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Chapter 1: The Speech Communication Process

The Speech Communication Process

  • Listener(s)


As you might imagine, the speaker is the crucial first element within the speech communication process. Without a speaker, there is no process.  The  speaker  is simply the person who is delivering, or presenting, the speech.  A speaker might be someone who is training employees in your workplace. Your professor is another example of a public speaker as s/he gives a lecture. Even a stand-up comedian can be considered a public speaker. After all, each of these people is presenting an oral message to an audience in a public setting. Most speakers, however, would agree that the listener is one of the primary reasons that they speak.

The listener is just as important as the speaker; neither one is effective without the other.  The  listener  is the person or persons who have assembled to hear the oral message.  Some texts might even call several listeners an “audience. ” The listener generally forms an opinion as to the effectiveness of the speaker and the validity of the speaker’s message based on what they see and hear during the presentation. The listener’s job sometimes includes critiquing, or evaluating, the speaker’s style and message. You might be asked to critique your classmates as they speak or to complete an evaluation of a public speaker in another setting. That makes the job of the listener extremely important. Providing constructive feedback to speakers often helps the speaker improve her/his speech tremendously.

Another crucial element in the speech process is the message.  The  message  is what the speaker is discussing or the ideas that s/he is presenting to you as s/he covers a particular topic.  The important chapter concepts presented by your professor become the message during a lecture. The commands and steps you need to use, the new software at work, are the message of the trainer as s/he presents the information to your department. The message might be lengthy, such as the President’s State of the Union address, or fairly brief, as in a five-minute presentation given in class.

The  channel  is the means by which the message is sent or transmitted.  Different channels are used to deliver the message, depending on the communication type or context. For instance, in mass communication, the channel utilized might be a television or radio broadcast. The use of a cell phone is an example of a channel that you might use to send a friend a message in interpersonal communication. However, the channel typically used within public speaking is the speaker’s voice, or more specifically, the sound waves used to carry the voice to those listening. You could watch a prerecorded speech or one accessible on YouTube, and you might now say the channel is the television or your computer. This is partially true. However, the speech would still have no value if the speaker’s voice was not present, so in reality, the channel is now a combination of the two -the speaker’s voice broadcast through an electronic source.

The context is a bit more complicated than the other elements we have discussed so far. The context is more than one specific component. For example, when you give a speech in your classroom, the classroom, or  the physical location of your speech, is part of the context  . That’s probably the easiest part of context to grasp.

But you should also consider that the  people in your audience expect you to behave in a certain manner, depending on the physical location or the occasion of the presentation  . If you gave a toast at a wedding, the audience wouldn’t be surprised if you told a funny story about the couple or used informal gestures such as a high-five or a slap on the groom’s back. That would be acceptable within the expectations of your audience, given the occasion. However, what if the reason for your speech was the presentation of a eulogy at a loved one’s funeral? Would the audience still find a high-five or humor as acceptable in that setting? Probably not. So the expectations of your audience must be factored into context as well.

The cultural rules -often unwritten and sometimes never formally communicated to us -are also a part of the context. Depending on your culture, you would probably agree that there are some “rules ” typically adhered to by those attending a funeral. In some cultures, mourners wear dark colors and are somber and quiet. In other cultures, grieving out loud or beating one’s chest to show extreme grief is traditional. Therefore,  the rules from our culture  -no matter what they are -play a part in the context as well.

Every speaker hopes that her/his speech is clearly understood by the audience. However, there are times when some obstacle gets in the way of the message and interferes with the listener’s ability to hear what’s being said.  This is  interference  , or you might have heard it referred to as “noise. ”  Every speaker must prepare and present with the assumption that interference is likely to be present in the speaking environment.

Interference can be mental, physical, or physiological.  Mental interference  occurs when the listener is not fully focused on what s/he is hearing due to her/his own thoughts.  If you’ve ever caught yourself daydreaming in class during a lecture, you’re experiencing mental interference. Your own thoughts are getting in the way of the message.

A second form of interference is  physical interference  . This is noise in the literal sense -someone coughing behind you during a speech or the sound of a mower outside the classroom window. You may be unable to hear the speaker because of the surrounding environmental noises.

The last form of interference is  physiological  . This type of interference occurs when your body is responsible for the blocked signals. A deaf person, for example, has the truest form of physiological interference; s/he may have varying degrees of difficulty hearing the message. If you’ve ever been in a room that was too cold or too hot and found yourself not paying attention, you’re experiencing physiological interference. Your bodily discomfort distracts from what is happening around you.

The final component within the speech process is feedback. While some might assume that the speaker is the only one who sends a message during a speech, the reality is that the  listeners in the audience are sending a message of their own, called  feedback  .  Often this is how the speaker knows if s/he is sending an effective message. Occasionally the feedback from listeners comes in verbal form – questions from the audience or an angry response from a listener about a key point presented. However, in general, feedback during a presentation is typically non-verbal -a student nodding her/his head in agreement or a confused look from an audience member. An observant speaker will scan the audience for these forms of feedback, but keep in mind that non-verbal feedback is often more difficult to spot and to decipher. For example, is a yawn a sign of boredom, or is it simply a tired audience member?

Generally, all of the above elements are present during a speech. However, you might wonder what the process would look like if we used a diagram to illustrate it. Initially, some students think of public speaking as a linear process -the speaker sending a message to the listener -a simple, straight line. But if you’ll think about the components we’ve just covered, you begin to see that a straight line cannot adequately represent the process, when we add listener feedback into the process. The listener is sending her/his own message back to the speaker, so perhaps the process might better be represented as circular. Add in some interference and place the example in context, and you have a more complete idea of the speech process.

Fundamentals of Public Speaking Copyright © by Lumen Learning is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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1.2 The Process of Public Speaking

Learning objectives.

  • Identify the three components of getting your message across to others.
  • Distinguish between the interactional models of communication and the transactional model of communication.
  • Explain the three principles discussed in the dialogical theory of public speaking.

A man holding a megaphone

Looking4poetry – megaphone head man – CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

As noted earlier, all of us encounter thousands of messages in our everyday environments, so getting your idea heard above all the other ones is a constant battle. Some speakers will try gimmicks, but we strongly believe that getting your message heard depends on three fundamental components: message, skill, and passion. The first part of getting your message across is the message itself. When what you are saying is clear and coherent, people are more likely to pay attention to it. On the other hand, when a message is ambiguous, people will often stop paying attention. Our discussions in the first part of this book involve how to have clear and coherent content.

The second part of getting your message heard is having effective communication skills. You may have the best ideas in the world, but if you do not possess basic public speaking skills, you’re going to have a problem getting anyone to listen. In this book, we will address the skills you must possess to effectively communicate your ideas to others.

Lastly, if you want your message to be heard, you must communicate passion for your message. One mistake that novice public speakers make is picking topics in which they have no emotional investment. If an audience can tell that you don’t really care about your topic, they will just tune you out. Passion is the extra spark that draws people’s attention and makes them want to listen to your message.

In this section, we’re going to examine the process of public speaking by first introducing you to a basic model of public speaking and then discussing how public speaking functions as dialogue. These models will give you a basic understanding of the communication process and some challenges that you may face as a speaker.

Models of Public Speaking

A basic model of human communication is one of the first topics that most communication teachers start with in any class. For our focus on public speaking, we will introduce two widely discussed models in communication: interactional and transactional.

Interactional Model of Public Speaking

Linear model.


The interactional model of public speaking comes from the work of Claude Shannon and Warren Weaver (Shannon & Weaver, 1949). The original model mirrored how radio and telephone technologies functioned and consisted of three primary parts: source, channel, and receiver. The source was the part of a telephone a person spoke into, the channel was the telephone itself, and the receiver was the part of the phone where one could hear the other person. Shannon and Weaver also recognized that often there is static that interferes with listening to a telephone conversation, which they called noise.

Although there are a number of problems with applying this model to human communication, it does have some useful parallels to public speaking. In public speaking, the source is the person who is giving the speech, the channel is the speaker’s use of verbal and nonverbal communication , and the receivers are the audience members listening to the speech. As with a telephone call, a wide range of distractions ( noise ) can inhibit an audience member from accurately attending to a speaker’s speech. Avoiding or adapting to these types of noise is an important challenge for public speakers.

Interactional Model


The interactional model of communication developed by Wilbur Schramm builds upon the linear model (Schramm, 1954). Schramm added three major components to the Shannon and Weaver model. First, Schramm identified two basic processes of communication: encoding and decoding. Encoding is what a source does when “creating a message, adapting it to the receiver, and transmitting it across some source-selected channel” (Wrench, McCroskey & Richmond, 2008). When you are at home preparing your speech or standing in front of your classroom talking to your peers, you are participating in the encoding process.

The second major process is the decoding process, or “sensing (for example, hearing or seeing) a source’s message, interpreting the source’s message, evaluating the source’s message, and responding to the source’s message” (Wrench, McCroskey & Richmond, 2008). Decoding is relevant in the public speaking context when, as an audience member, you listen to the words of the speech, pay attention to nonverbal behaviors of the speaker, and attend to any presentation aids that the speaker uses. You must then interpret what the speaker is saying.

Although interpreting a speaker’s message may sound easy in theory, in practice many problems can arise. A speaker’s verbal message, nonverbal communication, and mediated presentation aids can all make a message either clearer or harder to understand. For example, unfamiliar vocabulary, speaking too fast or too softly, or small print on presentation aids may make it difficult for you to figure out what the speaker means. Conversely, by providing definitions of complex terms, using well-timed gestures, or displaying graphs of quantitative information, the speaker can help you interpret his or her meaning.

