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Public Speaking: Types of Informative Speeches


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  • Type: Video Tutorial
  • Length: 7:10
  • Media: Video/mp4
  • Use: Watch Online & Download
  • Access Period: Unrestricted
  • Download: MP4 (iPod compatible)
  • Size: 77 MB
  • Posted: 07/01/2009

This lesson was selected from a broader, comprehensive course, Public Speaking. This course and others are available from Thinkwell, Inc. The full course can be found at The full course covers getting started, preparing a speech, presenting the speech, audience considerations, types of speeches, small group communication, and more. The course features three renowned professors: Jess K. Alberts of Arizona State University, Brenda J. Allen of the University of Colorado at Denver, and Dan West of Ohio State University.

Jess K. Alberts is a professor of communication at the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication at Arizona State University, where she was Director from 1995 until 2004. She currently serves as Director of the Conflict Transformation Project and is an associate with Project for Wellness and Work-life. Her research appears regularly in academic journals, and she recently co-authored “Human Communication in Society”. Undergraduates at Arizona State honored her classroom teaching skills with a "Last Lecture Award," and she has twice been a finalist for Professor of the Year at ASU. A nationally known speaker on interpersonal communication, Professor Alberts has given numerous presentations across the country on humor, conflict, and developing and maintaining a passionate life.

Brenda J. Allen is departmental chair and a professor of communication at the University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center, where she teaches organizational communication. She has published numerous articles and book chapters on organizational communication and diversity and she serves on the editorial boards of several communication journals. In 2004, she authored the book “Difference Matters: Communicating Social Identity”. While at the University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center, she has been recognized with the First Annual Award for Outstanding Achievement for Commitment to Diversity and she received the Francine Meritt Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Lives of Women in Communication from the Women’s Caucus of the National Communication Association. Professor Allen is frequently invited to speak at community and professional events.

Dan West is the John A. Cassese Director of Forensics at Ohio University. Previously, he was a distinguished lecturer at Rice University, where he also acted as Director of Forensics. Under his direction, the team consistently placed in the top ten at national debate tournaments. While at Rice, Prof. West won the Outstanding Faculty Associate for Brown College (1999) and the award for Outstanding Teaching in the Humanities and Social Sciences (four times). He is well known for using his engaging speaking style in a variety of settings; his annual presentation of the Rice University Alcohol Policy to the freshman class was always a hit.

