEA: Stem-cell research has three important applications.
MAIN IDEAS: I. At the most fundamental level, understanding

stem cells can help us learn more about the pro-
cess of human development.

II. Stem-cell research can streamline the way we de-
velop and test drugs.

III. Stem-cell research can generate cells and tissue
that could be used for “cell therapies.”

recency According to the principle of recency, the point discussed last is the one
audiences will remember best. If your audience is at least somewhat knowledgeable
about and generally favorable toward your topic and central idea, you should prob-
ably organize your main points according to recency.

For example, in her speech on the responsibilities of a resident assistant (RA),
Brooke wants to emphasize one responsibility her student audience might not have
previously considered: role modeling. With the recency principle in mind, Brooke
places that responsibility last in her speech outline:

PURPOSE STATEMENT: At the end of my speech, the audience will be able
to list and explain a resident assistant’s responsi-

CENTRAL IDEA: The responsibilities of a resident assistant fall into
three categories.

MAIN IDEAS: I. Community development

II. Staff membership

III. Role modeling3

topical organization
Arrangement of the natural divisions
in a central idea according to recency,
primacy, complexity, or the speaker’s

Arrangement of ideas from the most to the
least important

Arrangement of ideas from the least to the
most important

Organizing and Outlining Your Speech 137

comPlexity One other set of circumstances may dictate a particular order of the main
ideas in your speech. If your main ideas range from simple to complicated, it makes
sense to arrange them in order of complexity, progressing from the simple to the more
complex. If, for example, you were to explain to your audience how to compile a fam-
ily health profile and history, you might begin with the most easily accessible source
and proceed to the more involved.

PURPOSE STATEMENT: At the end of my speech, the audience will be able to
compile a family health profile and history.

CENTRAL IDEA: Compiling a family health profile and history can
be accomplished with the help of three sources.

MAIN IDEAS: I. Elderly relatives

II. Old hospital records and death certificates

III. National health registries4

Teachers, from those in the early elementary grades on up, use order
of complexity to organize their courses and lessons. The kindergartner
traces circles before learning to print a lowercase a. The young piano
student practices scales and arpeggios before playing Beethoven sonatas.
The college freshman practices writing short essays before undertaking
a major research paper. You have learned most of your skills in order of

Ordering Ideas Chronologically
If you decide that your central idea could be explained best by a number of steps,
you will probably organize those steps chronologically. Chronological organiza-
tion is organization by time or sequence; that is, your steps are ordered accord-
ing to when each step occurred or should occur. Historical speeches and how-to
speeches are the two kinds of speeches usually organized chronologically.

Examples of topics for historical speeches might include the history of the women’s
movement in the United States, the sequence of events that led to the 1974 resignation
of President Richard Nixon, or the development of the modern Olympic Games. You
can choose to organize your main points either from earliest to most recent (forward in
time) or from recent events back into history (backward in time). The progression you
choose depends on your personal preference and on whether you want to emphasize
the beginning or the end of the sequence. As we observed, according to the principle of
recency, audiences tend to remember best what they hear last.

In the following outline for a speech discussing the development of YouTube, the
speaker wants to emphasize the inauspicious origins of the popular video site. Thus,
she organizes the speech backward in time:

PURPOSE STATEMENT: At the end of my speech, the audience will be
able to describe YouTube’s rapid rise from its
humble beginnings.

CENTRAL IDEA: Within a decade, YouTube had far exceeded its
humble beginnings.

MAIN IDEAS: I. 2015: More than 10,000 videos have been pro-
duced in YouTube Spaces.

II. 2010: YouTube exceeds 2 billion views per day.

III. 2005: YouTube is founded in a garage in Menlo
Park, California.5

Arrangement of ideas from the simple to
the more complex

chronological organization
Organization by time or sequence

prIMACY, reCenCY,
And COMplexItY
• Primacy—most important point first
• Recency—most important point last
• Complexity—simplest point first,

most complex point last

138 Chapter 8

Like historical speeches, how-to speeches are likely to follow a chronological
sequence. How-to speeches are arranged from the first step to the last—forward in
time. For example, a speech explaining how to clean up a broken compact fluorescent
light bulb (CFL) might be organized as follows:

PURPOSE STATEMENT: At the end of my speech, the audience will be able
to list the steps required to clean up a broken CFL.

CENTRAL IDEA: Cleaning up a broken CFL requires four steps.
MAIN IDEAS: I. With the air conditioner turned off, allow the

room to air out for 15 minutes.

II. Collect all the light bulb fragments with dispos-
able gloves or a stiff piece of cardboard.

III. Wipe up any remaining debris with damp pa-
per towels or sticky tape.

IV. Dispose of fragments and clean-up materials in
a sealed container.6

To summarize, chronological organization involves either forward or backward
progression, depending on which end of a set of events the speaker intends to empha-
size. The element common to both organization schemes is that dates and events are
discussed in sequence rather than in random order.

Arranging Ideas Spatially
When you say, “As you enter the room, the table is to your right, the easy chair to
your left, and the kitchen door straight ahead,” you are using spatial organization:
arranging ideas—usually natural divisions of the central idea—according to their
location or direction. It does not usually matter whether you progress up or down,
east or west, forward or back, as long as you follow a logical progression. If you
skip up, down, over, and back, you will confuse your listeners rather than paint a
distinct word picture.

Speeches on such diverse subjects as the National Museum of the American Indian,
the travels of Robert Louis Stevenson, and the structure of an atom can all be organized
spatially. Here is a sample outline for the first of those topics:

PURPOSE STATEMENT: At the end of my speech, the audience will be able
to list and describe the four habitats recreated on
the grounds of the National Museum of the Ameri-
can Indian in Washington, D.C.

CENTRAL IDEA: The grounds of the National Museum of the Amer-
ican Indian in Washington, D.C., are divided into
four traditional American Indian habitats.

MAIN IDEAS: I. Hardwood forest

II. Wetlands

III. Meadowlands

IV. Croplands7

The organization of this outline is spatial, progressing through the grounds of the

spatial organization
Organization based on location or

Organizing and Outlining Your Speech 139

Organizing Ideas to Show Cause and Effect
If your central idea can be developed by discussing either steps or reasons, you
might consider a cause-and-effect organization of your main ideas. A speech
organized to show cause and effect may first identify a situation and then discuss
the effects that result from it (cause→effect). Or the speech may present a situation
and then seek its causes (effect→cause). As the recency principle would suggest,
the cause-effect pattern emphasizes the effects; the effect-cause pattern empha-
sizes the causes.

In the following example, Vonda organizes her speech according to cause-effect, dis-
cussing the cause (widespread adult illiteracy) as her first main idea, and its effects (pov-
erty and social costs) as her second and third main ideas:

PURPOSE STATEMENT: At the end of my speech, the audience will be able
to identify two effects of adult illiteracy.

CENTRAL IDEA: Adult illiteracy affects everyone.
MAIN IDEAS: I. (Cause): Adult illiteracy is widespread in the

United States today.

II. (Effect): Illiterate adults often live in poverty.

III. (Effect): Adult illiteracy is costly to society.8

In contrast, Kelsey organizes her speech on charity rating systems according to
effect-cause, discussing the effect (faulty charity rating systems) as her first main
idea and its causes as her second, third, and fourth main ideas:

PURPOSE STATEMENT: At the end of my speech, the audience will be able
to explain why U.S. charity rating systems are

CENTRAL IDEA: Charity rating systems in the U.S. are flawed.
MAIN IDEAS: I. (Effect): Charity rating systems in the United

States present a distorted picture of charity

II. (Cause): Charity rating systems place too much
emphasis on overhead.

III. (Cause): Rating systems push charities to spend
all their money at once.

IV. (Cause): The model of charitable giving has
changed from person-to-person to person-to-

After presenting the cause or effect in the first main idea, you can use the princi-
ples of recency, primacy, or complexity to decide the order in which you will discuss
your other main ideas.

Organizing Ideas by Problem-Solution
If you want to discuss why a problem exists or what its effects are, you will prob-
ably organize your speech according to cause and effect, as discussed in the previous
section. However, if you want to emphasize how best to solve the problem, you will
probably use a problem-solution organization. Because it is often appropriate for
persuasive speeches, problem-solution organization is discussed further in Chapter 15.

cause-and-effect organization
Organization that focuses on a situation
and its causes or a situation and its

problem-solution organization
Organization focused on a problem and its
various solutions or on a solution and the
problems it would solve

A spatial organization may be right for
a speech about the efforts of different
nations to save endangered species, like
these gorillas. Or, if you wish to discuss
the reasons species are endangered, you
could use a cause-and-effect organiza-
tional pattern. Photo: Shutterstock/Eric

140 Chapter 8

Like causes and effects, problems and solutions can be discussed in either order.
When speaking to an audience that is already fairly aware of a problem but uncertain
how to solve it, you will probably discuss the problem first and then the solution(s).
Speechwriter Cynthia Starks explains how Robert Kennedy utilized problem-solution
organization to comfort and inspire a crowd in Indianapolis on April 4, 1968, immedi-
ately following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.:

With sensitivity and compassion, [Kennedy] told them of King’s death (the dev-
astating “problem”). He praised King’s dedication to “love and to justice between
fellow human beings,” adding that, “he died in the cause of that effort.”

Then he offered a solution—to put aside violence and to embrace love and
understanding toward each other.10

Starks concludes by offering evidence of the effectiveness of Kennedy’s problem-solution

Many American cities burned after King’s death, but there was no fire in India-
napolis, which heard the words of Robert Kennedy.

If your audience knows about an action or program that has been implemented
but does not know the reasons for its implementation, you might select instead a
solution-problem pattern of organization. In the following example, the speaker
knows that her listeners are already aware of a new business-school partnership pro-
gram in their community but believes that they may be unclear about why it has been

PURPOSE STATEMENT: At the end of my speech, the audience will be able
to explain how business-school partnership pro-
grams can help solve two of the major problems
facing our public schools today.

CENTRAL IDEA: Business-school partnership programs can help al-
leviate at least two of the problems faced by public
schools today.

MAIN IDEAS: I. (Solution): In a business-school partnership, local
businesses provide volunteers, financial support,
and in-kind contributions to public schools.

II. (Problem): Many public schools can no longer
afford fine arts and special programs.

III. (Problem): Many public schools have no resources
to fund enrichment materials and opportunities.

A specific adaptation of the problem-solution pattern is the motivated sequence,
a five-step plan for organizing persuasive speeches. The motivated sequence is dis-
cussed in Chapter 15.

Acknowledging Cultural Differences
in Organization
Although the five patterns discussed so far in this chapter represent ways speakers
in the United States are expected to organize and process information, they are not
necessarily typical of all cultures.11 In fact, each culture teaches its members patterns
of thought and organization that are considered appropriate for various occasions
and audiences.

In general, U.S. speakers tend to be more linear and direct than speakers from
Semitic, Asian, Romance, or Russian cultures. Semitic speakers may support their main
points by pursuing tangents that could seem “off topic” to many U.S. speakers. Asian

motivated sequence
A five-step adaptation of the problem-
solution pattern; used to organize
persuasive speeches

Organizing and Outlining Your Speech 141

speakers may only allude to a main point through a circuitous route of illustration and
parable. And speakers from Romance and Russian cultures tend to begin with a basic
principle and then move to facts and illustrations that they only gradually connect to
a main point. The models in Figure 8.2 illustrate these culturally diverse patterns of

Of course, these are broad generalizations. But as an audience-centered
speaker, you might acknowledge or even adapt elements of your organizational
strategy when presenting to listeners from a culture other than your own. And as a
listener who recognizes the existence of cultural differences, you can better appre-
ciate and understand that a speaker from another culture may not be disorganized
but simply using organizational strategies different from those presented in this

Organizing Your Supporting
8.2 Explain how to organize supporting material.

Once you have organized your main ideas, you are ready to organize the supporting
material for each idea. You may realize that in support of your second main idea you
have an illustration, two statistics, and an opinion. In what order should you present
these items?

You can sometimes use one of the five standard organizational patterns to arrange
your supporting material. Illustrations, for instance, may be organized chronologically.

Developing Your Speech Step BY Step

organize Your Speech

As he begins to organize his speech on public-speaking anxiety, Matthew sees that his three main ideas

represent two problems—in this case, cognitive and physical anxiety—and a solution in the form of

strategies for managing speaker anxiety. It is evident to Matthew that a problem-solution organizational

strategy will be ideal for his speech.

But should Matthew discuss cognitive anxiety or physical anxiety first? He reasons that because the

cognitive processes cause the physical symptoms, he can logically apply a cause-effect order.



U.S. Semitic Asian Romance Russian

Figure 8.2 Organizational patterns of speaking will vary by culture.

Source: Lieberman, Public Speaking in the Multicultural Environment, “Organizational patterns by culture” © 1997.
Reproduced by permission of Pearson Education, Inc.

142 Chapter 8

In the following example, the speaker uses a chronological sequence when presenting
several brief illustrations of cutting-edge technology:

[M]iracle has followed upon miracle—from a television in every home in the
1950s, to the launching of the first communications satellite in the 1960s, to the
introduction of cable TV in the 1970s, the rise of personal computers in the 1980s,
the Internet in the 1990s, and social media in the 2000s.12

At other times, however, none of the five patterns may seem suited to the supporting
materials you have. In those instances, you may need to turn to an organizational strat-
egy more specifically adapted to your supporting materials. These strategies include
(1) primacy or recency, (2) specificity, (3) complexity, and (4) “soft” to “hard” evidence.

Primacy or Recency
We have already discussed how the principles of primacy and recency can determine
whether you put a main idea at the beginning or the end of your speech. These patterns
are used so frequently to arrange supporting materials that we mention them again here.

Suppose that you have several brief illustrations to support a main point. All are
relevant and significant, but one is especially gripping. American Cancer Society CEO
John Seffrin showed visual images while sharing the following brief illustrations of
international tobacco advertising:

The effort to build brand loyalty begins early. Here is an example of that in Africa—
a young man wearing a hat with a cigarette brand logo. . . .

Look at this innocent baby wearing a giant Marlboro logo on his shirt. . . .
Notice how this ad links smoking to American values that are attractive to

third-world kids—wealth, sophistication, and urbanity. It also shows African
Americans living the American Dream. If you’re a poor kid in Africa, this image
can be very powerful.

And finally, this one from Bucharest, Romania, which is my favorite. When
the Berlin Wall came down, no one rushed into Eastern Europe faster than the to-
bacco industry. Here you can see the Camel logo etched in the street lights. In my
opinion, this is one of the most disturbing examples of the public sector partnering
with private industry to the detriment of its citizens.13

You can increase the impact of hard
evidence by accompanying your
presentation of statistics with a visual
aid, such as a graph. Photo: Monty
Rakusen/Cultura/Getty Images.

Organizing and Outlining Your Speech 143

It is evident that Seffrin applied the principle of recency to his examples because he
identifies the final one as “my favorite” and “one of the most disturbing.” The princi-
ple of primacy or recency can also be applied to groups of statistics, opinions, or any
combination of supporting material.

Sometimes your supporting material will range from specific examples to more gen-
eral overviews of a situation. You may either offer your specific information first and
end with your general statement, or make the general statement first and support it
with specific evidence.

Another application of specificity might be to compact or explode statistics, as dis-
cussed in Chapter 7. Compacting moves statistics from general to specific. Exploding
moves them in the other direction, from specific to general. In her speech on alterna-
tives to imprisonment, Anastasia uses both tactics. She begins with a broad statistic
and makes it more specific by compacting it. Then she moves back toward a general
statement by exploding a related statistic:

[T]here are more than 2.4 million U.S. residents who serve time in prison. That means
that one in every 142 residents is in prison right now, or approximately 2.3 percent of
the total population. While this number may seem reasonable, when you think about
how many people went through prison at some point of their lives, that number rises
to 25 percent of the total population.14

We have discussed organizing main ideas by moving from the simple to the more
complex. The same method of organization may also determine how you order your
supporting material. In many situations, it makes sense to start with the materials
that are easy to understand and work up to the more complex ones. In her speech on
solar radiation, Nichole’s supporting materials include explanations of two effects of
solar storms. She presents the simpler explanation first—of electrical blackouts and
disruptions in radio broadcasts—and then goes on to the more complex explanation
of cosmic radiation:

The sun produces storms on its surface in eleven-year cycles. During solar max-
imum, these storms will make their presence known to the land-bound public
through electrical blackouts and disruptions in radio broadcasts. These storms
cause the sun to throw off electrically charged ions that, combined with charged
particles, enter the Earth’s atmosphere from outer space. This is known collec-
tively as cosmic radiation.15

From Soft to Hard Evidence
Supporting material can also be arranged along a contin-
uum from “soft” to “hard.” Soft evidence rests on opinion
or inference. Hypothetical illustrations, descriptions, expla-
nations, definitions, analogies, and opinions are usually
considered soft. Hard evidence includes factual examples
and statistics.

Soft-to-hard organization of supporting material relies
chiefly on the principle of recency—that the last statement is
remembered best. Note how Thomas moves from a definition
(soft evidence) to a statistic and then a personal illustration
(both hard evidence) in his speech on disability discrimination
in the workplace, as illustrated in Figure 8.3.16

soft evidence
Supporting material based mainly on
opinion or inference; includes hypothetical
illustrations, descriptions, explanations,
definitions, and analogies

hard evidence
Factual examples and statistics

IntegrAtIng YOur
SuppOrtIng MAterIAl
Strategy Description

Primacy Most important material first

Recency Most important material last

Specificity From specific information to general
overview or from general overview to
specific information

Complexity From simple to more complex material

Soft to hard From opinion or hypothetical illustra-
tion to fact or statistic

144 Chapter 8

Organizing Your presentation
for the ears of Others: Signposting
8.3 Use verbal and nonverbal signposts to organize a speech

for the ears of others.

You have a logically ordered, fairly complete plan for your speech. But if you delivered
the speech at this point, your audience might become frustrated or confused as they
tried to discern your organizational plan. So your next task is to develop signposts—
organizational cues for your audience’s ears. Signposts include previews, transitions,
and summaries.

In Chapter 10, we discuss the differences between writing and speaking styles. One
significant difference is that public speaking is more repetitive. Audience-centered
speakers need to remember that the members of their audience, unlike readers, can-
not go back to review a missed point. A preview “tells them what you’re going to tell
them,” building audience anticipation for an important idea. Like transitions, pre-
views also provide coherence.

initial Previews An initial preview is a statement of what the main ideas of the
speech will be. As discussed in Chapter 6, it is usually presented in conjunction with
the central idea at or near the end of the introduction, as a blueprint for the speech.

Speaking on problems with the U.S. patent system, Robert offered the following
blueprint at the end of his introduction:

While patents are a good idea in principle, in practice they have turned into a
disaster. First, I’ll take you on a tour of our broken patent system. Then I’ll walk
you through the havoc it wreaks on us, our economy, and our future. Finally, we’ll
explore hope in potential solutions. . . .17

In this blueprint, Robert clearly previews his main ideas and introduces them in the
order in which he will discuss them in the body of the speech.

Cues about the relationships between a
speaker’s ideas



A statement of what is to come

initial preview
A statement in the introduction of a
speech about what the main ideas of the
speech will be

(soft evidence):

The Americans with Disabilities Act classifies a
disabled person as a person who has a physical
or mental impairment that substantially limits
one or more major life activities; a person who
has a history or record of such impairment; and a
person who is perceived by others as having such
an impairment.

Statistic (hard evidence):
Ten percent of the world’s
population is disabled.

Personal illustration
(hard evidence):
My hand was webbed together when
I was born, the disorder known as
syndactyly. I had it surgically repaired
at a few months old, but as you see, it
has not grown as much.

Figure 8.3 Organizing supporting material from soft to hard.

Organizing and Outlining Your Speech 145

internal Previews In addition to using previews near the beginning of their
speeches, speakers use them at various points throughout the speech. An internal pre-
view introduces and outlines ideas that will be developed as the speech progresses.
Sometimes speakers couch internal previews in the form of questions they plan to
answer. Note how the following question from a speech on hotel security provides an
internal preview:

[T]he question remains, what can we do, as potential travelers and potential vic-
tims, to protect ourselves?18

Just as anticipating an idea helps audience members remember it, mentally answering
a question helps them plant the answer firmly in their minds.

A transition is a verbal or nonverbal signal that a speaker has finished discussing one
idea and is moving to another.

verbal transitions A speaker can sometimes make a verbal transition simply by
repeating a key word from a previous statement or by using a synonym or a pronoun
that refers to a prior key word or idea. This type of transition is often used to make
one sentence flow smoothly into the next. (The previous sentence itself is an example:
“This type of transition” refers to the sentence that precedes it.)

Other verbal transitions are words or phrases that show relationships between
ideas. Note the italicized transitional phrases in the following examples:

●● In addition to transitions, previews and summaries are also considered to be

●● Not only does plastic packaging use up our scarce resources, it contaminates them
as well.

●● In other words, as women’s roles have changed, they have also contributed to this

●● In summary, Fanny Brice was the best-known star of Ziegfeld’s Follies.

●● Therefore, I recommend that you sign the grievance petition.

Simple enumeration (first, second, third) can also point up relationships between
ideas and provide transitions.

One type of transitional signpost that can occasionally backfire and do more harm
than good is one that signals the end of a speech. Finally and in conclusion give the
audience implicit permission to stop listening, and they often do. Better strategies for
moving into a conclusion include repeating a key word or phrase, using a synonym
or pronoun that refers to a previous idea, offering a final summary, or referring to the
introduction of the speech. We discuss the final summary later in this chapter. Both of
the last two strategies are also covered in Chapter 9.

As summarized in Table 8.2, repetition of key words or ideas, transitional words
or phrases, and enumeration all provide verbal transitions from one idea to the next.

internal preview
A statement in the body of a speech that
introduces and outlines ideas that will be
developed as the speech progresses

A verbal or nonverbal signal indicating that
a speaker has finished discussing one idea
and is moving to another

verbal transition
A word or phrase that indicates the rela-
tionship between two ideas

Strategy example

Repeating a key word, or using a synonym or
pronoun that refers to a key word.

“These problems cannot be allowed to continue.”

Using a transitional word or phrase “In addition to the facts that I’ve mentioned, we need to
consider one more problem.”

Enumerating “Second, there has been a rapid increase in the number
of accidents reported.”

table 8.2 Verbal Transitions

Source: Copyrighted by Pearson Education, Hoboken, NJ.

146 Chapter 8

You may need to experiment with several alternatives before you find the smooth tran-
sition you seek in a given instance. If none of these alternatives seems to work well,
consider a nonverbal transition.

nonverbal transitions A nonverbal transition can occur in several ways, some-
times alone and sometimes in combination with a verbal transition. A change in facial
expression, a pause, an altered vocal pitch or speaking rate, or a movement all may
indicate a transition.

For example, a speaker talking about the value of cardiopulmonary resuscitation
began his speech with a powerful anecdote about a man suffering a heart attack at a
party. No one knew how to help, and the man died. The speaker then looked up from
his notes and paused, while maintaining eye contact with his audience. His next words
were “The real tragedy of Bill Jorgen’s death was that it should not have happened.”
His pause, as well as the words that followed, indicated a transition into the body of
the speech.

Like this speaker, most good speakers use a combination of verbal and nonverbal
transitions to move from one point to another through their speeches. You will learn
more about nonverbal communication in Chapter 11.

Like a preview, a summary, or recap of what has been said, provides additional expo-
sure to a speaker’s ideas and can help ensure that audience members will grasp and
remember them. Most speakers use two types of summaries: the final summary and
the internal summary.

Final summaries A final summary restates the main ideas of a speech and gives an
audience their last exposure to those ideas. It occurs just before the end of a speech,
often doing double duty as a transition between the body and the conclusion.

Here is an example of a final summary from a speech on the U.S. Customs Service:

Today, we have focused on the failing U.S. Customs Service. We have asked sev-
eral important questions, such as “Why is Customs having such a hard time doing
its job?” and “What can we do to remedy this situation?” When the cause of a
serious problem is unknown, the continuation of the dilemma is understandable.

nonverbal transition
A facial expression, vocal cue, or physical
movement indicating that a speaker is
moving from one idea to the next

A recap of what has been said

final summary
A restatement of the main ideas of a
speech, occurring near the end of the

Your nonverbal transition signals, as
well as your verbal signposts, can
help your audience follow the organi-
zation of your speech. One effective
technique is to pause before mov-
ing to a new point, as this speaker is
doing. Photo: Blend Images/Alamy
Stock Photo.

Organizing and Outlining Your Speech 147

However, the cause for the failure of the U.S. Customs Service is known: a lack of
personnel. Given that fact and our understanding that Customs is vital to Ameri-
ca’s interests, it would be foolish not to rectify this situation.19

This final summary leaves no doubt as to the important points of the speech. We dis-
cuss the use of final summaries in more detail in Chapter 9.

internal summaries As the term suggests, an internal summary occurs within the
body of a speech; it restates the ideas that have been developed up to that point. Susan
uses the following internal summary in her speech on the teacher shortage:

So let’s review for just a moment. One, we are endeavoring to implement edu-
cational reforms; but two, we are in the first years of a dramatic increase in
enrollment; and three, fewer quality students are opting for education; while four,
many good teachers want out of teaching; plus five, large numbers will soon be

Internal summaries are often used in combination with internal previews to
form transitions between major points and ideas. Each of the following exam-
ples makes clear what has just been discussed in the speech as well as what
will be discussed next:

Many are unaware of their own inadequate levels and uninformed about the im-
portance of Vitamin D in their lives. And yet Vitamin D deficiency is a problem
that can be so easily solved! The solutions are twofold and can be implemented
on a universal and individual level.21

So now [that] we are aware of the severity of the disease and unique reasons for
college students to be concerned, we will look at some steps we need to take to
combat bacterial meningitis.22

It seems as though everyone is saying that something should be done about Nu-
traSweet. It should be retested. Well, now that it is here on the market, what can
we do to see that it does get investigated further?23

Outlining Your Speech
8.4 Develop a preparation outline and speaking notes for a speech.

Although few speeches are written in paragraph form, most speakers develop a prepa-
ration outline, a fairly detailed outline of the central idea, main ideas, and supporting
material. Depending on your instructor’s specific requirements, it may also include
your specific purpose (discussed in Chapter 6), your introduction and conclusion (dis-
cussed in Chapter 9), and your references (discussed in Chapter 3). One CEO notes,

Unless you sit down and write out your thoughts and put them in a cogent
order, you can’t deliver a cogent speech. Maybe some people have mastered
that art. But I have seen too many people give speeches that they really haven’t
thought out.24

From your detailed preparation outline, you will eventually develop speaking notes,
a shorter outline that you will use when you deliver your speech. Let’s look at the spe-
cific characteristics of both types of outlines.

Developing Your Preparation Outline
To begin your preparation outline, you might turn again to the strategy of clustering, a
visual mapping strategy discussed in Chapter 6 as an aid to generating speech topics.
At this stage of the preparation process, you can use geometric shapes and arrows to
indicate the logical relationships among main ideas, subpoints, and supporting mate-
rial, as shown in Figure 8.4.

internal summary
A restatement in the body of a speech of
the ideas that have been developed so far

preparation outline
A detailed outline of a speech that includes
the central idea, main ideas, and support-
ing material; and that may also include the
specific purpose, introduction, conclusion,
and references

speaking notes
A brief outline used when a speech is

tYpeS OF SIgnpOStS

Initial previews

Internal previews

Verbal transitions

Nonverbal transitions

Final summaries

Internal summaries

148 Chapter 8

Endemic to


Scope of cyber-plagiarism

Spread of cyber-plagiarism


job market

paper mills

Lack of


Institution Administration Faculty Students

Figure 8.4 This map shows the relationships among each of a speaker’s three
main ideas and their subpoints. Main ideas are enclosed by rectangles; subpoints,
by ovals. Supporting material could be indicated by another shape
and connected to the appropriate subpoints.

Source: Copyrighted by Pearson Education, Hoboken, NJ.

Nationwide Insurance speechwriter Charles Parnell describes another technique
for beginning an outline:

I often start by jotting down a few ideas on the [computer] screen, then move them
around as necessary to build some sort of coherent pattern. I then fill in the details
as they occur to me.

What that means is that you can really start anywhere and eventually come
up with an entire speech, just as you can start with any piece of a puzzle and even-
tually put it together.25

You may have experimented in the past with outlining tools embedded in word-
processing programs, dedicated outlining software, or outlining apps for tablets or
smartphones. Some people find such tools helpful. Others find that outlining tech-
nology restricts their creativity, can be inflexible when they want to revise and edit a
draft outline, and may not follow the conventions for formal outlining summarized in
Figure 8.5. If you wish to use outlining technology, practice with it well in advance of
depending on it for a speech assignment with a due date and specific requirements for
outline content and format.

Regardless of how you begin your outline, your goal is to produce a plan that
helps you judge the unity and coherence of your speech: to see how well the parts fit
together and how smoothly the speech flows. The following suggestions will help you
complete your preparation outline. However, keep in mind that different instructors
may have different expectations for what an outline must include and how it is format-
ted. Be sure to understand and follow your own instructor’s guidelines.

write your PreParation outline in comPlete sentences Unless you write complete
sentences, you will have trouble judging the coherence of the speech. Moreover,

Organizing and Outlining Your Speech 149

complete sentences will help during your early rehearsals. If you write cryptic
phrases, you may not remember what they mean.

use standard outline Form Although you did not have to use standard outline form
when you began to sketch out your ideas, you need to do so now. Standard outline
form lets you see at a glance the exact relationships among various main ideas, sub-
points, and supporting material in your speech. It is an important tool for evaluating
your speech, as well as a requirement in many public-speaking courses. An instructor
who requires speech outlines will generally expect standard outline form. To produce a
correct outline, follow the instructions given here and summarized in Figure 8.5.

use standard outline numbering Logical and fairly easy to learn, outline number-
ing follows this sequence:

I. First main idea

A. First subpoint of I

B. Second subpoint of I

1. First subpoint of B

2. Second subpoint of B

a. First subpoint of 2

b. Second subpoint of 2

II. Second main idea

Although it is unlikely that you will subdivide beyond the level of lowercase let-
ters (a, b, etc.) in most speech outlines, next would come numbers in parentheses fol-
lowed by lowercase letters in parentheses.

use at least two subdivisions, iF any, For each Point Logic dictates that you cannot
divide anything into one part. If, for example, you have only one piece of supporting
material, incorporate it into the subpoint or main idea that it supports. If you have

standard outline form
Numbered and lettered headings and
subheadings arranged hierarchically to
indicate the relationships among parts of
a speech

Rule Example

1. Use standard outline numbers and letters. I.






2. Use at least two subpoints, if any, I.
for each main idea. A.


3. Properly indent main ideas, subpoints, I. First main idea
and supporting material. A. First subpoint of I

1. First subpoint of A

2. Second subpoint of A

B. Second subpoint of I

II. Second main idea


Figure 8.5 Use this summary as a reminder of the rules of proper outlining
when you write your preparation outline.

Source: Copyrighted by Pearson Education, Hoboken, NJ.

150 Chapter 8

prepArAtIOn OutlIneS
When you write your preparation outline,
be sure to:

• Use complete sentences.
• Use standard outline form and

• Include your specific purpose.
• Include your full introduction and

• Include your blueprint and key


only one subpoint, incorporate it into the main idea that precedes it. Although there
is no firm limit to the number of subpoints you may have, if you have more than five,
you may want to place some of them under another point. An audience will remem-
ber your ideas more easily if they are divided into blocks of no more than five.

indent main ideas, Points, subPoints, and suPPorting material ProPerly Main
ideas, indicated by Roman numerals, are written closest to the left margin. Notice that
the periods following the Roman numerals line up, so that the first words of the main
ideas also line up.

I. First main idea

II. Second main idea

III. Third main idea

Letters or numbers of subpoints and supporting material begin directly under-
neath the first word of the point that precedes it.

I. First main idea

A. First subpoint of I

If a main idea or subpoint takes up more than one line, the second line begins
under the first word of the preceding line:

I. Every speech has three parts.

A. The first part, both in our discussion and in the actual delivery, is the

The same rules of indentation apply at all levels of the outline. Note that if you are
using a word-processing program, you may find it easier to format your outline with the
AutoFormat feature turned off. The program’s attempt to “help” you may be more frus-
trating than helpful; it may also cause you to make more errors in your outline than if you
formatted it yourself.

write and label your sPeciFic PurPose at the toP oF your PreParation
outline Unless your instructor directs you to do otherwise, do not work the
specific purpose into the outline itself. Instead, label it and place it at the top of
the outline. Your specific purpose can serve as a yardstick by which to measure the
relevance of each main idea and piece of supporting material. Everything in the
speech should contribute to your purpose.

add the bluePrint, Key signPosts, and an introduction and conclusion to your
outline Place the introduction after the specific purpose, the blueprint immedi-
ately following the introduction, the conclusion after the outline of the body of the

speech, and other signposts within the outline. Follow your instruc-
tor’s guidelines for incorporating these elements into your numbering

Once you have completed your preparation outline, you can use it to
help analyze and possibly revise the speech. Figure 8.6 offers questions to
help you in this critical thinking task.

The following sample outline is for a 3- to 5-minute informative
speech by student speaker Matthew, whose speech preparation process
we have been following since Chapter 5.26 Note that in this example, the
purpose, introduction, blueprint, signposts, conclusion, and references
are included but separated from the numbered points in the body of the

Because Matthew kept good records during the preliminary bib-
liography stage of his research (see Chapter 7), he can easily cite his
references, as required by his instructor. As explained in Chapter 3,

Organizing and Outlining Your Speech 151

• If not, revise the specific purpose, or change
the direction and content of the speech itself.

Does the speech as outlined fulfill
the purpose you have specified?

Are the main ideas logical extensions
(natural divisions, reasons, or steps)
of the central idea?

Do the signposts enhance the flow
of one idea into the next?

Does each subpoint provide
support for the point under which
it falls?

Is your outline form correct?

• If not, revise either the central idea or the
main ideas.

• If not, change or add previews, summaries, or

• If not, then either move or delete the

• For a quick reference, check Figure 8.5 and
the Recap.

Figure 8.6 Use your preparation outline as a guide to analyzing and revising
your speech.

At the end of my speech, the audience will be able to explain the physiology of public-speaking
anxiety and the strategies for managing it.

Placing the purpose statement at the
top of the outline helps the speaker
keep it in mind. But always follow
your instructor’s specific requirements
for how to format your preparation

A thumping heart, frantic breathing, and a stomach full of butterflies. These are symptoms
most of us will feel over the next couple class periods. In a study published in Communication
Research Reports in 2012, researchers Dwyer and Davidson reported that public-speaking
anxiety affects some 3 out of 4 individuals, which means out of the 24 of us in this room, 18 of
us will experience feelings of anxiety, worry, and a faster heart rate.

Matthew catches his listeners’ atten-
tion by describing public-speaking
anxiety symptoms to which almost
everyone can relate. Other strategies
for effectively getting the audience’s
attention are discussed in Chapter 9.
Matthew also orally cites the source of
supporting material.

CentrAl IdeA
Both cognitive and physical public-speaking anxiety can be managed with specific strategies. Matthew writes out and labels his

central idea and preview, which
together form the blueprint of his
speech. Again, follow your instruc-
tor’s requirements for what to include
in your outline and how to label the
various components.

Today we will explore three things: first, how your brain processes anxiety; second, what
your body does in response; and finally, what you can do to effectively manage your public-
speaking anxiety.

sample preparatiOn Outline

the two most common reference formats, or documentation styles, are those devel-
oped by the Modern Language Association (MLA) and the American Psychological
Association (APA). MLA style is usually used in the humanities and APA style in
the natural and social sciences. Check with your instructor about which format he
or she prefers.

152 Chapter 8

BOdY OutlIne
I. When you first hear that you will have to present a speech, your brain responds by

cognitively processing the information.

A. The fear of embarrassment or being judged poorly, while not causing us any
physical harm, is scary enough for the brain to trigger an arousal response.

B. We begin to think about negative “what if” outcomes: “What if they think I’m bor-
ing?” “What if they don’t laugh at my jokes?”