Once you have interpreted what the speaker is communicating, you then evaluate the message. Was it good? Do you agree or disagree with the speaker? Is a speaker’s argument logical? These are all questions that you may ask yourself when evaluating a speech.

The last part of decoding is “responding to a source’s message,” when the receiver encodes a message to send to the source. When a receiver sends a message back to a source, we call this process feedback . Schramm talks about three types of feedback: direct, moderately direct, and indirect (Schramm, 1954). The first type, direct feedback, occurs when the receiver directly talks to the source. For example, if a speech ends with a question-and-answer period, listeners will openly agree or disagree with the speaker. The second type of feedback, moderately direct, focuses on nonverbal messages sent while a source is speaking, such as audience members smiling and nodding their heads in agreement or looking at their watches or surreptitiously sending text messages during the speech. The final type of feedback, indirect, often involves a greater time gap between the actual message and the receiver’s feedback. For example, suppose you run for student body president and give speeches to a variety of groups all over campus, only to lose on student election day. Your audiences (the different groups you spoke to) have offered you indirect feedback on your message through their votes. One of the challenges you’ll face as a public speaker is how to respond effectively to audience feedback, particularly the direct and moderately direct forms of feedback you receive during your presentation.

Transactional Model of Public Speaking

The source speaks a message through a channel to receivers. Feedback is then given to the source by the receivers

One of the biggest concerns that some people have with the interactional model of communication is that it tends to place people into the category of either source or receiver with no overlap. Even with Schramm’s model, encoding and decoding are perceived as distinct for sources and receivers. Furthermore, the interactional model cannot handle situations where multiple sources are interacting at the same time (Mortenson, 1972). To address these weaknesses, Dean Barnlund proposed a transactional model of communication (Barnlund, 2008). The basic premise of the transactional model is that individuals are sending and receiving messages at the same time. Whereas the interactional model has individuals engaging in the role of either source or receiver and the meaning of a message is sent from the source to the receiver, the transactional model assumes that meaning is cocreated by both people interacting together.

The idea that meanings are cocreated between people is based on a concept called the “field of experience.” According to West and Turner, a field of experience involves “how a person’s culture, experiences, and heredity influence his or her ability to communicate with another” (West & Turner, 2010). Our education, race, gender, ethnicity, religion, personality, beliefs, actions, attitudes, languages, social status, past experiences, and customs are all aspects of our field of experience, which we bring to every interaction. For meaning to occur, we must have some shared experiences with our audience; this makes it challenging to speak effectively to audiences with very different experiences from our own. Our goal as public speakers is to build upon shared fields of experience so that we can help audience members interpret our message.

Dialogic Theory of Public Speaking

Most people think of public speaking as engaging in a monologue where the speaker stands and delivers information and the audience passively listens. Based on the work of numerous philosophers, however, Ronald Arnett and Pat Arneson proposed that all communication, even public speaking, could be viewed as a dialogue (Arnett & Arneson, 1999). The dialogic theory is based on three overarching principles:

  • Dialogue is more natural than monologue.
  • Meanings are in people not words.
  • Contexts and social situations impact perceived meanings (Bakhtin, 2001a; Bakhtin, 2001b).

Let’s look at each of these in turn.

Dialogue vs. Monologue

The first tenet of the dialogic perspective is that communication should be a dialogue and not a monologue. Lev Yakubinsky argued that even public speaking situations often turn into dialogues when audience members actively engage speakers by asking questions. He even claimed that nonverbal behavior (e.g., nodding one’s head in agreement or scowling) functions as feedback for speakers and contributes to a dialogue (Yakubinsky, 1997). Overall, if you approach your public speaking experience as a dialogue, you’ll be more actively engaged as a speaker and more attentive to how your audience is responding, which will, in turn, lead to more actively engaged audience members.

Meanings Are in People, Not Words

Part of the dialogic process in public speaking is realizing that you and your audience may differ in how you see your speech. Hellmut Geissner and Edith Slembeck (1986) discussed Geissner’s idea of responsibility, or the notion that the meanings of words must be mutually agreed upon by people interacting with each other (Geissner & Slembek, 1986). If you say the word “dog” and think of a soft, furry pet and your audience member thinks of the animal that attacked him as a child, the two of you perceive the word from very different vantage points. As speakers, we must do our best to craft messages that take our audience into account and use audience feedback to determine whether the meaning we intend is the one that is received. To be successful at conveying our desired meaning, we must know quite a bit about our audience so we can make language choices that will be the most appropriate for the context. Although we cannot predict how all our audience members will interpret specific words, we do know that—for example—using teenage slang when speaking to the audience at a senior center would most likely hurt our ability to convey our meaning clearly.

Contexts and Social Situations

Russian scholar Mikhail Bahktin notes that human interactions take place according to cultural norms and rules (Bakhtin, 2001a; Bakhtin, 2001b). How we approach people, the words we choose, and how we deliver speeches are all dependent on different speaking contexts and social situations. On September 8, 2009, President Barack Obama addressed school children with a televised speech ( http://www.whitehouse.gov/mediaresources/PreparedSchoolRemarks ). If you look at the speech he delivered to kids around the country and then at his speeches targeted toward adults, you’ll see lots of differences. These dissimilar speeches are necessary because the audiences (speaking to kids vs. speaking to adults) have different experiences and levels of knowledge. Ultimately, good public speaking is a matter of taking into account the cultural background of your audience and attempting to engage your audience in a dialogue from their own vantage point.

Considering the context of a public speech involves thinking about four dimensions: physical, temporal, social-psychological, and cultural (DeVito, 2009).

Physical Dimension

The physical dimension of communication involves the real or touchable environment where communication occurs. For example, you may find yourself speaking in a classroom, a corporate board room, or a large amphitheater. Each of these real environments will influence your ability to interact with your audience. Larger physical spaces may require you to use a microphone and speaker system to make yourself heard or to use projected presentation aids to convey visual material.

How the room is physically decorated or designed can also impact your interaction with your audience. If the room is dimly lit or is decorated with interesting posters, audience members’ minds may start wandering. If the room is too hot, you’ll find people becoming sleepy. As speakers, we often have little or no control over our physical environment, but we always need to take it into account when planning and delivering our messages.

Temporal Dimension

According to Joseph DeVito, the temporal dimension “has to do not only with the time of day and moment in history but also with where a particular message fits into the sequence of communication events” (DeVito, 2009). The time of day can have a dramatic effect on how alert one’s audience is. Don’t believe us? Try giving a speech in front of a class around 12:30 p.m. when no one’s had lunch. It’s amazing how impatient audience members get once hunger sets in.

In addition to the time of day, we often face temporal dimensions related to how our speech will be viewed in light of societal events. Imagine how a speech on the importance of campus security would be interpreted on the day after a shooting occurred. Compare this with the interpretation of the same speech given at a time when the campus had not had any shootings for years, if ever.

Another element of the temporal dimension is how a message fits with what happens immediately before it. For example, if another speaker has just given an intense speech on death and dying and you stand up to speak about something more trivial, people may downplay your message because it doesn’t fit with the serious tone established by the earlier speech. You never want to be the funny speaker who has to follow an emotional speech where people cried. Most of the time in a speech class, you will have no advance notice as to what the speaker before you will be talking about. Therefore, it is wise to plan on being sensitive to previous topics and be prepared to ease your way subtly into your message if the situation so dictates.

Social-Psychological Dimension

The social-psychological dimension of context refers to “status relationships among participants, roles and games that people play, norms of the society or group, and the friendliness, formality, or gravity of the situation” (DeVito, 2009). You have to know the types of people in your audience and how they react to a wide range of messages.

Cultural Dimension

The final context dimension Joseph DeVito mentions is the cultural dimension (DeVito, 2009). When we interact with others from different cultures, misunderstandings can result from differing cultural beliefs, norms, and practices. As public speakers engaging in a dialogue with our audience members, we must attempt to understand the cultural makeup of our audience so that we can avoid these misunderstandings as much as possible.

Each of these elements of context is a challenge for you as a speaker. Throughout the rest of the book, we’ll discuss how you can meet the challenges presented by the audience and context and become a more effective public speaker in the process.

Key Takeaways

  • Getting your message across to others effectively requires attention to message content, skill in communicating content, and your passion for the information presented.
  • The interactional models of communication provide a useful foundation for understanding communication and outline basic concepts such as sender, receiver, noise, message, channel, encoding, decoding, and feedback. The transactional model builds on the interactional models by recognizing that people can enact the roles of sender and receiver simultaneously and that interactants cocreate meaning through shared fields of experience.
  • The dialogic theory of public speaking understands public speaking as a dialogue between speaker and audience. This dialogue requires the speaker to understand that meaning depends on the speaker’s and hearer’s vantage points and that context affects how we must design and deliver our messages.
  • Draw the major models of communication on a piece of paper and then explain how each component is important to public speaking.
  • When thinking about your first speech in class, explain the context of your speech using DeVito’s four dimensions: physical, temporal, social-psychological, and cultural. How might you address challenges posed by each of these four dimensions?

Arnett, R. C., & Arneson, P. (1999). Dialogic civility in a cynical age: Community, hope, and interpersonal relationships . Albany, NY: SUNY Press.

Bakhtin, M. (2001a). The problem of speech genres. (V. W. McGee, Trans., 1986). In P. Bizzell & B. Herzberg (Eds.), The rhetorical tradition (pp. 1227–1245). Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin’s. (Original work published in 1953.).

Bakhtin, M. (2001b). Marxism and the philosophy of language. (L. Matejka & I. R. Titunik, Trans., 1973). In P. Bizzell & B. Herzberg (Eds.), The rhetorical tradition (pp. 1210–1226). Boston, MA: Medford/St. Martin’s. (Original work published in 1953).

