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Public Speaking: Tips for Success


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About this Lesson

  • Type: Video Tutorial
  • Length: 7:30
  • Media: Flash video file
  • Use: Watch Online
  • Access Period: Unrestricted
  • 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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A young man stood before a public speaking class seeking to persuade his classmates to sign up to be organ donors. Nearing the end of his presentation, he read a letter from a person who had received a heart transplant. The letter was written to the donor's family. The class was still, listening closely and respectfully. The young man said softly, "This letter was written by my mother." Moved and inspired by the letter, many of his classmates immediately signed the back of their driver's licenses and registered to become organ donors.
My friend and colleague, Dr. Anna Spradlin, who has taught public speaking for 20 years, shared this story with me. This story demonstrates the potential power of persuasive speaking. Developing and delivering persuasive speeches is a challenging endeavor, yet potentially very rewarding. I'm going to share some steps that I think will help it be successful for you.
First of all, select an issue that is important to you. You want to do this for any kind of presentation, but this is especially significant for a persuasive speech. How can you convince someone else if you're not convinced? This will increase your credibility because the audience can tell if you're genuine and even passionate about your topic. So consider your beliefs, your feelings, your values, what matters to you. What do you want to change about society? What do you want to change in your community? What do you want to change in your own life? Once you figure out a topic, analyze it carefully and closely. What's wrong with the current situation? What solution might you propose? How practical is your solution? How well does your plan solve the problem? What are some advantages and disadvantages of what you think should be done?
Well, you then need to research your topic. Gather supporting materials, such as examples, statistics, testimony. You also want to analyze your audience. You want to seek thorough information about that target audience, and you want to keep that audience in mind throughout the process. Get demographic data, like gender, race, class. Also, get some socio-psychological information and insight. Are there any recent relevant developments for that group? Imagine that you go before a group asking them to do something that they just did or asking them to do something that is totally out of line with what recently happened to them.
So, based on what you learned about the audience, try to figure out your motivational approach. What kinds of needs does your audience have that you might try to appeal to with your proposition? And that's what you want to do next--develop your proposition or specify your goal. You want to decide if what you're talking about relates to a question of fact, value, or policy. If it's policy, you have to decide whether you will seek passive agreement from the audience, or personal action. Consider the audience as you figure that out. Then write your proposition in declarative sentence form. For example: "To convince my audience that legalized gambling should be abolished." "To persuade my audience to sign a petition for increasing recreational taxes for my county." As you try to set that goal, set a modest goal. Don't try to accomplish something unreasonable. Again, consider your target audience and maybe try to get them to take a baby step toward the ultimate goal.
Now you're ready to figure out how you're going to put all this together. Well, if you have a choice, select a speech pattern or a framework and use one that's appropriate to what you're trying to accomplish. If it's a simple proposition, use problem-solution. If you sense that the audience already agrees that a problem needs to be solved, pick comparative advantages. For more complex kinds of problems, go with Monroe's motivated sequence. As you pull this together in the framework that you have chosen, be sure to combine the various types of proofs--logos, ethos, pathos, and mythos--but, remember, you want to focus on logos, or reasons that are rational.
If you want your audience to act, bring whatever you need to facilitate that process. Remember, this is about urgency and immediacy, so if you want them to sign a petition, bring the petition with you. If you want them to call their council member, bring the telephone number. If you want them to have some information, bring the brochures. Bring any kind of supporting material.
Finally, speak honestly and sincerely to your audience, and as you're doing that, be mindful always of ethical considerations. Have goodwill for the audience; avoid fallacies or manipulation. In many ways, this all comes back to the very first step of choosing a topic that is genuinely important to you.
Types of Speeches ! Speaking to Persuade [page 2 of 2]
Tips for Success
Copyright © 2001, Thinkwell Corp. All Rights Reserved. 83184/8/02
Types of Speeches ! Speaking to Persuade [page 1 of 2]
Tips for Success
Copyright © 2001, Thinkwell Corp. All Rights Reserved. 83184/8/02

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