C. “What if” thoughts can work as a self-fulfilling prophecy and can be detrimental to
our performance.

II. When your brain perceives something to be dangerous, your body responds.

A. Your body goes into “fight or flight” mode.

B. Your body responds by activating the sympathetic nervous system, a bundle of
nerves that directly stimulate the organs.

1. Your heart beats faster.

2. Your breathing speeds up.

3. You feel “butterflies” in your stomach.

C. Your perception of danger also stimulates your adrenal medulla, which is respon-
sible for releasing adrenaline.

Signpost. So what can I do to reduce my feelings of anxiety? Chapter 1 of our
course text, Public Speaking: An Audience-Centered Approach, offers practical
advice based on both research and experience.

III. There are many ways to decrease your public-speaking anxiety.

A. The most widely accepted way to manage public-speaking anxiety is with
cognitive-behavioral therapy.

1. Recognize when you are experiencing anxiety.

2. Counter negative thoughts by imagining yourself presenting an amazing speech.

3. Manage the physiological response by deep breathing and relaxation techniques.

B. The best way to reduce your public-speaking anxiety is to seek out opportunities
to speak publicly.

I hope what I have shared today will help you in your upcoming speeches. We have looked at
how your brain processes fear and anxiety and how your body responds to help you perform
better in stressful situations. I have also provided you with several techniques to reduce your
anxiety, but really the best way to handle your anxiety is through persistent practice in public
speaking. In the following class periods I ask you to apply what you have learned today. Gandhi
once said “Your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions.” Take what
you have learned here today and turn your weakness into a strength.

Beebe S., & Beebe, S. (2018). Public speaking: An audience-centered approach (10th ed.).

Boston, MA: Pearson.

Behnke, R., and Beatty, M. (1981). A cognitive-physiological model of speech anxiety. Commu-
nication Monographs, 48 (2), 158–163.

Comer R., (2015). Abnormal psychology (9th ed.). New York, NY: Macmillan.

Dwyer, K., and Davidson, M. (2012). Is public speaking really more feared than death?”
Communication Research Reports, 29 (2), 99–107.

The first main idea of the speech,
cognitive anxiety, is indicated by the
Roman numeral I. The three explana-
tions of how cognitive anxiety works
are indicated by A, B, and C.

A signpost between main ideas II and
III poses a rhetorical question as a
transition. Matthew also cites this text-
book, used in his class, as a source
of strategies for decreasing public-
speaking anxiety.

In his conclusion, Matthew first
reminds his audience how they can
apply the information he has provided,
then summarizes his main ideas. He
quotes Gandhi as part of his closing
inspirational appeal. Chapter 9 offers
additional strategies for concluding
your speech.

Following his instructor’s require-
ments, Matthew includes in his prepa-
ration outline a list of his references,
formatted in APA style.

Organizing and Outlining Your Speech 153

• Thumping heart,
• Frantic breathing,
• Stomach full of butterflies:
Symptoms most of us will feel over the next
couple class periods.

• 2012. Communication Research Reports:
Dwyer & Davidson report public-speaking
anxiety a­ects 3/4 individuals.
• [Sweeping gesture to indicate everyone in

room] Out of ____ in room, ____ will
experience anxiety, worry, & faster heart

Central Idea
Both cognitive and physical public-speaking
anxiety can be managed with specific

Today we will explore [Hold up 3 fingers] 3

1. How brain processes anxiety
2. What body does in response
3. What you can do to mg. public-speaking

Figure 8.7 Your speaking notes can include delivery cues and reminders. Be
sure to differentiate your cues from the content of your speech. One good way is
to write or display speaking cues in a different color or font.

Source: Copyrighted by Pearson Education, Hoboken, NJ.

Developing Your Speaking Notes
As you rehearse your speech, you will find that you need your preparation outline
less and less. Both the structure and the content of your speech will become set in your
mind. At this point, you are ready to prepare a shorter outline to serve as your speak-
ing notes.

Your speaking notes should not be so detailed that you will be tempted to read
them word for word to your audience. Instead, this shorter outline should provide
clearly formatted details sufficient to ensure that you can make your presentation as
you have planned in your preparation outline. NASA blamed the loss of the space
shuttle Columbia in part on the fact that an outline on possible wing damage was “so
crammed with nested bullet points and irregular short forms that it was nearly impos-
sible to untangle.”27

Figure 8.7 illustrates speaking notes for Matthew’s presentation on public-
speaking anxiety. Here are a few specific suggestions for developing your own
speaking notes.

154 Chapter 8

choose your technology Speaking notes can be either high tech or low tech. You may
decide to display your outline on a smartphone or tablet—perhaps using one of several
apps available for speaking notes—or you may opt to use old-fashioned note cards.
Even if you plan to use an electronic option, you may want to have a backup outline on
note cards in case of technical difficulty. Note cards don’t rustle like paper does and are
small enough to hold in one hand. Write on one side only, and number your note cards
in case they get out of order just before or during your speech. Regardless of the technol-
ogy you select, make sure your letters and words are large enough to be read easily.

use standard outline Form Standard outline form will help you find your exact
place when you glance down at your speaking notes. You will know, for example, that
your second main idea is indicated by “II.” In addition, lay out your outline so your
introduction, each main idea, and your conclusion are distinct.

include your introduction and conclusion in abbreviated Form Even if your
instructor does not require you to include your introduction and conclusion on your
preparation outline, include abbreviated versions of them in your speaking notes. You
might even feel more comfortable delivering the presentation if you have your first
and last sentences written out in front of you.

include your central idea, but not your PurPose statement Be sure to include
your central idea. But as you will not actu-
ally say your purpose statement during your
presentation, do not put it in your speaking

include suPPorting material and
signPosts Write out in full any statistics
and direct quotations and their sources.
Write your key signposts—your initial pre-
view, for example—to ensure that you will
not have to flounder awkwardly as you
move from one idea to another.

include delivery cues Writing in your speaking note cards such cues as “Louder,”
“Pause,” or “Walk two steps left” will remind you to communicate the nonverbal
messages you have planned. Write or format your delivery cues in a different color
or font so that you don’t confuse them with your verbal content. President Gerald
Ford once accidentally read the delivery cue “Look into the right camera” during a
speech. Clearly differentiating delivery cues from speech content will help prevent
such mistakes.

twO tYpeS OF SpeeCh OutlIneS
Preparation Outline Allows speaker to examine the speech for complete-

ness, unity, coherence, and overall effectiveness.
May serve as a first rehearsal outline.

Speaking Notes Include supporting material, signposts, and
delivery cues.

Organizing and Outlining Your Speech 155

CENTRAL IDEA: The new university multipur-
pose sports center will serve
the activity needs of the stu-

MAIN IDEAS: I. The south wing will house
an Olympic-size pool.

II. The center of the building
will be a large coliseum.

III. The north wing will
include handball and
indoor tennis facilities,
as well as rooms for
weight lifting and aero-
bic workouts.

assess: If your topic is controversial and you know or
suspect that your audience will be skeptical of or hostile
to your ideas, where should you place your most im-
portant or convincing idea for maximum effectiveness?
Explain your answer.

Organizing Your Supporting Material
8.2 Explain how to organize supporting material.

review: With your main ideas organized, your next task
is to organize your supporting material for each main
idea. You can organize supporting material according to
one of the five common patterns, or according to such
strategies as primacy, recency, specificity, complexity, or
soft-to-hard evidence.

Key Terms
soft evidence hard evidence


1. The principles of primacy and recency are referred to
several times in this chapter. If a statistic offers over-
whelming evidence of the severity of a given problem,
is it ethical for a speaker to save that statistic for last, or
should the speaker immediately reveal to the audience
how severe the problem is? In other words, is there an
ethical distinction between primacy and recency? Dis-
cuss your answer.

2. Take notes while listening to either a live or recorded
speech. Then organize your notes in standard outline
form to reflect the speaker’s organization of both main
ideas and support material. Try to determine the speak-
er’s organizational strategy, the reasons for it, and its

Organizing Your Main Ideas
8.1 List and describe five patterns for organizing the main

ideas of a speech.

review: Organizing the main ideas of your speech in a
logical way will help audience members follow, under-
stand, and remember these ideas. For North American
audiences, the five most common patterns of organization
include topical, chronological, spatial, cause and effect,
and problem-solution. These patterns are sometimes com-
bined. Other organizational patterns may be favored in
different cultures. The principles of primacy, recency, and
complexity can also help you decide which main idea to
discuss first, next, and last.

Key Terms
topical organization

spatial organization
motivated sequence

aPPly: Identify the organizational pattern most likely ap-
plied to the main ideas for each of the following speeches.
If the pattern is topical, do you think the speaker also
considered primacy, recency, or complexity? If so, identify
which one.

1. PURPOSE STATEMENT: At the end of my speech,
the audience will be able to
explain three theories about
what happened to the dino-

CENTRAL IDEA: There are at least three dis-
tinct theories about what
happened to the dinosaurs.

MAIN IDEAS: I. A large asteroid hit Earth.

II. A gradual climate shift

III. The level of oxygen in
the atmosphere gradu-
ally changed.

2. PURPOSE STATEMENT: At the end of my speech, the
audience will be able to de-
scribe the layout and features
of the new university multi-
purpose sports center.

study Guide: review, apply, and assess

156 Chapter 8

material; it may also include your specific purpose, in-
troduction, blueprint, internal previews and summaries,
transitions, and conclusion. Write each of these elements
in complete sentences and standard outline form. Use
the preparation outline to begin rehearsing your speech
and to help you revise it, if necessary. After you have
rehearsed several times from your preparation outline,
you are ready to prepare speaking notes. Although less
detailed than a preparation outline, speaking notes usu-
ally include supporting material, signposts, and deliv-
ery cues.

Key Terms
preparation outline
speaking notes

standard outline form


1. Can a speaker legitimately claim that a speech is extem-
poraneous if he or she has constructed a detailed prepa-
ration outline? Explain your answer.

2. Geoff plans to deliver his speech using hastily scrawled
notes on a sheet of paper torn from his notebook. What
advice would you offer him for preparing better speak-
ing notes?

Organizing Your presentation for the ears
of Others: Signposting
8.3 Use verbal and nonverbal signposts to organize a

speech for the ears of others.

review: Various types of signposts can help you communi-
cate your organization to your audience. Signposts include
verbal and nonverbal transitions, previews, and summaries.

Key Terms
initial preview
internal preview

verbal transition
nonverbal transition
final summary
internal summary

assess: Identify and explain three strategies for helping
your audience remember the main ideas of your speech.

Outlining Your Speech
8.4 Develop a preparation outline and speaking notes

for a speech.

review: A preparation outline includes your care-
fully organized main ideas, subpoints, and supporting

L ike all teachers, public-speaking instructors have pet peeves when it comes to
their students’ work. Of the pet peeves identified by public-speaking teachers
in one study, more than 25 percent relate to introductions and conclusions. They

include the following:

●● Beginning a speech with “OK, ah . . .”
●● Apologizing or making excuses at the beginning of the speech for

not being prepared
●● Beginning a speech with “Hello, my speech is on . . .”
●● Saying “In conclusion”
●● Ending a speech with “Thank you”
●● Ending a speech with “Are there any questions?”1

Not every public-speaking instructor considers all of the preceding items to be pet
peeves or even tactics to be avoided. But the fact that they appear on this list suggests
that you will probably want to consider alternatives. After all, your introduction and
conclusion provide your listeners with important first and final impressions of both
you and your speech.

9.1 Explain the functions of a speech introduction.

9.2 List and discuss methods for introducing a speech.

9.3 Explain the functions of a speech conclusion.

9.4 List and discuss methods for concluding a speech.


After studying this chapter, you should be able to do the following:

Introducing and
Concluding Your

Alfred Sisley (1839–899), The Rotating Road,
View on the Seine. Photo: Active Museum/
Alamy Stock Photo.

The average man thinks about

what he has said; the above average

man about what he is going to say.


158 Chapter 9

Organizing the body of your speech should precede the crafting of both the in-
troduction and the conclusion. In Chapter 8, we discussed strategies for organizing
the body of your speech; using previews, transitions, and summaries to signpost your
speech for your audience; and developing a presentation outline and speaking notes.
In this chapter we will complete our discussion of speech organization by discussing
introductions and conclusions.

Purposes of Introductions
9.1 Explain the functions of a speech introduction.

A speech introduction may engage you, or it may suggest that a speaker is ill-prepared
and his or her message is not worth your time. In a ten-minute speech, the introduc-
tion will probably last no more than a minute and a half. To say that the introduction
needs to be well planned is an understatement, considering how important and yet
how brief this portion of any speech is.

As a speaker, your task is to ensure that your introduction convinces your audi-
ence to listen to you. As summarized and illustrated in Table 9.1, a good introduction
must perform five important functions:

●● Get the audience’s attention.

●● Give the audience a reason to listen.

●● Introduce the subject.

●● Establish your credibility.

●● Preview your main ideas.

Let’s examine each of these five functions in detail.

You may feel the most nervous just as you begin your speech. But if you have a well-prepared and

well-rehearsed introduction, you’ll be able to start with confidence. Rehearse your opening sentences

enough times that you can present them while maintaining direct eye contact with your listeners.

Being familiar with your conclusion can give you a safe harbor to head for as you end your message.

A thoughtfully planned and well-rehearsed introduction and conclusion can help you start and end

your speech with poise and assurance.

ConfIdentlY ConneCtIng wIth Your AudIenCe
Be Familiar with Your Introduction and Conclusion

Purpose Method

Get the audience’s attention. Use an illustration, a startling fact or statistic, a quotation, humor,
a question, a reference to a historical or recent event, a personal
reference, a reference to the occasion, or a reference to a
preceding speech.

Give the audience a reason to listen. Tell your listeners how the topic directly affects them.

Introduce the subject. Present your central idea to your audience.

Establish your credibility. Offer your credentials. Tell your listeners about your commitment
to your topic.

Preview your main ideas. Tell your audience what you are going to tell them.

table 9.1 Purposes of Your Introduction

Source: Copyrighted by Pearson Education, Hoboken, NJ.

Introducing and Concluding Your Speech 159

Get the Audience’s Attention
A key purpose of the introduction is to gain favorable attention for your speech.
Because listeners form their first impressions of a speech quickly, the introduction
must capture their attention and cast the speech in a favorable light or the rest of the
speech may be wasted on them. The speaker who walks to the podium and drones,
“Today I am going to talk to you about . . .” has probably lost most of the audience
with those first few boring words. Specific ways to gain the attention of audiences will
be discussed later in this chapter.

We emphasize favorable attention for a good reason. It is possible to gain an audi-
ence’s attention with words or presentation aids that alienate or disgust them so that
they become irritated instead of interested in what you have to say. For example, one
student began his speech on the importance of donating blood by appearing to sav-
agely slash his wrists in front of his stunned audience. As blood spurted, audience
members screamed, and one fainted. The blood was real blood, but it wasn’t his. The
speaker worked at a blood bank, and he was using the bank’s blood. He had placed a
device under each arm that allowed him to pump out the blood as if it flowed from his
wrists. He certainly captured his audience’s attention! But they never heard his mes-
sage. The shock and disgust of seeing such a display made that impossible; he did not
gain favorable attention.

The moral of this tale: By all means, be creative with your speech introductions.
But also use common sense in deciding how best to gain the favorable attention of your
audience. Alienating them is even worse than boring them.

Give the Audience a Reason to Listen
Even after you have captured your listeners’ attention, you have to give them some
reason to want to listen to the rest of your speech. An unmotivated listener quickly
tunes out. You can help establish listening motivation by showing the members of
your audience how the topic affects them directly.

In Chapter 7 we presented six criteria for determining the effectiveness of your
supporting material. One of those criteria is proximity, the degree to which the informa-
tion affects your listeners directly. Just as proximity is important to supporting mate-
rials, it is also important to speech introductions. “This concerns me” is a powerful
reason to listen. Notice how Lauren involved her listeners firsthand with abhorrent
labor conditions in Florida tomato fields:

[If] you’ve eaten a tomato from a fast-food restaurant, grocery store, or food services
business in the last year, you’ve eaten a tomato picked by the hand of a slave. [She
shows two tomatoes to audience.] Can you tell which one? Now I know I’m taking
a chance here offering tomatoes to an audience at the beginning of a speech. But the
difference between these two is the difference between a fair market and slavery.2

It does not matter so much how or when you demonstrate proximity. But it is essen-
tial that, like Lauren, you do at some point establish that your topic is of vital personal
concern to your listeners.

Introduce the Subject
The most obvious purpose of an introduction is to introduce the subject of a speech.
Within a few seconds after you begin your speech, the audience should have a pretty good
idea of what you are going to talk about. Do not get so carried away with jokes or illus-
trations that you forget this basic purpose. Few things will frustrate your audience more
than having to wait until halfway through your speech to figure out what you are talking
about! The best way to ensure that your introduction does indeed introduce the subject of
your speech is to include a statement of your central idea in the introduction.





160 Chapter 9

Establish Your Credibility
Nineteenth-century abolitionist Frederick Douglass was renowned as a great orator.
According to biographer Charles W. Chesnutt, Douglass’s audiences recognized him as

a man whose . . . past history gave him the highest right to describe and denounce
the iniquities of slavery and contend for the rights of a race.3

In other words, audiences considered Douglass to be a credible speaker on issues of
slavery and racial justice.

As you begin your speech, you should be mindful of your listeners’ attitudes toward
you. Ask yourself, “Why should they listen to me? What is my background with respect to
the topic? Am I personally committed to the issues I am going to speak about?” If you can
establish your credibility early in a speech, it will help motivate your audience to listen.

One way to build credibility in the introduction is to be well prepared and to
appear confident. Thorough research and good organization help give the audience
confidence that you know what you are talking about. Speaking fluently while main-
taining eye contact does much to convey a sense of confidence. If you seem to have
confidence in yourself, your audience will have confidence in you.

A second way to establish credibility is to tell the audience about your personal
experience with your topic. Instead of thinking you boastful, most audience mem-
bers will listen to you with respect. Twitter CEO Dick Costolo opened a University of
Michigan commencement speech by photographing the graduates, then telling them
as he tweeted the photo,

I’m a professional, so this will only take a second.4

Credibility is discussed in more detail in Chapter 15.

Preview Your Main Ideas
A final purpose of the introduction is to preview the main ideas of your speech. As
discussed in Chapter 8, an initial preview statement usually comes near the end of the
introduction, included in or immediately following a statement of the central idea. This
preview statement allows your listeners to anticipate the main ideas of your speech,
which in turn helps ensure that they will remember those ideas after the speech.



Dick Costolo, president of Twitter,
effectively reinforced his credibility
by tweeting a photo of the graduates
during the introduction to his address
at the University of Michigan.
Photo: Todd McInturf/The Detroit
News/AP Images.

Introducing and Concluding Your Speech 161

As we also noted in Chapter 8, an initial preview statement is an organizational
strategy called a signpost. Just as signs posted along a highway tell you what is com-
ing up, a signpost in your speech tells the listeners what to expect by enumerating the
ideas or points you plan to present. If, for example, you were giving a speech about
racial profiling, you might say,

To end these crimes against color, we must first paint an accurate picture of the
problem, then explore the causes, and finally establish solutions that will erase the
practice of racial profiling.5

Identifying your main ideas helps organize the message and enhances listeners’ learning.
The introduction to your speech, then, should capture your audience’s attention,

give the audience a reason to listen, introduce the subject, establish your credibility,
and preview your main ideas. All this—and brevity too—may seem impossible to
achieve. But it isn’t!

effective Introductions
9.2 List and discuss methods for introducing a speech.

With a little practice, you will be able to write satisfactory central ideas and preview
statements. It may be more difficult to gain your audience’s attention and give them a
reason to listen to you. Fortunately, there are several effective methods for developing
speech introductions. Not every method is appropriate for every speech, but among
these alternatives, you should be able to discover at least one type of introduction to
fit your speech topic and purpose, whatever they might be.

We will discuss ten ways of introducing a speech:

●● Illustrations or anecdotes

●● Startling facts or statistics

●● Quotations

●● Humor

●● Questions

●● References to historical events

●● References to recent events

●● Personal references

●● References to the occasion

●● References to preceding speeches

Illustrations or Anecdotes
Not surprisingly, because it is the most inherently interesting type of supporting mate-
rial, an illustration or anecdote can provide the basis for an effective speech introduc-
tion. In fact, if you have an especially compelling illustration that you had planned to
use in the body of the speech, you might do well to use it in your introduction instead.
A relevant and interesting anecdote will introduce your subject and almost invari-
ably gain an audience’s attention. Student speaker Jacob opened his speech on child
migrant workers with this extended illustration:

Santos Polendo’s workday harvesting onions begins at six a.m. and ends twelve
hours later. Exhausted, he falls into bed for a short sleep before his work begins
again. This arduous schedule continues seven days a week without a break. Santos
remembers that once, when he began working in the onion fields, he slashed his
foot with a hoe, but because he couldn’t afford a trip to the doctor, he clumsily
wrapped his own foot as best he could and returned to the sweltering fields for the
rest of his shift. Santos was six years old.6



An illustration or story

162 Chapter 9

Jacob’s story effectively captured the attention of his audience and introduced the sub-
ject of his speech.

An opening illustration may also be conveyed by a short (less than a minute for
most classroom speeches), engaging video clip. If you decide to open your speech with
a video clip, be sure that video projection technology is available in the room where
you are speaking. Plan and practice transitioning from the video to the speech itself.
And on the day of the speech, arrive early enough to load and cue your video before
you speak. You can find additional guidelines for using video presentation aids in
Chapter 12.

Startling Facts or Statistics
A second method of introducing a speech is to use a startling fact or statistic. Grabbing
an audience’s attention with the extent of a situation or problem invariably catches
listeners’ attention, motivates them to listen further, and helps them remember after-
ward what you had to say. Will’s audience of prospective law students must have
been startled to attention by the statistics in his introduction:

Ninety-eight percent of the 2012 graduates of the Thomas Jefferson School of Law
in San Diego, California, graduated with an average of $168,800 in student debt.7

Using an appropriate quotation to introduce a speech is a common practice. Often
another writer or speaker has expressed an opinion on your topic that is more authori-
tative, comprehensive, or memorable than what you can say. Terrika opened her
speech on the importance of community with a quotation from poet Johari Kungufu:

Sisters, Men
What are we doin?

What about the babies, our children?
When we was real we never had orphans or children in joints.

Come spirits
drive out the nonsense from our minds and the crap from our dreams

make us remember what we need, that children are the next life.
bring us back to the real
bring us back to the real

“The Real.” Johari Kungufu, in her poem, specifically alludes to a time in African
history when children were not confused about who they were.8

A different kind of quotation, this one from an expert, was chosen by another speaker
to introduce the topic of the disappearance of childhood in America:

“As a distinctive childhood culture wastes away, we watch with fascination and
dismay.” This insight of Neil Postman, author of Disappearance of Childhood, raised
a poignant point. Childhood in America is vanishing.9

Because the expert was not widely recognized, the speaker included a brief statement
of his qualifications. This authority “said it in a nutshell”—he expressed in concise
language the central idea of the speech.

Although a quote can effectively introduce a speech, do not fall into the lazy
habit of turning to a collection of quotations every time you need an introduction.
There are so many other interesting, and sometimes better, ways to introduce a
speech. Quotes should be used only if they are extremely interesting, compelling, or
very much to the point.

Like the methods of organization discussed in Chapter 8, the methods of intro-
duction are not mutually exclusive. Often, two or three are effectively combined in a

Introducing and Concluding Your Speech 163

single introduction. For example, Thad combined a quotation and an illustration for
this effective introduction to a speech on the funeral industry:

“Dying is a very dull, dreary affair. And my advice to you is to have nothing
whatsoever to do with it.” These lingering words by British playwright Somerset
Maugham were meant to draw a laugh. Yet the ironic truth to the statement has
come to epitomize the grief of many, including Jan Berman of Martha’s Vineyard.
In a recent interview with National Public Radio, we learn that Ms. Berman de-
sired to have a home funeral for her mother. She possessed a burial permit and
was legally within her rights. But when a local funeral director found out, he lied
to her, telling her that what she was doing was illegal.10

Humor, handled well, can be a wonderful attention-getter. It can help relax your
audience and win their goodwill for the rest of the speech. Michael Ward of Oxford
University in England opened his recent commencement speech at Hillsdale College
in Michigan with this humorous greeting:

I bring cordial greetings from your erstwhile colonial overlords. I bear warmest fe-
licitations from Her Majesty The Queen, Professor Stephen Hawking, James Bond,
Sherlock Holmes, and the entire cast of Downton Abbey.11

Humor need not always be the slapstick comedy of the Three Stooges. It does
not even have to be a joke. It may take subtler forms, such as irony or incredulity.
When General Douglas MacArthur, an honor graduate of the U.S. Military Academy
at West Point, returned to his alma mater in 1962, he delivered his now-famous address
“Farewell to the Cadets.” He opened that speech with this humorous illustration:

As I was leaving the hotel this morning, a doorman asked me, “Where are you
bound for, General?” And when I replied, “West Point,” he remarked, “Beautiful
place. Have you ever been there before?”12

MacArthur’s brief illustration caught the audience’s attention and made them laugh—
in short, it was an effective way to open the speech.

If your audience is linguistically diverse or composed primarily of listeners whose
first language is not English, you may want to choose an introduction strategy other

Humor can be an effective way to
catch your audience’s attention in your
introduction. Remember, however, to
use humor appropriate to the occasion
and the audience. Photo: Digital
Vision/Photodisc/Getty Images.

164 Chapter 9

than humor. Because much humor is created by verbal plays on words, people who do
not speak English as their native language may not perceive the humor in an anecdote
or quip that you intended to be funny.

Just as certain audiences may preclude your use of a humorous introduction, so
may certain subjects—for example, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and rape. Used
with discretion, however, humor can provide a lively, interesting, and appropriate
introduction for many speeches. Using humor effectively is discussed in more detail
in Chapter 16.

Remember the pet peeves listed at the beginning of this chapter? Another pet peeve
for some is beginning a speech with a question (“How many of you . . . ?”). The prob-
lem is not so much the strategy itself but the lack of mindfulness in the “How many of
you?” phrasing.

A thoughtful rhetorical question, on the other hand, can prompt your listeners’
mental participation in your introduction, getting their attention and giving them a
reason to listen. President and CEO of Coca-Cola, Muhtar Kent, began a speech to
investors and financial analysts by asking,

Are we ready for tomorrow, today?13

And Richard opened his speech on teenage suicide with this simple question:

Have you ever been alone in the dark?14

Although it does not happen frequently, an audience member may blurt out a
vocal response to a question intended to be rhetorical. If you plan to open a speech
with a rhetorical question, be aware of this possibility, and plan appropriate reac-
tions. If the topic is light, responding with a Jimmy Fallon–style quip may win over
the audience and turn the interruption into an asset. If the topic is more serious or
the interruption is inappropriate or contrary to what you expected, you might reply
with something like “Perhaps most of the rest of you were thinking . . . ,” or you might
answer the question yourself.

Questions are commonly combined with another method of introduction. For
example, University of Akron president Luis Proenza opened a speech on new strate-
gies for success in higher education with a question followed by a startling statistic:

What if the airplane had advanced as far and as fast as the computer? Today’s
jumbo jet would carry one hundred thousand passengers, and it would fly them
to the moon and back for $12.50 at 23,400 miles per hour.15

Either by themselves or in tandem with another method of introduction, questions
can provide effective openings for speeches. Like quotations, however, questions can
also be crutches for speakers who have not taken the time to explore other options.
Unless you can think of a truly engaging question, work to develop one of the other
introduction strategies.

References to Historical Events
What American is not familiar with the opening line of President Abraham Lincoln’s
classic Gettysburg Address: “Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought
forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the propo-
sition that all men are created equal”? Lincoln’s famous opening sentence refers to the
historical context of his speech. You, too, may find a way to begin a speech by making
a reference to a historic event.

Every day is the anniversary of something. Perhaps you could begin a speech by
drawing a relationship between a historic event that happened on this day and your



rhetorical question
A question intended to provoke thought
rather than elicit an answer



Introducing and Concluding Your Speech 165

speech objective. Executive speechwriter Cynthia Starks illustrated this strategy in a
speech delivered on February 16:

On this date—Feb. 16, 1923—archeologist Howard Carter entered the burial cham-
ber of King Tutankhamen. There he found a solid gold coffin, Tut’s intact mummy,
and priceless treasures.

On Feb. 16, 1959, Fidel Castro took over the Cuban government 45 days after
overthrowing Fulgencio Batista.

And America’s first 9-1-1 emergency phone system went live in Haleyville,
Alabama, on Feb. 16, 1968.

Today, I won’t be revealing priceless treasures. I promise not to overthrow
anyone, or generate any 9-1-1 calls. But I do hope to reveal a few speechwriting
secrets, provide a little revolutionary thinking and a sense of urgency about the
speeches you ought to be giving.16

How do you discover anniversaries of historic events? You could consult “This
Day in History” online or download it as an app for your tablet or smartphone.

References to Recent Events
If your topic is timely, a reference to a recent event can be a good way to begin your
speech. An opening taken from a recent news story can take the form of an illustration,
a startling statistic, or even a quotation, gaining the additional advantages discussed
under each of those methods of introduction. Moreover, referring to a recent event
increases your credibility by showing that you are knowledgeable about current affairs.

“Recent” does not necessarily mean a story that broke just last week or even last
month. An event that occurred within the past year or so can be considered recent.
Even a particularly significant event that is slightly older can qualify. The key, says one

is to avoid being your grandfather. No more stories about walking up hill both
ways to school with a musket on your back and seventeen Redcoats chasing you.
Be in the now, and connect with your audience.17

Personal References
A reference to yourself can take several forms. You might express appreciation or plea-
sure at having been asked to speak, as did this speaker:

I am delighted to participate in this engaging meeting at my graduate alma mater.18

Or you might share a personal experience, as did this speaker:

Like some of you in the audience, I’ve held many jobs before finding my true calling,
from washing cars to waiting tables and taking care of animals . . . .19

Although personal references take a variety of forms, what they do best, in all
circumstances, is to establish a bond between you and your audience.

References to the Occasion
References to the occasion are often made at weddings, birthday parties, dedication
ceremonies, and other such events. For example, Jeffrey Immelt, Chair and CEO of
General Electric, opened a recent commencement speech this way:

[A]fter hitting up Yik Yak this morning . . . I realized my biggest mistake may
have been just showing up today. You guys really know how to count down the
last 40 days of college.20

The reference to the occasion can also be combined with other methods of introduc-
tion, such as an illustration or a rhetorical question.



166 Chapter 9

References to Preceding Speeches
If your speech is one of several being presented on the same occasion, such as in a
speech class, at a symposium, or as part of a lecture series, you will usually not know
until shortly before your own speech what other speakers will say. Few experiences
will make your stomach sink faster than hearing a speaker just ahead of you speak on

your topic. Worse still, that speaker may even use some of the same
supporting materials you had planned to use.

When this situation occurs, you must decide on the spot whether
referring to one of those previous speeches will be better than using
the introduction you originally prepared. Your introduction then
becomes a transition from that earlier speech to yours. Here is an
example of an introduction delivered by a fast-thinking student
speaker under such circumstances:

When Juli talked to us about her experiences as a lifeguard, she
stressed that the job was not as glamorous as many of us imag-
ine. Today I want to tell you about another job that appears to be
more glamorous than it is—a job that I have held for two years.
I am a bartender at the Rathskeller.21

As you plan your introduction, remember that any combination
of the methods previously discussed is possible. With a little practice,
you will become confident at choosing from several good possibilities
as you prepare your introduction.

Purposes of Conclusions
9.3 Explain the functions of a speech conclusion.

Whereas your introduction creates an important first impression, your conclu-
sion leaves an equally important final impression. Long after you finish speaking,
your audience is likely to remember the effect, if not the content, of your closing

Unfortunately, many speakers pay less attention to their conclusions than to any
other part of their speeches. They believe that if they can get through the first 90 percent
of their speech, they can think of some way to conclude it. Perhaps you have had the
experience of listening to a speaker who failed to plan a conclusion. Awkward final
seconds of stumbling for words may be followed by hesitant applause from an audi-
ence that is not even sure the speech is over. It is hardly the best way to leave people
who came to listen to you.

An effective conclusion will serve two purposes: It will summarize the speech and
provide closure.

Summarize the Speech
A conclusion is a speaker’s last chance to review his or her central and main ideas for
the audience.

Reemphasize the CentRal idea in a memoRable Way The conclusions of many fa-
mous speeches rephrase the central idea in a memorable way. When on July 4, 1939,
New York Yankees legend Lou Gehrig addressed his fans in an emotional farewell to
a baseball career cut short by a diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), he
concluded with the memorable line,

I may have had a tough break, but I have an awful lot to live for.22

teChnIqueS for
effeCtIve IntroduCtIonS
• Use an illustration or anecdote.
• Present startling facts or statistics.
• Share a quotation.
• Employ appropriate humor.
• Ask a rhetorical question.
• Refer to historical or recent events.
• Reveal something about yourself.
• Make note of the occasion.
• Acknowledge the speeches before yours.

Introducing and Concluding Your Speech 167

Speechwriting instructor and former speechwriter Robert Lehrman identifies a more
recent memorable conclusion, that of Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential victory

[T]hat long closing story about Ann Nixon Cooper, the 106-year-old woman whose
life encapsulated the history of the 20th century (“a man touched down on the
moon . . . she touched her finger to a screen and cast her vote . . .”).23

Lehrman notes, “When I teach that speech, students stop texting and start crying.”
But memorable endings are not the exclusive property of famous speakers. With

practice, most people can prepare similarly effective conclusions. Chapter 10 offers
ideas for using language to make your statements more memorable.

The end of your speech is your last chance to impress the central idea on your
audience. Do it in such a way that they cannot help but remember it.

Restate the main ideas In addition to reemphasizing the central idea of the
speech, the conclusion is also likely to restate the main ideas. Note how John ef-
fectively summarized the main ideas of his speech on emissions tampering, casting
the summary as an expression of his fears about the problem and the actions that
could ease those fears:

I’m frightened. Frightened that nothing I could say would encourage the 25 percent
of emissions-tampering Americans to change their ways and correct the factors that
cause their autos to pollute disproportionately. Frightened that the American public
will not respond to a crucial issue unless the harms are both immediate and observ-
able. Frightened that the EPA will once again prove very sympathetic to industry.
Three simple steps will alleviate my fear: inspection, reduction in lead content, and,
most importantly, awareness.24

Most speakers summarize their main ideas in the first part of the conclusion or as part
of the transition between the body of the speech and its conclusion.

Provide Closure
Probably the most obvious purpose of a conclusion is to bring closure—to cue the
audience that the speech is coming to an end by making it “sound finished.”

Use VeRbal oR nonVeRbal CUes to signal the end of the speeCh You can attain
closure both verbally and nonverbally. Verbal techniques include using such tran-
sitional words and phrases as “finally,” “for my last point,” and perhaps even “in

You may remember that “in conclusion” appears on that list of instructors’ pet
peeves at the beginning of this chapter. Like opening your speech by asking a rhe-
torical question, signaling your closing by saying “in conclusion” is not inherently
wrong. It is a pet peeve of some instructors because of the carelessness with which
student speakers often use it. Such a cue gives listeners unspoken permission to tune
out. (Notice what students do when their professor signals the end of class: Books and
notebooks slam shut, pens are stowed away, and the class generally stops listening.)
For this reason, if you use a concluding transition, it needs to be followed quickly by
the final statement of the speech.

You can also signal closure with nonverbal cues. You may want to pause between
the body of your speech and its conclusion, slow your speaking rate, move out from
behind a podium to make a final impassioned plea to your audience, or signal with
falling vocal inflection that you are making your final statement.

motiVate the aUdienCe to Respond Another way to provide closure to your speech
is to motivate your audience to respond in some way. If your speech is informative,
you may want your audience to take some sort of appropriate action—write a letter,

The quality of a conclusion that makes a
speech “sound finished”

168 Chapter 9

buy a product, make a telephone call, or get involved in a cause. In fact, an
action step is essential to the persuasive organizational strategy called the
motivated sequence, which we discuss in Chapter 15.

At the close of her speech on rape law reform, Tiffany offered to
help her listeners take action:

. . . inform yourself and get involved. To make this easier, I created
individualized state call-to-action sheets.