Barnlund, D. C. (2008). A transactional model of communication. In C. D. Mortensen (Ed.), Communication theory (2nd ed., pp. 47–57). New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction.

DeVito, J. A. (2009). The interpersonal communication book (12th ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Geissner, H., & Slembek, E. (1986). Miteinander sprechen und handeln [Speak and act: Living and working together]. Frankfurt, Germany: Scriptor.

Mortenson, C. D. (1972). Communication: The study of human communication . New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Schramm, W. (1954). How communication works. In W. Schramm (Ed.), The process and effects of communication (pp. 3–26). Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press.

Shannon, C. E., & Weaver, W. (1949). The mathematical theory of communication . Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press.

West, R., & Turner, L. H. (2010). Introducing communication theory: Analysis and application (4th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, p. 13.

Wrench, J. S., McCroskey, J. C., & Richmond, V. P. (2008). Human communication in everyday life: Explanations and applications . Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon, p. 17.

Stand up, Speak out Copyright © 2016 by University of Minnesota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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Chapter 10: Speech Preparation

10.4 Organizing Your Speech

Person putting together a metal puzzle

In a series of important and groundbreaking studies conducted during the 1950’s and 1960’s, researchers started investigating how a speech’s organization was related to audience perceptions of those speeches. The first study, conducted by Raymond Smith in 1951, randomly organized the parts of a speech to see how audiences would react. Not surprisingly, when speeches were randomly organized, the audience perceived the speech more negatively than when audiences were presented with a speech with clear, intentional organization. Smith also found that audiences who listened to unorganized speeches were less interested in those speeches than audiences who listened to organized speeches. Thompson furthered this investigation and found that unorganized speeches were also harder for audiences to recall after the speech. Basically, people remember information from speeches that are clearly organized—and forget information from speeches that are poorly organized. A third study by Baker found that when audiences were presented with a disorganized speaker, they were less likely to be persuaded, and saw the disorganized speaker as lacking credibility.

These three very important studies make the importance of organization very clear. When speakers are not organized they are not perceived as credible and their audiences view the speeches negatively, are less likely to be persuaded, and don’t remember specific information from the speeches after the fact.

Determining Your Main Ideas

Photograph of The Thinker, by Rodin

When creating a speech, it’s important to remember that speeches have three clear parts: an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. The introduction establishes the topic and orients your audience, and the conclusion wraps everything up at the end of your speech. The real “meat” of your speech happens in the body. In this section, we’re going to discuss how to think strategically about the body of your speech.

We like the word strategic because it refers to determining what is important or essential to the overall plan or purpose of your speech. Too often, new speakers just throw information together and stand up and start speaking. When that happens, audience members are left confused and the reason for the speech may get lost. To avoid being seen as disorganized, we want you to start thinking critically about the organization of your speech. In this section, we will discuss how to take your speech from a specific purpose to creating the main points of your speech.

What Is Your Specific Purpose?

Recall that a speech can have one of three general purposes: to inform, to persuade, or to entertain.

The general purpose refers to the broad goal of creating and delivering the speech .

A specific purpose is a statement that starts with one of the three general purposes and then specifies the actual topic you have chosen and the basic objective you hope to accomplish with your speech. Basically, the specific purpose answers the who, what, when, where, and why questions about your speech . Suppose you are going to give a speech about using open-source software. Here are three examples (each with a different general purpose and a different audience):

Example One

General Purpose:  To inform

Specific Purpose:  To inform a group of school administrators about the various open-source software packages that could be utilized in their school districts

Example Two

General Purpose:  To persuade

Specific Purpose:  To persuade a group of college students to make the switch from Microsoft Office to the open-source office suite OpenOffice

Example Three

General Purpose:  To entertain

Specific Purpose:  To entertain members of a business organization with a mock eulogy of for-pay software giants as a result of the proliferation of open-source alternatives

In each of these three examples, you’ll notice that the general topic is the same (open-source software) but the specific purpose is different because the speech has a different general purpose and a different audience. Before you can think strategically about organizing the body of your speech, you need to know what your specific purpose is. If you have not yet written a specific purpose for your current speech, please go ahead and write one now.

From Specific Purpose to Main Points

Once you have written down your specific purpose, you can now start thinking about the best way to turn that specific purpose into a series of main points. Main points are the key ideas you present to enable your speech to accomplish its specific purpose. In this section, we’re going to discuss how to determine your main points and how to organize those main points into a coherent, strategic speech.

How Many Main Points Do I Need?

While there is no magic number for how many main points a speech should have, speech experts generally agree that the fewer the number of main points the better. First and foremost, experts on the subject of memory have consistently shown that people don’t tend to remember very much after they listen to a message or leave a conversation. While many different factors can affect a listener’s ability to retain information after a speech, how the speech is organized is an important part of that process.For the speeches you will be delivering in a typical public speaking class, you will usually have just two or three main points. If your speech is less than three minutes long, then two main points will probably work best. If your speech is between three and ten minutes in length, then it makes more sense to use three main points.

According to LeFrancois (1999), people are more likely to remember information that is meaningful, useful, and of interest to them; different or unique; organized; visual; and simple. Two or three main points are much easier for listeners to remember than ten or even five. In addition, if you have two or three main points, you’ll be able to develop each one with examples, statistics, or other forms of support. This breakdown of support is called subordination , the act of placing in a lower rank or position. Using supporting or subordinate points help you to better understand how ideas are connected and how ideas or points are providing more information as you explain or provide more detail. Including support for each point will make your speech more interesting and more memorable for your audience.

Narrowing Down Your Main Points

When you write your specific purpose and review the research you have done on your topic, you will probably find yourself thinking of quite a few points that you’d like to make in your speech. Whether that’s the case or not, we recommend taking a few minutes to brainstorm and develop a list of points. In brainstorming, your goal is simply to think of as many different points as you can, not to judge how valuable or important they are. What information does your audience need to know to understand your topic? What information does your speech need to convey to accomplish its specific purpose? Consider the following example:

Specific Purpose

Brainstorming List of Points

  • Define open-source software.
  • Define educational software.
  • List and describe the software commonly used by school districts.
  • Explain the advantages of using open-source software.
  • Explain the disadvantages of using open-source software.
  • Review the history of open-source software.
  • Describe the value of open-source software.
  • Describe some educational open-source software packages.
  • Review the software needs of my specific audience.
  • Describe some problems that have occurred with open-source software.

Now that you have brainstormed and developed a list of possible points, how do you go about narrowing them down to just two or three main ones? When you look over the preceding list, you can then start to see that many of the points are related to one another. Your goal in narrowing down your main points is to identify which individual, potentially minor points can be combined to make main points.

Main Point 1:  School districts use software in their operations.

Main Point 2:  What is open-source software?

Main Point 3:  Name some specific open-source software packages that may be appropriate for these school administrators to consider.

You may notice that in the preceding list, the number of subpoints under each of the three main points is a little disjointed or the topics don’t go together clearly. That’s all right. Remember that these are just general ideas at this point. It’s also important to remember that there is often more than one way to organize a speech. Some of these points could be left out and others developed more fully, depending on the purpose and audience. We’ll develop the preceding main points more fully in a moment.

Helpful Hints for Preparing Your Main Points

Now that we’ve discussed how to take a specific purpose and turn it into a series of main points, here are some helpful hints for creating your main points.

Uniting Your Main Points

Once you’ve generated a possible list of main points, you want to ask yourself this question: “When you look at your main points, do they fit together?” For example, if you look at the three preceding main points (school districts use software in their operations; what is open-source software; name some specific open-source software packages that may be appropriate for these school administrators to consider), ask yourself, “Do these main points help my audience understand my specific purpose?” Suppose you added a fourth main point about open-source software for musicians—would this fourth main point go with the other three? Probably not. While you may have a strong passion for open-source music software, that main point is extraneous information for the speech you are giving. It does not help accomplish your specific purpose, so you’d need to toss it out.

Keeping Your Main Points Separate

The next question to ask yourself about your main points is whether they overlap too much. While some overlap may happen naturally because of the singular nature of a specific topic, the information covered within each main point should be clearly distinct from the other main points. Imagine you’re giving a speech with the specific purpose “to inform my audience about the health reasons for eating apples and oranges.” You could then have three main points: that eating fruits is healthy, that eating apples is healthy, and that eating oranges is healthy. While the two points related to apples and oranges are clearly distinct, both of those main points would probably overlap too much with the first point “that eating fruits is healthy,” so you would probably decide to eliminate the first point and focus on the second and third. On the other hand, you could keep the first point and then develop two new points giving additional support to why people should eat fruit.

Balancing Main Points

One of the biggest mistakes some speakers make is to spend most of their time talking about one of their main points, completely neglecting their other main points. To avoid this mistake, organize your speech so as to spend roughly the same amount of time on each main point. If you find that one of your main points is simply too large, you may need to divide that main point into two main points and consolidate your other main points into a single main point.

Let’s see if our preceding example is balanced (school districts use software in their operations; what is open-source software; name some specific open-source software packages that may be appropriate for these school administrators to consider). What do you think? Obviously, the answer depends on how much time a speaker will have to talk about each of these main points. If you have an hour to talk, then you may find that these three main points are balanced. However, you may also find them wildly unbalanced if you only have five minutes to speak because five minutes is not enough time to even explain what open-source software is. If that’s the case, then you probably need to rethink your specific purpose of ensuring that you can cover the material in the allotted time.