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Once you're assigned to give an informative speech, you will, of course, pick a topic. But then you have to determine how you're going to approach that topic. That is, you have to ask yourself what type of informative speech am I going to give? For example, you can give many different types of speeches on the very same topic. Let's suppose you're talking about roses. You could demonstrate how two types of roses are grafted together to form a hybrid, or you could explain the different colors of roses, that red represents romance. Or you might describe the different varieties of roses, or you might explain the role of roses in your life. In this tutorial I'm going to overview the different types of informative speeches, and those include the demonstration speech, the explanatory speech, the descriptive speech, and the narrative speech.
Now, the first speech that you're likely to have to do is a demonstration speech. Many professors assign that. In the demonstration speech you might do something like explain how something works. Let's say I've decided that I want to give a speech on how evaporative coolers work. In order to choose that topic, however, I have to make sure that topic is relevant to my audience. I live in the desert southwest. We use lots of evaporative coolers. People in my community are probably pretty interested in how evaporative coolers work because knowing that will help them decide whether to choose to buy an evaporative cooler or an air conditioner. On the other hand, that topic wouldn't be very relevant in the southeast because it's too humid. So make sure you choose a topic that really is relevant and interesting to your audience.
Now, in explaining how something works, you have to be able to explain the different steps of the process, so you have to understand it very well. So, for example, I probably wouldn't give a speech on evaporative coolers because I don't really understand exactly how they work. You also might choose in a demonstration speech to give a speech on how to make something; that is, how you actually create a product. In order to do that, however, you'd better make sure you really know how to make that project very well. One of the things you'll find helpful is if you're explaining how to make something is that you have different versions of whatever it is you're making at different stages of preparation, so that you don't have to go through every step all the way throughout the speech. And you want to make sure you explain the demonstration in such a way that it's very clear that you move from one step to the other. You've probably seen this on cooking shows. They will have like different parts of the food already prepared. Like you don't sit and watch the cake bake. They pull it out of the oven and it's already baked. Similarly, you'll have different aspects of different states of your project already made so you can demonstrate them.
You also can explain how to do something. For example, you might explain how to do yoga poses or how to engage in deep breathing. In this type of speech, you might actually even get the audience involved through what it is you're explaining. However, you do want to be careful in doing a "how to do something" speech and having the audience involved because they may not feel comfortable or be able to do whatever it is you're describing.
And finally, you can explain how something happens. Now, this usually involves explaining a process, such as how a bill becomes law or how emergency response teams respond during an emergency. And again, you'll want to make sure you have sufficient knowledge that you can really explain the process. And you want to be able to break that process down into its component parts so that it's easy to understand.
A second type of informative speech is the explanatory speech. Now, in the explanatory speech you're going to focus on a concept, a condition, or an issue. When you talk about a concept you're generally describing something that's abstract, like equality, or what we mean by liberalism in the 21st Century. Now, the real challenge in discussing a concept is making sure that you can make it specific, concrete, and interesting. You also can discuss an issue. There are any number of controversial issues at any given point. You can choose one of those issues and explain that in your speech. Just make sure, again, that you understand the issue before you begin to describe it and that you can make it interesting. For example, you can give a speech about the English-only movement in the United States.
Thirdly, you can give a speech about a condition. That is, you can describe specific conditions that are going on. You might explain a political condition, like the rise of third parties in politics, or a cultural condition, such as peacekeeping efforts the United States engages in across the world. Or you might explain the condition of a group, such as children in the United States.
You can give an informative speech that's description. An informative speech that's descriptive is pretty much like it sounds; that is, you describe something. It can be a place, a person, an object, or an event. Let's say you're describing a place like Wrigley Field. You want to make sure, however, that your descriptive speech is descriptive and not explanatory. Let's say Wrigley Field is your topic. An explanatory speech might talk about the history of Wrigley Field, whereas a descriptive speech will actually describe Wrigley Field itself. You can do a descriptive speech about people or a group of people. You can give a speech about Frida Kahlo or a group of artists, like the Impressionists.
You can also give a descriptive speech on an object. I want you to think about objects quite broadly. What do you think would fall under the category of objects? Well, that includes everything from cars to computers to ostriches. For example, you can give a speech about the role of the automobile in the United States, and you can also do a descriptive speech on events, either contemporary or historical. For example, you could give a speech about Columbine or maybe about Woodstock festivals.
The final type of speech you can give is the narrative speech. Now, the narrative speech is built around a story; that is, you're going to tell a narrative about either something personal that happened to you or a third-person narrative of someone that you've researched. The important thing to remember in a narrative speech is that the speech is built around the narrative, but the story is not the speech. The speech must also have a point. Let's say that I'm an immigrant who has been a naturalized citizen. I might tell the story of my immigration and the naturalization process as a way of illustrating the point of the difficulties that immigrants face in the United States. So a narrative speech involves both a story and a point. The narrative speech can be one of the hardest speeches to give, and for that reason, let's look at an example of an excellent narrative speech and examine how both a story is told and a point is made.
Last month I was on my way back from a weekend trip to my parents' house. It was early evening, and I had about three hours left to go on my trip. All of a sudden, my car started bumping and making this really weird noise, so I pulled over and wouldn't you know it--I had a flat tire. I had always planned on learning how to fix a flat tire, but I had never gotten around to it. Anyway, luckily I had my cell phone, so I got to call someone to help me, but it cost me a hundred dollars to do it. Today I'm going to help you avoid this situation by explaining the importance of safety, describing the necessary equipment, and walking you though the process of fixing a flat tire.
I'd like to begin by addressing the importance of safety in fixing a flat tire.
You might have noticed in the narrative speech that both a story was told and a point was made, and you might have also said, "Hmm, didn't I notice a little bit of explanation as well?" One thing to keep in mind is in the different types of informative speeches it's perfectly normal to borrow elements from the other types of informative speeches.
Types of Speeches ! Speaking to Inform [page 4 of 4]
Types of Informative Speeches
Copyright © 2001, Thinkwell Corp. All Rights Reserved. 82864/2/02
Types of Speeches ! Speaking to Inform [page 1 of 4]
Types of Informative Speeches
Copyright © 2001, Thinkwell Corp. All Rights Reserved. 82864/2/02

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