They include your senator’s contact information, statistics, and
the specific laws that need reform. You can also download my app
Demand Change.25

Tiffany drew on the principle of proximity, discussed previously in this chap-
ter, to motivate her audience. When audience members feel they are or could
be personally involved or affected, they are more likely to respond to your

effective Conclusions
9.4 List and discuss methods for concluding a speech.

Effective conclusions may employ illustrations, quotations, personal references, or
any of the other methods of introduction we have discussed. In addition, there are at
least two other distinct ways of concluding a speech: with references to the introduc-
tion and with inspirational appeals or challenges.

Methods Also Used for Introductions
Any of the methods of introduction previously discussed can also help you conclude
your speech. Quotations, for example, are frequently used in conclusions, as in this
commencement address by U2 lead singer Bono:

Remember what John Adams said about Ben Franklin: “He does not hesitate at
our boldest measures but rather seems to think us too irresolute.”

Well, this is the time for bold measures. This is the country, and you are the

References to the Introduction
In our discussion of closure, we mentioned referring to the introduction as a way to
end a speech. Finishing a story, answering a rhetorical question, or reminding the
audience of the startling fact or statistic you presented in the introduction are excellent
ways to provide closure. Like bookends, a related introduction and conclusion pro-
vide unified support for the ideas in between.

In this chapter, you read the extended illustration Jacob used to open his
speech on child migrant workers. He concluded the speech by referring to that

Santos . . . —and all other migrant child workers—deserve to be protected.27

Jacob’s conclusion alludes to his introduction to make his speech memorable, to
motivate his audience to respond, and to provide closure.

PurPoSeS of Your
SPeeCh ConCluSIon
• Summarize the speech.
• Reemphasize the central idea in a

memorable way.
• Restate the main ideas.
• Provide closure.
• Give verbal or nonverbal signals at

the end of the speech.
• Motivate the audience to respond.

Introducing and Concluding Your Speech 169

Inspirational Appeals or Challenges
Another way to end your speech is to issue an inspirational appeal or to chal-
lenge to your listeners, rousing them to an emotional pitch at the conclusion of
the speech. The conclusion becomes the climax. Speechwriter and communica-
tion consultant James W. Robinson explains why such conclusions can work

It’s almost as if, for a few brief moments [audience members] escape from the
stressful demands of our high-pressure world and welcome your gifts: insightful
vision, persuasive rhetoric, a touch of philosophy, a little emotion, and yes, even
a hint of corniness.28

One famous example of a concluding inspiration appeal comes from Martin
Luther King Jr.’s “Dream” speech, which can be read in its entirety in Appendix
B. That King’s conclusion was both inspiring and memorable has been affirmed
by the growing fame of his closing passage.

More recently, Kailash Satyarthi, Indian child rights activist and co-recipient
of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize, ended his Nobel acceptance speech with these stir-
ring words:

I call for a march from exploitation to education, from poverty to shared prosper-
ity, a march from slavery to liberty, and a march from violence to peace.

Let us march from darkness to light. Let us march from mortality to divinity.
Let us march!29

Both King’s and Satyarthi’s conclusions reemphasized their cen-
tral ideas in a memorable way, provided closure to their speeches, and
inspired their listeners.

Child rights activist Kailash Satyarthi ac-
cepts the Nobel Prize in Oslo, Norway, on
December 10, 2014. Photo: Nigel Waldron/
Getty Images.

teChnIqueS for
effeCtIve ConCluSIonS
• Use any of the techniques for an effective

• Refer to the introduction of your speech.
• Issue an inspirational appeal or a


170 Chapter 9

students are given schedules for their speeches, Shanna
realizes that she will speak before Marty. She badly
wants to use the introductory illustration that Marty has
discovered. Can she ethically do so, if she cites in her
speech the original source of the illustration?

2. Nakai is planning to give his informative speech on
Native American music, displaying and demonstrating
the use of such instruments as the flute, the Taos drum,
and the Yaqui rain stick. How might Nakai best intro-
duce his speech?

Purposes of Conclusions
9.3 Explain the functions of a speech conclusion.

ReVieW: Your conclusion leaves the final impression of
your speech in your listeners’ minds. The two main pur-
poses of the conclusion are to summarize your speech and
to provide closure. Your summary should rephrase your
central idea in a way that your audience will remember,
and it should repeat your main ideas to fix them in your
listeners’ minds. Verbal and nonverbal clues that the
speech is ending will help to provide your audience with
closure. You can also use the conclusion as an opportunity
to suggest an action and to motivate your audience to re-
spond in some way to your message.

Key Term

effective Conclusions
9.4 List and discuss methods for concluding a speech.

ReVieW: Conclusions may take any one of the forms
used for introductions. In addition, you can refer to the
introduction or make inspirational appeals or challenges
in your conclusion.

apply: Knowing that you have recently visited the
Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., your
American history professor asks you to make a brief pre-
sentation to the class about the Wall: its history; its sym-
bolic meaning; and its impact on the families, comrades,
and friends of those memorialized there. Write both an
introduction and a conclusion for this speech.

study Guide: Review, Apply, And Assess

Purposes of Introductions
9.1 Explain the functions of a speech introduction.

ReVieW: It is important to begin and end your speech in
a way that is memorable and that also provides the rep-
etition audiences need. A good introduction captures the
audience’s attention, gives the audience a reason to listen,
introduces your subject, establishes your credibility, and
previews your main ideas. Introducing your subject and
previewing the body of your speech can be accomplished
by including your central idea and initial preview state-
ment in the introduction.

assess: How could you motivate your classroom audi-
ence to listen to you on each of the following topics?

●● Cholesterol

●● Elvis Presley

●● The history of greeting cards

●● Ozone depletion

●● Distracted driving

effective Introductions
9.2 List and discuss methods for introducing a speech.

ReVieW: You can gain favorable attention and provide
a motivation for listening by using any of the follow-
ing, alone or in combination: illustrations, startling facts
or statistics, quotations, humor, questions, references to
historical events, references to recent events, personal
references, references to the occasion, or references to pre-
ceding speeches, as appropriate.

Key Terms
anecdote rhetorical question


1. Marty and Shanna, who are in the same section of a
public-speaking class, are discussing their upcoming
speeches. Marty has discovered an illustration that she
thinks will make an effective introduction. When she
tells Shanna about it, Shanna is genuinely enthusiastic.
In fact, she thinks it would make a great introduction for
her own speech, which is on a different topic. When the

The photos of protest signs in Figure 10.1 were never intended to be funny.1 They
illustrate that using language accurately, clearly, and effectively can be a chal-
lenge, even to those engaging in the impassioned exercise of free speech.

10.1 Describe three differences between oral and written
language styles.

10.2 List and explain three ways to use words effectively.

10.3 Discuss how to adapt your language style to diverse

10.4 List and explain three types of memorable word


After studying this chapter, you should be able to do the following:

Using Words Well:
Speaker Language
and Style

Jan Groneberg (1943–2014), Four Words,
Speechless, 2007 (oil on wood), Private
Collection/The Bridgeman Art Library.

A speech is poetry: cadence,

rhythm, imagery, sweep! A

speech reminds us that words,

like children, have the power to

make dance the dullest beanbag

of a heart.

—Peggy Noonan

172 Chapter 10

However, there are great variations within both
oral and written styles. One speech may be quite per-
sonal and informal, whereas another may have charac-
teristics more often associated with written style. The
personality of the speaker or writer, the subject of the
discourse, the audience, and the occasion all affect the
style of the language used.

●● Oral Style Is More Repetitive Than Written Style.
When you don’t understand something you are read-
ing in a book or an article, you can stop and reread a
passage, look up unfamiliar words in the dictionary,
or ask someone for help. When you’re listening to
a speech, those opportunities usually aren’t avail-
able. For this reason, an oral style is and should be
more repetitive.

As discussed in Chapter 8, when organizing a speech, you’ll want to preview
main ideas in your introduction, develop your ideas in the body of the speech, and
summarize these same ideas in the conclusion. This built-in repetition ensures that
your listener will grasp your message. Even during the process of developing an
idea, it is sometimes necessary to state it first, restate it in a different way, provide
an example, and, finally, summarize it.

Using Words Effectively
10.2 List and explain three ways to use words effectively.

Although your speech will be more personal, less formal, and more repetitive than a
term paper written on the same topic, you will still want to ensure that your message
is clear, accurate, and memorable. Your spoken words should be specific, concrete,
simple, and correct.

Use Specific, Concrete Words
If you were to describe your pet snake to an audience, you would need to do more
than say it is a serpent. Instead, you would want to use the most specific term pos-
sible, describing your snake as a ball python or, if you were speaking to an audi-
ence of scientists, perhaps as a Python regius. A specific word or term such as ball
python refers to an individual member of a class of more general things, such as
serpent or snake.

Specific words are often concrete words, which appeal to one of our five senses,
whereas general words are often abstract words, which refer to ideas or qualities. A
linguistic theory known as general semantics holds that the more concrete your words
are, the clearer your communication will be.3 Semanticists use a continuum called a
ladder of abstraction to model how something can be described in either concrete
or abstract language. Figure 10.2 shows an example of a ladder of abstraction: The
words are most abstract at the top of the ladder and become more concrete as you
move down the ladder.

Specific, concrete nouns create memorable images, as in this speech delivered by a
Wake Forest University student:

Sometimes when I sleep, I can still hear the voices of my life—night crickets,
lions’ mating calls, my father’s advice, my friend’s laughter; I can still hear the
voices of Africa.4

ladder of abstraction
Continuum model of abstract and
concrete words for a concept, idea,
or thing

For public speakers, like protestors, it is important to communicate messages both
clearly and accurately. At the same time, it is also important to present those messages
in such a way that your audience will listen to, remember, and perhaps act on what
you have to say.

In this chapter we will focus on the power of language. We will suggest ways to
communicate your messages to others accurately and effectively. We will also discuss
how your choice of words and word structures can help give your messages distinc-
tive style.

Differentiating Oral and Written
Language Styles
10.1 Describe three differences between oral and written language styles.

Your instructor has probably told you not to write your speech out word for word.
This admonition stems from at least three major differences between oral and written
language styles.

●● Oral Style Is More Personal Than Written Style. When speaking, you can
look your listeners in the eye and talk to them directly. That personal contact af-
fects your speech and your verbal style. As a speaker, you are likely to use more
pronouns (I, you) than you would in writing. You are also more likely to address
specific audience members by name.

●● Oral Style Is Less Formal Than Written Style. Memorized speeches usually
sound as if they were written because the words and phrases are longer, more
complex, and more formal than those used by most speakers. Oral style, on the
other hand, is characterized by “looser construction, repetition, rephrasing, and
comment clauses (‘you know’) . . . .”2

Figure 10.1 Sometimes our word choices are unintentionally amusing.

Photo: Ed Lefkowicz/Demotix/Corbis.

Photo: Mark Rightmire/
ZUMA Press/Corbis.

Using Words Well: Speaker Language and Style 173

However, there are great variations within both
oral and written styles. One speech may be quite per-
sonal and informal, whereas another may have charac-
teristics more often associated with written style. The
personality of the speaker or writer, the subject of the
discourse, the audience, and the occasion all affect the
style of the language used.

●● Oral Style Is More Repetitive Than Written Style.
When you don’t understand something you are read-
ing in a book or an article, you can stop and reread a
passage, look up unfamiliar words in the dictionary,
or ask someone for help. When you’re listening to
a speech, those opportunities usually aren’t avail-
able. For this reason, an oral style is and should be
more repetitive.

As discussed in Chapter 8, when organizing a speech, you’ll want to preview
main ideas in your introduction, develop your ideas in the body of the speech, and
summarize these same ideas in the conclusion. This built-in repetition ensures that
your listener will grasp your message. Even during the process of developing an
idea, it is sometimes necessary to state it first, restate it in a different way, provide
an example, and, finally, summarize it.

Using Words Effectively
10.2 List and explain three ways to use words effectively.

Although your speech will be more personal, less formal, and more repetitive than a
term paper written on the same topic, you will still want to ensure that your message
is clear, accurate, and memorable. Your spoken words should be specific, concrete,
simple, and correct.

Use Specific, Concrete Words
If you were to describe your pet snake to an audience, you would need to do more
than say it is a serpent. Instead, you would want to use the most specific term pos-
sible, describing your snake as a ball python or, if you were speaking to an audi-
ence of scientists, perhaps as a Python regius. A specific word or term such as ball
python refers to an individual member of a class of more general things, such as
serpent or snake.

Specific words are often concrete words, which appeal to one of our five senses,
whereas general words are often abstract words, which refer to ideas or qualities. A
linguistic theory known as general semantics holds that the more concrete your words
are, the clearer your communication will be.3 Semanticists use a continuum called a
ladder of abstraction to model how something can be described in either concrete
or abstract language. Figure 10.2 shows an example of a ladder of abstraction: The
words are most abstract at the top of the ladder and become more concrete as you
move down the ladder.

Specific, concrete nouns create memorable images, as in this speech delivered by a
Wake Forest University student:

Sometimes when I sleep, I can still hear the voices of my life—night crickets,
lions’ mating calls, my father’s advice, my friend’s laughter; I can still hear the
voices of Africa.4

ladder of abstraction
Continuum model of abstract and
concrete words for a concept, idea,
or thing

Written style Less personal, with no immediate

interaction between writer and reader

More formal

Less repetitive

Oral style More personal, facilitating interaction
between speaker and audience

Less formal

More repetitive

174 Chapter 10

Specific, concrete verbs can be especially effective. The late Representative Barbara
Jordan of Texas, whose language skills one speechwriter describes as “legendary,” rec-
ognized the power of concrete verbs.5 For example, the first draft of a passage in her
1992 Democratic National Convention keynote stated:

The American dream is not dead. It is injured, it is sick, but it is not dead.

Jordan revised the line to read:

The American dream is not dead. It is gasping for breath, but it is not dead.

The concrete verb phrase “gasping for breath” brings alive the image Jordan intended
to create.

When searching for a specific, concrete word, you may want to consult a the-
saurus. But do not feel you have to choose the most obscure or unusual word to
vary your description. Simple language will often evoke the most vivid image for
your listeners.

Use Simple Words
The best language is often the simplest. Your words should be immediately under-
standable to your listeners. Don’t try to impress them with jargon and pompous
wording. Instead, as linguist Paul Roberts advises,

Decide what you want to say and say it as vigorously as possible . . . and in plain

In his classic essay “Politics and the English Language,” George Orwell lists rules for
clear writing, including this prescription for simplicity:

Never use a long word where a short one will do . . . Never use a foreign phrase,
a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English

Make audio or video recordings of your practice sessions. As you review the record-
ing, listen for chances to express yourself with simpler and fewer words. Used wisely,
simple words can communicate with great power and precision.

Use Words Correctly
I was listening to the car radio one day when a woman reading the news referred
to someone as a suede-o-intellectual. I pondered through three traffic lights until I
realized she wasn’t talking about shoes, but a pseudointellectual.8

A public speech is not the place to demonstrate your lack of familiarity with English
vocabulary and grammar. In fact, your effectiveness with your audience depends in

Red Mercedes C-230


German car




A type of German-made car

A car made in Germany

A means of conveying someone
from one place to another

A machine used for transportation

A specific type of transportation


A specific color and model of a
German-made car

Figure 10.2 A “ladder of abstraction” is used by semanticists to show how a
concept, idea, or thing can be described in either concrete or abstract terms.

Source: Copyrighted by Pearson Education, Hoboken, NJ.

Using Words Well: Speaker Language and Style 175

part on your ability to use the English language correctly. If you are unsure of the
way to apply a grammatical rule, refer to a good English usage handbook. If you are
unsure of a word’s pronunciation or meaning, use a dictionary. Major online diction-
aries provide recordings of the correct pronunciation of words.

Language operates on two levels, and perhaps the greatest challenge to using
words correctly is remaining aware of connotations as well as denotations.

Denotation The denotation of a word is its literal meaning, the definition you find
in a dictionary. For example, the denotation of the word notorious is “famous.”

Connotation The connotation of a word is not usually found in a dictionary, but
it consists of the meaning we associate with the word, based on our experiences.
Notorious connotes fame for some dire deed. Notorious and famous are not really inter-
changeable. It is just as important to consider the connotations of the words you use as
it is to consider the denotations.

Sometimes connotations are personal. For example, the word table is defined deno-
tatively as a piece of furniture consisting of a smooth, flat slab affixed on legs. But
the word table may evoke for you an image of your family’s old oak table where you
once played checkers with your grandmother. This image is a personal connotation of
the word, a unique meaning based on your own experiences. Personal meanings are
difficult to predict, but as a public speaker you should be aware of the possibility of
triggering audience members’ personal connotations. This awareness is particularly
important when you are discussing highly emotional or controversial topics.

And finally, if your audience includes people whose first language is not English,
to whom the nuances of connotation may not be readily apparent, it may be necessary
to explain your intentions in more detail rather than rely on word associations.

Use Words Concisely
Concise does not necessarily mean “short”; rather, it means “succinct” or “to the
point.” Research suggests that people who use fewer words are perceived by listen-
ers as more powerful or credible, a perception that may be especially helpful to per-
suasive speakers.9 In other words, your goal should be to use only as many words as
are necessary to convey your message. Consider the following suggestions for using
language concisely.

eliminate WorDs anD Phrases that aDD no meaning to Your message Concise lan-
guage helps your audience follow your speech’s organization and can enhance your
credibility. Here are phrases you can always eliminate from a speech:

“In my opinion” (just state the opinion)

“And all that” (meaningless)

“When all is said and done” (just say it)

“As a matter of fact” (just state the fact)

“Before I begin, I’d like to say” (you’ve already begun—just say it)

These kinds of phrases are known as clichés. A cliché is an overused expression
that has become meaningless and perhaps even irritating; using a cliché can make
listeners “start tuning out and completely miss the message.”10 One recent list of
annoying clichés includes “at the end of the day,” “user-friendly,” “with all due
respect,” and “Your call is important to us.”11 Substitute specific, concrete words
for clichés.

avoiD narrating Your sPeaking teChnique There’s no need to say, “Here’s an in-
teresting story that I think you will like.” Just tell the story. Instead of saying, “Now
I’d like to offer several facts about this matter,” just state the facts. Yes, it’s useful to
provide signposts and internal summaries throughout your message—redundancy is

The literal meaning of a word

The meaning listeners associate with a
word, based on their experience

Succinct or to the point

An overused expression

176 Chapter 10

needed in oral messages—but be careful not to provide a cluttering
narration about the techniques you’re using.

avoiD a long Phrase When a short one Will Do

Instead of saying … Say …
So, for that reason So

But at the same time But

In today’s society Today

Due to the fact Because

In the course of During

In the final analysis Finally

adapting your Language Style
to Diverse Listeners
10.3 Discuss how to adapt your language style to diverse listeners.

To communicate successfully with the diverse group of listeners who comprise your
audience, make sure your language is understandable, appropriate, and unbiased.

Use Language That Your Audience
Can Understand
Even if you and all your public-speaking classmates speak English, you probably
speak many varieties of the language. Perhaps some of your classmates speak in an
ethnic vernacular, such as “Spanglish,” an informal combination of English and
Spanish often heard near the United States–Mexico border; Cajun, with its influx of
French words, frequently spoken in Louisiana; or African American Vernacular English
(AAVE). Some of you may reflect where you grew up by your use of regionalisms,
words or phrases specific to one part of the country but rarely used in quite the same
way in other places. Others may frequently use jargon, the specialized language of
your profession or interest group. One specific type of jargon is the distinctive vocabu-
lary of social media.12 Although social media jargon such as unfriend, selfie, and LOL
are likely to be understood by most general audiences today, other words, such as troll
(someone who makes offensive comments online), sock puppet (a fake online persona),
and astroturfing (a fake online grass-roots movement), are less mainstream.

When you give a speech to those who share your ethnic, regional, professional, or
interest group background, you can communicate successfully with them using these
specialized varieties of English. However, when you give a speech to a more diverse
audience, where do you find a linguistic common ground?

The answer is to use Standard American English. Standard American English
(SAE) is the language taught by schools and used in the media, business, and the gov-
ernment in the United States. “Standard” does not imply that SAE is inherently right
and all other varieties of English are wrong, only that it conforms to a standard most
speakers of American English can readily understand—even though they may repre-
sent a variety of ethnic, regional, and professional backgrounds.

Use Respectful Language
Shortly after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney
made remarks in which he referred to Pakistanis as “Paks.” Although he was speak-
ing admiringly of the Pakistani people, he was chided for his use of the term. The

Words or phrases used uniquely by
speakers in one part of a country

ethnic vernacular
A variety of English that includes words
and phrases used by a specific ethnic

The specialized language of a profession
or interest group

Standard American English
The English taught by schools and used in
the media, business, and government in
the United States

To hold your audience’s attention, keep your
language specific and concrete.

To keep your language simple, avoid a long word
when a short one will do.

To use your language correctly, consider
connotative as well as denotative meanings.

To speak clearly, be as concise as possible.

Using Words Well: Speaker Language and Style 177

variation Paki is considered a slur, and Pak is only slightly less offensive. Columnist
William Safire remarked that

Cheney probably picked up Paks in his Pentagon days, but innocent intent is an
excuse only once; now he is sensitized, as are we all.13

Be careful to avoid any language that could be offensive to people of particular eth-
nic, racial, and religious backgrounds or sexual orientations; women; or people with
disabilities. A speaker whose language defames any group, or whose language might
be otherwise considered offensive or risqué, is not only speaking unethically but also
running a great risk of antagonizing audience members. In fact, one study suggests
that derogatory language used to describe people with disabilities adversely affects an
audience’s perceptions of the speaker’s persuasiveness, competence, trustworthiness,
and sociability.14

Use Unbiased Language
Even speakers who would never dream of using overtly offensive language may find
it difficult to avoid language that more subtly stereotypes or discriminates. Sexist lan-
guage falls largely into this second category.

Not many years ago, a singular masculine pronoun (he, him, his) was the accepted
way to refer to a person of unspecified sex:

Everyone should bring his book to class tomorrow.

This usage is now considered sexist and unacceptable. Instead, you may include both
a masculine and a feminine pronoun:

Everyone should bring his or her book to class tomorrow.

Or you may reword the sentence so that it is plural and thus gender neutral:

All students should bring their books to class tomorrow.

The use of a masculine noun to refer generically to all people is also considered sexist.
Although the word man is the primary offender, you should also monitor your use of
masculine nouns such as waiter, chairman, fireman, and congressman. Instead, choose
gender-neutral alternatives such as server, chair, firefighter, and member of Congress.

To keep your public-speaking class, or
any audience, from becoming bored
or confused, use language that all
listeners can understand. Make words
simple, correct, and concise, and try to
craft memorable word structures.
Photo: Monkey Business Images/

178 Chapter 10

In addition to avoiding masculine nouns and pronouns to refer to all people, avoid
sexist language that patronizes or stereotypes people:

Sexist Unbiased

President Barack Obama and Michelle enrolled
daughters Malia and Sasha in The Sidwell
Friends School in Washington, D.C.

Barack and Michelle Obama
enrolled daughters Malia and
Sasha in The Sidwell Friends
School in Washington, D.C.

The policeman is an underpaid professional
who risks his life daily.

Police are underpaid profession-
als who risk their lives daily.

The male nurse took good care of his patients.
(Note: The phrase “male nurse” implies that
nursing is a typically female profession. The
pronoun his clarifies the sex of the nurse.)

The nurse took good care of
his patients.

It is not always easy to avoid biased language. Even with good intentions and delib-
erate forethought, you can find yourself at times caught in a bind. For example, suppose
that Dr. Pierce is a young black female M.D. If you avoid mentioning her age, race, and
gender when referring to her, you may reinforce your listeners’ stereotypical image of

a physician as middle-aged, white, and male. But if you do mention
these factors, you may be suspected of implying that Dr. Pierce’s
achievement is unusual. There is no easy answer to this dilemma or
others like it. You will have to consider your audience, purpose, and
the occasion in deciding how best to identify Dr. Pierce.

As women and members of racial, ethnic, and other minori-
ties have become increasingly visible in such professions as medi-
cine, law, engineering, and politics, the public has grown to expect
unbiased, inclusive language from news commentators, teachers,
textbooks, and magazines—and from public speakers. Language
that does not reflect these changes will disrupt your ability to com-
municate your message to your audience, which may well include
members of the minority group to which you are referring.

crafting Memorable Word
10.4 List and explain three types of memorable word structures.

The president of the United States is scheduled to make an important speech in your
hometown. You attend the speech and find his 30-minute presentation both interest-
ing and informative. In the evening, you turn on the news to see how the networks
cover his address. All three major networks excerpt the same ten-second portion of
his speech. Why? What makes certain portions of a speech quotable or memorable?
Former presidential speechwriter Peggy Noonan has said:

Great speeches have always had great soundbites . . . . They sum up a point, or
make a point in language that is pithy or profound.15

In other words, memorable speeches are stylistically distinctive. They create arresting
images. And they have what a marketing-communication specialist has termed “ear

“Ear appeal” phrases can be like the haunting songs of a musical that the members
of the audience find themselves humming on the way home. Even if people want
to forget them, they can’t.16

aDapting yOUR LangUagE
To communicate successfully with diverse listeners,
use language your audience can understand.

To avoid offending your audience, use appropriate

To communicate sensitivity to diverse subgroups,
use unbiased language.

Using Words Well: Speaker Language and Style 179

Previously in this chapter, we discussed the importance of using words that are con-
crete, unbiased, vivid, simple, and correct. In this section, we turn our attention to
groups of words—phrases and sentences—that create drama, figurative images, and
cadences. The memorable word structures discussed later in this chapter can help you
craft a speech that has both “eye and ear appeal.”20

Creating Figurative Images
One way to make your message memorable is to use figurative language to create
arresting images. Figurative language deviates from the ordinary, expected mean-
ings of words, to make a description or comparison unique, vivid, and memorable.
Common figurative language includes metaphors, similes, and personification. An
explanation and examples of each of these types of figurative language can be found
in Table 10.1.

Speakers often turn to figurative language in times that are especially momentous
or overwhelming—times when, as one speaker has said, “the ordinary diction of our
lives finds itself unequal to a challenge.”21 In the hours and days after the September
11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, various speakers used such metaphori-
cal phrases as “one more circle of Dante’s hell”; “nuclear winter”; and “the crater of
a volcano” to describe the site of the destroyed World Trade Center buildings in New
York.22 Such language is sometimes referred to as crisis rhetoric.

Creating Drama
Another way you can make phrases and sentences memorable is to use them to cre-
ate drama in your speech—to keep the audience in suspense or to catch them slightly
off guard by phrasing something in a way that differs from the way they expect you
to say it. Other strategies for achieving drama in your speech include three stylistic
devices: omission, inversion, and suspension. Table 10.2 offers four strategies for
creating drama in your speeches.

A comparison between two things that
uses the word like or as

The attribution of human qualities
to  inanimate things or ideas

An implied comparison between two
things or concepts

figurative language
Words that deviate from their ordinary,
expected meaning to make a description or
comparison unique, vivid, and memorable

crisis rhetoric
Language used by speakers during
momentous or overwhelming times

Withholding a key word or phrase until
the end of a sentence

Reversal of the normal word order of a
phrase or sentence

Leaving out a word or phrase that the
listener expects to hear

table 10.1 Creating Figurative Images

Strategy explanation examples

Metaphor Makes an implied comparison. . . . everyone has a “wooden leg” of some
kind (Writer and actor Erik Stolhanske).17

Simile Compares by using the word like or as. [Naysayers] scurry around like the Henny
Pennys of the world, loudly proclaim-
ing to anyone who will listen: “The sky
is falling!” (Now retired UPS CEO Scott

Personification Attributes human qualities to inanimate
things or ideas.

Nature still offers her bounty and human
efforts have multiplied it. Plenty is at our
doorstep (Franklin Roosevelt).19

Even as you work on polishing your language for your listeners, give yourself an affirming mental pep

talk. If you find your anxiety level increasing, remind yourself that you are knowledgeable and pre-

pared to connect with your audience. Think positively, and translate that positive thinking into words

of affirmation for yourself.

cOnFiDEntLy cOnnEcting With yOUR aUDiEncE
Use Words to Manage Your Anxiety

180 Chapter 10

Creating Cadence
British Prime Minister and gifted orator Winston Churchill used a “psalm form”
for his speech manuscripts, typing them so that they looked like blank verse poetry
on the page.26 The cadence, or rhythm, of his speeches was evident from their

Like Churchill, you can create cadence by using stylistic devices such as repetition,
parallelism, antithesis, alliteration, and onomatopoeia. These terms are summarized
in Table 10.3.

Analyzing an Example of Memorable Word
We’d like to illustrate all the techniques for creating drama and cadence with one final
example.27 If you asked almost anyone for the most quoted line from John F. Kennedy’s
speeches, that quote would probably be this one from his inaugural address:

Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.28

Besides expressing a noble thought, this line is quotable because it uses so many
stylistic techniques, including, as shown in Table 10.4, some of the techniques dis-
cussed in this chapter.

The rhythm of language

Use of the same grammatical pattern
for two or more phrases, clauses, or

Use of a key word or phrase more than
once for emphasis

Opposition, such as that used in parallel
two-part sentences in which the second
part contrasts in meaning with the first

The repetition of a consonant sound
(usually the first consonant) several times
in a phrase, clause, or sentence

When a word is pronounced like its meaning

table 10.2 Creating Drama

Strategy explanation examples

Short Sentence Emphasizes an important idea by
stating it in a few well-chosen words.

And the war came (George F. Will,
Op-Ed Columnist).23

Omission Boils an idea down to its essence
by leaving out a word or phrase the 
listener expects to hear.

Sighted sub—sank same (Navy destroyer

I came, I saw, I conquered (Julius Caesar).

Inversion Reverses the expected order
of words and phrases.

This much we pledge (John F. Kennedy).24

… whatever measure of comfort
we can provide, we will provide
(Barack Obama).25

Suspension Places a key word at the end
of a phrase or sentence.

Things go better with Coke (Coca Cola
advertising campaign).

table 10.3 Creating Cadence

Strategy explanation examples

Repetition Repeats a key word or phrase
more than once for emphasis.

… France is America’s oldest friend. . . .
It was true when Lafayette crossed the
Atlantic. . . . It was true in 1917. . . . It was
true in World War II. . . .(John Kerry)29

Parallelism Uses the same grammatical
pattern for two or more clauses
or sentences.

We are enriched by faith. We are governed not
simply by men and women, but by laws. We
are fueled by entrepreneurship and innovation
(Barack Obama).30

Antithesis Uses parallel structure but
opposing meanings in two
parts of a sentence.

I believe that man will not merely endure:
he will prevail (William Faulkner).31

Don’t think about what you want from life, think
about what life wants from you
(Journalist David Brooks).32

Alliteration Uses the same consonant sound
twice or more in a phrase, clause,
or sentence.

Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall …
(Barack Obama)33

confident and connected … (Rona Fairhead,
Chair of the BBC Trust)34

Onomatopoeia Uses a word that is pronounced
like its meaning.


Using Words Well: Speaker Language and Style 181

President John F. Kennedy’s inaugural
address included several outstanding
examples of memorable word struc-
tures. What you can you learn from
Kennedy’s words to use in your own
speeches? Photo: George Silk/Time
Life Pictures/Getty Images.

Although the line analyzed in Table 10.4 does not include figurative images, the
rest of Kennedy’s inaugural address does contain memorable figurative language,
most notably the metaphors “chains of poverty,” “beachhead of cooperation,” and
“jungle of suspicion.”

Kennedy used figurative imagery, drama, and cadence to give his inaugural
address “eye and ear appeal” and make it memorable—not just to those who heard
it initially but also to those of us who hear, read, and study it more than 50 years

table 10.4 Analyzing a Memorable Word Structure: “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can
do for your country.” (John F. Kennedy)

Stylistic Technique example Discussion

Techniques That create Drama

Omission “Ask not …” The subject, you, is not stated.

Inversion “Ask not …” In casual everyday conversation, we would say, “do not ask” rather than
“ask not.” The inversion makes the opening powerful and attention-getting.

Suspension “… ask what you can do for your

The key message, “ask what you can do for your country,” is suspended,
or delayed, until the end of the sentence. If the sentence structure had
been reversed, the impact would not have been as dramatic.

Techniques That create cadence

Repetition “Ask not what your country can do
for you; ask what you can do for
your country.”

A form of the word you occurs four times in a sentence of 17 words,
reflecting Kennedy’s audience-centeredness.

Parallelism “Ask not what your country can do
for you; ask what you can do for
your country.”

The two clauses use the same grammatical pattern (what + subject + verb
phrase + prepositional phrase)

Antithesis “Ask not …; ask… .” The two clauses separated by the semicolon have contrasting meanings.

Alliteration “Ask … can … can … country.” The alliterative k sound is repeated four times, at more or less even
intervals in the sentence.

Source: Copyrighted by Pearson Education, Hoboken, NJ.

182 Chapter 10

Using Memorable Word Structures Effectively
Having explored ways to add style and interest to the language of your speech, we
must now consider how best to put those techniques into practice. Figure 10.3 illus-
trates three key guidelines for using memorable word structures effectively.

use DistinCtive stYlistiC DeviCes sParinglY Although we have affirmed the value of
style, do not overdo it. Including too much highly stylized language can put the focus
on your language rather than on your content.

use stYlistiC DeviCes at strategiC Points in Your sPeeCh Save your use of stylistic
devices for times during your speech when you want your audience to remember
your key ideas or when you wish to capture their attention. Use them in your opening
sentences, statements of key ideas, and conclusion.

use stYlistiC DeviCes to eConomize When sentences become too long or complex,
see if you can recast them with antithesis or suspension. Also remember the possibility
of omission.




Use stylistic
devices to

stylistic devices

at strategic
points in your




Figure 10.3 Using Memorable Word Structures Effectively

Using Words Well: Speaker Language and Style 183

Differentiating Oral and Written
Language Styles
10.1 Describe three differences between oral and written

language styles.

revieW: Oral language is more personal and less
formal than written style. Speakers must also provide
their audiences with more repetition than writers
need to use.

assess: Some colleges and universities offer a hybrid
communication course that provides instruction and
practice in both writing and speaking. If enrolled in
such a course and given the assignment to use the
same topic, central idea, main idea, and supporting
material to develop both a 750-word paper and a 3- to
5-minute speech, how should the paper and the speech

Using Words Effectively
10.2 List and explain three ways to use words


revieW: Effective speakers use specific, concrete words
to evoke clear mental images in their listeners. They
also choose simple, respectful, unbiased words. As a
speaker, be sure to use words correctly and to keep in
mind the connotations of words, as well as their dic-
tionary definitions. And, finally, eliminate unnecessary
words and phrases.

Key Terms
ladder of abstraction


aPPlY: A high school principal asked a student gradu-
ation speaker to avoid using the word rape in her gradu-
ation speech. The student, who had been raped as a
14-year-old sophomore, argued that she wanted to use
the concrete word to help her emphasize to her class-
mates that they could overcome even the most devas-
tating experiences in life. The principal countered that
he was suggesting ways to make the language of the
speech more appropriate to the occasion and the audi-
ence.35 What is your opinion on this issue? What would
you advise the speaker to do?

assess: A friend asks for advice on making the word
choice in her speech as effective as possible. Offer her at
least three suggestions, based on this chapter, for using
words effectively.

study Guide: Review, Apply, And Assess

adapting your Language Style
to Diverse Listeners
10.3 Discuss how to adapt your language style to diverse


revieW: Use language your listeners can understand. Use
appropriate language to avoid offending your audience.
Use unbiased language to communicate in a sensitive way
to members of subgroups in your audience.

Key Terms
ethnic vernacular

Standard American
English (SAE)

assess: A letter to an advice columnist suggested that the
term maiden name, used to refer to the surname a married
woman had when single, is offensive to women who do
not legally change their surnames after marriage.36 Do you
agree that the term maiden name is sexist? Why or why not?
How might this question affect you as a public speaker?

crafting Memorable Word Structures
10.4 List and explain three types of memorable word


revieW: You can create arresting images through such
figures of speech as metaphors, similes, and personifica-
tion. You can create drama by using short sentences for
important ideas, strategically omitting words, and structur-
ing sentences with key words at the end to create suspense.
Use repetition, alliteration, parallelism, antithesis, and ono-
matopoeia to create memorable rhythm or cadence.