Creating Parallel Structure for Main Points

Another major question to ask yourself about your main points is whether or not they have a parallel structure. By parallel structure, we mean that you should structure your main points so that they all sound similar. When all your main points sound similar, it’s simply easier for your audiences to remember your main points and retain them for later. Let’s look at our sample (school districts use software in their operations; what is open-source software; name some specific open-source software packages that may be appropriate for these school administrators to consider). Notice that the first and third main points are statements, but the second one is a question. Basically, we have an example here of main points that are not parallel in structure. You could fix this in one of two ways. You could make them all questions: what are some common school district software programs; what is open-source software; and what are some specific open-source software packages that may be appropriate for these school administrators to consider. Or you could turn them all into statements: school districts use software in their operations; define and describe open-source software; name some specific open-source software packages that may be appropriate for these school administrators to consider. Either of these changes will make the grammatical structure of the main points parallel.

Maintaining Logical Flow of Main Points

The last question you want to ask yourself about your main points is whether the main points make sense in the order you’ve placed them. The next section goes into more detail of common organizational patterns for speeches, but for now, we want you to just think logically about the flow of your main points. When you look at your main points, can you see them as progressive, or does it make sense to talk about one first, another one second, and the final one last? If you look at your order, and it doesn’t make sense to you, you probably need to think about the flow of your main points. Often, this process is an art and not a science. But let’s look at a couple of examples.

School Dress Codes Example

Main Point One History of school dress codes
Main Point Two Problems with school dress codes
Main Point Three Eliminating school dress codes

Rider Law Legislation Example

Main Point One Why should states have rider laws?
Main Point Two What are the effects of a lack of rider laws?
Main Point Three What is rider law legislation?

When you look at these two examples, what are your immediate impressions of the two examples? In the first example, does it make sense to talk about history, and then the problems, and finally how to eliminate school dress codes? Would it make sense to put history as your last main point? Probably not. In this case, the main points are in a logical sequential order. What about the second example? Does it make sense to talk about your solution, then your problem, and then define the solution? Not really! What order do you think these main points should be placed in for a logical flow? Maybe you should explain the problem (lack of rider laws), then define your solution (what is rider law legislation), and then argue for your solution (why states should have rider laws). Notice that in this example you don’t even need to know what “rider laws” are to see that the flow didn’t make sense.

All speeches start with a general purpose and then move to a specific purpose that gives the who, what, where, and how for the speech. Transitioning from the specific purpose to possible main points means developing a list of potential main points you could discuss. Then you can narrow your focus by looking for similarities among your potential main points and combining ones that are similar. Shorter speeches will have two main points while longer speeches will generally have three or more main points. When creating your main points, make sure that they are united, separate, balanced, parallel, and logical.r do to fix your main points?

Organizational Patterns

Previously in this chapter, we discussed how to make your main points flow logically. This section is going to provide you with a number of organizational patterns to help you create a logically organized speech.

By far the most common pattern for organizing a speech is a topical organizational pattern , organizing by categories or dividing the topic into subtopics . The categories function as a way to help the speaker organize the message in a consistent fashion. The goal of a topical speech pattern is to create categories (or chunks) of information that go together to help support your original specific purpose. Let’s look at an example.

Specific Purpose:  To inform a group of high school juniors about Generic University

Main Points

  • Life in the dorms
  • Life in the classroom
  • Life on campus

In this case, we have a speaker trying to inform a group of high school juniors about Generic University. The speaker has divided the information into three basic categories: what it’s like to live in the dorms, what classes are like, and what life is like on campus. Almost anyone could take this basic speech and specifically tailor the speech to fit her or his own university or college. The main points in this example could be rearranged and the organizational pattern would still be effective because there is no inherent logic to the sequence of points. Let’s look at a second example.

Specific Purpose: To inform a group of college students about the uses and misuses of Internet dating

  • Define and describe Internet dating.
  • Explain some strategies to enhance your Internet dating experience.
  • List some warning signs to look for in potential online dates.

In this speech, the speaker is talking about how to find others online and date them. Specifically, the speaker starts by explaining what Internet dating is; then the speaker talks about how to make Internet dating better for her or his audience members; and finally, the speaker ends by discussing some negative aspects of Internet dating. Again, notice that the information is chunked into three categories or topics and that the second and third could be reversed and still provide a logical structure for your speech.


Another method for organizing main points is the comparison/contrast organizational   pattern , measuring similarities and differences between two or more subjects . While this pattern clearly lends itself easily to two main points, you can also create a third point by giving basic information about what is being compared and what is being contrasted. Let’s look at two examples; the first one will be a two-point example and the second a three-point example.

Specific Purpose:  To inform a group of physicians about Drug X, a newer drug with similar applications to Drug Y

  • Show how Drug X and Drug Y are similar.
  • Show how Drug X and Drug Y differ.
  • Explain the basic purpose and use of both Drug X and Drug Y.

If you were using the comparison/contrast pattern for persuasive purposes, in the preceding examples, you’d want to make sure that when you show how Drug X and Drug Y differ, you clearly state why Drug X is clearly the better choice for physicians to adopt. In essence, you’d want to make sure that when you compare the two drugs, you show that Drug X has all the benefits of Drug Y, but when you contrast the two drugs, you show how Drug X is superior to Drug Y in some way.

The spatial organizational   pattern   organizes information according to how things fit together in physical space, either geographically or directionally . This pattern is best used when your main points are oriented to different locations that can exist independently. The basic reason to choose this format is to show that the main points have clear locations. We’ll look at two examples here, one involving physical geography and one involving a different spatial order.

Specific Purpose:  To inform a group of history students about the states that seceded from the United States during the Civil War

  • Locate and describe the Confederate states just below the Mason-Dixon Line (Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee).
  • Locate and describe the Confederate states in the Deep South (South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida).
  • Locate and describe the western Confederate states (Louisiana, Arkansas, and Texas).

If you look at a basic map of the United States, you’ll notice that these groupings of states were created because of their geographic location to one another. In essence, the states create three spatial territories to explain.

Now let’s look at a spatial speech unrelated to geography.

Specific Purpose:  To explain to a group of college biology students how the urinary system works

  • Locate and describe the kidneys and ureters.
  • Locate and describe the bladder.
  • Locate and describe the sphincter and urethra.

In this example, we still have three basic spatial areas. If you look at a model of the urinary system, the first step is the kidney, which then takes waste through the ureters to the bladder, which then relies on the sphincter muscle to excrete waste through the urethra. All we’ve done in this example is create a spatial speech order for discussing how waste is removed from the human body through the urinary system. It is spatial because the organization pattern is determined by the physical location of each body part in relation to the others discussed.


The chronological organizational   pattern organizes the main idea in time order or in a sequential pattern—whether backward or forward . Here’s a simple example.

Specific Purpose:  To inform my audience about the books written by Winston Churchill

  • Examine the style and content of Winston Churchill’s writings prior to World War II.
  • Examine the style and content of Winston Churchill’s writings during World War II.
  • Examine the style and content of Winston Churchill’s writings after World War II.

In this example, we’re looking at the writings of Winston Churchill in relation to World War II (before, during, and after). By placing his writings into these three categories, we develop a system for understanding this material based on Churchill’s own life. Note that you could also use reverse chronological order and start with Churchill’s writings after World War II, progressing backward to his earliest writings.

Specific Purpose:  To inform my audience about the early life of Marilyn Manson

  • Describe Brian Hugh Warner’s early life and the beginning of his feud with Christianity.
  • Describe Warner’s stint as a music journalist in Florida.
  • Describe Warner’s decision to create Marilyn Manson and the Spooky Kids.

In this example, we see how Brian Warner, through three major periods of his life, ultimately became the musician known as Marilyn Manson.

The causal organizational   pattern organizes and explains cause-and-effect relationships . When you use a causal speech pattern, your speech will have two basic main points: cause and effect. In the first main point, typically you will talk about the causes of a phenomenon, and in the second main point, you will then show how the causes lead to either a specific effect or a small set of effects. Let’s look at an example.

Specific Purpose:  To inform my audience about the problems associated with drinking among members of Native American tribal groups

  • Explain the history and prevalence of drinking alcohol among Native Americans.
  • Explain the effects that abuse of alcohol has on Native Americans and how this differs from the experience of other populations.

In this case, the first main point is about the history and prevalence of drinking alcohol among Native Americans (the cause). The second point then examines the effects of Native American alcohol consumption and how it differs from other population groups.

However, a causal organizational pattern can also begin with an effect and then explore one or more causes. In the following example, the effect is the number of arrests for domestic violence.

Specific Purpose:  To inform local voters about the problem of domestic violence in our city

  • Explain that there are significantly more arrests for domestic violence in our city than in cities of comparable size in our state.
  • List possible causes for the difference, which may be unrelated to the actual amount of domestic violence.

In this example, the possible causes for the difference might include stricter law enforcement, greater likelihood of neighbors reporting an incident, and police training that emphasizes arrests as opposed to other outcomes. Examining these possible causes may suggest that despite the arresting statistic, the actual number of domestic violence incidents in your city may not be greater than in other cities of similar size.

Selecting an Organizational Pattern

Each of the preceding organizational patterns is potentially useful for organizing the main points of your speech. However, not all organizational patterns work for all speeches. Your challenge is to choose the best pattern for the particular speech you are giving. When considering which organizational pattern to use, you need to keep in mind your specific purpose as well as your audience and the actual speech material itself to decide which pattern you think will work best. Ultimately, speakers must really think about which organizational pattern best suits a specific speech topic.

Introduction to Public Communication by Indiana State University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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Chapter 1: Professional Business Communication

4 Eight Essential Components of Communication

The communication process can be broken down into a series of eight essential components, each of which serves an integral function in the overall process:

1. Source 2. Message 3. Channel 4. Receiver 5. Feedback 6. Environment 7. Context 8. Interference

The source imagines, creates, and sends the message. The source encodes the message by choosing just the right order or the best words to convey the intended meaning, and presents or sends the information to the audience (receiver). By watching for the audience’s reaction, the source perceives how well they received the message and responds with clarification or supporting information.

“The message is the stimulus or meaning produced by the source for the receiver or audience” (McLean, 2005). The message brings together words to convey meaning, but is also about how it’s conveyed — through nonverbal cues, organization, grammar, style, and other elements.

“The channel is the way in which a message or messages travel between source and receiver.” (McLean, 2005). Spoken channels include face-to-face conversations, speeches, phone conversations and voicemail messages, radio, public address systems, and Skype. Written channels include letters, memorandums, purchase orders, invoices, newspaper and magazine articles, blogs, email, text messages, tweets, and so forth.

“The receiver receives the message from the source, analyzing and interpreting the message in ways both intended and unintended by the source” (McLean, 2005).

When you respond to the source, intentionally or unintentionally, you are giving feedback. Feedback is composed of messages the receiver sends back to the source. Verbal or nonverbal, all these feedback signals allow the source to see how well, how accurately (or how poorly and inaccurately) the message was received (Leavitt & Mueller, 1951).


“The environment is the atmosphere, physical and psychological, where you send and receive messages” (McLean, 2005). Surroundings, people, animals, technology, can all influence your communication.

“The context of the communication interaction involves the setting, scene, and expectations of the individuals involved” (McLean, 2005). A professional communication context may involve business suits (environmental cues) that directly or indirectly influence expectations of language and behaviour among the participants.


Interference, also called noise, can come from any source. “Interference is anything that blocks or changes the source’s intended meaning of the message” (McLean, 2005). This can be external or internal/psychological. Noise interferes with normal encoding and decoding of the message carried by the channel between source and receiver.

Communication for Business Professionals Copyright © 2018 by eCampusOntario is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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What Is Communication?

The Art of Communicating and How to Use It Effectively

ThoughtCo / Ran Zheng

  • An Introduction to Punctuation
  • Ph.D., Rhetoric and English, University of Georgia
  • M.A., Modern English and American Literature, University of Leicester
  • B.A., English, State University of New York

Communication is the process of sending and receiving messages through verbal or nonverbal means, including speech , or oral communication; writing  and graphical representations (such as infographics, maps, and charts); and  signs , signals, and behavior. More simply, communication is said to be "the creation and exchange of meaning ." 

Media critic and theorist James Carey defined communication as "a symbolic process whereby reality is produced, maintained, repaired and transformed" in his 1992 book "Communication as Culture," positing that we define our reality via sharing our experience with others.

All creatures on earth have developed means in which to convey their emotions and thoughts to one another. However, it's the ability of humans to use words and language to transfer specific meanings that sets them apart from the animal kingdom.

Components of Communication

To break it down, in any communication there is a sender and a receiver, a message, and interpretations of meaning on both ends. The receiver gives feedback to the sender of the message, both during the message's conveyance and afterward. Feedback signals can be verbal or nonverbal, such as nodding in agreement or looking away and sighing or other myriad gestures.

There's also the context of the message, the environment it's given in, and potential for interference during its sending or receipt. 

If the receiver can see the sender, he or she can obtain not only the message's contents but also nonverbal communication that the sender is giving off, from confidence to nervousness, professionalism to flippancy. If the receiver can hear the sender, he or she can also pick up cues from the sender's tone of voice, such as emphasis and emotion. 

Rhetorical Communication—The Written Form

Another thing that sets humans apart from their animal cohabiters is our use of writing as a means of communication, which has been a part of the human experience for more than 5,000 years. In fact, the first essay — coincidentally about speaking effectively — is estimated to be from around the year 3,000 B.C., originating in Egypt, though it wasn't until much later that the general population was considered literate .

Still, James C. McCroskey notes in "An Introduction to Rhetorical Communication" that texts like these "are significant because they establish the historical fact that interest in rhetorical communication is nearly 5,000 years old." In fact, McCroskey posits that most ancient texts were written as instructions for communicating effectively, further emphasizing early civilizations' value of furthering the practice.

Through time this reliance has only grown, especially in the Internet age. Now, written or rhetorical communication is one of the favored and primary means of talking to one another — be it an instant message or a text, a Facebook post or a tweet.

As Daniel Boorstin observed in "Democracy and Its Discontents," the most important single change "in human consciousness in the last century, and especially in the American consciousness, has been the multiplying of the means and forms of what we call 'communication.'" This is especially true in modern times with the advent of texting, e-mail, and social media as forms of communicating with others around the world. With more means of communication, there are also now even more ways to be misunderstood than ever.

If a message contains just the written word (such as a text or email), the sender needs to be confident in its clarity, that it cannot be misinterpreted. Emails can often come off cold or clipped without that being the intention of the sender, for example, yet it's not considered professional to have emoticons in formal communication to help convey the proper meaning and context.  

Before You Open Your Mouth or Hit 'Send'

Before preparing your message, whether it's going to be in person one-on-one, in front of an audience, over the phone, or done in writing, consider the audience who'll be receiving your information, the context, and your means to convey it. What way will be the most effective? What will you have to do to ensure it's conveyed properly? What do you want to make sure that you don't convey?

If it's important and going to be relayed in a professional context, maybe you'll practice beforehand, prepare slides and graphics, and pick out professional attire so that your appearance or mannerisms don't distract from your message. If it's a written message you're preparing, you'll likely want to proofread , make sure the recipient's name is spelled correctly and read it aloud to find dropped words or clunky phrasing before sending it.  

  • The Basic Elements of Communication
  • What Is Nonverbal Communication?
  • How to Find the Main Idea
  • What Is a Message in Communication?
  • A Receiver's Role in Clear, Effective Communication Is an Important One
  • Definition and Examples of Senders in Communication
  • Feedback in Communication Studies
  • The Definition of Listening and How to Do It Well
  • Noise and Interference in Various Types of Communication
  • What Does Medium Mean in the Communication Process?
  • What Is Wei Xin?
  • Communicate With Special Education Parents
  • The Power of Indirectness in Speaking and Writing
  • Science Says You Should Leave the Period Out of Text Messages
  • History of Pagers and Beepers
  • Understanding the Use of Language Through Discourse Analysis


Role of Communication in Effective Public Speaking

Role of Communication in Effective Public Speaking

Public speaking is something that almost everyone experiences at some point in their lives. It might be giving an important presentation at work, or it might be standing up to give your graduation speech at college. Public speaking can be terrifying, but it doesn’t have to be so bad! You just need to know the ins and outs of confidence in public speaking so that you’ll know what to expect and how to perform better when the time comes for you to stand up in front of people and deliver an important speech or presentation.

10 Roles of Communication in Effective Public Speaking

1) attention.

Public speaking can be a nerve-wracking experience, but it is also a great opportunity to share your thoughts with the world. You can use public speaking as an opportunity to express your views and opinions to a group or audience, and you can use it as an educational tool for others. To make sure that you can effectively communicate during public speaking, there are many different things that you will want to do such as knowing how the speech should be organized, using gestures appropriately, maintaining eye contact with the audience, projecting your voice well, and more.

The following are the roles of communication in effective public speaking:

  • Knowing how to organize the speech so that it flows from one point to another smoothly.
  • Using gestures appropriately so that they convey meaning without distracting from what is being said.
  • Maintaining eye contact with the audience, which shows interest in them and helps keep attention on the speaker.
  • Projecting one's voice well so that people who are further away can hear what is being said easily.
  • Using pauses effectively by inserting them after every thought or sentence is spoken rather than rushing through everything quickly not only makes people wait longer before they get their turn to speak but also creates confusion when they don't know where a sentence started and ended.

2) Distraction

We all know that public speaking is not an easy task. It takes great preparation, incredible content, and a lot of confidence to be successful. Many distractions can make the speaker lose his or her audience, but here are the top 10 ways for a speaker to avoid distractions:

Preparation - Preparation is key to delivering a successful presentation. A lot of time should be spent on creating an outline and practicing it until it flows easily from one point to the next.

Confidence is also essential for delivering a successful speech. The more confident you are, the less likely you will be distracted by doubts or fear about what others might think about your presentation.

3) Interest

Communication is the most important aspect when it comes to public speaking. The audience needs to feel engaged and be able to understand what you're saying for your speech to be effective.

Here are the roles of communication that are essential for effective public speaking:

  • Confidence - the audience needs to know that you believe in what you're talking about so they'll believe it too.
  • Vocabulary - having a good vocabulary will allow the speaker to use more words, which will keep the listener interested.
  • Gestures - gesturing makes your speech engaging and helps make your point stand out.
  • Voice - speaking loudly with proper volume is imperative.
  • Eye contact - eye contact allows the speaker to maintain focus on their listeners and vice versa, while also adding intensity to their message.
  • Pacing - slowing down or speeding up your pace can emphasize different parts of your speech or create suspenseful moments.
  • Clarity - this includes being able to speak as well as avoiding superfluous sounds like um and uh.
  • Breathing - this may seem obvious but you need to make sure you don't run out of breath during your speech!
  • Pauses- taking pauses keeps things from getting monotonous by giving the audience a chance for reflection.

4) Get Involved

Effective  public speaking communication relies on the speaker's ability to use both verbal and nonverbal communication. Verbal communication includes vocal quality, volume, rate, and articulation.

Nonverbal communication refers to gestures, posture, facial expressions, and eye contact. To create an engaging presentation that maintains the audience's attention span, a speaker must combine these two types of communication.

They also need to think about their goals for the speech, then develop their content accordingly. They should practice giving their speech beforehand so they are familiar with it and have time to work out any problems.

When delivering their speech, they should engage the audience by asking questions or inviting them to participate. Finally, when they finish speaking they should summarize what was discussed so that listeners understand how it relates to their lives.