Key Terms
figurative language
crisis rhetoric


aPPlY: The following are memorable metaphors from
historical speeches:37

●● I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided,
and that is the lamp of experience.

●● an iron curtain

●● snake pit of racial hatred

●● Speak softly and carry a big stick.

First, explain what each metaphor means. Then express
the same idea in ordinary language. Explain what each
speaker gained or lost by using a metaphor.

W hat’s more important: what you say or how you say it? Delivery has long
been considered an important part of public speaking. But is the delivery
of your speech more important than the content of your message? For cen-

turies, since ancient Greece, famous speakers and speech teachers, such as Aristotle
and, later, the Roman rhetorician Quintilian, have argued in favor of the primacy of
either the content of the speech or its delivery.1

Today, whether you are speaking in front of a live audience or presenting a talk
via Skype or other online platforms, communication teachers believe that both content
and delivery contribute to speaking effectiveness. Considerable research supports the

11.1 Identify three reasons why delivery is important to a
public speaker.

11.2 Identify and describe four methods of delivery.

11.3 Identify and illustrate the characteristics of effective

11.4 Describe the steps to follow when you rehearse your

11.5 List five suggestions for enhancing the final delivery
of your speech.

11.6 Explain and use strategies for responding to questions
from your audience at the end of your speech.


After studying this chapter, you should be able to do the following:

Delivering Your

Speak the speech, I pray you,

as I pronounced it to you,

trippingly on the tongue.

—William Shakespeare

Unknown artist, Genuino speaking to a
Neapolitan crowd, scene from revolt in Naples
fomented by Masaniello, 1620-47 Neopolitan
revolutionary. Photo: Gianni Dagli Orti/The Art
Archive at Art Resource, NY

Delivering Your Speech 185

claim that delivery plays an important role in influencing how audiences react to a
speaker and how they assess the credibility of his or her message.2 It is your audience
who will determine whether you are successful. Delivery counts.

The Power of Speech Delivery
11.1 Identify three reasons why delivery is important to a public speaker.

Nonverbal communication is communication other than through written or spoken
language that creates meaning for someone. The way you hold your notes, your ges-
tures and stance, and your impatient adjustment of your glasses all contribute to the
overall effect of your speech. Nonverbal factors such as eye contact, posture, vocal
quality, and facial expression play a major role in the communication process. As much
as 65 percent of the social meaning of messages is based on nonverbal expression.3
Why does your delivery hold such power to affect how your audience will receive your
message? One reason is that listeners expect a good speaker to provide a good deliv-
ery. Your unspoken message is also how you express your feelings and emotions to an
audience. And, ultimately, an audience believes what it sees more than what you say.

Listeners Expect Effective Delivery
In a public-speaking situation, nonverbal elements have an important influence on
the audience’s perceptions about a speaker’s effectiveness. Communication researcher
Judee Burgoon and her colleagues have developed a theory called nonverbal expec-
tancy theory. The essence of the theory is this: People have certain expectations as
to how you should communicate.4 If you don’t behave as people think you should,
your listeners will feel like you have violated their expectations. The theory predicts
that if a listener expects you to have effective delivery, and your delivery is poor, you
will lose credibility. Evidence suggests that although many speakers do not deliver
speeches effectively, audiences nevertheless expect a good speech to be well delivered.

Different audiences prefer different styles of delivery; there is no ideal style of
delivery or set of prescribed gestures that is appropriate for all audiences. As we have also
emphasized, audience members with different cultural backgrounds will hold differ-
ent assumptions about how a speech should be presented.

More than one hundred years ago, speakers were taught to deliver orations using a
more formal style of speaking than most people prefer today. In newsreels of speakers dur-
ing the early part of the twentieth century, their gestures and movements look stilted and
unnatural because they were taught to use dramatic, planned gestures. If you are speaking
to an audience of a thousand people, using a microphone to reach the back of the audito-
rium, your listeners may expect a more formal delivery style. But your public-speaking
class members would probably find it odd if you spoke to them using a formal oratorical
style that resembled the way a politician would have addressed a political rally in 1910.

For most North American listeners today, effective delivery has been described as
“platform conversation.” It includes maintaining good eye contact with your listen-
ers and using appropriate gestures, just as you do in conversations with your friends.
Effective delivery also means your voice has a natural, conversational tone; varied
inflection (rather than a droning monotone); and an intensity that communicates that
you’re interested in your message and your listeners.

Listeners Make Emotional Connections
with You through Delivery
Nonverbal behavior is particularly important in communicating feelings, emotions,
attitudes, likes, and dislikes to an audience. Researchers have unanimously concluded

nonverbal communication
Communication other than written or
spoken language that creates meaning

nonverbal expectancy theory
A communication theory that suggests
that if listeners’ expectations about how
communication should be expressed are
violated, listeners will feel less favorable
toward the communicator of the message

186 Chapter 11

that nonverbal messages are the primary way we
communicate emotion.5 One study found that
when a speaker’s delivery was effective, the audi-
ence felt greater pleasure and had a more positive
emotional response than when the same speaker
had poor delivery.6

Another reason to pay attention to how
you communicate emotions when deliver-
ing a speech is that emotions are contagious.
Emotional contagion theory suggests that peo-
ple tend to “catch” the emotions of others.7 If
you want your listeners to feel a certain emotion,
then it’s important for you to express that emo-
tion yourself. Have you ever noticed that when
you watch a movie in a crowded movie theater
where others are laughing, you’re more likely to
laugh too? Producers of TV situation comedies
use a laugh track or record the laughter of a live
audience to enhance the emotional reactions of
home viewers; these producers know that emo-
tions are contagious.

Listeners Believe What
They See
“I’m very glad to speak with you tonight,” drones
the speaker in a monotone, eyes glued to his
notes. His audience probably does not believe
him. When our nonverbal delivery contradicts
what we say, people generally believe the non-

verbal message. In this case, the speaker is communicating that he’s not glad to be
talking to this audience.

We usually believe nonverbal messages because they are more difficult to fake.
Although we can monitor certain parts of our nonverbal behavior, it is difficult to

consciously control all of it. Research suggests that a person trying to
deceive someone may speak with a higher vocal pitch, at a slower rate,
and with more pronunciation mistakes than normal.8 Blushing, sweating,
and changed breathing patterns also often belie our stated meaning. As
the saying goes, “What you do speaks so loud, I can’t hear what you say.”

Methods of Delivery
11.2 Identify and describe four methods of delivery.

The style of delivery you choose will influence your nonverbal behav-
iors. There are four basic methods of delivery from which a speaker can
choose: manuscript speaking, memorized speaking, impromptu speak-
ing, and extemporaneous speaking. They are summarized in Table 11.1 at
the end of this section. Let’s consider each in some detail.

Manuscript Speaking
You have a speech to present and are afraid you will forget what you have prepared to
say. So you write your speech and then read it to your audience.

emotional contagion theory
A theory suggesting that people tend to
“catch” the emotions of others

Audience members may respond to a speaker’s nonverbal behavior even
more strongly than they do to the verbal message. A good speaker uses facial
expression and body language to emotionally connect with an audience.
Photo: SuperStock

The PoweR of SPeech
Nonverbal communication:
• creates a major portion of the meaning

of a speech.
• disappoints audiences when it violates

their expectations.
• expresses almost all the emotion in

a speech.
• can help listeners “catch” the speaker’s

• is usually more believable than words.

Delivering Your Speech 187

Speech teachers frown on a manuscript speaking approach, particularly for
public-speaking students. Although reading a speech word-for-word may provide
some insurance against forgetting part of it, manuscript speaking is rarely done well
enough to be interesting. You have probably attended a lecture that was read and won-
dered, “Why doesn’t she just make a copy of the speech for everyone in the audience
rather than reading it to us?”

However, in a few situations, some speeches should be read. One advantage of
reading from a manuscript is that you can choose your words very carefully when
dealing with a sensitive and critical issue. The president of the United States, for exam-
ple, often finds it useful to have his remarks carefully scripted.

When possible, during times of crisis, statements to the press by government, edu-
cation, or business leaders should be carefully crafted rather than tossed off casually.
Although there are times when it is impossible to have a manuscript speech at hand, an
inaccurate or misspoken statement in a crisis could have serious consequences.

On those occasions when you do need to use a manuscript, here are several tips to
help you deliver your message effectively:9

●● Indicate in writing on your manuscript where to pause or emphasize certain
words. Use a slash mark (/) or some other symbol to remind yourself where to
pause at strategic places. Underline or highlight the words you want to emphasize.

●● Type your speech in short, easy-to-scan phrases on the upper two-thirds of the pa-
per so that you do not have to look too far down the page. Try to limit the amount
of time you spend looking at the manuscript so you can maintain eye contact with
your audience throughout each sentence and especially at the end of a sentence.

●● As with any performance, practice with your manuscript before you speak. If
you’re afraid you’ll lose your place, unobtrusively use your index finger to keep
your place in the manuscript as you rehearse and when you deliver the speech.

●● Make eye contact as much as possible; don’t look over listeners’ heads.

●● Use your normal, natural speed of delivery with varied vocal variation; do not
read the manuscript too quickly.

●● Use appropriate and natural gestures and movement to add nonverbal interest and
emphasis to your message.

Memorized Speaking
“All right,” you think, “since reading a speech is hard to pull off, I’ll write my speech
out word for word and then memorize it.” You’re pretty sure that no one will be able to
tell because you won’t be using notes. Memorized speaking also has the advantage of
allowing you to have maximum eye contact with the audience. But the key differences
between speaking and writing are evident in a memorized speech, just as they can be
heard in a manuscript speech. Most memorized speeches sound stiff, stilted, and overre-
hearsed. You also run the risk of forgetting parts of your speech and awkwardly search-
ing for words in front of your audience. And you won’t be able to make on-the-spot
adaptations to your listeners if your speech is memorized. For these reasons, speech
teachers do not encourage their students to memorize speeches for class presentation.

If you are accepting an award, introducing a speaker, making announcements,
or delivering other brief remarks, however, a memorized delivery style is sometimes
acceptable. But as with manuscript speaking, you must take care to make your presen-
tation sound lively and interesting.

Impromptu Speaking
You have undoubtedly already delivered many impromptu presentations. Your
response to a question posed by a teacher in class and your unrehearsed rebuttal
to a comment made by a colleague during a meeting are examples of impromptu

manuscript speaking
Reading a speech from a written text

memorized speaking
Delivering a speech word for word from
memory without using notes

188 Chapter 11

presentations. The impromptu method is often described as “thinking on your feet” or
“speaking off the cuff.” The advantage of impromptu speaking is that you can speak
informally, maintaining direct eye contact with the audience. But unless a speaker is
extremely talented or has learned and practiced the techniques of impromptu speak-
ing, the speech itself will be unimpressive. An impromptu speech usually lacks logical
organization and thorough research. There are times, of course, when you may be
called on to speak without advance warning or to improvise when something goes
awry in your efforts to deliver your planned message.

If you know you will be giving a speech, prepare and rehearse it. Don’t just make
mental notes or assume you will find the words when you need them. It was Mark
Twain who said, “A good impromptu speech takes about three weeks to prepare.”

When you are called on to deliver an improvised or impromptu speech, the fol-
lowing guidelines can help ease you through it.

●● Consider your audience. Just as you have learned to do in other speaking situ-
ations, when you are called on for impromptu remarks, think of your audience
first. Who are the members of your audience? What do they expect you to say?
What is the occasion of your speech? A quick mental review of these questions
will help ensure that even impromptu remarks are audience-centered.

●● Be brief. When you are asked to deliver an off-the-cuff speech, your audience
knows the circumstances and will not expect or even want a lengthy discourse.
One to three minutes is a realistic time frame for most impromptu situations. Some
spur-of-the-moment remarks, such as press statements, may be even shorter.

●● Organize! Even off-the-cuff remarks should not falter or ramble. Effective im-
promptu speakers still organize their ideas into an introduction, body, and con-
clusion. Consider organizing your points using a simple organizational strategy
such as chronological order or a topical pattern. A variation on the chronological
pattern is discussing (1) what has happened in the past, (2) what is happening
now, and (3) what may happen in the future.

●● Speak honestly, but with reserve, from personal experience and knowledge.
Because there is no opportunity to conduct any kind of research before deliver-
ing an impromptu speech, you will have to speak from your own experience and
knowledge. Remember, audiences almost always respond favorably to personal
illustrations, so use any appropriate and relevant ones that come to mind. Do
not make up information or provide facts or figures you’re not certain about. An
honest “I don’t know” or a very brief statement is more appropriate.

●● Be cautious. No matter how much knowledge you have, if your subject is at all
sensitive or your information is classified, be careful when discussing it during
your impromptu speech. If asked about a controversial topic, give an honest but
noncommittal answer. You can always elaborate later, but you can never take back
something rash you have already said. It is better to be cautious than sorry!

impromptu speaking
Delivering a speech without advance

As you rehearse your speech, don’t just sit at your desk and mentally review your message. Instead,

stand up and imagine you are in the very room where you will deliver your speech. Or, if possible,

rehearse your speech in the actual room where you plan to present your speech. Just by imagining

the exact room and audience, you can help manage your anxiety. When you do give your speech,

you will feel less anxious because you’ve had experience imagining or presenting your speech in the

environment in which you will speak.

confiDenTlY connecTing wiTh YouR auDience
Re-create the Speech Environment When You Rehearse

Delivering Your Speech 189

Extemporaneous Speaking
If you are not reading from a manuscript, reciting from memory, or speaking impromptu,
what’s left? Extemporaneous speaking is the approach most communication teach-
ers recommend for most situations. When delivering a speech extemporaneously, you
speak from a written or memorized general outline, but you do not have the exact
wording in front of you or in your memory. You have rehearsed the speech so you know
the key ideas and their organization but not to the degree that the speech sounds memo-
rized. An extemporaneous style is conversational; it gives your audience the impression
that the speech is being created as they listen to it, and to some extent it is.

Martin Luther King Jr. was an expert in speaking extemporaneously; he typically
did not use a manuscript when he spoke. He had notes, but he often drew on the energy
of his audience as well as his own natural speaking talents to make his oratory come
alive.10 Dr. King told an interviewer that while delivering his stirring “Dream” speech
in 1963, he decided only after he had begun speaking to add the most famous portion of
the speech, based on an idea he had used many times before.11 He made a good decision
to improvise. According to a study by the National Endowment for the Humanities,
high school seniors were more likely to know the source of Dr. King’s famous speech
(97 percent) than that of the Gettysburg Address or the Declaration of Independence.12
You can use the same extemporaneous techniques he used to draw on your audience’s
energy and make your speech a living message rather than a canned presentation.

How do you develop an extemporaneous delivery style? Here are tips for what to
do at three stages in your rehearsal:

●● Early rehearsal: When you first rehearse your speech, use as many notes as you
need to help you remember your ideas, but each time you rehearse, rely less and
less on your notes.

●● Later rehearsal: If you find yourself using exactly the same words each time you
rehearse, you’re memorizing your speech; either stop rehearsing or consider other
ways of expressing your ideas.

●● Final rehearsal: Revise your speaking notes so that you need only brief notes or
notes for only lengthy quotations.

The methods of delivery described in this section are summarized in Table 11.1.

extemporaneous speaking
Speaking from a written or memorized
speech outline without having memorized
the exact wording of the speech

Table 11.1 Methods of Delivery

Source: Copyrighted by Pearson Education, Hoboken, NJ.

Method Description Disadvantages Advantages

Manuscript speaking Reading your speech
from a prepared text

•  Your speech is likely to sound as
if it is being read.

•  It takes considerable skill and
practice to make the message
sound  interesting.

•  You can craft the message carefully,
which is  especially important if it is
being  presented to the media.

•  The language can be beautifully
refined, polished, and stylized.

Memorized speaking Giving a speech
from  memory without
using notes

•  You may forget part of your

•  You may sound overrehearsed
and  mechanical.

•  You can maintain direct eye contact
with the  audience.

•  You can move around freely or use
gestures while speaking, since you
don’t need notes.

Impromptu speaking Delivering a speech
without preparing in

•  It is challenging to organize
your speech well and deliver
it smoothly.

•  Lack of advance preparation
and research makes it more
difficult to cite evidence and
supporting material.

•  You can easily adapt to how your
audience is reacting to you and
your message during the speech.

•  The audience sees and hears an
authentic speech that is spontaneously
delivered without notes.


Knowing the major ideas,
which have been outlined,
but not memorizing the
exact wording

•  It takes time to prepare an
extemporaneous speech.

•  It takes skill to deliver the
speech well.

•  Your speech is well organized and
well researched.

•  Your speech sounds spontaneous,
yet  appropriately polished.

190 Chapter 11

characteristics of effective Delivery
11.3 Identify and illustrate the characteristics of effective delivery.

After learning about the four methods of delivery, you now know that for most speak-
ing situations, you should strive for a conversational style. But you may still have
a number of specific questions about enhancing the effectiveness of your delivery.
Typical concerns include “What do I do with my hands?” “Is it all right to move
around while I speak?” “How can I make my voice sound interesting?” Although
these concerns may seem daunting, being confident about your ability to present a
well-prepared and well-rehearsed speech is the best antidote to jitters about delivery.
Practice and a focus on communicating your message to your audience are vital for
effective communication and great for your confidence.

To help answer specific questions about presenting a speech, we consider seven
categories of nonverbal behavior that affect delivery. Specifically, we will help you
improve your eye contact, use appropriate gestures, move meaningfully, maintain an
appropriate posture, use facial expressions to communicate emotion, use your voice
both to be understood and to maintain interest, and ensure that your personal appear-
ance is appropriate. The ancient Roman orator Cicero, author of De Oratore, called
these behaviors the “language of the body.”13

Eye Contact
Of all the aspects of speech delivery discussed in this chapter, the most important one
in a public-speaking situation for North Americans is eye contact. Eye contact with
your audience opens communication, keeps your audience interested, and makes you
more believable. Each of these functions contributes to the success of your delivery.
Eye contact also provides you with feedback about how your speech is coming across.

Benefits of eye ContaCt Making eye contact with your listeners clearly shows you
are ready to talk to them. Most people start a conversation by looking at the person
they are going to talk to. The same process occurs in public speaking.

Most listeners will think you are capable and trustworthy if you look them in
the eye. Several studies document a relationship between eye contact and increased
speaker credibility.14 Speakers who make eye contact for less than 50 percent of the
length of their presentations are considered unfriendly, uninformed, inexperienced,

When you deliver your speech to
listeners in a different location using
videoconferencing technology, look
into the camera lens so listeners
feel like you are making eye contact
with them. Photo: Ryan McVay/

Delivering Your Speech 191

and even dishonest by their listeners. Eye contact may also make your speech more
memorable. Another study showed that audience members who had more than 50
percent eye contact with their speaker performed better in postspeech tests than those
who had less than 50 percent eye contact.15

However, not all people from all cultures prefer the same amount of direct eye
contact when listening to someone talk. In interpersonal contexts, people from Asian
cultures, for example, expect less direct eye contact when communicating with others
than do North Americans.

How to Use eye ContaCt effeCtively Most audiences in the United States prefer that
you establish eye contact with them even before you begin your speech with your
attention-catching introduction. When it’s time to speak, calmly walk to the lectern or
to the front of the audience, pause briefly, and look at your audience before you say
anything. Eye contact nonverbally sends the message, “I am interested in you; tune
me in; I have something I want to share with you.”

Here are other tips for effectively establishing eye contact with your audience:

●● Have your opening sentence well enough in mind so that you can deliver it with-
out looking at your notes or away from your listeners.

●● Establish eye contact with the entire audience, not just with those in the front row
or with only one or two people.

●● Look to the back as well as the front, and from one side of your audience to the
other. But you need not rhythmically move your head back and forth like a light-
house beacon; it’s best not to establish a predictable pattern for your eye contact.

●● Look at individuals, establishing person-to-person contact with them—not so
long that it will make a listener feel uncomfortable, but long enough to establish
the feeling that you are talking directly to that individual.

●● Don’t look over your listeners’ heads; establish eye-to-eye contact.

●● If your speech is being recorded and there is an audience present, look at your audi-
ence rather than only at the camera lens. But if no audience is present, then deliver
your speech while looking into the camera lens.

The next time you have a conversation with someone, notice how both of you use
your hands and bodies to communicate. Important points are emphasized with
gestures. You also gesture to indicate places, enumerate items, and describe objects.
Sometimes a gesture takes the place of a word. Gestures serve the same functions for
public speakers. Yet many people who gesture easily and appropriately in the course
of everyday conversation aren’t sure what to do with their hands when they find
themselves in front of an audience.

adapt GestUres to aUdienCe MeMBers’ CUltUral expeCtations There is evidence that
gestures vary from culture to culture. While mayor of New York City during the 1930s
and 1940s, Fiorello La Guardia, fluent in Yiddish and Italian as well as English, would
speak the language appropriate for each audience. One researcher studied newsreels
of the mayor and discovered that with the sound turned off, viewers could still iden-
tify the language the mayor was speaking. How? When speaking English, he used
minimal gestures. When speaking Italian, he used broad, sweeping gestures. And
when speaking Yiddish, he used short and choppy hand movements.

How to Use GestUres effeCtively One hundred years ago, elocutionists taught their
students how to gesture to communicate specific emotions or messages. Today, teachers
of speech have a different approach. Rather than prescribe gestures for specific situations,
they feel it is more useful to offer suitable criteria (standards) by which to judge effective

192 Chapter 11

The best gestures are natural, definite, and consistent with your message.
Gestures can substitute for words, complement or emphasize them, or
regulate the exchange between you and the audience. Which purpose is this
speaker’s gesture serving? Photo: photo 5000/Fotolia

gestures, regardless of what is being said. Here are
guidelines to consider when working on your delivery.

●● Stay natural. Gestures should be relaxed,
not tense or rigid. Your gestures should flow
with your message. Avoid sawing or slashing
through the air with your hands unless you
are trying to emphasize a particularly dra-
matic point.

One common mistake is keeping your
hands behind your back in a “parade rest”
pose. While it’s okay to occasionally put your
hands behind your back, standing at parade
rest during an entire speech looks awkward
and unnatural and may distract your audience.

Another common mistake is standing with
one hand on your hip in a “broken wing” pose.
But what’s worse than “broken wing” is resting
both hands on your hips in a “double broken
wing.” This pose makes the speaker look as
though he or she might burst into a rendition of
“I’m a Little Teapot.” Again, it’s okay to place
your hands on your hips briefly, but holding
one pose throughout a speech looks unnatural
and keeps you from using other gestures.

Few poses are more awkward-looking than when a speaker clutches one arm,
as if grazed by a bullet. The audience half expects the speaker to call out reassur-
ingly, “Don’t worry, Ma; it’s only a flesh wound.” Similarly, keeping your hands
in your pockets can make you look as if you were afraid to let go of your change
or keys. Some students clasp their hands and let them drop in front of them in a
distracting “fig leaf clutch.”

Gestures can distract your audience in various other ways as well. Grasping
the lectern until your knuckles turn white or letting your hands flop around with-
out purpose or control does little to help you communicate your message.

●● Be definite. Gestures should appear definite rather than as accidental brief jerks
of your hands or arms. If you want to gesture, go ahead and gesture. Avoid minor
hand movements that will be masked by the lectern.

●● Use gestures that are consistent with your message. Gestures should be ap-
propriate for the verbal content of your speech. If you are excited, gesture more
vigorously. Gestures should also be well timed to coincide with your verbal mes-
sage. But remember that rehearsed gestures that do not arise naturally are likely
to appear awkward and stilted.

●● Vary your gestures but don’t overdo it. Strive for variety and versatility in your
use of gestures. Try not to use just one hand or one all-purpose gesture. Gestures
can be used for a variety of purposes such as enumerating, pointing, describ-
ing, and symbolizing an idea or concept (such as clasping your hands together
to suggest agreement or coming together). Gestures should be unobtrusive; your
audience should focus not on the beauty or appropriateness of your gestures,
but on your message. You want to communicate a message to your audience, not
perform for your listeners. Your delivery should not receive more attention than
your message.

●● Make your gestures appropriate to your audience and situation. Gestures must
be adapted to the audience. In more formal speaking situations, particularly when
speaking to a large audience, bolder, more sweeping, and more dramatic gestures

Delivering Your Speech 193

are appropriate. A small audience in a less formal setting calls for less formal
gestures. When presenting your speech via video, such as a videoconference or
Skype presentation, it’s especially important not to use overly dramatic gestures.
The camera lens is generally only a few feet away from you, which tends to
amplify the intensity of your gestures and movements on a TV or computer screen.

●● Adapt your gestures to audience cultural expectations. Consider toning down
your gestures for predominantly high-context listeners. As you recall from
Chapter 5, a high-context culture, such as some Asian cultures, places consider-
able emphasis on unspoken messages. One website offering tips for conducting
business in India suggests using your full hand to point rather than a single fin-
ger, which is a gesture only used with inferiors.16 In contrast to most European
speakers, Americans are typically more animated in their use of gestures, move-
ment, and facial expressions. When one of your authors spoke in England, several
listeners noted the use of “typical overly expressive American gestures and move-
ment.” British listeners seem to prefer that the speaker stay behind a lectern and
use relatively few gestures.

Keep one important principle in mind: Use gestures that work best for you. Don’t
try to be someone you are not. President Barack Obama’s style may work for him, but
you are not Barack Obama. Your gestures should fit your own personality. It may be
better to use no gestures—to just put your hands comfortably at your side—than to
use awkward, distracting gestures or to try to counterfeit someone else’s gestures. Your
nonverbal delivery should flow from your message.

Should you walk around during your speech, or should you stay in one place? If there
is a lectern, should you stand behind it, or would it be acceptable to stand in front of
it or to the side? Is it all right to sit down while you speak? Can you move among the
audience, as several popular daytime television hosts like to do? You may find your-
self pondering one or more of these questions while preparing for your speeches. The
following discussion may help you answer them.

Move pUrposefUlly You may want to move purposefully about while delivering
your speech, but take care that your movement does not detract from your message. If
the audience focuses on your movement rather than on what you are saying, it would
be better to stand still. An absence of movement is better than distracting movement.
In short, your movement should be consistent with the verbal content of your mes-
sage. It should make sense rather than appear as aimless wandering.

Robert Frost said, “Good fences make good neighbors.” Professional speech coach
Brent Filson says, however, “For my money, good fences make lousy speeches.”17 He rec-
ommends, as do we, that you eliminate physical barriers between you and the audience.
For more formal occasions, you will be expected to remain standing behind a lectern to
deliver your message. But even on those occasions, it can be appropriate to move from
behind the lectern to make a point, signal a change in mood, or turn to another idea.

estaBlisH iMMediaCy Psychologist Albert Mehrabian defines immediacy as “the
degree of physical or psychological closeness between people.”18 Immediacy behav-
iors are those that literally or psychologically make your audience feel closer to you.
Because they create this perception of closeness, immediacy behaviors enhance the
quality of the relationship between you and your audience.19 Immediacy behaviors
include the following:

●● Standing or moving closer to your listeners

●● Coming out from behind a lectern

●● Using appropriate levels of eye contact

The degree of perceived physical or psy-
chological closeness between people

immediacy behaviors
Behaviors such as making eye contact,
making appropriate gestures, and adjust-
ing physical distance that enhance the
quality of the relationship between speaker
and listeners

194 Chapter 11

●● Smiling while talking and, more specifically, smiling at individual audience

●● Using appropriate gestures

●● Having an appropriately relaxed posture

●● Moving purposefully

More than three decades of research clearly establish that U.S. teachers who use
immediacy cues enhance student learning, increase student motivation to learn, and
have higher teacher evaluations.20 It seems logical that public speakers who increase
immediacy will have similarly positive results. But audience members from some cul-
tures may expect less immediacy; the key is not to violate what listeners expect.21 For
example, we’ve been told that Japanese audiences don’t expect speakers to move from
behind a lectern and stand very close to listeners. Even in small seminars, Japanese
speakers and teachers typically stay behind the lectern.

One cautionary note: Listeners—not the speaker—determine the appropriate
amount of immediacy. Be vigilantly audience-centered as you seek the appropriate
level of immediacy between you and your listeners.

In addition to fostering immediacy, movement can signal the beginning of a new
idea or major point in your speech. As you make a transition statement or change from
a serious subject to a more humorous one, movement can be a good way to signal that
your approach to the speaking situation is changing.

How to Move effeCtively Your use of movement during your speech should make
sense to your listeners. Avoid random pacing and overly dramatic gestures. Temper
our advice about proximity and other delivery variables by adapting to the cultural
expectations of your audience. Consider these final summary tips about moving

●● Make sure your movement is purposeful and not aimless meandering.

●● Your movement should make sense to your listeners.

●● Develop immediacy with your audience by appropriately removing barriers be-
tween you and your audience.

Although there have been few formal studies of posture in relation to public speak-
ing, evidence suggests that the way you carry your body communicates significant
information. One study even proposes that your stance can reflect on your credibility
as a speaker.22 Slouching over the lectern, for example, does not project an image of
vitality and interest in your audience.

fUnCtions of postUre Whereas your face and voice play the major role in commu-
nicating a specific emotion, your posture communicates the intensity of that emotion.
If you are happy, your face and voice reflect your happiness; your posture communi-
cates the intensity of your joy.23

Since the days of the elocutionists, few speech teachers or public-speaking texts
have advocated specific postures for public speakers. Today, we believe the specific
stance you adopt should come about naturally, as a result of what you have to say
and the formality or informality of the occasion. For example, during a very informal
presentation, it may be perfectly appropriate as well as comfortable and natural to sit
on the edge of a desk. Most speech teachers, however, do not encourage students to sit
while delivering classroom speeches. In general, avoid slouching your shoulders, shift-
ing from foot to foot, or drooping your head. Your posture should not call attention to
itself. Instead, it should reflect your interest in the speaking event and your attention to
the task at hand.

Delivering Your Speech 195

How to Have Good postUre To help you stand tall when delivering a speech, here
are three tips to keep in mind.

●● Stand up straight while pulling your shoulder blades back just a bit.

●● Imagine that your head is being held up by a string.

●● Have direct eye contact with your listeners while standing tall.

You don’t need to stay frozen in this position. But when you find yourself starting to
slump or slouch, pull your shoulders back and tug on the imaginary string while look-
ing at your audience. This will give your posture an immediate positive boost.

Facial Expression
Media experts today doubt that Abraham Lincoln would have survived as a politician
in our appearance-conscious age of telegenic politicians. His facial expression, accord-
ing to those who saw him, seemed wooden and unvaried.

fUnCtions of faCial expressions Your face plays a key role in expressing your
thoughts and especially your emotions and attitudes.24 Your audience sees your face
before they hear what you are going to say. Thus, you have an opportunity to set the
emotional tone for your message before you start speaking. We are not advocating
that you adopt a phony smile that looks insincere and plastered on your face, but a
pleasant facial expression helps establish a positive emotional climate. Your facial
expression should naturally vary to be consistent with your message. Present somber
news with a more serious expression. To communicate interest in your listeners, keep
your expression alert and friendly.

According to cross-cultural studies by social psychologist Paul Ekman, nearly all
people around the world agree on the general meanings of facial expressions for six
primary emotions: happiness, anger, surprise, sadness, disgust, and fear.25 Humans
are physically capable of producing thousands of different facial expressions, but our
faces most often express one of these six primary emotions or a blend of expressions
rather than a single emotion. Even a culturally diverse audience will usually be able to
read your emotional expressions clearly.

How to Use effeCtive faCial expressions When you rehearse your speech, consider
standing in front of a mirror—or, better yet, record video of yourself practicing your
speech. Are you allowing your face to help communicate the emotional tone of your
thoughts? Consider these tips for monitoring your facial expression:

●● As you rehearse, be mindful of the emotion that you wish your audience mem-
bers to feel. Monitor your expression so that it communicates the emotion you

●● Pay special attention to your facial expression when you begin your speech.
Unless you are presenting sad or bad news, have a naturally pleasant, positive
facial expression to signal your interest in communicating with your listeners.

●● When presenting a speech that will be seen only on video, take care not to overly
exaggerate your facial expression. Close-ups can amplify the intensity of your
emotional expressions.

●● Remember that listeners from high-context cultures, such as people from Asia, often
prefer less dramatic and more subtle facial expressions.

Vocal Delivery
Have you ever listened to a radio announcer and imagined what he or she looked
like, only later to see a photograph of the announcer that drastically altered your
expectations? Vocal clues play an important part in creating the impression we have

196 Chapter 11

of a speaker. Based on vocal clues alone, you make inferences about a person’s age,
status, occupation, ethnic origin, income, and a variety of other matters. As a public
speaker, your voice is one of your most important delivery tools for conveying your
ideas to your audience. Your credibility as a speaker and your ability to communicate
your ideas clearly will in large part depend on your vocal delivery.

Vocal delivery includes pitch, speech rate, volume, pronunciation, articulation,
pauses, and general variation of the voice. A speaker has at least two key vocal obligations
to an audience: Speak to be understood, and speak with vocal variety to maintain interest.

speak to Be Understood To be understood, you need to consider four aspects of
vocal delivery: volume, articulation, dialect, and pronunciation.

Volume. The fundamental purpose of your vocal delivery is to speak loudly enough
that your audience can hear you. The volume of your speech is determined by the
amount of air you project through your larynx, or voice box. More air equals more vol-
ume of sound. In fact, the way you breathe has more impact on the sound of your voice
than almost anything else. To the ancient orators, a person’s breath was the source of
spiritual power. To breathe is to be filled with a positive, powerful source of energy.

In order to breathe properly, you need to understand how to use your breath-
ing muscles. Your diaphragm, a muscle that lies between your lungs and your abdo-
men, helps control sound volume by increasing airflow from your lungs through your
voice box. If you put your hands on the hollow in the center of your rib cage and
say “Ho-ho-ho,” you will feel your muscles contracting and the air being forced out
of your lungs. Breathing from your diaphragm—that is, consciously expanding and
contracting your abdomen as you breathe in and out, rather than merely expanding
your chest as air flows into your lungs—can increase the volume of sound as well as
enhance the quality of your voice.

Articulation. The process of producing speech sounds clearly and distinctly is
articulation. Without distinct enunciation or articulation of the sounds that make up
words, your listeners may not understand you or may fault you for simply not know-
ing how to speak clearly and fluently. Here are some commonly misarticulated words.26

Dint instead of didn’t Soun instead of sound
Lemme instead of let me Wanna instead of want to
Mornin instead of morning Wep instead of wept
Seeya instead of see you Whadayado instead of what do you do

The best way to improve your articulation of sounds is first to identify those words
or phrases that you have a tendency to slur or chop. Once you have identified them,
practice saying the words correctly. Make sure you can hear the differences between
the improper and proper pronunciations. A speech teacher can help you check your

Dialect. A dialect is a consistent style of pronouncing words common to an eth-
nic group or a geographic region such as the South, New England, or the upper
Midwest. Most newscasters in North America use what is called standard Ameri-
can pronunciation and do not typically have a strong dialect. In the southern part
of the United States, people prolong some vowel sounds when they speak. And in
the northern Midwest, the word about sometimes sounds a bit like “aboat.” In the
previous century, it took a bit of adjustment for many Americans to get used to Presi-
dent John Kennedy’s Bostonian pronunciation of Cuba as “Cuber” and Harvard as
“Hahvahd.” Lyndon Johnson’s Texas twang was a sharp contrast to Kennedy’s New
England sound. In the early twenty-first century, George W. Bush’s Texas lilt also
contrasted with the slight southern drawl of his predecessor, Bill Clinton. Although
Barack Obama has less of an identifiable dialect than either Clinton or Bush, he some-
times clips the ends of his words.

The softness or loudness of a speaker’s

The production of clear and distinct
speech sounds

A consistent style of pronouncing words
common to an ethnic group or geographic

Delivering Your Speech 197

Is a dialect detrimental to effective communication with an audience? Although a
speaker’s dialect may pigeonhole that person as being from a certain part of the coun-
try, it won’t necessarily affect the audience’s comprehension of the information unless
the dialect is so pronounced that the listeners can’t understand the speaker’s words.
Research does suggest, however, that listeners tend to prefer a dialect similar to their
own.27 We don’t recommend that you eliminate your own mild dialect; but if your
word pronunciation is significantly distracting to your listeners, you might consider
modifying it.