5) Communicate Often

Effective  public speaking communication is about more than just what you say. It's also about how you say it. Many factors go into making a successful presentation, including the visual and physical aspects, but without effective communication, your audience will not follow along with your message. Effective communication is essential to any good speaker.

Many elements go into an effective public speaking performance, but without effective communication, everything else falls apart. For example, if a speaker cannot communicate effectively visually or physically for example through gestures.

Good speakers must also be able to communicate verbally for the speech to have an impact on their listeners and convey their message successfully.

Effective  public speaking communication is more than just what you say. It also includes how you listen, your facial expressions, and your body language. To be an effective speaker, you must be able to communicate with the audience through all these channels. In other words, if you're giving a presentation and it's not very interesting to watch or listen to (due to poor body language or worse), chances are that it won't be very interesting for your audience either. Here are some tips on how to effectively communicate with your audience:

First and foremost, always remember that there is an audience out there listening and watching every move you make. Remembering this will help keep you focused on what they need and want from the presentation rather than what you think they should get from it. -Next, practice making eye contact with the audience when talking about something important so that they know you care about them hearing about it.

Furthermore, use a range of different gestures during your speech such as pointing at people and using hand motions to show what you mean when talking about complex topics.

Additionally, avoid using filler phrases like um or like while speaking as they can give off a lackadaisical attitude.

Moreover, talk slower than normal to ensure comprehension by those who might not  understand English fluently .

Finally, focus on changing up your voice inflection depending on the topic being discussed, and always smile!

7) Feedback

The first step to  improving public speaking skills is to connect with your audience. When delivering a speech, it is important that you have eye contact with those listening to you and that you speak at a volume that they can hear.

Some people tend to speak too loudly when they are nervous, but this makes it difficult for their audience to listen. In addition, if you do not appear engaged with your topic and your audience, then your speech will likely lack impact.

The second step to  improving public speaking skills is clarity. It is important that every word spoken be clearly understood by the listener so that he or she may follow along without distraction or confusion. The third role is charisma. To make an effective speech, one must be able to captivate their listeners. Charisma is what sets some speakers apart from others.

A speaker’s ability to convince their listeners of an idea, entertain them with humor, or even just keep them interested through compelling storytelling are all forms of charisma. The fourth role is emotionality. A good public speaker needs to know how best to convey emotion during his or her speech to maintain interest in what he/she has to say and also because strong emotion tends to evoke strong emotions from the audience as well.

Communication is an essential component of effective public speaking. Effective public speakers create messages that are clear, concise, and persuasive. They do this by using the following roles of communication:

Communication is a process between two or more people.

  • Effective communicators take responsibility for their messages.
  • Effective communicators acknowledge their audiences' cultural and social backgrounds.
  • Effective communicators create messages that are clear, concise, and persuasive. -Effective communicators use a variety of communication skills to deliver their messages with clarity and credibility.
  • Effective communicators listen actively and ask questions when they don't understand what's being said.
  • Effective communicators communicate openly about difficult topics in ways that are respectful to all parties involved.

9) Speak Clearly

To effectively communicate, you need to make sure you are speaking clearly and using language that your audience will understand. Speak at a normal volume and enunciate words so people can understand what you are saying.

If you have an accent, speak slowly so people can easily comprehend your message. If English is not your first language, try to use a translator or a professional interpreter. You should also avoid making any grammatical mistakes as this will only confuse listeners.

Be aware of how the tone of your voice impacts the meaning behind the words you are speaking; for example, if you sound angry people might think that what you're saying is important when it may just be about something trivial. However, if you sound sad then people might take your words more seriously because they assume that the emotion means that you are telling them something important.

Similarly, eye contact is important because it allows both parties to read one another's expressions. A lack of eye contact can cause a speaker's emotions to go unread which can result in an ineffective communication process.

Eye contact shows empathy and understanding which strengthens relationships with others (Edelman). It's also easier for listeners to concentrate on what someone is saying when they maintain eye contact rather than looking around everywhere else (Howcast).

10) Practice

Public speaking is a valuable and important skill for everyone, but it's not easy. To be an effective public speaker, you need to be able to use different types of communication. You can't just rely on one or two; you need all ten!

The words coming out of your mouth are the backbone of any speech. This means your voice needs to be clear and audible enough so that the audience can hear you. You also need to speak at a pace that allows the audience time to process what they're hearing. Plus, if you're reading from a script, make sure that it's easy for people to read and follow along with what you're saying.

Ten to take your public speaking from boring to bone-chilling

The ability to speak confidently in front of an audience can be an incredibly valuable skill – whether you're trying to win over new clients, pitch investors, or just make some people laugh at your office Christmas party.

While it’s one of the most important skills you could ever master, public speaking can be a daunting prospect for anyone who doesn’t practice it often enough. Here are ten tips to take your public speaking from boring to bone-chilling in no time at all!

Start with a bang

The ability to speak in front of an audience is a skill that many people lack. It is for this reason that we have put together some tips on how you can go about improving the quality of your public speaking and making it something people want to listen to.

#1: Know what you're talking about - The best speakers are those who know the topic they are discussing inside and out, or at least enough so they can provide an informed opinion.

#2: Give a purpose - You don't just want to talk at people, you want them to do something afterward so give them a call to action!

#3: Be emotional - If you want people's attention, use emotion instead of facts and figures.

Use strong body language

One of the best ways to make a speech more memorable is by using strong body language. Research has shown that people tend to remember what they see, not just what they hear. Think about how much more impactful Martin Luther King Jr's I have a dream speech would have been if he had been standing there limp and lifeless. When you're giving a speech, try these seven techniques for standing up tall and making eye contact with your audience:

  • Face the audience when you speak
  • Maintain consistent eye contact
  • Use gestures appropriately
  • Stand upright
  • Step away from the podium
  • Look confident
  • Smile at your audience occasionally

Make eye contact

It may seem like a small detail, but eye contact is the single most important thing you can do when speaking in front of an audience. Whether you're presenting or just having a casual conversation, you must maintain appropriate eye contact with the person or people you're talking to.

If you need to look away for a few moments to gather thoughts or present visual aids, make sure you glance back at them periodically while talking. It will help them feel connected and engaged with what you are saying and create a personal connection between the two of you. Eye contact is also key if you want the listeners to believe what you are telling them. Use gestures: Gestures are another way to involve your audience and get them involved in what you're saying. Not only does gesturing illustrate body language which helps paint a better picture, but it also forces listeners not to zone out by keeping their attention on hand motions instead of wandering thoughts.

A gesture toward any points on slides or visuals used during the speech as well as your notes on paper if needed. Engage emotionally: One of the best ways to hook your audience into listening (and believing) is by getting emotional about what you're discussing.

Use vivid language

  • Speak from the heart and be passionate about what you're talking about. People can tell when you don't believe in what you're saying and it turns them off. They want someone excited about their message, not someone who's just trying to get a paycheck for the day.
  • Dress for success - wear clothes that say I mean business. You want people to respect you and trust that you know what you're talking about so they'll listen to your advice or buy whatever product or service it is that you are offering, so dress appropriately. It doesn't have to be a suit unless you work in an office but at least dress like you care about how you look and feel.
  • Get pumped up with some music before the speech: One of my favorite ways to pump myself up before I go on stage is by listening to Eminem Lose Yourself. The lyrics are awesome and they remind me of why I do this job; it helps me focus on getting my point across as best as possible.

Tell stories

Speaking in front of crowds is a daunting task and one that many people struggle with. Thankfully, it's not too difficult to become an effective speaker. In the first section, I'll discuss three things you should do before the talk.

First, consider what you want your audience to walk away with after listening to you speak. What do you want them to think about when they leave the room? What are their thoughts on what you're saying? Write down these points so that you can remember them as well as make them clear for others who may be listening in on your presentation.

Next, be sure that everything is in order before presenting. You don't want anything distracting from the content of what you're saying! Finally, practice!

Be authentic

Public speaking is one of the most important skills for leaders and entrepreneurs. It's a skill that many people find themselves lacking. I used to be scared of it too. When I was about 12, I had the opportunity to go on stage and speak in front of 400 people during a talent show at school.

My heart was racing, my palms were sweaty, and my mind was blank as I walked onto the stage. It felt like my life depended on what came out of my mouth next, but once I started talking everything became okay.

Even though it wasn't perfect or anything close to perfect, it felt good when I finished and knew that I survived something that terrified me just a few minutes before. But then a few months later I watched an amazing speaker talk about his life journey, how he overcame adversity and then delivered the best keynote speech ever. Suddenly there was no comparison; he left me feeling less than inspired by my performance only months earlier.

I'll never forget how his words stayed with me throughout the day and would give speeches myself with more enthusiasm because of him. He taught me to have confidence in myself while also being authentic which is what all great speakers do.

Public speaking is a skill, like any other. You can improve it with practice and by taking some risks. Here are ten ways to make your next speech more exciting:

  • Practice, practice, practice.
  • Stand still and don't fidget.
  • Use props for visual aids like pictures or drawings.
  • Try not to use slides or visuals on the screen so you don't get caught looking at them instead of interacting with the audience.
  • If you're introducing someone in front of a big group, remember that a handshake is enough--don't give an elaborate greeting or hug if you're going to be standing up there for five minutes telling them about themselves!
  • Smile. Your audience will respond well to seeing a confident speaker who enjoys talking.
  • Project your voice without shouting and enunciate every word.
  • Resist using too many mums or likes.
  • Prepare scripts ahead of time, but then try not to read them word for word during the presentation.
  • Change things up with jokes or personal anecdotes that relate to what you're talking about--everyone loves hearing success stories!

Dress the part

Whether you are giving a speech, giving an interview, or presenting at a conference, one of the best ways to get people's attention is with how you look. The way you dress and present yourself will not only help you feel more confident but also make it easier for others to focus on what you're saying rather than who you are. Here are ten tips for dressing the part when it comes to public speaking:

  • Create an outfit that is tailored specifically for the event and time of day. Keep colors dark enough that they don't glare in photos or distract viewers. Wear clothes that fit well and aren't too tight or loose; keep jewelry minimal as well. And lastly, try not to wear black--especially if you are presenting--because it can create a visual distraction against your backdrop.
  • Dressing up doesn't have to be expensive either! Check out thrift stores, department store clearance racks, flea markets, and consignment shops for bargain deals and unique finds. You never know what treasures await!
  • Avoid distracting prints like leopard print, large flower prints, and loud florals. Stick with basic solids or stripes instead.
  • Don't forget accessories!

Practice, practice, practice

Practice is the simplest, yet most powerful tool in the speaker's arsenal. You must practice in front of as many people as possible. Audience members are a great resource for feedback on what does and doesn't work.

You'll also want to practice your content ahead of time, so you know exactly what you're going to say and when you're going to say it. This way, you won't have any surprises during the actual speech that will cause you to lose your train of thought or be thrown off balance.

Practicing with props is another important part of effective speaking. If it's appropriate for the topic at hand and there is an easy way to incorporate it into the speech, make sure and use it!

Embrace your nerves

The first thing you can do is embrace the nerves. They're a natural part of being in front of an audience, and trying to resist them will only make you more nervous. Instead, acknowledge the feeling of nervousness and think about what caused it.

Was it the thought that people might not like you? That they might laugh at you? That they might disagree with what you have to say? Whatever it is, know that this fear is normal and that many people feel the same way. Knowing that there's nothing wrong with feeling anxious before giving a speech will help put things into perspective.

Public speaking is a scary experience for most people, but by employing these 10 tips, you’ll be able to convince even the most skeptical of audiences that you are the go-to expert in your industry. From practicing your speech out loud to writing down and memorizing your key points, these tips will show you that speaking in front of an audience isn’t nearly as bad as it seems!

Our School of Meaningful Experiences ( SoME ) creates and delivers transformative communication programs designed to meet the workplace challenges of the post-pandemic 21st century.  We strongly believe effective, assertive, and empathetic Communication skills will enable our learners to present themselves confidently, manage conflicts betters, collaborate capably, and become tomorrow's competent professionals and leaders.

We are an industry-leading education provider with a strong track record for excellence in delivering customized training solutions to meet your needs at an affordable price point. Our services range from 1-on-1 coaching to large group workshops depending on your needs and budget; we are here to help! If you're looking for some personal development or want to improve your communication skills then check us out.

What is the role of effective speaking?

Effective speaking is the ability to deliver a message in a way that is understandable, interesting, and engaging. Effective speakers can maintain the attention of their audience and encourage them to think about what is being said.

What is public speaking in communication skills?

Public speaking is the act of presenting a formal talk or lecture before an audience. Public speakers do not need to be experts in their field, but they must be able to present information, confidently, and with conviction.

Public speaking can be a terrifying thing for many people. You must be well-prepared when you stand up in front of others. The following ten tips will help improve your public speaking skills.

What is effective communication?

Effective communication is the process of communicating ideas or feelings in a way that can be understood by the receiver. When you speak, you communicate with words, facial expressions, tone, and body language.  Effective communication program starts before the words are even spoken.

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Andrew Newberg, M.D. and Mark Waldman

The 8 Key Elements of Highly Effective Speech

…and why your words barely matter.

Posted July 10, 2012 | Reviewed by Ekua Hagan

I’d like you to take a moment to experience the following sentence, taken from a recent article exploring the nature of human consciousness: “Neuroplastic mechanisms relevant to the growing number of empirical studies of the capacity of directed attention and mental effort systematically alter brain function.”

Exciting? Hardly! In fact, most of the words you read barely register in your brain, and most of the words you speak barely register in the listener’s brain. In fact, research shows that words are the least important part of communication when you have face-to-face conversations with others. So before you utter another word to another person, memorize this list of the 8 key elements of highly effective speech:

  • Gentle eye contact
  • Kind facial expression
  • Warm tone of voice
  • Expressive hand and body gestures
  • Relaxed disposition
  • Slow speech rate
  • The words themselves

Effective communication is based on trust, and if we don’t trust the speaker, we’re not going to listen to their words. Trust begins with eye contact because we need to see the person’s face to evaluate if they are being deceitful or not. In fact, when we are being watched, cooperation increases. [1] When we are not being watched, people tend to act more selfishly, with greater dishonesty. [2]

Gentle eye contact increases trustworthiness and encourages future cooperation, [3] and a happy gaze will increase emotional trust. [4] However, if we see the slightest bit of anger or fear on the speaker’s face, our trust will rapidly decrease. [5] But you can’t fake trustworthiness because the muscles around your mouth and eyes that reflect contentment and sincerity are involuntary. Solution: if you think about someone you love, or an event that brought you deep joy and satisfaction, a "Mona Lisa" smile will appear on your face and the muscles around your eyes will soften.

The tone of your voice is equally important when it comes to understanding what a person is really trying to say. If the facial expression expresses one emotion , but if the tone conveys a different one, neural dissonance takes place in the brain, causing the person confusion. [6] The result: trust erodes, suspicion increases, and cooperation decreases.

Researchers at the University of Amsterdam found that expressions of anger, contempt, disgust, fear, sadness, and surprise were better communicated through vocal tone than facial expression, whereas the face was more accurate for communicating expressions of joy, pride, and embarrassment . [7] And in business, a warm supportive voice is the sign of transformational leadership , generating more satisfaction, commitment, and cooperation between other members of the team. [8]

You can easily train your voice to convey more trust to others, and all you have to do is slow down and drop your pitch. This was tested at the University of Houston: when doctors reduced their speaking rate and pitch, especially when delivering bad news, the listener perceived them “as more caring and sympathetic.” [9] Harvard's Ted Kaptchuk also discovered that using a warm voice would double the healing power of a therapeutic treatment. [10]

If you want to express joy, your voice needs to become increasingly melodic, whereas sadness is spoken with a flat and monotonic voice. When we are angry, excited, or frightened, we raise the pitch and intensity of our voice, and there’s a lot of variability in both the speed and the tone. However, if the emotion is incongruent with the words you are using, it will create confusion for the listener. [11]

Gestures, and especially hand movements, are also important because they help orchestrate the language comprehension centers of your brain. [12] In fact, your brain needs to integrate both the sounds and body movements of the person who is speaking in order to accurately perceive what is meant. [13] From an evolutionary perspective, speech emerged from hand gestures and they both originate the same language area of the brain. [14] If our words and gestures are incongruent, it will create confusion in the listener’s brain. [15] Our suggestion: practice speaking in front of a mirror, consciously using your hands to “describe” the words you are speaking.

is speech the most important component of communication

Your degree of relaxation is also reflected in your body language , facial expressions, and tone of voice, and any form of stress will convey a message of distrust . Why? Your stress tells the observer’s brain that there may be something wrong, and that stimulates defensive posturing in the listener. Research shows that even a one-minute relaxation exercise will increase activity in those parts of the brain that control language, communication, social awareness, mood-regulation, and decision-making . [16] Thus, a relaxed conversation allows for increased intimacy and empathy. Stress, however, causes us to talk too much because it hinders our ability to speak with clarity.

When you speak, slow down! Slow speech rates will increase the ability for the listener to comprehend what you are saying, and this is true for both young and older adults. [17] Slower speaking will also deepen that person’s respect for you, [18] Speaking slowly is not as natural as it may seem, and as children we automatically speak fast. But you can teach yourself, and your children to slow down by consciously cutting your speech rate in half. A slow voice has a calming effect on a person who is feeling anxious , whereas a loud fast voice will stimulate excitement, anger, or fear. [19]

Try this experiment: pair up with a partner and speak so slowly that … you … leave … 5 … seconds … of … silence … between … each … word. You’ll become aware of your negative inner speech that tells you that you should babble on endlessly and as fast as possible. It’s a trap, because the listener’s brain can only recall about 10 seconds of content! That’s why, when we train people in Compassionate Communication, we ask participants to speak only one sentence at a time, slowly, and then listen deeply as the other person speaks for ten seconds or less. This exercise will increase your overall consciousness about the importance of the first 7 elements of highly effective communication. Then, and only then, will you truly grasp the deeper meaning that is imparted by each word spoken by others.

But what about written communication, where you only have access to the words? When it comes to mutual comprehension, the written word pales in comparison to speech. To compensate, your brain imposes arbitrary meanings onto the words. You, the reader, give the words emotional impact that often differs from what the writer intended, which is why so many email correspondences get misinterpreted. And unless the writer fills in the blanks with specific emotional words and descriptive speech – storytelling – the reader will experience your writing as being flat, boring , dry, and probably more negative than you intended.

The solution: help the reader “paint a picture” in their mind with your words. Use concrete nouns and action verbs because they are easier for the reader’s brain to visualize. Words like “sunset” or “eat” are easy to see in the mind's eye, but words like “freedom” or “identify” force the brain to sort through too many conceptual frameworks. Instead, our lazy brain will skip over as many words as possible, especially the abstract ones. When this happens the deeper levels of meaning and feeling will be lost.

For more information on how to improve your speaking and listening skills, along with additional exercises to practice, see Words Can Change Your Brain: 12 Conversation Strategies for Building Trust, Reducing Conflict, and Increasing Intimacy (Newberg & Waldman, 2012, Hudson Street Press).

[1] Cues of being watched enhance cooperation in a real-world setting. Bateson M, Nettle D, Roberts G. Biol Lett. 2006 Sep 22;2(3):412-4.