The four elements of a dialect include intonation pattern, vowel production, con-
sonant production, and speaking rate.

●● Use Proper Intonation A typical North American intonation pattern is predomi-
nantly a rising and falling pattern. The pattern looks something like this:

“Good morning. How are you?”

Intonation patterns of other languages, such as Hindi, may remain on almost the
exact same pitch level; North American ears find the monotone pitch distracting.

●● Pronounce Vowels Clearly Many people who speak English as a second language
often clip, or shorten, vowel sounds (AEIOU and sometimes Y), which can make
comprehension more challenging. Stretching or elongating vowels within words
can be a useful skill for such speakers to develop. If this is a vocal skill you need
to cultivate, consider recording your speech and then comparing it with the stan-
dard American pronunciation you hear on TV or the radio.

●● Pronounce Consonants Appropriately Consonant production (sounds such as K,
F, H, Z, T, G, and B) varies depending on what language you are speaking.
It is sometimes difficult to produce clear consonants that are not overdone.
Consonants that are so soft as to be almost unheard may produce a long blur of
unintelligible sound rather than a crisply articulated sound.

●● Use an Appropriate Speaking Rate People whose first language is not English some-
times speak too fast, in the hope this will create the impression that they are very
familiar with English. Slowing the rate just a bit often enhances comprehension for
native English speakers listening to someone less familiar with English pronuncia-
tion. A rate that is too fast also contributes to problems with clipped vowels, soft or
absent consonants, and an intonation pattern that is on one pitch level rather than
comfortably varied.

Pronunciation. Whereas articulation relates to the clarity of sounds, pronunciation
concerns the degree to which sounds conform to those assigned to words in standard Eng-
lish. Mispronouncing words can detract from a speaker’s credibility.28 If you are uncertain
about how to pronounce a word, look it up in an online dictionary. Most popular dictionar-
ies provide recordings of the correct pronunciations of words. Often, however, we are not
aware that we are not using standard pronunciation unless someone points it out.

Some speakers reverse speech sounds, saying “aks” instead of “ask,” for example.
Some allow an r sound to intrude into some words, saying “warsh” instead of “wash,”
or leave out sounds in the middle of a word by saying “Febuary” instead of “February.”
Some speakers also accent syllables in nonstandard ways; they say “po´lice” instead of
“po lice´” or “um´brella” rather than “um brel´la.”

If English is not your native language, you may have to spend extra time working
on your pronunciation and articulation. Here are two useful tips to help you. First,
make an effort to prolong vowel sounds. Speeeeak tooooo proooooloooong eeeeeeach
voooooowel soooooound yoooooooou maaaaaaaake. Second, to reduce choppy-
sounding word pronunciation, blend the end of one word into the beginning of the
next. Make your speech flow from one word to the next, instead of separating it into
individual chunks of sound.29

The use of sounds to form words clearly
and accurately

198 Chapter 11

speak witH variety To speak with variety is to vary your pitch, rate of speech, and
pauses. It is primarily through the quality of our voices, as well as our facial expres-
sions, that we communicate emotions, whether we are happy, sad, bored, or excited. If
your vocal clues suggest you are bored with your topic, your audience will probably
be bored also. Appropriate variation in vocal pitch and rate as well as appropriate use
of pauses can add zest to your speech and help maintain audience attention.

Pitch. Vocal pitch is how high or low your voice sounds. You can sing because you
can change the pitch of your voice to produce a melody. Lack of variation in pitch has
been consistently identified as one of the most distracting characteristics of ineffective
speakers: A monotone is boring.

Everyone has a habitual pitch. This is the range of your voice during normal con-
versation. Some people have a habitually high pitch, others have a low pitch. The pitch
of your voice is determined by how fast the folds in your vocal cords vibrate. The faster
the vibration, the higher the pitch.

Your voice has inflection when you raise or lower the pitch as you pronounce
words or sounds. The best public speakers appropriately vary their inflection. We’re not
suggesting that you need to imitate a top-forty radio disk jockey when you speak. But
variation in your vocal inflection and overall pitch helps you communicate the subtlety
of your ideas.

Record your speech as you rehearse and evaluate your use of pitch and inflection.
If you are not satisfied with your inflection, consider practicing your speech with exag-
gerated variations in vocal pitch. Although you would not deliver your speech this
way, it may help you explore the expressive options available to you.

Rate. How fast do you talk? Most speakers average between 120 and 180 words per
minute. There is no “best” speaking rate. The skill of great speakers does not depend
on a standard rate of speech. Daniel Webster purportedly spoke at a leisurely 90 words
per minute, Franklin Roosevelt at 110, and John F. Kennedy at a quick-paced 180. Mar-
tin Luther King Jr. started his “Dream” speech at 92 words a minute and was speaking
at 145 words per minute during his powerful conclusion.30 The best rate depends on
two factors: your speaking style and the content of your message.

A common fault of many beginning speakers is to deliver a speech too quickly.
One symptom of speech anxiety is that you tend to rush through your speech to get
it over with. Feedback from others can help you determine whether your rate is too
rapid. Recording your message and listening critically to your speaking rate can also
help you assess whether you are speaking at the proper speed. Fewer speakers have
the problem of speaking too slowly, but a turtle-paced speech will almost certainly
make it more difficult for your audience to maintain interest. Remember, your listeners
can grasp information much faster than you can speak it.

Pauses. It was Mark Twain who said, “The right word may be effective, but no word
was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause.” An appropriate pause can often do
more to accent your message than any other vocal characteristic. President Kennedy’s
famous line, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for
your country,” was effective not only because of its language but also because it was
delivered with a pause dividing the two thoughts. Try delivering that line without the
pause; it just doesn’t have the same power.

Effective use of pauses, also known as effective timing, can greatly enhance the
impact of your message. Whether you are trying to tell a joke, a serious tale, or a dra-
matic story, your use of a pause can determine the effectiveness of your anecdote.
Comedians like Stephen Colbert, Amy Schumer, Jimmy Fallon, Chris Rock, Aziz
Ansari, and Ellen DeGeneres are masters at timing a punch line.

Beware, however, of the vocalized pause. Many beginning public speakers are
uncomfortable with silence and so, rather than pausing where it seems natural and

How high or low the voice sounds

The variation in the pitch of the voice

Delivering Your Speech 199

normal, they vocalize sounds such as “umm,”
“er,” “you know,” and “ah.” We think you will
agree that “Ask not, ah, what your, er, coun-
try can do, ah, for you; ask, you know, what
you, umm, can do, er, for your, uh, country”
just doesn’t have the same impact as the una-
dorned original statement. Although most
people fill a pause with an “er” or “um” from
time to time, seek to reduce vocalized pauses
when you speak.

One research study counted how fre-
quently certain people use “uhs.”31 Science
professors in this study said “uh” about 1.4
times a minute; humanities professors timed
in at 4.8 times a minute—almost 3.5 times
as often. Another psychologist counted the
“ums” per minute of well-known speak-
ers. Wheel of Fortune host Pat Sajak won the
count with almost 10 “ums” per minute; and,
although he sometimes pokes fun at well-
known politicians who use vocalized pauses, former late-night talk show host David
Letterman was a close second with 8.1. Bill Clinton had only 0.79 vocalized pause per
minute. As a public speaker, you don’t want to be the winner of this contest by having
the most “uhs” and “ums” when you speak. Vocalized pauses will annoy your audi-
ence and detract from your credibility; eliminate them.

Silence can be an effective tool in emphasizing a particular word or sentence.
A well-timed pause coupled with eye contact can powerfully accent your thought.
Asking a rhetorical question of your audience such as “How many of you would like
to improve your communication skills?” will be more effective if you pause after ask-
ing the question rather than rushing into the next thought. Silence is a way of saying to
your audience, “Think about this for a moment.” Concert pianist Arthur Schnabel said
this about silence and music: “The notes I handle no better than many pianists. But the
pauses between the notes, ah, that is where the art resides.”32 In speech, too, an effec-
tive use of a pause can add artful emphasis and interest.

UsinG a MiCropHone “Testing. Testing. One … two … three. Is this on?” These are
not effective opening remarks. Yet countless public speakers have found themselves
trying to begin a speech, only to be upstaged by an uncooperative public address
system. No matter how polished your gestures or well-intoned your vocal cues, if
you are inaudible or you use a microphone awkwardly, your speech will not have the
desired effect.

There are three kinds of microphones, only one of which demands much technique.

●● The lavaliere microphone is the clip-on type often used by newspeople and inter-
viewees. Worn on the front of a shirt, jacket, or dress, it requires no particular care
other than not to thump it or to accidentally knock it off.

●● The boom microphone is used by makers of movies and TV shows. It hangs over
the heads of speakers and is remote-controlled, so the speaker need not be par-
ticularly concerned with it.

●● The third kind of microphone, and the most common, is the stationary micro-
phone. This is the type most often attached to a lectern, sitting on a desk, or
standing on the floor. Generally, the stationary microphones used today are mul-
tidirectional. You do not have to remain frozen in front of a stationary mike while
delivering your speech.

lavaliere microphone
A microphone that can be clipped to
an article of clothing or worn on a cord
around your neck

boom microphone
A microphone suspended from a bar and
moved to follow the speaker; often used in
movies and TV

stationary microphone
A microphone attached to a lectern, sitting
on a desk, or standing on the floor

Many stationary microphones, like this one, are multidirectional, allowing speakers to
move as they talk. When you use any microphone, be careful to avoid explosive word
pronunciations or annoying microphone noises. Photo: Alexey Klementiev/Fotolia

200 Chapter 11

When using a stationary microphone consider these suggestions.

●● First, check to make sure your microphone is indeed multidirectional and can
pick up your voice even if you aren’t speaking directly into it.

●● Second, microphones amplify sloppy habits of pronunciation and enunciation.
Therefore, you need to speak clearly and crisply when using a mike. Be especially
careful when articulating such “explosive” sounding consonants as B and P; they
can be overamplified by the microphone and produce a slight popping sound.
Similarly, a microphone can intensify the sibilance of the S sound at the begin-
ning or ending of words (such as in hiss, sometime, or silence). You may have to ar-
ticulate these sounds with slightly less intensity to avoid creating overamplified,
distracting noises.

●● Third, if you must test a microphone, count or ask the audience whether they
can hear you. Blowing on a microphone produces an irritating noise! Do not tap,
pound, or shuffle anything near the microphone. These noises, too, will be heard
by the audience loudly and clearly. If you are using note cards, quietly slide them
aside as you progress through your speech.

●● Fourth, continue to speak at your normal volume. Some speakers speak more qui-
etly when they have a microphone in front of them, becoming inaudible.

●● Finally, make sure your microphone is turned off before having personal con-
versations with others. President Reagan thought his microphone was off when
he joked, “My fellow Americans, I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed
legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.”33
Although not broadcast live but only leaked to the press, he later apologized to
the Russian government.

Under ideal circumstances, you will be able to practice your speech beforehand
with the same type of microphone you will use when you speak. If you have the
chance, figure out where to stand for the best sound quality and how sensitive the mic
is to extraneous noise. Practice will accustom you to any voice distortion or echo that
might occur so that these sound qualities do not surprise you during your speech.

Personal Appearance
Your appearance sets the tone for your talk. For example, most CEOs who speak to
their stockholders at the annual stockholders meeting typically wear a suit and tie—

but not the late Steve Jobs, head of Apple. To communicate
his casual and contemporary approach to business, he often
wore blue jeans and a black mock turtleneck. The current
CEO of Apple, Tim Cook, also adopts a casual look to com-
municate a comfortable leadership style as does Bill Gates,
founder of Microsoft.

There is considerable evidence that your personal
appearance affects how your audience responds to you and
your message, particularly during the opening moments of
your presentation. If you violate their expectations about
appearance, you will be less successful in achieving your
purpose. As a general guideline, consider dressing slightly
better than your audience. Also avoid wearing distract-
ing T-shirts or clothing with words, images, or advertis-
ing unrelated to your message. Several studies have found
that job applicants with prominent piercings or tattoos are
less likely to be hired during a job interview.34 Yet these
research conclusions are based on specific situations and

chaRacTeRiSTicS of effecTive
• High level of eye contact with the entire audience
• Culturally appropriate, natural, nondistracting gestures
• Purposeful, nondistracting, movement designed to

increase immediacy
• Straight but natural standing posture, matching the

intensity of the message
• Culturally appropriate facial expressions, matching

the message
• Audible volume, clear articulation, minimized dialect
• Varied vocal pitch and speaking rate
• Competent use of a microphone
• Clean grooming and clothing appropriate to audience

and situation

Delivering Your Speech 201

times. Some people may perceive a nose ring as a fashion statement and a tattoo as
beautiful body art. Our point: Beauty (and credibility) lie in the eye of the beholder.
It’s the audience and the cultural expectations of audience members that determine
whether a speaker’s personal appearance is appropriate, not some fashion guru or
magazine editor.

Rehearsing Your Speech: Some
final Tips
11.4 Describe the steps to follow when you rehearse your speech.

Just knowing some of the characteristics of effective speech delivery will not make
you a better speaker unless you can put those principles into practice. Effective public
speaking is a skill that takes practice. Practicing takes the form of rehearsing. As indi-
cated in Figure 11.1, rehearsing your speech helps you prepare to deliver your speech
to an audience.

Do you want to earn a good grade on your next speech? Research suggests that
one of the best predictors of the effectiveness of a speech is the amount of time you
spend preparing and rehearsing. Instructors gave higher grades to students who
spent more time rehearsing their speeches and lower grades to students who spent
less time preparing and rehearsing.35 The following suggestions can help you make
the most of your rehearsal time.

●● Finish drafting your speech outline at least two days before your speech
performance. The more time you have to work on putting it all together, the bet-
ter. Research indicates that public speaking procrastinators receive lower grades
than those who leave plenty of time for both preparation and rehearsal.36









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figure 11.1 Rehearsing your speech delivery will help you present your speech
with confidence.

Source: Copyrighted by Pearson Education, Hoboken, NJ.

202 Chapter 11

●● Before you prepare the speaking notes you will use in front of your audience,
rehearse your speech aloud. This will help you determine where you will need
notes to prompt yourself.

●● Time your speech. Revise your speech as necessary to keep it within the time
limits set by your instructor or whoever invited you to speak.

●● Prepare your speaking notes. Use whatever system works best for you to main-
tain an extemporaneous delivery style. Some speakers use pictorial symbols to
remind themselves of a story or an idea. Others use complete sentences or just
words and phrases in an outline pattern to prompt them. Many teachers advocate
using note cards for speaking notes. Some speakers use a smartphone, an iPad,
or other electronic display. If you do use electronic notes, it is wise to have a hard
copy backup in case you experience technology problems.

●● Rehearse your speech standing up. This will help you get a feel for your use
of gestures as well as your vocal delivery. Do not try to memorize your speech or
plan specific gestures. As you rehearse, you may want to modify your speaking
notes to reflect appropriate changes.

●● If you can, present your speech to someone else so you can practice establish-
ing eye contact. Seek feedback from your captive audience about both your
delivery and your speech content.

●● If possible, make an audio or video recording of your speech during the
rehearsal stage. Most smartphones, computers, and tablets have a built-in cam-
era and microphone. When listening to or viewing the recording, observe your
vocal and physical mannerisms and make necessary changes. Many speakers
still find it useful to practice before a mirror so that they can observe their body
language—it’s low-tech, but it works.

●● Rehearse using all your presentation aids. As we discuss in the
next chapter, don’t wait until the last minute to plan, prepare, and re-
hearse with flipcharts, slides, computer graphics, handouts, or other
aids you will need to manipulate as you speak.

●● Your final rehearsals should re-create, as much as possible, the
speaking situation you will face. If you will be speaking in a large
classroom, find a large classroom in which to rehearse your speech.
If your audience will be seated informally in a semicircle, then this
should be the context in which you rehearse your speech. If you own
special virtual reality glasses, you can try rehearsing in front of a
virtual audience. Keep in mind that realistic rehearsal results in more
confidence and a better performance.

●● Practice good delivery skills while rehearsing. Remember this
maxim: Practice makes perfect if practice is perfect.

Developing Your Speech Step bY Step

rehearSe Your Speech

Matthew begins to rehearse his speech. From the beginning, he stands and speaks aloud, practicing

gestures and movement that seem appropriate to his message.

At first, Matthew uses his preparation outline as speaking notes. These early rehearsals go pretty well,

but the speech is running a little short. Matthew knows that he tends to speak fairly rapidly, so he decides

to plan more pauses throughout the speech, at points strategically chosen to allow his listeners to absorb

an important idea. When he prepares his speaking notes, Matthew writes the delivery cue “Pause” at

those points on his note cards.

ReheaRSing YouR SPeech
• Spend more time preparing and rehearsing,

to earn a higher grade.
• Finish your outline two days before you

• Rehearse your speech aloud several times,

and time it before making speaking notes.
• Make rehearsals as much like the real

speech as possible.
• Seek feedback, and self- critique video of

your rehearsal.

Delivering Your Speech 203

Delivering Your Speech
11.5 List five suggestions for enhancing the final delivery of your speech.

The day of your speech arrives, and you are ready. Using information about your audi-
ence as an anchor, you have developed a speech on an interesting topic and with a fine-
tuned purpose. Your central idea is clearly identified. You have gathered interesting and
relevant supporting material and organized it well. Your speech has an appropriate intro-
duction, a logically arranged body, and a clear conclusion that nicely summarizes your
key theme. You have rehearsed your speech several times; it is not memorized, but you
are comfortable with the way you express the major ideas. Your last task is calmly and
confidently to communicate with your audience. You are ready to deliver your speech.

As the time for presenting your speech to your audience approaches, con-
sider the following suggestions to help you prepare for a successful performance
(see Figure 11.2).

●● Be well rested. Get plenty of sleep before your speech. Last-minute, late-night
final preparations can take the edge off your performance. Many professional
public speakers also advocate that you watch what you eat before you speak; a
heavy meal or too much caffeine can have a negative effect on your performance.

●● Review the suggestions in Chapter 1 for becoming a confident speaker. It is
normal to have prespeech jitters. But if you have developed a well-organized,
audience-centered message on a topic of genuine interest to you, you’ve done all
the right things to make your speech a success. Remember some of the other tips
for developing confidence: Re-create the speech environment when you rehearse.
Use deep breathing techniques to help you relax. Make sure you are especially
familiar with your introduction and conclusion. Act calm to feel calm.









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figure 11.2 Delivering the speech is the culmination of the audience-centered
approach to the speechmaking process.

Source: Copyrighted by Pearson Education, Hoboken, NJ.

204 Chapter 11

●● Arrive early for your speaking engagement. If the room is in an unfamiliar loca-
tion, give yourself plenty of time to find it. Budget your time so you do not spend
your moments before you speak hurriedly looking for a parking place or franti-
cally trying to attend to last-minute details.

●● Prepare the room and equipment. You may want to rearrange the furniture or
make other changes in the speaking environment. If you are using audiovisual
equipment, check to see that it is working properly and set up your support mate-
rial carefully. Project a PowerPoint slide or two to make sure the image is clear.

●● Visualize success. Picture yourself delivering your speech in an effective way.
Also, remind yourself of the effort you have spent preparing for your speech.
A  final mental rehearsal can boost your confidence and help ensure success.

Even though we have identified many time-tested methods for enhancing your
speech delivery, keep in mind that speech delivery is an art rather than a science. The
manner of your delivery should reflect your personality and individual style.

Responding to Questions
11.6 Explain and use strategies for responding to questions from your audience

at the end of your speech.

It’s possible that a speech you deliver will
be followed by a question-and-answer
(Q & A) session. Audience members may
have questions about the content you
presented and they may use their smart-
phones to search for additional informa-
tion about your topic. It’s important to
remain poised and confident when your
delivery method changes to impromptu
speaking. Research has found that your
perceived skill in responding to ques-
tions may be even more important than
your delivery when creating a positive
impression on your listeners.37 Question
and answer sessions can be especially
challenging because, although you may
not know the questions in advance,
you will be expected to deliver your

YouR SPeech
• Get a good night’s rest.
• Reinforce your confidence

with tips from Chapter 1.
• Arrive early.
• Prepare the room and

make sure your technology
works before you speak.

• Visualize success.

Developing Your Speech Step bY Step

Deliver Your Speech

The long-awaited day of Matthew’s speech has come. He slept well last night and ate a light breakfast

before coming to class.

Waiting his turn to speak, Matthew breathes deeply and visualizes himself delivering his speech

calmly and confidently. When his name is called, he walks to the front of the room and establishes eye

contact with his audience before he begins to speak.

During his speech, Matthew focuses on adapting his message to his listeners. He looks at individual

members of his audience, uses purposeful and well-timed gestures, and speaks loudly and clearly.

Even before he hears the applause, Matthew knows that his speech has been a success.

Preparation can help you manage a question-and-answer session smoothly to bring
a  successful end to the delivery of your speech. Photo: Stockbyte/Getty Images

Delivering Your Speech 205

answers thoughtfully and smoothly. In addition to the suggestions for impromptu
speaking we offered earlier, here are additional tips to make the Q & A period less

●● Prepare. One of the best ways to prepare for a Q & A session is to anticipate
the questions you may be asked. How do you anticipate questions? You analyze
your audience. Think of possible questions those particular listeners might ask,
and then rehearse your answers. Prior to presidential debates, candidates have
their staff members pepper them with questions so the candidates can practice
responding. Perhaps your friends can ask you questions after you’ve rehearsed
your speech in front of them.

●● Repeat or rephrase the question. Repeating a question helps in four ways.
First, your paraphrase makes sure that everyone can hear the question. Second,
paraphrasing ensures that you understand the question before you go charging
off with your answer. Third, by paraphrasing, you can succinctly summarize ram-
bling questions. And, finally, repeating the question gives you just a bit of time to
think about your answer.

●● Stay on message. Sometimes listeners may ask questions unrelated to your talk.
If so, you’ll want to find a way to gently guide your questioner back to the mes-
sage you have prepared. Keep bringing the audience back to your central idea.
Your answers, rather than the questions, are important. We’re not suggesting
that you dodge questions; you should address the question asked, but then re-
emphasize the key points you have made. Some seasoned speakers suggest that
you save a bit of your speech to deliver during the Q & A session. It’s called giving
a “double-barreled” talk.39 You present your speech, and then, during the Q & A
period, you give a second, much briefer speech.

●● Respond to the entire audience, not just the person who asked the question.
Although you can start your response by having eye contact with the person
who asked you a question, make sure you stay audience-centered. Look at
all audience members and keep in mind that your response should be rel-
evant to them. If the questioner wants specific information that is of interest
only to that person, you could speak with the questioner individually after
your speech.

●● Ask yourself the first question. One way to prime the audience for the Q & A
session is to ask yourself a challenging question first. For example, you might
say, “As we move into Q & A, a number of you may be wondering….” State the
question and answer it. Doing this also gives you a comfortable way to make a
transition between the speech and the Q & A period. Asking yourself a tough
question tells the audience that you’re open for serious questions, and it snaps
them to attention as well.

●● Listen nonjudgmentally. Use the effective listening skills that we discussed in
Chapter 4. Keep your eyes focused on the person asking the question, lean for-
ward slightly, and give your full attention to the questioner. Audience members
expect speakers to be polite and attentive. If you think the question is stupid,
don’t say so. Just listen and respond courteously. Audience members can judge
for themselves whether a question is appropriate or not. Don’t wince, grimace, or
scowl at the questioner. You’ll gain more credibility by keeping your cool than by
losing your composure.

206 Chapter 11

●● Neutralize hostile questions. Every hostile question gives you an opportunity
to score points with your listeners. You’ll have your listeners’ attention; use that
attention to your advantage. The following strategies can help.

Restate the question. If the question was a lengthy attack, focus on the essence
of the issue. If the question is “Your ideas are just wrong! I’m angry that you
have no clue as to how to proceed. Your proposal has been a disaster in the
past. Why are you still trying to make it work?” a paraphrase could be “You’re
asking me why I’m still trying to implement a program that hasn’t been suc-
cessful. From your perspective, the program has failed.”

Acknowledge emotions. For example, you could say, “I can understand why
you are angry. I share your anger and frustration. It’s because of my frustration
that I want to give my proposal more time to work.”

Don’t make the issue personal. Even when a hostile questioner has made you
the villain, don’t attack the person who asked the question. Keep the conversa-
tion focused on issues, not on personalities.
Get to the heart of the issue. Respond directly to a hostile question. Consider
restating the evidence you presented in your speech. Or provide new insights
to support your position.

●● When you don’t know, admit it. If you’ve been asked a question to which you
don’t know the answer, just say so. You can promise to find out more information
and then get back to the person later. (If you make such a promise, follow through
on it. Ask for the person’s business card or email address at the end of the Q & A

●● Be brief. Even if you’ve anticipated questions and have a “double-barreled”
talk, make it short and to the point.

●● Use organizational signposts. Quickly organize your responses. If you have
two responses to a question, let your listeners know it. Then use a verbal signpost

ReSPonDing To QueSTionS
• Prepare; ask the first question yourself.
• Listen nonjudgmentally; repeat or rephrase questions.
• Respond to the whole audience.
• Bring off-topic questions back to your message.
• Acknowledge emotions, keep to the issue, and

avoid personal responses to  hostile questions.
• Admit it when you don’t know the answer.
• Keep answers brief and organized.
• Warn audience when Q & A is ending.

(a statement that clues your audience in to how you’re
organizing your message) by saying, “I have two responses.
First …” When you get to your second point, say, “My sec-
ond point is….” These signposts will both help you stay
organized and impress your listeners with your clarity.

●● Indicate when the Q & A period is concluding. Tell your
audience, “I have time for two more questions.” Let them
know that the Q & A session will soon conclude. Even if
you have someone helping you moderate the discussion,
you should remain in charge of concluding the session.
Some speakers prepare a “second conclusion” after the
Q & A session to ensure the final message they present is
planned, prepared, and positive.

Delivering Your Speech 207

assess: How can you determine when you have re-
hearsed long enough so that you can extemporaneously
deliver your key ideas to your listeners, but not so long
that you are giving a memorized presentation?

characteristics of effective Delivery
11.3 Identify and illustrate the characteristics of effective


review: Eye contact is the single most important deliv-
ery variable. Your gestures and movements should ap-
pear natural and relaxed, definite, consistent with your
message, varied, unobtrusive, and coordinated with what
you say as well as appropriate to your audience and
situation. Use your posture, facial expressions, and vo-
cal cues—including pitch, rate of speaking, and use of
pauses—to communicate your emotions. Be sure to speak
loudly enough and to articulate clearly.

Key Terms
immediacy behaviors

lavaliere microphone
boom microphone
stationary microphone

apply: Monique is self-conscious about her hand ges-
tures, and she often just puts her hands behind her back.
What advice would you give Monique to help her use
gestures more effectively?

assess: There is a word in your speech that you’re not
sure you’re pronouncing correctly. What are some ways
you can confirm the correct way to say this word?

Rehearsing Your Speech:
Some final Tips
11.4 Describe the steps to follow when you rehearse

your speech.

review: After finishing your speech outline, allow at
least two days to practice your speech delivery and de-
velop your speaking notes. As much as possible, re-create
the speech environment when you rehearse. Rehearse
your speech while keeping your audience in mind; imag-
ine that your audience is in front of you as you practice
presenting your message.

The Power of Speech Delivery
11.1 Identify three reasons why delivery is important

to a public speaker.

review: Nonverbal communication conveys the major-
ity of the meaning of your speech and nearly all of your
emotions to an audience. Nonverbal expectancy theory
suggests that your credibility as a speaker depends on
meeting your audience’s expectations about nonverbal
communication. Audiences will believe what they see in
your nonverbal communication more readily than what
they hear in your words.

Key Terms
nonverbal communication
nonverbal expectancy theory
emotional contagion theory

apply: What can listeners do to be less distracted by
the delivery and emotional elements of a speaker’s mes-
sage and to focus more on the substance or content of the

assess: Based on emotional contagion theory, described
earlier in this chapter, how can you tell if your audience
is “catching” the emotional message you intend to com-
municate? What specific nonverbal cues should you be
looking for to see if your audience is responding to your
message as you had planned?

Methods of Delivery
11.2 Identify and describe four methods of delivery.

review: Of the four methods of delivery—manuscript,
memorized, impromptu, and extemporaneous—the ex-
temporaneous method is the most desirable in most situ-
ations. Speak from an outline without memorizing the
exact words.

Key Terms
manuscript speaking
memorized speaking

impromptu speaking
extemporaneous speaking

apply: Roger was so nervous about his first speech that
he practiced it again and again. He could have given
the speech in his sleep. He incorporated some great ex-
amples, and his instructor had praised his outline. But
as he gave his speech, he saw his classmates tuning out.
What might he have done wrong, and how could he have
rescued his speech?

study Guide: Review, Apply, And Assess

208 Chapter 11

a message. Use what you’ve learned in this chapter to
evaluate the delivery strengths and weaknesses of the
speeches at the following sites.

●● History Channel Archive of Speeches: Each day,
a  famous speech is highlighted. There is also an
archive you can browse to listen to or watch famous

●● MSU Vincent Voice Library: This site will
permit you to hear recordings of the voices of
U.S.  presidents and other historical figures:

Responding to Questions
11.6 Explain and use strategies for responding

to questions from your audience at the end
of your speech.

review: Prepare for Q & A and be ready to ask the first
question yourself. Listen nonjudgmentally and repeat
or rephrase questions. Use strategies described in this
chapter to neutralize hostile questions and bring off-topic
questions back to your message. Admit it when you don’t
know an answer. Use organizational signposts to clarify
answers and to signal the end of Q & A.

apply: Muriel, who has been a church organist for 35 years,
is planning to speak to her music club about techniques of
playing the pipe organ. What are some questions Muriel
might be asked during the Q & A period?

assess: What are nonverbal messages you might receive
from audience members that suggest they approve of
your response to a question? What cues might suggest
listeners disapprove of your response?

apply: Jason just never seems to be quite ready on the
day he is supposed to give his speech. He has always
thought a great deal about his speech and prepared a few
notes but usually has not done much else. What specific
advice would you give Jason to help him prepare and
rehearse his speech to ensure success?

assess: Review the tips for rehearsing your speech pre-
sented earlier in this chapter. Rate yourself on a scale of
1-5 (1 = poor; 5 = excellent) on each of the suggestions
for enhancing your speech rehearsal strategies. Based on
your self-ratings, what is your personalized plan to im-
prove your rehearsals?

Delivering Your Speech
11.5 List five suggestions for enhancing the final delivery

of your speech.

review: Get a good night’s rest before a speech. Visualize
your success and reinforce your confidence using the sug-
gestions from Chapter 1 of this book. Arrive early so that
you have time to prepare the environment and are not
stressed by running late.

apply: Aspen felt quite nervous as she gave her speech,
and her instructor later commented that she had spoken
so fast that some of her words were hard to understand.
Review the strategies for managing speech apprehen-
sion in Chapter 1 and the delivery advice in this chapter.
Recommend specific steps Aspen can take to reduce her
nervousness as well as slow her speech rate for her next

assess: It’s one thing to read about speech delivery,
but it’s quite another to see and hear speakers deliver

Perhaps it has happened to you. A professor flashes one PowerPoint™ slide after
another while droning on about British history or some other topic. As you sit
there, bored out of your socks, you think, “Why doesn’t she just hand out the

PowerPoint slides or simply put them online and let us go? I don’t need her to read
her notes to me.” Following such a mind-numbing experience, you can understand
the phrase “Death by PowerPoint.”

PowerPoint and the multitude of other presentation aids that speakers may use—
especially visual aids—are powerful tools: They can help communicate your ideas
with greater clarity and impact than can words alone. But they can also overwhelm
your speech or be so redundant that your audience tunes you out. This chapter will

12.1 Describe six types of presentation aids and identify
tips for using them effectively.

12.2 Describe how computers may be used to generate
high-quality presentation aids.

12.3 Identify guidelines for developing effective
presentation aids.

12.4 Identify guidelines for effectively using
presentation aids.


After studying this chapter, you should be able to do the following:

Using Presentation

Hieronymus Bosch (c. 1450–1516), The Conjurer,
1475–1480. Musée Municipal, Saint-Germain-
en-Laye, France. Photo: Scala/White Images/Art
Resource, NY.

The soul never thinks without a



210 Chapter 12

help you avoid being a PowerPoint “executioner” and ensure that your presentation
aids add life to your speech rather than kill your message.

A presentation aid is any image, object, or sound that reinforces your point visu-
ally or aurally so that your audience can better understand it. Charts, photographs,
posters, drawings, graphs, PowerPoint slides, movies, and videos are the types of pres-
entation aids that we will discuss.

Contemporary communicators understand the power of visual rhetoric in in-
forming and persuading others. Visual rhetoric is the use of images as an inte-
grated element in the total communication effort a speaker makes to achieve his or
her speaking goal.1 The predominance of visual images—on our phones, tablets,
computers, and TVs—attests to how central images are in the communication of
information to modern audiences.2 In fact, it has been estimated that more than
80 percent of all information comes to us through sight.3 For many people, seeing
is believing. Whether on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, or even via text, today’s
audience members often expect visual support.

Almost any speech can benefit from presentation aids. As shown in Table 12.1,
presentation aids can help you gain attention, enhance understanding and memo-
ry, organize ideas, and illustrate a sequence of events or procedures.4 A speech for
which you are expected to use presentation aids is not as different from other types of
speeches as you might at first think. Your general objective is still to inform, persuade,
or entertain. The key difference is that you will use supporting material that can be
seen and sometimes heard.

Types of Presentation Aids
12.1 Describe six types of presentation aids and identify tips for using them


The first question many students ask when they learn they are required to use pre-
sentation aids is “What type of presentation aid should I use?” There are six types of
presentation aids: images, text, video, audio, objects, and people.

The most common presentation aids are such two-dimensional images as drawings,
photographs, maps, graphs, and charts. To illustration your message, most likely
you will incorporate these images into PowerPoint or another type of presentation
software. Even if you don’t use a computer to display images during your speech, you
may use one to prepare “hard copy” images, such as a large poster or chart. As we
discuss incorporating images in your speech, we’ll offer general suggestions both for
using them in the old-fashioned way (such as holding up a large graph or object) and
for incorporating them into presentation software. Later in the chapter we’ll also offer
suggestions for using computer-generated graphics.

Drawings Drawings are popular, often-used presentation aids because they are easy
and inexpensive to make. They can also be tailored to your specific needs. To illustrate
the functions of the human brain, for example, one student traced an outline of the
brain and added labels to indicate the location of specific brain functions. Another stu-
dent wanted to show the different sizes and shapes of the tree leaves in the area, so she
drew enlarged pictures of the leaves, using appropriate shades of green.

You don’t have to be a master artist to develop effective drawings. As a rule, large
and simple line drawings are more effective than detailed images. If you have absolutely
no artistic skill, you can probably find a friend or relative to help you prepare a useful
drawing. Alternatively, you could also use software to generate simple line drawings.

presentation aid
Any image, object, or sound that rein-
forces your point visually or aurally so that
your audience can better understand it

visual rhetoric
The use of images as an integrated ele-
ment in the total communication effort a
speaker makes to achieve a speaking goal

Using Presentation Aids 211

PhotograPhs Photographs can be used to show objects or places that cannot be il-
lustrated with drawings or that an audience cannot view directly. The problem with
printed photos or photos on a smartphone, however, is that they are usually too small
to be seen clearly from a distance. If your listeners occupy only two or three rows, it
might be possible to hold a photograph close enough for them to see a key feature. But
keep in mind that passing a photograph among your listeners is not a good idea; it
creates competition for your audience’s attention. So if you need to use a photograph,
enlarge it or scan and electronically project it.

Thirty years ago, in the era BP (Before PowerPoint), public speakers who
wanted to illustrate a talk with photos used 36-millimeter slides projected with a

Table 12.1 The Value of Presentation Aids

Function Example

Gain and maintain attention Begin a speech with a photo of a
malnourished child to illustrate the problem
of poverty.

Enhance understanding When giving a speech about tips for
speaking Spanish show images of
common Spanish words.

Enhance memory A speech about primary colors could
include an image of the letters ROYGBIV,
which is a mnemonic device used to
remember the seven colors.


Organize ideas When giving a speech about Union Civil
War generals, chronologically display
their photos starting with Winfield Scott
and ending with Ulysses S. Grant.

Illustrate Steps or a Process Show a step-by-step visual sequence
depicting how nuclear power is


: J







: A







: O












: S








: L













: L


f C










: L



f C









: p






: L












Winfield Scott George B. McClellan

Henry Halleck Ulysses S. Grant

212 Chapter 12

rates of wireless subscribers. It would be more difficult to illustrate your point
with words and numbers alone. A graph helps your listeners quickly see

●● Pie Graphs. A pie graph shows the individual shares of a whole. The pie graph
in Figure 12.3 shows the top Internet search providers. Pie graphs are especially
useful in helping your listeners see how quickly data are distributed in a given
category or area.

●● Line Graphs. A line graph shows relationships between two or more vari-
ables. Like bar graphs, line graphs organize statistical data to show overall
trends (Figure 12.4). A line graph can cover a greater span of time or numbers
than a bar graph without looking cluttered or confusing. As with other types of
presentation aids, a simple line graph communicates better than a cluttered one.

bar graph
A graph in which bars of various lengths
represent information

pie graph
A circular graph divided into wedges that
show each part’s percentage of the whole

line graph
A graph that uses lines or curves to show
relationships between two or more variables

slide projector. Today slides are rarely used because computer-projected images are
much easier to work with.

MaPs Most maps are designed to be read from a distance of no more than two feet.
As with photographs, the details on most maps won’t be visible to your audience. To
make a map large enough for your audience to see, you can enlarge it using a color
copier (some can enlarge images as much as 200 percent), draw a simplified large-
scale version, or embed it in a computer-generated slide. Using a dark marker, one
speaker highlighted the borders on a map of Europe to indicate the countries she had
visited the previous summer (see Figure 12.1). She used a red marker to show the path
of her journey. Search online for “public domain” maps that you can download with-
out violating copyright laws.

graPhs A graph is a pictorial representation of statistical data in an easy-to-under-
stand format. Most graphs used in speeches are prepared using either Excel or Word
software and then displayed as computer-generated slides.

Why use a graph? Seeing relationships among numbers is better than just hearing
statistics. Statistics are abstract summaries of many examples. Most listeners find that
graphs help make statistical data more concrete and easier to understand. Yet research
also suggests that in addition to presenting information in a graph, it’s important to talk
about the information presented.5 Graphs are particularly effective for showing overall
trends and relationships among data. By watching news programs, hearing reports, and
seeing presentations, you have undoubtedly seen the four most common types of graphs:
bar graphs, pie graphs, line graphs, and picture graphs. Most speakers today use com-
puter-generated graphs rather than drawing them freehand, but occasionally you may
want to sketch a simple graph on a chalkboard, whiteboard, or flip chart during your talk.

●● Bar Graphs. A bar graph consists of flat areas—bars—of various lengths to
represent information. The bar graph in Figure 12.2 clearly shows the growth

A pictorial representation of statistical data

Figure 12.1 A map can be an effective visual aid, especially when the speaker
personalizes it by highlighting relevant information—such as the route followed in a
journey from Edinburgh to Warsaw.

SourcE: Copyrighted by Pearson Education, Hoboken, NJ.

Using Presentation Aids 213

rates of wireless subscribers. It would be more difficult to illustrate your point
with words and numbers alone. A graph helps your listeners quickly see

●● Pie Graphs. A pie graph shows the individual shares of a whole. The pie graph
in Figure 12.3 shows the top Internet search providers. Pie graphs are especially
useful in helping your listeners see how quickly data are distributed in a given
category or area.

●● Line Graphs. A line graph shows relationships between two or more vari-
ables. Like bar graphs, line graphs organize statistical data to show overall
trends (Figure 12.4). A line graph can cover a greater span of time or numbers
than a bar graph without looking cluttered or confusing. As with other types of
presentation aids, a simple line graph communicates better than a cluttered one.

bar graph
A graph in which bars of various lengths
represent information

pie graph
A circular graph divided into wedges that
show each part’s percentage of the whole

line graph
A graph that uses lines or curves to show
relationships between two or more variables




Number of Smartphone Users (Past and Projected)
in the U.S. (in Millions)



2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019






Figure 12.2 Bar graphs can help make statistical information clearly and
immediately visible to your audience.

SourcE: Statista, Number of smartphone users (past and projected) in the United States from 2010 to 2019
(in millions),


Yahoo!Bing Google

Top Preferred Internet Search
Engines, Market Share

in February 2016





Figure 12.3 A pie graph visually
shows the percentage of a whole
that belongs to each part of it.

SourcE: Data from Netmarketshare www.



U.S. Unemployment Rates



01/10 01/11 01/12 01/13 01/14 01/15 01/16




Figure 12.4 Line graphs show relationships between two or more variables.

SourcE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2016

214 Chapter 12

poster, or computer-generated slide. As with all other presentation aids, charts must be
simple and easy to read. Do not try to put too much information on one chart.

The key to developing effective charts is to prepare the lettering of the words and
phrases you use very carefully. If a chart contains too much information, audience
members may feel it is too complicated to understand, and ignore it. If your chart looks
cramped or crowded, divide the information into several charts and display each as
needed. Use simple words or phrases, and eliminate unnecessary words. Avoid creat-
ing a hand-lettered chart as it may appear unprofessional.

In addition to images, many speakers use text, which could be just a word or two, or
a brief outline of the key points. The key to using text as a presentation aid is to not
overdo it. You want your listeners focused on you rather than reading lengthy bul-
let points. Many PowerPoint presentations suffer because the speaker has used too
many words to accompany the spoken message. To use text effectively, consider these

●● Use no more than seven lines of text on any single visual, especially on a com-
puter-generated visual.

●● Use brief bullet points to designate individual items or thoughts.

●● Use parallel structure in bulleted lists (for example, begin each bulleted phrase
with the same word, as we do in this list).

●● Use the heading of each slide to summarize the essential point of the visual so lis-
teners can follow the key point you are making.6

If you’re using a computer, you’ll be able to choose from dozens of typefaces and
fonts. But make an informed choice rather than selecting a typeface just because it
strikes your fancy. Graphic designers divide typefaces into four types: serif, sans serif,
script, and decorative. You’ll see each of these illustrated in Figure 12.7. Serif fonts,
like the one you are reading now, are easier to read for longer passages because the chart

A display that summarizes information by
using words, numbers, or images

Particular styles of typefaces

●● Picture Graphs. In place of either a line or a bar, you can use pictures or symbols
to supplement the data you are summarizing (Figure 12.5). A picture graph looks
somewhat less formal and less intimidating than other kinds of graphs. One of the
advantages of picture graphs is that they use few words or labels, which makes
them easier for your audience to read. There are online sources that can help you
create your own picture graphs.

Charts A chart summarizes and presents a great deal of information in a small
amount of space (Figure 12.6). Charts have several advantages: They are easy to use, re-
use, and enlarge. They can also be displayed in a variety of ways, such as on a flipchart,

picture graph
A graph that uses images or pictures to
symbolize data

Oranges Sold

A picture graph showing the number
of oranges sold at a local shop.

= 10 Oranges = 5 Oranges






Figure 12.5 Adding visual symbols, such as those in this picture graph, can help
your audience maintain interest and understand complex information.

Level of Education

High School Diploma
or Higher

Bachelor’s Degree
or Higher


Level of Education of Americans of Irish Ancestry, Compared
with Education Levels of All Americans



All Americans



Figure 12.6 Charts summarize and present information in a small amount of space.

SourcE: Data from U.S. Census Bureau, “Facts for Features: Irish-American Heritage Month and St. Patrick’s Day,” 20 January 2016.

Using Presentation Aids 215

poster, or computer-generated slide. As with all other presentation aids, charts must be
simple and easy to read. Do not try to put too much information on one chart.

The key to developing effective charts is to prepare the lettering of the words and
phrases you use very carefully. If a chart contains too much information, audience
members may feel it is too complicated to understand, and ignore it. If your chart looks
cramped or crowded, divide the information into several charts and display each as
needed. Use simple words or phrases, and eliminate unnecessary words. Avoid creat-
ing a hand-lettered chart as it may appear unprofessional.

In addition to images, many speakers use text, which could be just a word or two, or
a brief outline of the key points. The key to using text as a presentation aid is to not
overdo it. You want your listeners focused on you rather than reading lengthy bul-
let points. Many PowerPoint presentations suffer because the speaker has used too
many words to accompany the spoken message. To use text effectively, consider these

●● Use no more than seven lines of text on any single visual, especially on a com-
puter-generated visual.

●● Use brief bullet points to designate individual items or thoughts.

●● Use parallel structure in bulleted lists (for example, begin each bulleted phrase
with the same word, as we do in this list).

●● Use the heading of each slide to summarize the essential point of the visual so lis-
teners can follow the key point you are making.6

If you’re using a computer, you’ll be able to choose from dozens of typefaces and
fonts. But make an informed choice rather than selecting a typeface just because it
strikes your fancy. Graphic designers divide typefaces into four types: serif, sans serif,
script, and decorative. You’ll see each of these illustrated in Figure 12.7. Serif fonts,
like the one you are reading now, are easier to read for longer passages because the chart

A display that summarizes information by
using words, numbers, or images

Particular styles of typefaces

Figure 12.7 Typefaces grouped by font type.

216 Chapter 12

little lines at the tops and bottoms of the letters (called serifs) help guide the eye from
one letter to the next. Sans serif fonts (sans means “without”) do not have the extra
lines. Script fonts are designed to look like handwriting; although interesting and
dramatic, script fonts should be used sparingly because they are harder to read. And
you should use decorative fonts only when you want to communicate a special tone
or mood. Regardless of which font style or typeface you use, don’t use more than one
or two typefaces on a single visual; if you do use two, designers suggest they should
be from different font categories.

Here’s an outline for an informative speech that uses a simple display of text and
images (which could be presented on a chart or as a computer-generated graphic) to
clearly communicate the ideas the speaker wishes to convey.7

TOPIC: Standard editorial symbols
SPECIFIC PURPOSE: At the end of my speech, the audience should be

able to use and interpret five standard symbols for
editorial changes in hardcopy written material.

I. The following seven editorial symbols are commonly used to change written text.

A. Use the “pigtail” symbol to delete a letter, a word, or a phrase.

B. Use a caret (it looks like a housetop) to insert a space, a letter, new
text, or punctuation.

C. Use what look like two sideways parentheses to remove unwanted

D. Use this squiggle line to transpose letters, words, or phrases.

a E. Draw three lines under letters to capitalize them.

B F. Draw a slash through letters to change them to lowercase.

After the speech, the speaker could give each audience member a one-page handout
summarizing these editorial markings.

It’s now easy to record video to support speech ideas. Digital video cameras are
inexpensive, widely available, and a standard feature of smartphones, so you prob-
ably already have a video camera in your pocket. If, for example, you want to illus-
trate the frustration of not being able to find parking on your campus, recording
and showing a video of full parking lots and harried commuters hunting for spots
would help support your point. Or to convince your listeners to support a ban on
plastic bags in your community, show images of the bags clinging to fences and
cluttering landfills. Such video images often make a point better than words alone.
As with other presentation aids, keep the focus on the speech rather than the video.
Before you decide to use a video, think about whether or not it will really enhance
your speech. Short, well-selected clips are most likely to be effective. Longer videos
can exceed your listeners’ attention spans and may detract from your live-and-in-
person presentation.

Using Presentation Aids 217

Showing a short clip from a movie or TV show may help you make your point or
provide an attention-catching opening or a memorable closing to your talk. If you are
using clips from movies or TV to support your talk, you’ll likely find the video footage
you need on YouTube, other Internet sources, such as Hulu, or commercially prere-
corded digital video disks (DVDs).

It can be helpful to incorporate video files (if you can obtain them) into your own
computer-generated slides. Building the video into a slide can give you more control
over precisely what clip you are showing as well as the visual context and timing when
you play it. You could, for example, show printed lyrics next to footage of a musician

You can use a variety of devices and technologies to store your videos and play
them back during your speech:

●● DVD player. You may wish to play part of a prerecorded movie or TV show
from a DVD. But with the widespread availability of video streaming on the
Internet, it is unwise to assume there will be a DVD player available for your use.
Check to make sure you have access to a DVD player for your speech.

●● Computers and other electronic devices. You can store your own videos or
clips from other sources on your smartphone, tablet computer, or your iPod or
other MP3 player. Unless the audience is very small, all of these options, as well
as a DVD player, will require you to connect your device to a monitor or a projec-
tion system. A 32-inch screen is generally visible to an audience of 25 or 30 people.
For a larger audience, you will need either several TVs or monitors or a large-pro-
jection TV system. Make sure monitors are available and compatible with your
device, or bring your own.

●● The Internet. If the room where you are delivering your speech has Wi-Fi or di-
rect Internet access, you could skip storing your video and instead stream it directly
from YouTube or another Internet source. You could also retrieve your video or
audio material from the “cloud”—computer storage in a remote location. Having a
backup of your material on a cloud or flash drive can enhance security and ensure
that your material will be there when you need it.

When using any of these technologies, you’ll want to practice using your video
and make sure all the equipment you need is available. Unless you’re using a wireless
system, for example, you might need a cable to connect your storage device to a moni-
tor. Before giving your speech, do a technical run-through, ensuring that your video
image will be ready when you want it.

Audio can be used to complement visual displays. As with video, you can either cre-
ate your own audio content or use prerecorded sources. You also have a number of
options for storage and playback. You might play a few measures of Bach’s Toccata
and Fugue in D Minor from your iPod—or even live, on a portable electronic key-
board—to illustrate a point.

Used sparingly, sound can effectively establish a mood or support your points.
While showing PowerPoint slides of her recent Caribbean vacation, one student used
a recording of soft steel drum music as an introductory background for her talk. But
it’s not a good idea to have a competing soundtrack during your entire speech. Besides
music you could also use recordings of spoken messages. One student played brief
excerpts of taped interviews with frustrated students who had difficulty figuring out
the most recent changes in how to apply for financial aid. As with video, be sure to
rehearse with and master any technology involved with audio aids, and don’t let your
soundtrack overwhelm or distract from your own words.

218 Chapter 12

Objects and Models
Listeners like looking at real, tangible items. They can be touched, smelled, heard, and
even tasted, as well as seen. Objects are real, and audiences like the real thing. Using
an object or, if the object is too big or illegal to bring to your speech, using a model, can
enhance audience interest.

objeCts You have played the trombone since you were in fifth grade, so you decide
to give an informative speech about the history and function of this instrument. Your
trombone is the obvious presentation aid that you would show to your audience as
you describe how it works. You might even play a few measures to demonstrate its
sound and your talent. Or perhaps you are an art major and you have just finished a
watercolor painting. Why not bring your picture to class to illustrate your talk about
watercolor techniques?

When you use an object to illustrate an idea, make sure that you can handle the
object with ease. If an object is too large, it can be unwieldy and difficult to show to
your audience. Tiny objects can only be seen close up. It will be impossible for your lis-
teners to see the detail on your antique thimble, the intricate needlework on your cross-
stitch sampler, or the attention to detail in your miniature log cabin. Other objects can
be dangerous to handle. One speaker, who attempted a demonstration of how to string
an archery bow, made his audience extremely uncomfortable when his almost-strung
bow flew over their heads. He certainly got their attention, but he lost his credibility.

MoDels If it is not possible to bring along the object you would like to show your
audience, consider showing them a model of it. You cannot bring a World War II
fighter plane to class, so buy or build a scale model instead. To illustrate her lecture
about human anatomy, one student brought a plastic model of a skeleton; an actual
human skeleton is illegal to possess in most states as well as difficult to carry to
class. Make sure, however, that any model you use is large enough to be seen by all
members of your audience. When Brad brought his collection of miniature hand-
carved guitars to illustrate his talk on rock music, his tiny visuals didn’t add to the
message; they detracted from it.

At least since Ronald Reagan, U.S. presidents have used people
as visual aids during their State of the Union addresses, relating
a poignant story and then asking the protagonist of the story,
seated in the balcony, to stand and be recognized. One speech-
writer noted that presidents have learned to use this strategy to
especially good effect, finding it “a way of coming down from
the stage, as it were, and mingling with the crowd.”8

In classroom speeches, too, people can serve as presentation
aids. Amelia, a choreographer for the Ballet Folklorico Mexicano,
wanted to illustrate an intricate Latin folk dance, so she arranged
to have one of the troupe’s dancers attend her speech to demon-
strate the dance.

Using people to illustrate your message can be tricky, how-
ever. It is usually unwise to ask for spur-of-the-moment help
from volunteers while you are delivering your speech. Instead,
choose a trusted friend or colleague before your presentation
so that you can fully inform him or her about what needs to be
done. Rehearse your speech using your living presentation aid.

Also, it is distracting to have your support person stand
beside you doing nothing. If you don’t need the person to

A small object that represents a larger

Three-dimensional models can help you to explain an object,
process, or procedure to your audience in situations where it is
impractical or impossible to use the actual object. Photo: Cultura

Using Presentation Aids 219

demonstrate something during your opening remarks, wait and introduce the person
to your audience when needed.

Finally, do not allow your assistants to run away with the show. For example, don’t
let your dance student perform the pas de bourré longer than necessary to illustrate your
technique. Nor should you permit your models to prance about provocatively while dis-
playing your dress designs. And don’t allow your buddy to throw you when you dem-
onstrate the wrestling hold that made you the district wrestling champ. Remember, your
presentation aids are always subordinate to your speech. You must remain in control.

You can also serve as your own presentation aid to demonstrate or illustrate major
points. If you are talking about tennis, you might use your racquet to illustrate your
superb backhand or to show the proper way to hold it. If you are a nurse or an emer-
gency department technician giving a talk about medical procedures, by all means
wear your uniform to establish your credibility.

Using Computer-Generated
Presentation Aids
12.2 Describe how computers may be used to generate high-quality presentation


Richard had worked hard on his presentation to the finance committee. He had pre-
pared an impressive-looking hand-drawn poster, distributed a handout of his key
conclusions, and rehearsed his speech so that he had a well-polished delivery. But
as he sat down after concluding his speech, certain he had dazzled his listeners, a
colleague poked him and asked, “Why didn’t you use PowerPoint or Prezi slides?”
Computer-generated images can add professional polish to your presentation. For
your classroom speeches, however, check with your instructor to determine his or her
recommendations and policies about using computer-generated graphics.

Because most students learn to use presentation software in school, you will no
doubt be familiar with the basic elements of developing a computer-generated image.
And because you’ve undoubtedly seen many computer-generated presentations, you
also know that you can incorporate video clips as well as digital photos on a slide.
But, as with any presentation aid, the images or clips you use must help develop your
central idea; otherwise, they will distract your audience from it.

Basic Principles of Using Computer-Generated
Presentation Aids
Most audiences, especially those in the corporate world, expect a speaker to use
computer-generated presentation aids.9 The most popular presentation software,
PowerPoint, helps you create and present images, photos, words, charts, and graphs.
PowerPoint can also incorporate video and sound.

Prezi is another increasingly popular presentation software program that is cloud-
based—the information is accessed on demand via the Internet rather than on your
own computer. Prezi has many features similar to PowerPoint, but it also has features
that let you zoom in and out to help you focus your audience’s attention. But just
because Prezi permits you to zoom in and out on images and text, be careful not to
overdo it. The goal is to make your listeners remember your message, not make them
dizzy. Prezi also has a feature that allows you to look at all of your slides at once.
So rather than predetermining the precise order of your slides, you can more readily
adapt your presentation to your audience during your speech.

Keynote, another popular presentation software, was developed for Apple™
computers and devices, although it can be exported to PowerPoint or a PDF for use

220 Chapter 12

on PCs. Like other graphics programs, it permits users to easily maintain consistency
in fonts and colors. Some people especially like its sleek, contemporary appearance.

Tips for Using Computer-Generated Presentation
One of the biggest problems with using computer-generated images is that a speaker
may be tempted to shovel large amounts of information at listeners without regard
for their attention span. Resist that temptation.10 Research supports our now-famil-
iar admonition that the audience should be foremost in your mind as you develop
visual images to support your verbal message.11 To remain audience-centered when
using computer-generated presentation aids consider the following suggestions.

KeeP sights anD sounDs siMPle In most aspects of communication, simple is better.12
Even though you can use fancy fonts and add as many images as you like to your visual,
we have a suggestion for you: Don’t. Keep in mind what we’ve stressed throughout this
chapter: Presentation aids support your message; they are not your message.13 Or, as CEO
John W. Roe wisely expressed, “Visual aids should be made to steer, not to row.”14

Most presentation software lets you add sound effects to highlight your message.
But the sound of a racecar zooming across a computer screen or a typewriter clacking
as letters pop up in place can detract from your speech. Cute sounds will lose their
novelty after the first slide or two and can become irritating. We suggest that you be the
soundtrack, not your computer.

Control CoMPuter iMages When using computer-generated slides, there may be
times when you want to speak to your audience and not refer to a slide or image.
During these times, use a blank slide or use the projector’s remote control to tempo-
rarily project no image.

rePeat Visual eleMents to unify your Presentation Use a common visual element,
such as a bullet or other symbol, at the beginning of each word or phrase on a list. Use
common color schemes and spacing to give your visuals coherence. Also avoid mixing
different fonts. You’ll get a professional, polished look if you use the same visual style
for each of your images.

The most significant advantage of computer-generated graphics is the ease with
which they allow you to display attractive visual images. Both color and black-and-
white images are available as clip art. Clip art consists of pictures and other images
that are either in printed or electronic form. Clip art (as shown in Figure 12.8) can give
your visuals and graphics a professional touch even if you did not excel in art class. But
when using clip art, try to avoid images that your listeners may have seen before; look
for fresh, contemporary visuals.

MaKe inforMeD DeCisions about using Color Color communicates. Red and orange
are warm colors that often evoke feelings of excitement and interest (which is why most
fast-food restaurant chains use red, yellow, and orange in their color schemes; they want
to make you hungry and catch your attention). Cooler colors such as green and blue have
a more calming effect on viewers. Warm colors tend to come forward and jump out at the
viewer, whereas cooler colors recede into the background. What are the implications of
the power of color to communicate? Consider using warm colors for positive messages
(for example, “Profits are up”) and cooler colors for more negative messages (“We’re los-
ing money”).

Designers caution against using certain color combinations. For example, if some audi-
ence members are color-blind, they won’t be able to distinguish between red and green.
And you don’t want to get carried away with using too much color. To unify your presenta-
tion, use the same background color on all visuals and no more than two colors for words.
A light background with darker-colored words can have a pleasing effect and is easy to see.



clip art
Images or pictures stored in a computer
file or in printed form that can be used in a
presentation aid

Using Presentation Aids 221

The key advantage of using computer-generated graphics is that virtually anyone
can use them to craft professional-looking images. In addition to learning the mechan-
ics of the software program, keep the tips summarized in Table 12.2 in mind when
using computer-generated images.15

Make text simple •  Use no more than seven lines of text on a single slide

•  Use bullets

•  Use parallel structure when writing text

Make visuals unified •  Use a common visual image on each slide

•  Use a common font

•  Use a similar background or style for each slide

choose fonts carefully •  Use serif fonts to increase ease of reading

•  Use script and sans serif fonts sparingly

•  Use decorative fonts only for dramatic impact

choose colors carefully •  Use red and orange to communicate warmth

•  Use green and blue to communicate calm coolness

•  Be cautious about using red and green together

•  Use a light background with darker text to catch attention

Table 12.2 Develop Effective Computer-Generated Visuals

SourcE: Copyrighted by Pearson Education, Hoboken, NJ.

One source of communication apprehension is uncertainty. By rehearsing with your presentation

aids, you reduce uncertainty about your presentation. Whether you are using PowerPoint slides or

some other technology, be sure you have practiced using the equipment you will use when you

present your message. By reducing the chance for errors and technical miscues, you will also be

increasing your confidence in your ability to use your presentation aids without a hitch.

ConFidenTly ConneCTinG wiTh yoUr AUdienCe
Practice with Your Presentation Aids to Boost Your Confidence

Make Your
Supporting Material

• concrete

• personal

• varied

Figure 12.8 Copyright-free clip art is readily available on many Web sites. It
can give a professional look to your visuals and memorably reinforce your verbal
SourcE: Shannon Kingston. Copyrighted by Pearson Education, Hoboken, NJ. Photo: Donald Sawvel/Shutterstock.

222 Chapter 12

Guidelines for developing
Presentation Aids
12.3 Identify guidelines for developing effective

presentation aids.

A speech should be more than just what a speaker says, with
a few PowerPoint slides or other visual aids added as an
afterthought. Spend time carefully developing your visual
rhetoric as well as your words. The following commonsense
and research-based strategies can help you prepare effective
presentation aids for your speeches.

Make Them Easy to See
Without a doubt, the most violated principle of using
presentation aids in public speaking is “Make it big!”
Countless speeches have been accompanied by a chart or
graph with writing too small to read, a computer-generated
image not large enough to be legible, or a graph on a flip-
chart that simply can’t be deciphered from the back row.
If the only principle you carry away from this chapter is
to make your presentation aid large enough to be seen by
everyone in your audience, you will have gained more skill
than a majority of speakers who use presentation aids in
speeches. Write big!

Keep Them Simple
Simple presentation aids usually communicate best. Some stu-

dents think the visuals accompanying a speech must be as complicated as a Broadway
production, complete with lights and costumes. Resist making them complicated.
Text should be limited to key words or phrases. Simple images are better than overly
detailed graphics. Don’t cram too much information on one chart or computer slide.
If you have a lot of information, it is better to use two or three simple charts or slides
than to attempt to put all your words on one.

Select the Right Presentation Aid
Because there are so many choices, you may wonder, “How do I decide which presen-
tation aid to use?” Here are some suggestions.

●● Consider your audience. Factors such as audience size dictate the size of the
visual you select. If you have a large audience, do not choose a presentation aid
unless everyone will be able to see it clearly. The age, interests, and attitudes of
your audience also affect your selection of audiovisual support.

●● Think of your speech objective. Don’t select a presentation aid until you have
decided on the purpose of your speech.

●● Take into account your own skills and experience. Use only equipment with
which you are comfortable or have had practical experience.

●● Know the room in which you will speak. If the room has large windows with no
shades and no way to dim the lights, do not consider using visuals that require a
darkened or semi-darkened room.



This speaker’s presentation aids are not big enough for people in
the back of the room to see. Write big! Photo: Arto/Fotolia.

Using Presentation Aids 223

Do Not Use Dangerous or Illegal Presentation Aids
Previously we described a speech in which the speaker accidentally caused an
archery bow to fly over the heads of his startled audience. Not only did he lose
credibility because he was unable to string the bow successfully, but he also endan-
gered his audience by turning his presentation aid into a flying missile. Dangerous
or illegal presentation aids may either shock your audience or physically endanger
them. Such aids will also detract from your message. They are never worth the risk
of a ruined speech or an injured audience member. If your speech seems to call for a
dangerous or illegal object or substance, substitute a picture, a chart, or some other
representational device.

Allow Plenty of Time to Prepare
Your Presentation Aids
Prepare your presentation aids well in advance of your
speaking date so that you can make them as attractive and
polished-looking as possible. Avoid late-night, last-minute
constructions. A sloppy, amateurish presentation aid will
convey the impression that you are not a credible speaker,
even if you have spent many hours preparing the speech
itself. If you haven’t used computer-generated graphics
before, don’t expect to whip out the software manual and
produce professional-looking images the night before your
presentation. Focus on rehearsing during your final hours,
not on learning a computer program.

Guidelines for Using Presentation
12.4 Identify guidelines for effectively using presentation aids.

Now that we have offered strategies for developing effective presentation aids, here
are tips for using them for maximum audience impact.

Rehearse with Your Presentation Aids
Jane nervously approached her speech teacher ten minutes before class. She won-
dered whether class could start immediately because her presentation aid was
melting. She had planned to explain how to get various stains out of clothing, and
her first demonstration would show how to remove chewing gum. But she had
forgotten the gum, so she had to ask for a volunteer from the audience to spit out
his gum so she could use it in her demonstration. The ice she had brought to rub
on the sticky gum had by this time melted. All she could do was dribble lukewarm
water on the gummed-up cloth in an unsuccessful effort to demonstrate her cleaning
method. It didn’t work. To make matters worse, when she tried to set her poster in
the chalkboard tray, it kept falling to the floor. She ended up embarrassed and on the
edge of tears. It was obvious that she had not rehearsed with her presentation aids.

Your appearance before an audience should not be the first time you deliver your
speech while holding up your chart, turning on a video monitor, operating a remote
control to show your slides, clicking on a YouTube video, or using a flipchart. Practice
with your presentation aids until you are at ease with them.

GUidelines For develoPinG
PresenTATion Aids
• Make them big.
• Keep them simple.
• Match them to your audience, objectives, skills, and

• Keep them safe and legal.
• Allow ample time to prepare your presentation aids.

224 Chapter 12

Make Eye Contact with Your Audience, Not with
Your Presentation Aids
You may be tempted to talk to your presentation aid rather than to your audience.
Your focus, however, should remain on your audience. You will need to glance at your
visual to make sure that it isn’t upside down and that it is the proper one. But do not
face it while giving your talk. Keep looking your audience in the eye.

Explain Your Presentation Aids
Some speakers believe that they need not explain a presentation aid; they think it’s
enough just to show it to their audience. Resist this approach. When you exhibit your
chart showing the overall decline in the stock market, tell your audience what point
you are trying to make. Visual support performs the same function as verbal support:
It helps you communicate an idea. Make sure that your audience knows what that
idea is. Don’t just unceremoniously announce, “Here are the recent statistics on birth
rates in the United States” and hold up your visual without further explanation. Tell
the audience how to interpret the data. Always set your visuals in a context.

Do Not Pass Objects among Members of Your
You realize that your marble collection will be too small to see, so you decide to pass
some of your most stunning marbles around while you talk. Bad idea. While you are
excitedly describing some of your cat’s-eye marbles, you have provided a distraction
for your audience. People will be more interested in seeing and touching the marbles
than in hearing you talk about them.

What can you do when your object is too small to see without passing it around?
If no other speaker follows your speech, you can invite audience members to come
up and see your object when your speech is over. If your audience is only two or
three rows deep, you can even hold up the object and move in close to the audi-
ence to show it while you maintain control. Or you can take photos of the object,
embed the photos in presentation software, and project the images at a size even
a large audience can see.

Use Animals with Caution
Most actors are unwilling to work with animals—and for good reason. At best, they
may steal the show. And most often they are unpredictable. You may think you have
the smartest, best-trained dog in the world, but you really do not know how your dog
will react in a strange environment in front of an unfamiliar audience. The risk of hav-
ing an animal detract from your speech may be too great to make planning a speech
around one worthwhile.

A zealous student at a midwestern university a few years ago decided to give a
speech on cattle. What better presentation aid, he thought, than a cow? He brought
the cow to campus and led her up several flights of stairs to his classroom. The
speech in fact went well. But the student had neglected to consider one significant
problem: Cows will go upstairs but not down them. (The cow had to be hoisted out
a window.)

Another student had a handsome, well-trained German shepherd guard dog. The class
was enjoying his speech and his demonstrations of the dog’s prowess until the professor
from the next classroom poked his head in the door to ask for some chalk. The dog lunged,
snarling and with teeth bared, at the unsuspecting professor. Fortunately, he missed—but

Using Presentation Aids 225

the speech was concluded prematurely.
These and other examples emphasize our
point: Use animals with care, if at all.

Use Handouts Effectively
Many public-speaking instructors believe
that you should not distribute handouts
during a speech. Handing out papers in
the middle of your presentation will only
distract your audience. However, many
audiences in businesses and other types of
organizations expect a summary of your
key ideas in written form or a printout of
your PowerPoint or Prezi slides. If you do
find it necessary to use written material to
reinforce your presentation, keep the fol-
lowing suggestions in mind.

●● Don’t distribute your handout during
the presentation unless your listeners
need to refer to the material while you’re talking about it.

●● Control listeners’ attention by telling them where in the handout you want them
to focus.

●● Clearly number the pages on your handout material to make it easy for you to
direct audience members to specific pages.

●● If your listeners do not need the information during your presentation, tell them
that you will distribute a summary of the key ideas at the end of your talk.

Time the Use of Visuals to Control Your Audience’s
A skillful speaker knows when to show a supporting visual and when to put it away. It’s
not wise to begin your speech with all your charts, graphs, and irrelevant slides in full
view unless you are going to refer to them in your opening remarks. Time the display
of your visuals to coincide with your discussion of the information contained in them.

Jessica was proud of the huge replica of the human mouth that she had constructed
to illustrate her talk on the proper way to brush one’s teeth. It stood over two feet tall and
was painted pink and white. It was a true work of art. As she began her speech, she set
her mouth model in full view of the audience. She opened her speech with a brief history
of dentistry in America. But her listeners never heard a word; they were fascinated by the
model. Jessica would have done better to cover her presentation with a cloth and then
dramatically reveal it when she wanted to illustrate proper tooth brushing.

Here are a few more suggestions for timing your presentation aids:

●● If possible, use a remote control to advance computer-generated images so you do
not have to stay anchored near the computer to advance each slide.

●● When you are making a point or telling a story not related to a visual image or
word summary, make sure you mute, use a blank page, or otherwise remove any
images or objects from the audience’s view.

●● Consider asking someone to help you hold your presentation aid or turn the pages
of your flipchart. Make sure you rehearse with your assistant beforehand so that all
goes smoothly during your presentation.

Animals are neither predictable nor dependable as presentation aids. Photo: Jason Moore/
ZUMA Press/NewsCom.

226 Chapter 12

Writing on a chalkboard, whiteboard, or flip chart (if available) can be a useful
strategy if you want to display or reinforce important information as you are speaking.
This strategy works best if you have brief information to display, such as a short sum-
mary of your key points or essential statistics.

use teChnology effeCtiVely You may be tempted to use some of the newer technolo-
gies we have described because of their novelty rather than their value in helping you
communicate your message. Some novice speakers will overuse presentation aids
simply because they can quickly produce eye-catching visuals. Resist this temptation.

Don’t assume that the hardware and software you need will be available in the
room where you are speaking. Be sure to ask what kinds of technology exist.

Even if you have asked and you are appropriately prepared based on the infor-
mation provided, have a backup plan. You may want to bring your own laptop or a
backup flash drive or other device for storing your slides. Another strategy is to e-mail
your computer slides to yourself, or back up the files to a cloud storage site, so that you
can retrieve them if you need them as a backup.

Despite the potential problems that using technology may present, innovations in
presentation software, video streaming, and electronic images are destined to play a
growing role in public speaking. In this technology- and image-dependent culture, lis-
teners expect technology to support a message. Nonetheless, when using technology,
keep the basic principles we’ve offered in mind: Make it big, integrate your presenta-
tion aids into your talk, and properly time your visuals to coincide with your message
content. And don’t forget to rehearse using the same technology you will use during
your talk.

reMeMber MurPhy’s law According to Murphy’s Law, if something can go wrong,
it will. When you use presentation aids, you increase the chances that problems or

snags will develop when you present your speech. The chart
may fall off the easel, you may not find the chalk, or the com-
puter in the room may not be compatible with your software.
We are not saying you should be a pessimist but you should
have backup supplies and an alternative plan in case your
original plans go awry.

If something doesn’t go as you planned, do your best to keep
your speech on track. If the chart falls, pick it up and keep talk-
ing; don’t offer lengthy apologies. If you can’t find the chalk, ask
a friend to go on a chalk hunt in another room. No computer-
generated slides as you had planned? Have all key pieces of infor-
mation in your speech notes rather than relying on your computer
slides. A thorough rehearsal, a double-check of your equipment,
backup images, and extra supplies such as extension cords and
masking tape can help repeal Murphy’s Law.

GUidelines For UsinG
PresenTATion Aids
• Prepare carefully and practice with aids.
• Maintain eye contact with audience.
• Talk about the information or image on the aid.
• Don’t pass around objects.
• Be careful with animals.
• Use handouts and technology effectively.
• Control audience’s attention.
• Remember Murphy’s Law.

Using Presentation Aids 227

study Guide: Review, Apply And Assess

Types of Presentation Aids
12.1 Describe six types of presentation aids and identify

tips for using them effectively.

reView: There are six types of presentations aids: images,
text, video, audio, objects, and people. Software graphics
and presentation packages can be used to produce many
presentation aids inexpensively and efficiently. When us-
ing text, remember not to overdo it. Use no more than
seven lines of text, consider using bullet points, arrange
bullet points using parallel structure, and use clear but
brief headings when using text. Audiovisual aids include
video and audio clips. Performances can help communi-
cate ideas to your listeners.

Key Terms
presentation aid
visual rhetoric
bar graph
pie graph

line graph
picture graph

aPPly: Nikki plans to give a talk to the Rotary Club in an
effort to encourage its members to support a local bond
issue for a new library. She wants to make sure they un-
derstand how cramped and inadequate the current library
is. What type of visual support could she use to make her

assess: Based on the discussion of the six types of pre-
sentation aids, identify the advantages and disadvantages
of using each type.

Using Computer-Generated Presentation
12.2 Describe how computers may be used to generate

high-quality presentation aids.

reView: Using computer software, such as PowerPoint
or Prezi, can help you develop polished presentation aids.
Keep it simple, make visuals unified, and choose fonts
and colors carefully.

Key Term
clip art

aPPly: Janice plans on talking about global warming
and wants to display statistics showing the rise in world
temperatures during the past 15 years. What suggestions
would you give Janice for developing computer-gener-
ated slides to support her main ideas?

assess: Using the guidelines discussed in the chapter,
develop a short checklist of dos and don’ts for preparing
computer-generated presentation aids.

Guidelines for developing Presentation
12.3 Identify guidelines for developing effective

presentation aids.

reView: When you prepare your presentation aids,
make sure your visuals are large enough to be seen
clearly by all of your listeners. Adapt your presentation
aids to your audience, the speaking environment, and
the objectives of your speech. Prepare your visuals well
in advance, and make sure they are not illegal or dan-
gerous to use.

aPPly: Professor Chou uses only the chalkboard to illus-
trate her anthropology lectures and then only occasionally
writes a word or two. What could Professor Chou do to
prepare other types of presentation aids for her lecture?

assess: Ceally wants to educate his college classmates
about the widespread use of profanity in contemporary
music. He would like to play sound clips of some of the
most offensive lyrics to illustrate his point. Would you
advise Ceally to play these songs, even though doing so
might offend members of the audience?

Guidelines for Using Presentation Aids
12.4 Identify guidelines for effectively using presentation


reView: As you present your speech, remember to look
at your audience, not at your presentation aid; talk about
your visual, don’t just show it; avoid passing objects
among your audience; use handouts to reinforce the main
points in your speech; time your visuals carefully; and be
sure to have backup supplies and a contingency plan.

aPPly: Derrick is planning to give a speech about emer-
gency first aid. His brother is a paramedic and a licensed
nurse. Is it appropriate for Derrick to wear his brother’s
paramedic uniform without telling his listeners that the
outfit belongs to his brother?

assess: Based on your experiences as a student, what
are the most violated principles you have experienced
when listening to lectures? What advice would you of-
fer to improve the use of presentation aids in some of the
classes you have attended?

13.1 Describe five different types of informative speech

13.2 Effectively and appropriately use three strategies to
enhance audience understanding.

13.3 Effectively and appropriately use four strategies to
maintain audience interest.

13.4 Effectively and appropriately use four strategies to
enhance audience recall of information presented in
an informative speech.

13.5 Develop an audience-centered informative speech.

After studying this chapter, you should be able to do the following:

Speaking to Inform

Teacher teaching his students the
Universe. “Livre des Proprietes des
choses.” Miniature. Chateau de Chantilly.
France. Photo: Album/Art Resource, NY.

Not only is there an art in

knowing a thing, but also a

certain art in teaching it.


As you participate in your company’s management training class, the group
facilitator turns to you and asks you to summarize your team’s discussion
about the importance of leadership.

Your sociology professor requires each student to give an oral report describing the
latest findings from the U.S. census.

At the conclusion of your weekly staff meeting via Skype, your boss asks you to de-
liver a brief oral report summarizing the new product you and your team are developing.

In each of these situations, your task is to give information to someone. Conveying
information to others is a useful skill in most walks of life. You may find that informing
others will be an important part of your job, your volunteer work, or your activities

Speaking to Inform 229

with social groups. Whether you are having a spontaneous conversation or deliver-
ing a rehearsed speech, your speaking purpose is often to inform or teach someone
something you know. One survey of both speech teachers and students who had taken
a speech course found that the single most important skill taught in a public-speaking
class is how to give an informative speech.1

A speech to inform shares information with others to enhance their knowledge or
understanding of the information, concepts, and ideas you present. When you inform
someone, you assume the role of a teacher by defining, illustrating, or elaborating on a
topic. You’re not trying to persuade listeners to change their behavior. You are giving
them information that is useful or interesting.

In this chapter, we will suggest ways to build on your experience and enhance
your skill in informing others. We will identify different informative speech topics and
provide suggestions for achieving three informative-speaking goals: enhancing un-
derstanding, maintaining interest, and improving listener recall. Finally, we’ll briefly
review the audience-centered model of public speaking to help you plan and present
your informative message.

Informative Speech Topics
13.1 Describe five different types of informative speech topics.

Informative speeches can be classified according to the subject areas they cover. For
many of the informative presentations you will deliver, your topic will be provided
for you, or the nature of the specific speaking opportunity will dictate what you talk
about. If, for example, you’re updating your boss about a project your work team has
been developing, you need not wrack your brain for a speech topic. The topic for your
speech is prescribed for you. But if you have an invitation (or assignment) to give an
informative speech and the topic choice is up to you, you may need a framework and
tips for selecting a topic and developing your purpose.

Classifying the types of informative speeches you give can also help you decide
how to organize your message. As you will see in Table 13.1 and in the following discus-
sion, the demands of your topic and purpose often dictate a structure for your speech.

speech to inform
A speech that teaches others new infor-
mation, ideas, concepts, principles, or
processes in order to enhance their knowl-
edge or understanding about something

Topic Purpose
Organizational Pattern Examples

Objects Present information about
tangible things


The Rosetta Stone
The Mars Rover
Religious icons

Procedures Review how something
works or describe a


How to . . .
Use a smartphone app to help
you lose weight
Operate a nuclear-power plant
Buy a quality used car
Trap lobsters

People Describe famous people or
personal acquaintances


Sojourner Truth
Nelson Mandela
J. R. R. Tolkien
Your grandmother
Your favorite teacher

Events Describe an event that
either has happened or
will happen


May Day in Oxford, England
Inauguration Day
Cinco de Mayo

Ideas Present abstract informa-
tion or discuss principles,
concepts, theories, or



Table 13.1 Informative Speech Topics

SOurcE: Copyrighted by Pearson Education, Hoboken, NJ.

230 Chapter 13

As you look at these suggestions about structure, however, remember that good organi-
zation is only one factor that determines your audience’s ability to process your mes-
sage. After discussing informative speech topics, we will offer specific techniques to
help your audience understand, maintain interest in, and remember your message.

Speeches about Objects
A speech about an object might be about anything tangible—anything you can see or
touch. You may or may not show the actual object to your audience while you are talk-
ing about it. (Chapter 12 suggests ways to use objects as presentation aids to illustrate
your ideas.) Almost any kind of object could form the basis of an interesting speech:

Something from your own collection (baskets, comic books, antiques, baseball cards)

Sports cars



Digital video cameras

WWII Memorial


Antique Fiestaware

English Staffordshire dogs

The time limit for your speech will determine the amount of detail you can share
with your listeners. Even in a 30- to 45-minute presentation, you cannot talk about every
aspect of any of the preceding objects. So you will need to focus on a specific purpose.

Speeches about objects may be organized topically, chronologically, or spatially.
For example, a speech about the Dead Sea Scrolls could be organized topically. You
could start with a discussion of how the Dead Sea Scrolls were found by accident.
Then you could talk about how the Dead Sea Scrolls are important to society, and
finally, you could explain how the Dead Sea Scrolls give us a glimpse of the past. The
speech could, however, be revised and organized chronologically: The first major
idea could be Jewish life in Palestine 2,000 years ago. The second point could describe
how the scrolls were found in the 1940s and 1950s. The final major idea could be the

Informative speeches can be classified
according to their topic. The type of
speech you are giving can help you
decide how to organize it. What might
be the main ideas in this speaker’s
talk? Photo: Steve Skjold/Alamy Stock

Speaking to Inform 231

construction in the 1960s of the museum in Jerusalem that houses the famous scrolls.
Or the speech could even be organized spatially, describing the physical layout of the
caves in which the scrolls were found.

Speeches about Procedures
A speech about a procedure explains how something works (for example, the human
circulatory system) or describes a process that produces a particular outcome (such
as how grapes become wine). At the close of such a speech, your audience should be
able to describe, understand, or perform the procedure you have described. Here are
examples of procedures that could be the topics of effective informative presentations:

How state laws are made

How the U.S. patent system works

How an e-book reader works

How to refinish furniture

How to write a resume

How to plant an organic garden

How to select a graduate school

Notice that all these examples start with the word how. A speech about a procedure
usually focuses on how a process is completed or how something can be accomplished.
Speeches about procedures are often presented in workshops or other training situa-
tions in which people learn skills. If your goal is teach someone how to do something,
there are typically five steps to learning: you (1) tell them, (2) show them, (3) invite
them to perform the skill, (4) encourage them when they perform the skill correctly,
and (5) correct them when they need to improve their skill.2

Many speeches about procedures (also called a demonstration speech) include pres-
entation aids (see Chapter 12). Whether you are teaching people how to hang wall-
paper, how to give a speech, or how to build a pipe organ, it is almost always more
effective to show as well as tell.

Speeches about People
A biographical speech could be about someone famous or about someone you know
personally. Most of us enjoy hearing about the lives of real people, famous or not,
living or dead, who had some special quality. The key to presenting an effective bio-
graphical speech is to be selective: Don’t try to cover every detail of your subject’s life.
Relate key elements of a person’s career, personality, or other significant life events
to a particular point rather than just reciting facts about an individual. Perhaps your
grandfather was known for his generosity, for example. Mention notable examples of
his philanthropy. If you are talking about a well-known personality, pick information
or a period that is not widely known, such as the person’s childhood or private hobby.

One speaker gave a memorable speech about his neighbor:

To enter Hazel’s house is to enter a combination greenhouse and zoo. Plants are
everywhere; it looks and feels like a tropical jungle. Her home is always warm and
humid. Her dog Peppy, her cat Bones, a bird named Elmer, and a fish called Frank
can be seen through the philodendron, ferns, and pansies. While Hazel loves her
plants and animals, she loves people even more. Her finest hours are spent serv-
ing coffee and homemade chocolate pie to her friends and neighbors, playing Uno
with family until late in the evening, and just visiting about the good old days.
Hazel is one of a kind.

Note how the speech captures Hazel’s personality and charm. Speeches about people
should give your listeners the feeling that the person is a unique, authentic individual.

232 Chapter 13

One way to talk about a person’s life is in chronological order—birth, school, career,
marriage, achievements, death. However, when you want to present a specific theme,
such as “Winston Churchill, master of English prose,” you may decide to organize key
experiences topically. First you would discuss Churchill’s achievements as a brilliant
orator whose words defied Germany in 1940, and then you would trace the origins of
his skill to his work as a cub reporter in South Africa during the Boer War of 1899–1902.

Speeches about Events
September 11, 2001; November 22, 1963; and December 7, 1941 are dates of major
historical events that punctuated our lives (or the lives of our parents or grandpar-
ents) and marked the passage of time. Just seeing the date of a past significant event
stimulates our memory or conjures indelible images that we have seen in the media
countless times.

A major event you have witnessed or researched can form the basis of a fascinating
informative speech. Your goal is to describe the event in concrete, tangible terms and
to bring the experience to life for your audience. Have you been through a hurricane
or seen a tornado? Have you witnessed the inauguration of a president or governor?
Have you experienced the ravages of a flood or earthquake?

You may have heard a recording of the famous radio broadcast of the explosion
and crash of the dirigible Hindenburg that occurred on May 6, 1937. The announcer’s
ability to describe both the scene and the incredible emotion of the moment has made
that broadcast a classic even today, eighty years after it occurred. Like that broadcaster,
your purpose as an informative speaker is to make that event come alive for your lis-
teners and to help them visualize the scene.

Most speeches built around an event follow a chronological arrangement. But a
speech might also describe the complex issues or causes behind the event and could
thus be organized topically. For example, if you were to talk about the Civil War, you
might choose to focus on the three causes of the war:

I. Political
II. Economic

III. Social

Although these main points are topical, specific subpoints may be organized
chronologically. However you choose to organize your speech about an event, your
audience should be enthralled by your vivid description.

Speeches about Ideas
Speeches about ideas are usually more abstract than other types of speeches. The fol-
lowing principles, concepts, and theories might be topics of idea speeches:

Principles of communication

Freedom of speech


Theories of aging


Communal living

Positive psychology

Most speeches about ideas are organized topically (by logical subdivisions of the
central idea) or according to complexity (from simple ideas to more complex ones).
Merely presenting information about an idea without relating it to the interests and
needs of the audience will likely result in uninterested or bored listeners. The more

Speaking to Inform 233

abstract the idea, the more important it is to find ways to connect the concept to the
audience’s interests, needs, or experience.

Strategies to Enhance Audience
13.2 Effectively and appropriately use three strategies to enhance audience


The skill of teaching and enhancing understanding is obviously important to teachers,
but it’s also important to virtually any profession. Whether you’re a college profes-
sor, a chief executive officer of a Fortune 500 company, or a parent raising a family,
you will be called on to teach and explain. The Internet gives us access to a wealth
of information, but having access to information is not the same as understanding
the information. Summarized to fit on a bumper sticker: Information is not communica-
tion. Communication occurs when information is related to listeners in ways they can
understand, use, or respond to. Just because an idea, term, or concept has been around
for centuries doesn’t mean it is easy to understand or audience members understand
its relevance to their own lives. How do you enhance someone’s knowledge or under-
standing? We can suggest several powerful strategies.

Speak with Clarity
To speak with clarity is to express ideas so that the listener understands the intended
message accurately. Speaking clearly is an obvious goal of an informative speaker.
What is not so obvious is how to speak clearly. As a speaker you may think you’re being
clear, but only the listener can tell you whether he or she has received your message.

Just because an idea or concept is clear to you, doesn’t mean it will be clear to your
audience. One interesting study documented this point in a clever way.3 People were
asked to tap the rhythm of well-known songs such as “Happy Birthday to You” or “The
Star Spangled Banner” while another person tried to guess the song. About half of the
people who tapped the rhythm thought the listener would easily identify the song.
However, less than 2 percent of the listeners could. (Try it—see if you can beat the 2
percent average.) The point: When you know something, you’re likely to think it’s clear
to someone else. Whether it’s how to drive a car or how to care for an aardvark, if you
are already familiar with a topic, you’re likely to think your task of communicating an
idea to someone is easier than it is.

Give careful thought to how you will help listeners understand your message. The
most effective speakers (those whose message is both understood and appropriately
acted on) achieve success by consciously developing and presenting ideas with their
listeners in mind rather than flinging information at their audience and hoping some
of it sticks. As we have noted: Information is not communication.

Communication researcher Joseph Chesebro has summarized several research-
based strategies you can use to enhance message clarity and turn information into

●● Preview your main ideas in your introduction.

●● Explain how what you present relates to a previous point.

●● Frequently summarize key ideas.

●● Provide a visual outline to help listeners follow your ideas.

●● Before your talk, provide a handout with the major points outlined; leave space so
listeners can jot down key ideas.

●● Once you announce your topic and outline, stay on message.

234 Chapter 13

Use Principles and Techniques of Adult Learning
Most public-speaking audiences you face will consist of adults. Perhaps you’ve heard
of pedagogy? The word pedagogy is based on the Greek words paid, which means
“child,” and agogus, which means “guide.” Thus, pedagogy is the art and science of
teaching children. In contrast, adult learning is called andragogy.5 Andr is the Greek
word that means “adult.” So andragogy is the art and science of teaching adults.
Researchers and scholars have found andragogical approaches are best for adults. (If
you’re a college student older than 18, you are an adult learner.) What are andragogi-
cal, or adult-learning, principles? Here are the most important ones.6

●● Provide information that is applicable to audience members’ needs and in-
terests. Most people who work in business have an in basket on their desk to
receive letters and memos that must be read and work that must be done. Each
of us also has a kind of mental in basket, an agenda for what we want or need to
accomplish. If you present adult listeners with information that they can immedi-
ately apply to their “in basket,” they are more likely to focus on and understand
your message.

●● Actively involve listeners in the learning process. Rather than have your lis-
teners sit passively as you speak, ask questions for them to think about or, in some
cases, to respond to on the spot.

●● Connect listeners’ life experiences with new information. Adult listeners
are more likely to understand your message when you help them connect new
information with their past experiences. If you know the kinds of experiences
your listeners have had, then you can refer to those experiences as you present
your ideas.

●● Make new information relevant to listeners’ needs and their busy lives. Most
adults are busy—probably, if pressed, most will say they are too busy for their
own good. People working, going to school, raising families, and being in-
volved in their communities need to be shown how the ideas you share are
relevant to them.

●● Help listeners solve their problems. Most people have problems and are looking
for solutions to them. People will be more likely to pay attention to information that
helps them better understand and solve their problems.



The art and science of teaching children

The art and science of teaching adults

Which of the andragogical principles
presented in this chapter is this in-
structional speaker following? Photo:

Speaking to Inform 235

Clarify Unfamiliar Ideas or Complex Processes
If you want to tell your listeners about a complex process, you will need more than
definitions to explain what you mean. Research suggests you can demystify a com-
plex process if you first provide a simple overview of the process with an analogy, a
vivid description, or a word picture.7

Use AnAlogies If a speaker said, “The Milky Way galaxy is big,” you’d have a vague
idea that the cluster of stars and space material making up the Milky Way is large.
But if the speaker said, “If the Milky Way galaxy were as big as the continent of North
America, our solar system would fit inside a coffee cup,” you’d have a better idea of
just how big the Milky Way is and, by comparison, how small our solar system is.8 As
we discussed in Chapter 7, an analogy is a comparison of two things. It’s an especially
useful technique for describing complex processes because it can help someone un-
derstand something difficult to grasp (the size of the Milky Way) by comparing it to
something already understood (the size of a coffee cup).9

By helping your listeners compare something new to something they already
know or can visualize, you can make your message clearer. Here’s an example of this
idea based on what professor of business Chip Heath and communication consultant
Dan Heath call the principle of “using what’s there—using the information you have
(what’s there) and relating it to something more familiar.”10 Try this short exercise.
Take 15 seconds to memorize the letters below; then close the book and write the letters
exactly as they appear here.


Most people, say these experts, remember about half of the letters. Now, look below
to see the same letters organized differently. The letters haven’t changed, but we have
regrouped them into acronyms that may make more sense to you. We are more likely
to make sense out of something we already have a mental category for. An analogy
works in the same way.


Use A ViVid, descriptiVe Word pictUre When you describe, you provide more detail
than when you just define something. One way to describe a situation or event is with
a word picture. A word picture is a lively description that helps your listeners form a
mental image by appealing to their senses of sight, taste, smell, sound, and touch.

To create an effective word picture, begin by forming your own clear mental image
of the person, place, object, or process before you try to describe it. See it with your
“mind’s eye.”

●● What would a listener see if he or she were looking at it?

●● What would listeners hear?

●● If they could touch the object or participate in the process, how would it feel to

●● If your listeners could smell or taste it, what would that be like?

To describe these sensations, choose the most specific and vivid words possible.
Onomatopoeic words—words that resemble the sounds they name, such as buzz, snort,
hum, crackle, or hiss—are powerful. So are similes and other comparisons. “The rock
was rough as sandpaper” and “the pebble was as smooth as a baby’s skin” appeal to
both the visual and the tactile senses.

Be sure to describe the emotions a listener might feel if he or she were to experience
the situation you relate. Ultimately, your goal is to use just the right words to evoke an
emotional response from the listener. If you experienced the situation, describe your
own emotions. Use specific adjectives rather than general terms such as happy or sad.

word picture
A vivid description that appeals to the

236 Chapter 13

One speaker, talking about receiving her first speech assignment, described her reac-
tion with these words:

My heart stopped. Panic began to rise up inside. Me? . . . For the next five days I
lived in dreaded anticipation of the forthcoming event.11

Note how effectively her choice of such words and phrases as “my heart stopped,” “panic,”
and “dreaded anticipation” describe her terror at the prospect of making a speech—much

more so than if she had said simply, “I was
scared.” The more vividly and accurately you can
describe emotion, the more intimately involved in
your description the audience will become.

As you develop your speech and support-
ing materials, consider how you can appeal
to a variety of learning styles at the same time.
Because you’ll be giving a speech, your audi-
tory learners will like that. Visual learners like
and expect an informative talk to be illustrated
with PowerPoint™ images. They will appreciate
seeing pictures or having statistics summarized
using bar or line graphs or pie charts. Visual print
learners will like handouts, which you could dis-
tribute after your talk. Kinesthetic learners will
appreciate movement, even small actions such as
raising their hands in response to questions.

Strategies to Maintain Audience
13.3 Effectively and appropriately use four strategies to maintain audience interest.

No matter how carefully you craft definitions, how skillfully you deliver descriptions,
or how you visually reinforce presentation aids, if your listeners aren’t paying atten-
tion, you won’t achieve your goal of informing them. Strategies for gaining and hold-
ing interest are vital in achieving your speaking goal.

When discussing how to develop attention-catching introductions in Chapter 9,
we itemized specific techniques for gaining your listeners’ attention. The following
strategies build on those techniques.

Motivate Your Audience to Listen to You
Most audiences will probably not be waiting breathlessly for you to talk to them. You
will need to motivate them to listen to you.

Some situations have built-in motivations for listeners. A teacher can say, “There
will be a test covering my lecture tomorrow. It will count toward 50 percent of your
semester grade.” Such methods may not make the teacher popular, but they will cer-
tainly motivate the class to listen. Similarly, a boss might say, “Your ability to use these
sales principles will determine whether you keep your job.” Your boss’s statement will
probably motivate you to learn the company’s sales principles. However, because you
will rarely have the power to motivate your listeners with such strong-arm tactics, you
will need to find more creative ways to get your audience to listen to you.

Never assume your listeners will be interested in what you have to say. Pique
their interest with a rhetorical question. Tell them a story. Explain how the information
you present will be of value to them. As the British writer G. K. Chesterton once said,
“There is no such thing as an uninteresting topic; there are only uninterested people.”12



EnhAncIng AUdIEncE UndERSTAndIng
• Keep your message clear.
• Apply adult-learning principles.

Provide information that is applicable to listeners’ lives.
Actively involve listeners in the learning process.
Connect listeners’ experiences with new information.
Make information relevant to listeners.
Help listeners solve problems.

• Clarify the unfamiliar or complex:
Use analogies.
Use vivid descriptions.
Use word pictures.

Speaking to Inform 237

Tell a Story
Good stories with interesting characters and riveting
plots have fascinated listeners for millennia; the words
“once upon a time” are usually sure-fire attention-get-
ters. A good story is inherently interesting. Stories are
also a way of connecting your message to people from a
variety of cultural backgrounds.13

One author suggests that, of all the stories ever told
since the beginning of time, in all cultures, there are
only seven basic plots: overcoming the monster, rags to
riches, the quest, voyage and return, comedy, tragedy,
and rebirth. Think of a favorite story and see if it fits into
one of these categories. Another theory boils the history
of stories down even further. It suggests that there is
really only one basic plot: All stories are about overcom-
ing obstacles to find “home.” This view does not suggest
that all characters literally find their way home; rather,
all stories are about striving to find a place, literal or
metaphorical, that represents “home” in some way.14

In addition to the plot, the characteristics of a well-told tale are simple yet pow-
erful. Here we elaborate on some of the ideas about storytelling we introduced in
Chapter 7. A good story includes conflict, incorporates action, creates suspense, and
may also include humor.

●● A good story includes conflict. Stories that pit one side against another foster
attention, as do descriptions of opposing ideas and forces in government, religion,
or personal relationships. The Greeks learned long ago that the essential ingredi-
ent for a good play, be it comedy or tragedy, is conflict. Conflict is often the ob-
stacle that keeps the people in a story from finding “home.”

●● A good story incorporates action. An audience is more likely to listen to an
action-packed message than to one that listlessly lingers on an idea. Good stories
have a beginning that sets the stage, a heart that moves to a conclusion, and then an
ending that ties up all the loose ends. The key to interest is a plot that moves along.

●● A good story creates suspense. TV dramas and soap operas long ago proved
that the way to ensure high ratings is to tell a story with the outcome in doubt.
Keeping people on the edge of their seats because they don’t know what will hap-
pen next is another element in good storytelling.

●● A good story may incorporate humor. A fisherman went into a sporting-goods
store. The salesperson offered the man a wonderful lure for trout: It had beautiful
colors, eight hooks, and looked just like a rare Buckner bug. Finally, the fisherman
asked the salesperson, “Do fish really like this thing?” “I don’t know,” admitted the
salesperson, “I don’t sell to fish.”

We could have simply said, “It’s important to be audience-centered.” But using a
bit of humor makes the point while holding the listener’s attention.

Not all stories have to be funny. Stories may be sad or dramatic. But adding humor
when appropriate usually helps maintain interest and attention.

Present Information That Relates to Your Listeners
Throughout this book we have encouraged you to develop an audience-centered
approach to public speaking. Being an audience-centered informative speaker means
being aware of information that your audience can use. If, for example, you are going



Humorous stories are one way to get and hold listeners’ attention. When
listeners are interested in your speech, they are more likely to learn the
information you want to share with them. What other strategies could the
speaker use to keep this audience interested? Photo: Fotolia/dglimages.

238 Chapter 13

to teach your audience about recycling, be sure to talk about specific recycling efforts
on your campus or in your own community. Adapt your message to the people who
will be in your audience.

Use the Unexpected
On a flight from Dallas, Texas, to San Diego, California, flight attendant Karen Wood
made this announcement:

If I could have your attention for a few moments, we sure would love to point out
these safety features. If you haven’t been in an automobile since 1965, the proper way
to fasten your seat belt is to slide the flat end into the buckle. To unfasten, lift up on the
buckle and it will release.

As the song goes, there might be fifty ways to leave your lover, but there are
only six ways to leave this aircraft: two forward exit doors, two over-wing re-
movable window exits, and two aft exit doors. The location of each exit is clearly
marked with signs overhead, as well as red and white disco lights along the floor
of the aisle.

Made ya look!15

This clever flight attendant took a predictable announcement and added a few sur-
prises and novel interpretations to make a boring but important message interesting.
With just a little thought about how to make your message less predictable, you can
add zest and interest to your talks. Listeners will focus on the unexpected. The follow-
ing sample informative speech includes a surprise in the introduction.

chooSIng A SpEEch TopIc

by RogeR FRingeR16

Today I’d like to talk to you about [pause] tables. Tables are wood . . . usually . . . and they
are . . . . How often do we sit in a class and feel the intelligence draining out of us? In a
speech class, we are given the opportunity to add to that feeling or to add to the intel-
ligence. Selecting a meaningful speech topic will make our speeches interesting, important,
as well as being informative. As students, we’ve all been in the situation of being more
anxious than necessary because we are talking about an unfamiliar or uninteresting speech
topic. In our public-speaking class, we spend a number of hours giving speeches and
listening to them. If we have four days of speeches, at what—seven speech topics [per
day]—that equals 28 hours spent listening to speeches. Let’s not forget that we are paying
to listen to those speeches. If our tuition is say, $15,000 a year, that’s $875 that we have
spent listening to those 28 hours of speeches. We work hard for our tuition, so we should
spend it wisely. Spending it wisely means we don’t waste our time. We don’t waste our own
time on preparing and giving the speeches, and we don’t waste our classmates’ time who
have to listen to our speeches. The solution is simple if we take choosing our topic seriously.

sample infOrmative speech

Roger cleverly captures attention by
purposefully starting with an unimagi-
native topic and using halting delivery
that makes listeners wonder, “What’s
this really about?”

Roger establishes a common bond
with his listeners by relating to them
as fellow students confronted with
the same problem: how to select a
topic for a speech.

Rather than just say we waste time and
money listening to speeches, Roger
uses statistics specifically adapted to
his audience; this is a good example of
being audience-centered.

I recommend that we choose topics following The Three I’s to guide us. The first I is to
make speeches interesting. By doing so, we can alleviate the boredom that so often per-
meates the public speaking classroom. If the topic is interesting to us, we will present it
in a manner that shows our interest. We will also keep our audience’s attention when we
know, as students, they can be thinking about a million other things. Choosing an interest-
ing topic will also alleviate some of the angst, anxiety we feel while giving the speech topic.

He clearly previews his major ideas
and links them together by using
words that all begin with I.

Speaking to Inform 239

The second I is to make the speech important. The speech should not only be interesting
but important to us. It should be relevant to our lives now or in the future.

The third I is to make the speech informative. Let’s not waste our tuition money by not
learning anything new in those 28 hours of class time. This is our opportunity to learn from
each other’s experiences and expertise.

Roger provides closure to his mes-
sage by making a reference to the
example he used in his introduction.

Here he uses a signpost by clearly not-
ing he’s moved to his second point.

Again, he uses a verbal signpost to
indicate that this is his third point.

Now, just picture yourself putting these ideas into practice. Imagine sitting in a classroom,
listening to your classmates talk about issues or ideas that are important to them. They
are so excited that you can’t help but be excited about the topic with them. You’re learn-
ing from their life experiences, experiences that you would not have had the opportunity
to learn about if it had not been for their speech. Then imagine being able to talk about
the experiences and knowledge that are important to you. Sometimes you only have
seven minutes to express what is most important to you. Besides that, it’s to a captive
audience that has no choice but to listen to you. There are few times in our lives when
we can have an impact on someone else’s life, and we have only a short amount of time
to do it. But in our public-speaking class, we can have that chance. Let’s all think about
how we use our time and energy in our public-speaking class. I don’t want to waste my
time or have any unnecessary stress over [pause] tables. I would like all of us to use our
opportunities wisely by choosing topics that are interesting, important, and informative.

Although Roger’s primary purpose
is to inform, he uses a hypothetical
example to tell the audience how the
information he has given them will
help them solve a problem: how to
find a good speech topic.

Advertisers spend a lot of time trying to get your attention: A young couple is
traveling in their car, having a normal, natural conversation and then BAM! CRUNCH!—
someone who has run a red light slams into their car. The announcer intones, “Life comes
at you fast.” You look at the crumpled car and feel stunned at how quickly an everyday
experience changes in an instant. Like an effective ad, a good speaker knows how to sur-
prise an audience with the same impact as this visual commercial—except that a speaker
uses words and stories to metaphorically grab a listener by the shoulders and force him
or her to focus on the message.

Besides surprising your listeners, you might main-
tain their attention by creating mystery or suspense.
Stories are a great way to add drama and interest to a
talk—especially a story that moves audience members to
try to solve a riddle or a problem. One technique for cre-
ating a “mini mystery” is to ask a rhetorical question. You
don’t necessarily expect an audible answer from audi-
ence members, but you do want them to have a mental
response. Here’s an example: “Would you know what
to do if you were stranded, out of gas, at night, without
your cell phone?” By getting listeners to ponder your
question, you’ve gotten them actively engaged in your
message rather than passively processing your words.17

Strategies to Enhance Audience
13.4 Effectively and appropriately use four strategies to enhance audience recall of

information presented in an informative speech.

Think of the best teacher you ever had. He or she was probably a good lecturer with a spe-
cial talent for being not only clear and interesting but also memorable. The fact that you
can remember your teacher is a testament to his or her talent. Like teachers, some speakers

• Tell them why they should want to listen.
• Tell them a good story.

Describe conflict.
Describe action.
Create suspense.
Use humor when appropriate.

• Tell them how the story affects them.
• Tell them something that surprises them.

240 Chapter 13

are better than others at presenting information in a memorable way. In this section, we
review strategies that will help your audiences remember you and your message.

Build In Redundancy
It is seldom necessary for writers to repeat themselves. If readers don’t quite under-
stand a passage, they can go back and read it again. When you speak, however, audi-
ence members generally cannot stop you if a point is unclear or if their minds wander.
It is helpful to repeat key points.

How do you make your message redundant without insulting your listeners’
intelligence? We’ve already mentioned several techniques in this book. Permit us some
redundancy here to make our point.

●● Provide a clear preview in the introduction of your talk. (Tell them what you are
going to tell them.)

●● Include an explicit summary of your main points in your conclusion. (Tell them
what you told them.)

●● Sprinkle in one or more internal summaries of your key ideas. An internal sum-
mary is simply a short review of what you have just presented. Internal summa-
ries make good transitions between major ideas.

●● Use numeric signposts (numbering key ideas by saying, “My first point is . . . , My
second point is . . . , And now here’s my third point . . . ”) as another way of making
sure your audience can identify and remember key points.

●● Use a reinforcing visual aid that displays your key ideas.

●● If you really want to ensure that listeners come away from your speech with essen-
tial information, consider preparing a handout or an outline of key ideas. (But as we

noted in the last chapter, make sure the audience remains focused on
you, not on your handout.)

Make Your Key Ideas Short and Simple
When we say make your messages short and simple, we don’t
mean you should give 30-second speeches (although we’re sure
some speakers and listeners would prefer half-minute speeches to
longer, more drawn-out versions). Rather, we mean that when you
can distill your key ideas down to a few brief and simple phrases,
your audience will be more likely to remember what you say.18

Can you remember more than seven things? One classic research
study concluded that people can hold only about seven pieces of
information (such as the numbers in a seven-digit phone number)
in their short-term memory.19 If you want your listeners to remem-
ber your message, don’t bombard them with a lengthy list. With the
advent of PowerPoint, some speakers may be tempted to spray lis-
teners with a shower of bulleted information. Resist this temptation.

An important speech-preparation technique that we’ve
suggested is to crystallize the central idea of your message into
a one-sentence summary of your speech. To help your audience
remember your central idea statement, make it short enough to fit
on a car bumper sticker. For example, rather than say “The specific
words people use and the way people express themselves are influ-
enced by culture and other socioeconomic forces,” say “Language
shapes our culture and culture shapes our language.” The mes-
sage is not only shorter, but it also uses the technique of antithesis
(opposition expressed with a parallel sentence structure) that we

Organization signposts accompanied by appropriate gestures
add redundancy to your speech, which helps listeners remem-
ber the information you present. Photo: Imabase/Fotolia.

Speaking to Inform 241

discussed in Chapter 10. Perhaps you’ve heard the same advice expressed as the KISS
principle: Keep It Simple, Sweetheart. Make your message simple enough for anyone to
grasp quickly. Here’s the idea phrased as a bumper sticker: Make it short and simple.

Pace Your Information Flow
Organize your speech so that you present an even flow of information, rather than bunch-
ing up many significant details around one point. If you present too much new information
too quickly, you may overwhelm your audience. Their ability to understand may falter.20

You should be especially sensitive to the flow of information if your topic is new
or unfamiliar to your listeners. Make sure your audience has time to process any new
information you present. Use supporting materials both to help clarify new informa-
tion and to slow down the pace of your presentation.

Again, do not try to see how much detail and content you can cram into a speech.
Your job is to present information so that the audience can grasp it, not to show off how
much you know.

Reinforce Key Ideas
This last point is one of the most powerful techniques of all: Reinforce key ideas ver-
bally or nonverbally to make your ideas memorable.

reinforce ideAs VerbAlly You can reinforce an idea verbally by using such phrases
as “This is the most important point” and “Be sure to remember this next point; it’s
the most compelling one.” Suppose you have four suggestions for helping your listen-
ers avoid a serious sunburn, and your last suggestion is the most important. How can
you make sure your audience knows that? Just tell them. “Of all the suggestions I’ve
given you, this last tip is the most important one. The higher the SPF level on your
sunscreen, the better.” Be careful not to overuse this technique. If you claim that every
other point is a key point, soon your audience will no longer believe you.

reinforce Key ideAs nonVerbAlly How can you draw attention to key ideas non-
verbally? Keep in mind that the way you deliver an idea can give it special emphasis.
Gestures serve the purpose of accenting or emphasizing key phrases, just as italics or
boldface type do in written messages.

A well-placed pause can provide emphasis and reinforcement to set off a point.
Pausing just before or after making an important point—
while making direct eye contact with your listeners—will
focus attention on your idea. Raising or lowering your
voice can also reinforce a key idea.

Movement can help emphasize major ideas. Moving
from behind the lectern to tell a personal anecdote can
signal that something special and more intimate is about
to be said. As we discussed in Chapter 11, your move-
ment and gestures should be meaningful and natural,
rather than arbitrary or forced.

developing an Audience-centered
Informative Speech
13.5 Develop an audience-centered informative speech.

In this chapter, we’ve described types of informative speech topics and offered numer-
ous principles to follow in helping your listeners understand, maintain interest in, and
remember your message. But when faced with an informative speaking opportunity,

EnhAncIng AUdIEncE REcAll
• Say it again: Build in redundancy.
• Say it short and simple.
• Say it at a steady pace.
• “Say” it with pictures, visuals, and nonverbal messages.

242 Chapter 13

you may still wonder how to go about preparing an informative speech. Our advice: Use
the audience-centered speaking model, shown in Figure 13.1, to guide you step-by-step
through the process. We conclude this chapter with a reminder to consider your audience.

As with any type of speech, an informative talk requires that you consider three
general questions of audience analysis: To whom are you speaking? What are their
interests, attitudes, beliefs, and values? What do they expect from you? When your
general purpose is to inform, you should focus on specific aspects of these three gen-
eral questions. Part of considering who your audience is will include figuring out, as
best you can, their preferred learning styles. Determining listeners’ interests, attitudes,
beliefs, and values can help you balance your use of strategies to enhance understand-
ing and recall with your need to maintain their interest. You won’t need to work as
hard to maintain the interest of an audience who is already highly interested in your

topic, for example. Careful consideration of the
audience’s expectations can also help you main-
tain their interest, perhaps by surprising them with
something they do not expect.

Once your topic and purpose are clearly estab-
lished, continue to consider your audience when
developing your central idea and generating your
main ideas. Interesting and appropriate support-
ing material will make your message clear, engag-
ing, and memorable. Most informative speeches
are primarily organized using topical, chronologi-
cal, or complexity strategies. As with any speech,
rehearsing your speech several times will help you
deliver a message that your audience will listen to
and perceive as credible.









and Narrow





Figure 13.1 You can follow the steps of the audience-centered model of public
speaking to craft a successful informative speech.

SOurcE: Copyrighted by Pearson Education, Hoboken, NJ.

• Select topic: Consider who your listeners are, as well as their

interests and needs.
• Formulate central and main ideas: Make them clear and simple.
• Gather supporting material: Decide what will help the audience

maintain interest and learn.
• Organize: Consider topical, chronological, or complexity as the

primary organizational strategy for an informative speech.
• Rehearse: Deliver a polished message that your audience will

listen to and perceive as credible.

Speaking to Inform 243

you incorporate principles of adult learning as presented in
this chapter to ensure that you addressed their needs?

Strategies to Maintain Audience Interest
13.3 Effectively and appropriately use four strategies to

maintain audience interest.

reVieW: To gain and maintain interest in your informative
talk, follow three important principles. First, motivate your
audience to listen to you. Second, tell a story; a well-told
story almost always keeps listeners focused on you and
your message. Third, present information that relates to
your listeners’ interests; in essence, be audience-centered.
Finally, use the unexpected to surprise your audience.

Apply: Before giving a speech to your class in which you
share a story that includes personal information about one of
your friends, should you ask permission from your friend?

Strategies to Enhance Audience Recall
13.4 Effectively and appropriately use four strategies to

enhance audience recall of information presented in
an informative speech.

reVieW: Help your listeners remember what you tell them
by being redundant. Keep your main ideas short and simple.
Pacing the flow of your information helps listeners recall your
ideas. Reinforcing important points verbally and nonverbally
can also help your audience members remember them.

Assess: What strategies does your public-speaking
teacher use in class to enhance listener recall?

developing an Audience-centered
Informative Speech
13.5 Develop an audience-centered informative speech.

reVieW: You can apply principles of informative speak-
ing to adapt the audience-centered model of speaking. The
needs of your audience and topic will help you organize
your speech and gather supporting materials. Use interest-
ing and appropriate supporting material. Most informative
speeches are primarily organized using topical, chronologi-
cal, or complexity strategies. Rehearse your speech.

Apply: Brendan is planning on sharing his experiences
with his fraternity brothers about his recent study abroad
trip to Oxford, England. As he prepares and presents
his message, what specific aspects of Brendan’s audience
should he keep in mind?

Assess: Redundancy can be especially helpful when you
and the audience have language differences. Which of the
specific strategies for making your message more redun-
dant would increase understanding of an audience whose
primary language is different from yours?

Informative Speech Topics
13.1 Describe five different types of informative speech topics.

reVieW: To inform is to teach someone something you
know. Informative speeches have three goals—to enhance
understanding, to maintain interest, and to be remembered.
There are several different types of informative speeches.
Speeches about objects discuss tangible things. Speeches
about procedures explain a process or describe how some-
thing works. Speeches about people can be about either the
famous or the little known. Speeches about events describe
major occurrences or personal experiences. Speeches about
ideas discuss often-abstract principles, concepts, or theories.

Key Term
speech to inform

Apply: You are a chemistry major considering whether
you should give an informative speech to your public-
speaking class about how pipe bombs are made. Is this an
appropriate topic for your audience?

Assess: Hillary Webster, MD, will be addressing other
physicians at a medical convention to discuss the weight-
loss technique she has recently used successfully with her
patients. What advice would you give to help her present
an effective talk?

Strategies to Enhance Audience
13.2 Effectively and appropriately use three strategies to

enhance audience understanding.

reVieW: To enhance your listeners’ understanding of a
message: (1) define ideas clearly, (2) use principles and tech-
niques of adult learning, and (3) clarify unfamiliar ideas or
complex processes.

Key Terms

word picture


1. To give a 5-minute speech about nuclear energy, you
must greatly simplify what is a very complex process.
How can you avoid misrepresenting your topic? Should
you let your audience know that you are oversimplifying
the process?

2. You have been asked to speak to a kindergarten class
about your chosen profession. Identify approaches to
this task that would help make your message clear, in-
teresting, and memorable to your audience.

Assess: Imagine you are going to teach a group of adult
learners how to prepare an informative speech. How could

study Guide: review, apply, and assess

14.1 Describe the goals of persuasive messages.

14.2 Explain classic and contemporary theories of how
persuasion occurs.

14.3 Describe four ways to motivate listeners to respond to
a persuasive message.

14.4 Prepare and present an audience-centered persuasive

After studying this chapter, you should be able to do the following:

Principles of
Persuasive Speaking

George Caleb Bingham (1811–79), Stump
Speaking (1853–4), oil on canvas, Gift of
Bank of America, Saint Louis Art Museum,
Missouri. Photo: Library of Congress

… the power of speech, to stir

men’s blood.

—William Shakespeare

It happens to you hundreds of times each day. It appears as tweets, Internet pop-up
ads, Facebook messages, commercials on TV, and requests from friends; as adver-
tisements in magazines and on billboards; and as fund-raising messages from

politicians and charities. It also occurs when you are asked to give money to a worthy
cause or to donate blood. “It” is persuasion. Because persuasion is such an ever-pres-
ent part of life, it is important to understand how it works. What are the principles of
an activity that can shape your attitudes and behavior? What do crafters of Internet
pop-up ads, salespeople, and politicians know about how to influence your thinking
and behavior that you don’t know?

In this chapter, we discuss how persuasion works. Such information can sharpen
your persuasive skills and can also help you become a more informed receiver of per-
suasive messages. We will define persuasion and discuss the psychological principles

Understanding Principles of Persuasive Speaking 245

underlying efforts to persuade others. We will also discuss tips for choosing a persua-
sive speech topic and developing arguments for your speeches. In Chapter 15, we will
examine specific strategies for crafting a persuasive speech.

In Chapter 13, we discussed strategies for informative speaking—the oral presenta-
tion of new information to listeners so that they will understand and remember what
is communicated. The purposes of informing and persuading are closely related. Why
inform an audience? Why give new information to others? We often provide informa-
tion to give listeners new insights that may affect their attitudes and behavior. Informa-
tion alone has the potential to convince others, but when information is coupled with
strategies to persuade, the chances of success increase.

The Goals of Persuasion
14.1 Describe the goals of persuasive messages.

Persuasion is the process of changing or reinforcing attitudes, beliefs, values, or
behavior. In a persuasive speech, the speaker explicitly asks the audience to make a
choice, rather than just informing them of the options. As a persuasive speaker, you
will do more than teach; you will ask your listeners to respond to the information
you share. Audience analysis is crucial to achieving your goal. To advocate a par-
ticular view or position successfully, you must understand your listeners’ positions
before you speak.

Note that when attempting to persuade someone, you may not necessarily try to
change someone’s point of view or behavior but, instead, aim to reinforce it. Your listen-
ers may already like, believe, or value something, or sometimes do what you’d like them
to do; you are trying to strengthen their current perspective. Suppose, for example, that
your persuasive purpose is to encourage people to use their recycling bins. The audi-
ence may already think that recycling is a good thing and may even use their recycling
bins at least some of the time. Your speaking goal is to reinforce their behavior so that
they use the bins every time.

Because the goal of persuasion is to change or reinforce attitudes, beliefs, values,
or behavior, it’s important to clarify how these elements differ. Having a clear idea
of precisely which of these elements you want to change or reinforce can help you
develop your persuasive strategy.

Changing or Reinforcing Audience Attitudes
Our attitudes represent our likes and dislikes. Stated more precisely, an attitude is a
learned predisposition to respond favorably or unfavorably toward something.1 In
a persuasive speech, you might try to persuade your listeners to favor or oppose a
new shopping mall, to like bats because of their ability to eat insects, or to dislike an
increase in the sales tax.

Changing or Reinforcing Audience Beliefs
A persuasive speech could also attempt to change or reinforce a belief. A belief is
something you understand to be true or false. If you believe in something, you are
convinced that it exists or is true. You have structured your sense of what is real and
what is unreal to account for the existence of whatever you believe. If you believe in
God, you have structured your sense of what is real and unreal to recognize the exis-
tence of God.

We hold some beliefs based on faith—we haven’t directly experienced some-
thing, but we believe anyway. However, most beliefs are typically based on evi-
dence, including past experiences. If you believe the sun will rise in the east again

The process of changing or reinforcing
a listener’s attitudes, beliefs, values, or

A learned predisposition to respond fa-
vorably or unfavorably toward something;
likes and dislikes

A way we structure reality to accept some-
thing as true or false

246 Chapter 14

tomorrow, or that global climate change is occurring, you base these beliefs
either on what you’ve directly experienced or on the experience of someone
you find trustworthy. Beliefs are also changed by evidence. As a speaker,
you might have a difficult time, for example, trying to change an audience’s
belief that the world is flat; you would need to show that existing evidence
supports a different conclusion. Usually it takes a great deal of evidence to
change a belief and alter the way your audience structures reality.

Changing or Reinforcing Audience Values
A persuasive speech could also seek to change or reinforce a value. A value is
an enduring concept of right or wrong, good or bad. If you value something,
you classify it as good or desirable, and you tend to think of its opposite or its
absence as bad or wrong. If you do not value something, you are indifferent to
it. Values form the basis of your life goals. They are also the motivating force
behind your behavior. Most Americans value honesty, trustworthiness, free-
dom, loyalty, marriage, family, and money. Understanding what your listeners
value can help you refine your analysis of them and adapt the content of your
speech to those values.

Most of us acquired our values when we were very young and have
held onto them into adulthood. Our values, therefore, are generally deeply
ingrained. It is not impossible to change the values of your listeners, but it
is much more difficult than trying to change a belief or an attitude. Political
and religious points of view, which are usually based on long-held values, are
especially difficult to modify.

As Figure 14.1 shows, values are the most deeply ingrained of the three
predispositions; they change least frequently. That’s why values are at the core
of the model. Beliefs change, but not as much as attitudes. Trying to change

an audience’s attitudes (likes and dislikes) is easier than attempting to change their
values. Today you may like the way your instructor is teaching your class (you have a
favorable attitude of him or her). But after you receive a low grade on a test, you may
dislike your instructor (you have an unfavorable attitude). You may still believe that the
teacher is knowledgeable, and you still value the goals of education, but your attitude
toward your teacher has changed because of the feedback you received.

We suggest that you think carefully about your purpose for making a persua-
sive speech. Know with certainty whether your objective is to change or to reinforce
an attitude, a belief, or a value. Then decide what you have to do to achieve your

Changing or Reinforcing Audience Behaviors
Persuasive messages often attempt to do more than change or reinforce attitudes,
beliefs, or values; they may attempt to change or strengthen behaviors. Getting listen-

ers to eat more fruits and vegetables and to exercise more
are typical goals of the persuasive messages that we hear.
It seems logical that knowing someone’s attitudes, beliefs,
and values will help us predict precisely how that person
will behave. But we are complicated creatures, and human
behavior is not always neatly predictable. Sometimes our
attitudes, beliefs, and values may not appear to be consis-
tent with how we act. For example, you may know that if
you’re on a low-carb diet, you should avoid a second help-
ing of Dad’s homemade chocolate cake, but you cut off a
slice and gobble it up anyway.

An enduring concept of good and bad,
right and wrong




Figure 14.1 Your chances of
successfully persuading your audience
are affected by whether you choose
to target listeners’ attitudes, beliefs, or
values. Attitudes form the outer ring
of this model because they are easier
to change than beliefs or core values.
Beliefs can be changed, but not as
easily as attitudes. Values are at the
core of the model because they are
the most deeply ingrained and change
the least frequently.
source: Copyrighted by Pearson Education,
Hoboken, NJ.

Persuasion attempts to change or reinforce the following:
• Attitudes: Likes and dislikes
• Beliefs: Perceptions of what is true or false
• Values: What you hold as right and wrong, good or bad
• Behavior: What we do or don’t do

Understanding Principles of Persuasive Speaking 247

How Persuasion Works
14.2 Explain classic and contemporary theories of how persuasion occurs.

Now that you know what persuasion is and how attitudes, beliefs, and values influ-
ence your behavior, you may still have questions about how persuasion actually
works. Knowing how and why listeners change their minds and their behavior can
help you construct more effective persuasive messages.

Besides enabling you to persuade others, understanding how persuasion works
can help you analyze why you are sometimes persuaded to think or behave in certain
ways. Being conscious of why you respond to specific persuasive messages can help
you be a better, more discriminating listener to persuasive pitches.

Many theories and considerable research describe how persuasion works. We’ll
discuss two approaches here: first, a classical approach identified by Aristotle, and
second, a more contemporary theory that builds on the classical approach.

Aristotle’s Traditional Approach: Using Ethos,
Logos, and Pathos to Persuade
Aristotle, a Greek philosopher and rhetorician who lived and wrote in the fourth cen-
tury bce, is the source of many ideas about communication in general and persuasion
in particular. As we noted in Chapter 4, he defined rhetoric as the
process of discovering in any particular case the available means of
persuasion. When the goal is to persuade, the communicator selects
symbols (words and nonverbal messages, including images and
music) to change attitudes, beliefs, values, or behavior. Aristotle
identified three general methods (or, using his language, “available
means”) to persuade: ethos, logos, and pathos.2

Ethos To use ethos to persuade, an effective communicator must
be credible. Aristotle believed that in order to be credible, a public
speaker should be ethical, possess good character, have common
sense, and be concerned for the well-being of the audience. The
more credible and ethical a speaker is perceived to be, the greater
the chances are that a listener will believe in, trust, and positively
respond to the persuasive message of the speaker. So one of the
means or methods of persuasion is for the communicator to present
information that can be trusted and to be believable and trustwor-
thy himself or herself. When a friend wants to convince you to let
him borrow your car, he may say, “Trust me. I promise not to do
anything wacky with your car. I’m a responsible guy.” He’s appeal-
ing to his credibility as an ethical, trusted friend. We’ll discuss spe-
cific strategies to enhance your credibility and your persuasiveness
in the next chapter.

Logos Another means of persuading others is to use logos. The
word logos literally means “the word.” Aristotle used this term to
refer to the rational, logical arguments a speaker uses to persuade
someone. A skilled persuader not only reaches a logical conclusion
but also supports the message with evidence and reasoning. The
friend who wants to borrow your car may use a logical, rational
argument supported with evidence to get your car keys. He may
say, “I borrowed your car last week and I returned it without a
scratch. I also borrowed it the week before that and there were no
problems—and I filled the tank with gas. So if you loan me your

The term Aristotle used to refer to a
speaker’s credibility

Literally, “the word”; the term Aristotle
used to refer to logic—the formal system
of using rules to reach a conclusion

Both Aristotle’s traditional approach and the elaboration
likelihood model suggest that appeals to emotion can help
persuade listeners. Thus, a speaker might accompany a talk
promoting the adoption of pets from a local animal shelter
with photos of adorable animals to arouse listeners’ emotions
and propel them to bring home a puppy or kitten. Photo:

248 Chapter 14

car today, I’ll return it just like I did in the past.” Your friend is appealing to your ra-
tional side by using evidence to support his conclusion that your car will be returned
in good shape. In Chapter 15 we’ll provide strategies for developing logical, rational
arguments and supporting those arguments with solid evidence.

Pathos Aristotle used the term pathos to refer to the use of appeals to emotion. We
sometimes hold attitudes, beliefs, and values that are not logical but that simply make
us feel positive. Likewise, we sometimes do things or buy things to make ourselves feel
happy, powerful, or energized. The friend who wants to borrow your wheels may also use
pathos—an emotional appeal—to get you to turn over your car keys. He may say, “Look,
without transportation I can’t get to my doctor’s appointment. I’m feeling sick. I need
your help. Friends help friends, and I could use a good friend right now.” Your buddy is
tugging on your emotional heartstrings to motivate you to loan him your car. He’s hoping
to convince you to behave in a way that makes you feel positive about yourself.

What are effective ways to appeal to listeners’ emotions? Use emotion-arousing
stories and concrete examples, as well as pictures and music. In the next chapter we’ll
identify more ethical strategies to appeal to emotions when persuading others.

All three traditional means of persuasion—ethos (ethical credibility), logos (logic),
and pathos (emotion)—are ways of motivating a listener to think or behave in cer-
tain ways. Motivation is the underlying internal force that drives people to achieve
their goals. Our motives explain why we do things.3 Several factors motivate people to
respond to persuasive messages: The need to restore balance to their lives and avoid
stress, the need to avoid pain, and the desire to increase pleasure have been docu-
mented as motives that influence attitudes, beliefs, values, and behavior.

ELM’s Contemporary Approach: Using a Direct or
Indirect Path to Persuade
A newer, research-based framework for understanding how persuasion works is
called the elaboration likelihood model (ELM) of persuasion.4 This theory with a
long name is actually a simple idea that offers an explanation of how people are per-
suaded to do something or think about something. Rather than prescribe how to craft
a persuasive message from the standpoint of the speaker, as Aristotle does, ELM the-
ory describes how audience members interpret persuasive messages. It’s an audience-
centered theory of how people make sense of persuasive communication.

To elaborate means that you think about the information, ideas, and issues related
to the content of the message you hear. When you elaborate on a message, you are criti-
cally evaluating what you hear by paying special attention to the arguments and the
evidence the speaker is using. The likelihood of whether or not you elaborate (hence,
the term elaboration likelihood model) on a message varies from person to person and
depends on the topic of the message.

The theory suggests that there are two ways you can be persuaded: (1) the direct
persuasion route that you follow when you elaborate, consciously think about, or criti-
cally evaluate a message, and (2) the indirect persuasion route, in which you don’t
elaborate and are instead influenced by the more peripheral factors of the message and
the messenger—you are less aware of why you are persuaded to respond positively or
negatively to a message.

thE DirEct PErsuasion routE When you elaborate, you consider what Aristotle
would call the underlying logos, or logic, of the message. You carefully and system-
atically think about the facts, reasoning, arguments, and evidence presented to you,
and then you make a thoughtful decision as to whether to believe or do what the
persuader wants. For example, you buy a good data package for your smartphone be-
cause you are convinced you will benefit from constant access to the Internet; you’ve
read the literature and have made a logical, rational decision. There may be times,

The term used by Aristotle to refer to
appeals to human emotion

The internal force that drives people to
achieve their goals

elaboration likelihood model
(ELM) of persuasion
The theory that people can be persuaded
by logic, evidence, and reasoning, or
through a more peripheral route that may
depend on the credibility of the speaker,
the sheer number of arguments presented,
or emotional appeals

From the standpoint of the elaboration
likelihood model (ELM) of persuasion, to
think about information, ideas, and issues
related to the content of a message

direct persuasion route
Persuasion that occurs when audience
members critically examine evidence and

indirect persuasion route
Persuasion that occurs as a result of fac-
tors peripheral to a speaker’s logic and
argument, such as the speaker’s charisma
or emotional appeals

Understanding Principles of Persuasive Speaking 249

however, when you think you are making a decision based on logic, but instead you
are being persuaded by less obvious strategies via an indirect path.

thE inDirEct PErsuasion routE If you don’t elaborate (that is, if you don’t use critical
thinking skills while listening), you simply develop an overall impression of what the
speaker says and how the speaker says it. The indirect route is a more intuitive than
rational process. You can be persuaded by such indirect factors as catchy music used
in an advertisement or your positive reaction to the attractive and articulate salesper-
son who wants to sell you a product. It’s not an evaluation of the logic or content of
the advertisement or the salesperson’s reasoning or evidence that persuades you; it’s
the overall feeling you have about the product or the salesperson that triggers your
purchase. When hearing a speech, you may be persuaded by the appearance of the
speaker (he looks nice; I trust him); by the sheer number of research studies in support
of the speaker’s proposal (there are so many reasons to accept this speaker’s proposal;
she’s convinced me); or by the speaker’s use of an emotionally charged story (I can’t
let that little girl starve; I’ll donate 50 cents to save her).

Aristotle’s theory and ELM theory both suggest that persuasion is a complex pro-
cess. Not all of us are persuaded in the same way. Aristotle’s theory emphasizes what
the speaker should do to influence an audience. If the speaker discovers the proper
application of a credible and ethical message (ethos), logic (logos), and emotion
(pathos), then persuasion is likely to occur. ELM theory describes the different ways
listeners process the messages they hear. Listeners can be persuaded when they directly
elaborate (or actively think about what they hear) and logically ponder how evidence
and reasoning make sense. Or, if they do not elaborate, listeners may be persuaded
indirectly, based on peripheral factors that don’t require as much thought to process,
such as the speaker’s personal appearance or delivery.

Both theories work together to explain how you can persuade others and how
others persuade you. Because you may not know whether your listeners are directly or
indirectly influenced by your message (whether they elaborate or not), you will want
to use a balance of ethos, logos, and pathos as you think about how to persuade your
listeners. However, it’s your audience, not you, who will ultimately make sense out of
what they hear. So, in addition to the carefully constructed logic and well-reasoned
arguments you present, be attuned to the indirect factors
that can influence your listeners, such as your delivery,
your appearance, and a general impression of how pre-
pared you seem to be.

These two theories also help explain how you are
influenced by others. You are influenced by the ethical
appeal, logical arguments, and emotions of a speaker.
In addition, ELM theory suggests you may be directly
affected by the logic and arguments of a speaker. You may
also be influenced, even when you’re not aware of it, by
such peripheral or indirect elements of the message as the
speaker’s appearance and delivery. Remaining aware of
how you are being persuaded can make you a more effec-
tive and critical listener to the multitude of persuasive
messages that come your way each day.

How to Motivate Listeners
14.3 Describe four ways to motivate listeners to respond to a persuasive message.

It’s late at night and you’re watching your favorite talk show. A commercial extolling
the virtues of a well-known brand of ice cream interrupts the program. Suddenly you

Aristotle’s Classical Approach
• Ethos: The credibility of the speaker
• Logos: The logic used to reach a conclusion
• Pathos: The appeal to emotion

Elaboration Likelihood Model
• Direct route—with elaboration; considering the facts, evi-

dence, and logic of the message
• Indirect route—without elaboration; relying on an intuitive

feeling in response to peripheral aspects of the message

250 Chapter 14

remember you have some of the advertised flavor, Royal Rocky Road. You apparently
hadn’t realized how hungry you were for ice cream until the ad reminded you of the
lip-smacking goodness of the cold, creamy, smooth treat. Before you know it, you are
at the freezer, helping yourself to a couple of scoops of ice cream.

If the makers of that commercial knew how persuasive it had been, they would be
overjoyed. At the heart of the persuasion process is the audience-centered process of
motivating listeners to respond to a message. The ad changed your behavior because
the message was tailor-made for you.

Persuasion works when listeners are motivated to respond. What principles explain
why you felt motivated to go to the freezer at midnight for a carton of ice cream? An
audience is more likely to be persuaded when you help members solve their problems or
meet their needs. They can also be motivated when you convince them that good things
will happen if they follow your advice or bad things will occur if they don’t. We next dis-
cuss several ways to motivate listeners; these approaches are summarized in Table 14.1.

Use Cognitive Dissonance
Dissonance theory is based on the principle that people strive to solve problems and
manage stress and tension in a way that is consistent with their attitudes, beliefs, and
values.5 According to this theory, when you are presented with information inconsis-
tent with your current attitudes, beliefs, values, or behavior, you become aware that
you have a problem; you experience a kind of discomfort called cognitive dissonance.
The word cognitive has to do with our thoughts. Dissonance means “lack of harmony or
agreement.” When you think of a dissonant chord in music, you probably think of a col-
lection of unpleasant sounds not in tune with the melody or other chords. Most people
seek to avoid problems or feelings of dissonance. Cognitive dissonance, then, means
you are experiencing a way of thinking that is inconsistent and uncomfortable. If, for
example, you smoke cigarettes and a speaker reminds you that smoking is unhealthy,
this reminder creates dissonance. You can restore balance and solve the problem either
by no longer smoking or by rejecting the message that smoking is harmful.

Creating dissonance with a persuasive speech can be an effective way to change
attitudes and behavior. The first tactic in such a speech is to identify an existing prob-
lem or need. For example, Evie believes that we should only eat organic fruits and
vegetables. If we don’t eat organic foods, we increase the risk of getting cancer because
we are consuming chemicals that have been linked to cancer. Evie seeks to create dis-
sonance by suggesting we could more readily develop cancer unless we eat organic

cognitive dissonance
The sense of mental discomfort that
prompts a person to change when new
information conflicts with previously organ-
ized thought patterns

Method Description example

use cognitive Dissonance Telling listeners about existing problems or informa-
tion that is inconsistent with their currently held
beliefs or known information creates psychological

Do you value your family’s security? Then you’re probably wor-
ried about supporting your family if you were injured and couldn’t
work. You can restore your peace of mind by buying our disability
insurance policy.

use Listeners’ Needs People are motivated by unmet needs. The most
basic needs are physiological, followed by safety
needs, social needs, self-esteem needs, and finally,
self-actualization needs.

You could be the envy of people you know if you purchase this
sleek new sports car. You will be perceived as a person of high
status in your community.

use Positive Motivation People will be more likely to change their thinking
or pursue a particular course of action if they are
convinced that good things will happen to them if
they support what the speaker advocates.

You should take a course in public speaking because it will in-
crease your prospects of getting a good job. Effective communi-
cation skills are the most sought-after skills in today’s workplace.

use Negative Motivation People seek to avoid pain and discomfort. They will
be motivated to support what a speaker advocates
if they are convinced bad things will happen to them
unless they do.

If there is a hurricane, tornado, earthquake, or other natural disas-
ter, the electrical power may go out and you may not be able to fill
your car with gas. Without the basics of food and water, you could
die. You need to be prepared for a worst-case scenario by having
an emergency stockpile of water, food, and gas for your car.

Table 14.1 How to Motivate Listeners to Respond to Your Persuasive Message

source: Copyrighted by Pearson Education, Hoboken, NJ.

Understanding Principles of Persuasive Speaking 251

farm products. The way to reduce our dissonance (and the threat of cancer) is to eat
more healthful organic fruits and vegetables—precisely what Evie is advocating. Of
course, a speaker can’t just assert that something will create a problem. An ethical
speaker needs to use evidence such as facts, statistics, or expert testimony to document
any claims. With the strategy of creating dissonance by documenting the harm and
then suggesting a way to minimize or eliminate the harm, the speaker seeks to change
listener behavior.

In using dissonance theory to persuade, speakers have an ethical responsibility
not to rely on false claims to create dissonance. Claiming that a problem exists when it
does not or creating dissonance about a problem that is unlikely to happen is unethi-
cal. When listening to a persuasive message, pay particular attention to the evidence a
speaker uses to convince you that a problem really does exist.

how ListEnErs coPE with DissonancE Effective persuasion requires more than sim-
ply creating dissonance and then suggesting a solution. When your listeners confront
dissonant information, various options are available to them besides following your
suggestions. You need to be aware of the other ways your audience might react before
you can reduce their cognitive dissonance.6

●● Listeners may discredit the source. Instead of believing everything you say,
your listeners could choose to discredit you. Suppose you drive a Japanese-made
car and you hear a speaker whose father owns a Chevrolet dealership advocate
that all Americans should drive cars made in the United States. You could agree
with him, or you could decide that the speaker is biased because of his father’s
occupation. Instead of selling your Japanese-made car and buying an American
one, you could doubt the speaker’s credibility and ignore his suggestion. As a
persuasive speaker, you need to ensure that your audience will perceive you as
competent and trustworthy so that they will accept your message.

●● Listeners may reinterpret the message. A second way your listeners might
overcome cognitive dissonance and restore balance is to hear what they want to
hear. They may choose to focus on the parts of your message that are consistent
with what they already believe and ignore the unfamiliar or controversial parts.
If you tell a customer looking to purchase new software that it takes ten steps to

Effective public-service messages often
use cognitive dissonance to change
people’s behaviors. This technique is
also often effective for public speakers.
Photo: Sonda Dawes/The Image

252 Chapter 14

install the program but that it is easy to use, the customer might focus on those
first ten steps and decide it’s too hard to use. Your job as an effective speaker is to
make your message as clear as possible so your audience will not reinterpret it. In
this case, your task is to emphasize that the software is easy to use. Choose your
words carefully; use simple, vivid examples to keep listeners focused on what’s
most important.

●● Listeners may seek new information. Another way that listeners cope with
cognitive dissonance is to seek more information on the subject. Audience mem-
bers may look for additional information to negate your position and to refute
your well-created arguments. For example, as the owner of a minivan, you would
experience dissonance if you heard a speaker describe a recent rash of safety
problems with minivans. You might turn to a friend and whisper, “Is this true?
Are minivans really dangerous? I’ve always thought they were safe.” You would
want new information to validate your ownership of a minivan.

●● Listeners may stop listening. Some messages are so much at odds with listen-
ers’ attitudes, beliefs, and values that an audience may decide to stop listening.
Most of us do not seek opportunities to hear or read messages that oppose our
opinions. It is unlikely that a staunch Democrat would attend a fund-raiser for
the state Republican party. The principle of selective exposure suggests that we
tend to pay attention to messages that are consistent with our points of view and
to avoid those that are not. When we do find ourselves trapped in a situation in
which we must hear a message that doesn’t support our beliefs, we tend to stop
listening. Being aware of your audience’s existing attitudes, beliefs, and values
can help ensure that they won’t tune you out.

●● Listeners may change their attitudes, beliefs, values, or behavior. A fifth way
an audience may respond to dissonant information is to do what the speaker
wants them to do. As we have noted, if listeners change their attitudes, they will
reduce the dissonance they experience. You listen to a life-insurance salesperson

tell you that your family will have no financial support
when you die. This creates dissonance; you prefer to think
of your family as happy and secure. So you take out a
$250,000 policy to protect your family. This action restores
your sense of balance. The salesperson has persuaded you
successfully. The goals of advertising copywriters, sales-
people, and political candidates are similar: They want
you to experience dissonance so that you will change
your attitudes, beliefs, values, or behavior.

Use Listeners’ Needs
Need is one of the best motivators. A person looking at
a new car because he or she needs one is more likely to
buy than a person who is just thinking about how nice it
would be to drive the latest model. The more you under-
stand what your listeners need, the greater the chances
are that you can gain and hold their attention and ulti-
mately get them to do what you want.

Abraham Maslow’s classic theory, which you may have first learned about in
psychology class, suggests that there is a hierarchy of needs that motivates everyone’s
behavior.7 Figure 14.2 illustrates Maslow’s five levels of needs with the most basic at
the bottom. Maslow suggested that we need to meet basic physiological needs (food,
water, and air) before we can be motivated to respond to higher-level needs. Although
the hierarchical nature of Maslow’s needs has not been consistently supported by
research (we can be motivated by several needs at the same time), his theory provides

CoPinG WiTH CoGniTivE
When your message gives listeners conflicting thoughts,
they might:
• try to discredit you; you need to be competent and

• reinterpret your message; you need to be sure it’s clear.
• seek other information; you need to make your informa-

tion convincing.
• stop listening; you need to make your message

• be persuaded.

a useful checklist of potential listener motiva-
tions. When attempting to persuade an audi-
ence, a speaker should try to stimulate these
needs in order to change or reinforce attitudes,
beliefs, values, or behavior. Let’s examine each
of these needs.

PhysioLogicaL nEEDs The most basic needs
for all humans are physiological: We all need
air, water, and food. According to Maslow’s
theory, unless those needs are met, it will be
difficult to motivate a listener to satisfy other
needs. If your listeners are hot, tired, and
thirsty, it will be more difficult to persuade
them to vote for your candidate, buy your
insurance policy, or sign your petition in sup-
port of local leash laws. Be sensitive to the
basic physiological needs of your audience so
that your appeals to higher-level needs will be

safEty nEEDs Listeners are concerned about
their safety. We all have a need to feel safe,
secure, and protected. We need to be able to
predict that our needs for safety, as well as
those of our loved ones, will be met. Many
insurance sales efforts include photos of wrecked cars, anecdotes of people who
were in ill health and could not pay their bills, or tales of the head of a household
who passed away, leaving the basic needs of a family unmet. Appeals to use safety
belts, stop smoking, start exercising, and use condoms all play to our need for safety
and security.

sociaL nEEDs We all need to feel loved and valued. We need contact with others
and reassurance that they care about us. According to Maslow, these social needs
translate into our need for a sense of belonging to a group (fraternity, religious orga-
nization, friendships). Powerful persuasive appeals are based on our need for social
contact. We are encouraged to buy a product or support a particular issue because
others are buying the product or supporting the issue. The message is that to be
liked and respected by others, we must buy the same things they do or support the
same causes they support.

sELf-EstEEm nEEDs The need for self-esteem reflects our desire to think well of our-
selves. Civil rights activist Jesse Jackson is known for appealing to the self-worth of
his listeners by inviting them to chant “I am somebody.” This is a direct appeal to
his listeners’ need for self-esteem. Advertisers also appeal to that need when they
encourage us to believe that we will be noticed by others or stand out in a crowd if
we purchase their product. Commercials promoting luxury cars usually invite you to
picture yourself in the driver’s seat with a beautiful or handsome companion beside
you while those you pass on the road look on with envy.

sELf-actuaLization nEEDs At the top of Maslow’s hierarchy is the need for self-
actualization. This is the need to fully realize one’s highest potential through
seeking “peek experiences.” For many years, the U.S. Army used the slogan “Be
all that you can be” to tap into the need for self-actualization. Calls to be your best
and brightest self are appeals to self-actualization. According to Maslow’s hierar-
chy, needs at the other four levels must be satisfied before we can be motivated to
satisfy the highest-level need.

self-actualization need
The need to achieve one’s highest

Understanding Principles of Persuasive Speaking 253

a useful checklist of potential listener motiva-
tions. When attempting to persuade an audi-
ence, a speaker should try to stimulate these
needs in order to change or reinforce attitudes,
beliefs, values, or behavior. Let’s examine e