[2] Effects of anonymity on antisocial behavior committed by individuals. Nogami T, Takai J. Psychol Rep. 2008 Feb;102(1):119-30.

[3] Eyes are on us, but nobody cares: are eye cues relevant for strong reciprocity? Fehr E, Schneider F. Proc Biol Sci. 2010 May 7;277(1686):1315-23.

[4] Evaluating faces on trustworthiness: an extension of systems for recognition of emotions signaling approach/avoidance behaviors. Todorov A. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2008 Mar;1124:208-24.

[5] Common neural mechanisms for the evaluation of facial trustworthiness and emotional expressions as revealed by behavioral adaptation. Engell AD, Todorov A, Haxby JV. Perception. 2010;39(7):931-41.

[6] Use of affective prosody by young and older adults. Dupuis K, Pichora-Fuller MK. Psychol Aging. 2010 Mar;25(1):16-29.

[7] "Worth a thousand words": absolute and relative decoding of nonlinguistic affect vocalizations. Hawk ST, van Kleef GA, Fischer AH, van der Schalk J. Emotion. 2009 Jun;9(3):293-305.

[8] Leadership = Communication? The Relations of Leaders' Communication Styles with Leadership Styles, Knowledge Sharing and Leadership Outcomes. de Vries RE, Bakker-Pieper A, Oostenveld W. J Bus Psychol. 2010 Sep;25(3):367-380.

[9] Voice analysis during bad news discussion in oncology: reduced pitch, decreased speaking rate, and nonverbal communication of empathy. McHenry M, Parker PA, Baile WF, Lenzi R. Support Care Cancer. 2011 May 15.

[10] Components of placebo effect: randomised controlled trial in patients with irritable bowel syndrome. Kaptchuk TJ, Kelley JM, Conboy LA, Davis RB, Kerr CE, Jacobson EE, Kirsch I, Schyner RN, Nam BH, Nguyen LT, Park M, Rivers AL, McManus C, Kokkotou E, Drossman DA, Goldman P, Lembo AJ. BMJ. 2008 May 3;336(7651):999-1003.

[11] Use of affective prosody by young and older adults. Dupuis K, Pichora-Fuller MK. Psychol Aging. 2010 Mar;25(1):16-29.

[12] Gestures orchestrate brain networks for language understanding. Skipper JI, Goldin-Meadow S, Nusbaum HC, Small SL. Curr Biol. 2009 Apr 28;19(8):661-7.

[13] When language meets action: the neural integration of gesture and speech. Willems RM, Ozyürek A, Hagoort P. Cereb Cortex. 2007 Oct;17(10):2322-33.

[14] When the hands speak. Gentilucci M, Dalla Volta R, Gianelli C. J Physiol Paris. 2008 Jan-May;102(1-3):21-30. Epub 2008 Mar 18.

[15] How symbolic gestures and words interact with each other. Barbieri F, Buonocore A,Volta RD, Gentilucci M. Brain Lang. 2009 Jul;110(1):1-11.

[16i] Short-term meditation training improves attention and self-regulation. Tang YY, Ma Y, Wang J, Fan Y, Feng S, Lu Q, Yu Q, Sui D, Rothbart MK, Fan M, Posner MI. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2007 Oct 23;104(43):17152-6.

[17] Comprehension of speeded discourse by younger and older listeners. Gordon MS, Daneman M, Schneider BA. Exp Aging Res. 2009 Jul-Sep;35(3):277-96.

[18] Celerity and cajolery: rapid speech may promote or inhibit persuasion through its impact on message elaboration. Smith SM, Shaffer, DR. Pers Soc Psychol Bull. 1991 Dec;17(6):663-669.

[19] Voices of fear and anxiety and sadness and depression: the effects of speech rate and loudness on fear and anxiety and sadness and depression. Siegman AW, Boyle S. J Abnorm Psychol. 1993 Aug;102(3):430-7. The angry voice: its effects on the experience of anger and cardiovascular reactivity. Siegman AW, Anderson RA, Berger T. Psychosom Med. 1990 Nov-Dec;52(6):631-43.

Andrew Newberg, M.D. and Mark Waldman

Andrew Newberg, M.D ., and Mark Robert Waldman are the authors of Words Can Change Your Brain .

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basic elements of public speaking

The 7 Basic Elements of Public Speaking

Remember that time you had to present a topic in front of a crowd? Probably it was a proposal at work or an oral report in grade school. You took the time to prepare and gather materials, after which you climbed the podium and started talking.

7 Basic Elements of Public Speaking

There are seven elements of public speaking :

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19+ Public Speaking Techniques (#18 is Gold)

Before we go into the details of each of the basic elements of public speaking and share some of the fundamental tips on how to make an effective speech delivery, let’s start by looking at what is public speaking.

This means that every time you go to a meeting, attend a conference call, or present solutions to your boss – you’re engaging in public speaking. It doesn’t matter the number of persons listening to you; it is still defined as public speaking.

What are the elements of public speaking?

There are seven elements that a speaker must understand to be able to prepare and transmit an effective speech or presentation in public. A professional and effective speaker knows that he must apply these seven elements at the same time.

Let’s look at them thus;

#1. The speaker

One of the most pivotal among the basic elements of public speaking is the speaker itself, that is, the source of the message. Many speakers forget that they are the presentation itself, and not the visual aids they use. Many presenters or speakers today put a lot of effort into visual aids and forget that those elements are just that visual aids that help the speaker make a better presentation. Relying on visual aids in one hundred percent is not recommended.

There are three factors that we need to consider about any speaker.

#2. The message

Let’s see each of these three elements:

When your presentations are poorly organized, it reduces the impact of the message. For a speech or presentation to achieve the desired objective, it must captivate and impact the audience from the first 60 seconds until the end of the intervention.

#3. The audienc e

A professional speaker should analyze his listeners before the Speech and decide how to present his ideas. This analysis could include some important considerations:

#4. The channel

When a speaker communicates with his audience, they use many communication channels. These include the nonverbal channel, the visual channel, and the auditory channel.

#5. Feedback

Although for some people it might be strange to see feedback as one of the basic elements of public speaking, rest assured that it is definitely one of the key elements to watch out for.

The feedback process is not completed until the speaker has responded to the concerns of his audience. 

#6. The noise

External noise and internal noise.

External noise consists of sounds from laughter, poor acoustics of the auditorium, temperature (too hot or too cold), poor ventilation, visual interference such as low light, or obstacles between the speaker and the audience.

#7. The place or situation

The place where a speech is delivered may be one of the most critical elements for the success of a presentation. It stands to reason why we added it as one of the 7 basic elements of public speaking.

Having looked at the basic elements of public speaking, the next thing you need to know is that there are several types of speeches a person can deliver and that there are key principles you can follow to ensure a successful speech delivery.

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An easy guide to all 15 types of speech, how to become a confident public speaker – 6 tips, how many types of speech are there.

Examples of demonstrative Speech include topics like ‘how to make money on the internet,’ ‘how to write a cover letter,’ or ‘how to start a blog.’

They are usually very short. You are already familiar with an entertaining speech if you’ve ever been to a wedding banquet or reception.

Examples of informative Speech include topics on economic and social changes in a community etc.

Examples of Persuasive speeches would be one delivered to try to raise funds for a cause.

8 Principles for Effective Speech Delivery

There are no secrets to public speaking. It’s all about learning! Politicians speaking on television or in front of an audience have developed their capabilities to captivate an audience by undergoing some personal training overtime.

#1 Practice in advance

According to experts, it is best to practice in the shower, since practicing in front of a mirror can be a great distraction. A good alternative is to train out loud, trying to identify those details that can be improved to make a brilliant presentation.

#2 Know your audience

Before giving your Speech, try to speak with part of your audience, so that if you feel nervous, there are some familiar faces inside the room that will give you back your security. Remember that one of the keys to a good speech is to make good eye contact with those present.

Create the outline of your Speech: write down the subject, the general objective, the central idea, and the main points.

#3- Relaxation techniques

#4- do not read your speech.

If you are not in a formal event where reading your message is important; generally, you will want to deliver your Speech from the heart. However, you should refrain from reading the Speech completely (in most cases) because your message will come as something distant. 

#5- Start with an anecdote or an interesting story

Many people often make the mistake of starting their speeches by thanking the presenter or expressing their happiness for being there. Still, it is proven that the best way to start a presentation in public is by an anecdote or story that projects the subject you are going to talk about.

Take advantage of every opportunity to put a face to the facts of your presentation.

#6- It must be simple

When making a presentation, you should put aside fancy speeches with hundreds of data. Keep in mind that people do not remember much of what they hear, so the best speeches include a relevant message and some great stories to illustrate the message you are going to convey.

#7- It must be short

#8- use body language.

Check out our 19+ Public Speaking Techniques article for more tips.


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13 tips to overcome public speaking performance anxiety, 10 characteristics of effective communication, 15 ideas to make a speech unique, memorable & inspiring, 5 learning styles to consider for memorable presentations, how to outline a speech – easy 4-stage strategy, how to analyze an audience.

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1.4 The Importance of Communication

Communication skills are essential in all areas of life.

Communication is used in virtually all aspects of everyday life. In order to explore how communication is integrated into all parts of our lives, let us divide up our lives into four spheres: academic, professional, personal, and civic . The se spheres overlap a n d influence one another . After all, our personal experience is brought into the classroom, much of what goes on in a classroom is present in our professional and personal environments, and the classroom has long been seen as a place to foster personal growth and prepare students to become active and responsible members of society .

Academic Success

You will bring your current communication-related knowledge, skills, and abilities to the classroom. Aside from wanting to earn a good grade, you may also be genuinely interested in becoming a better communicator. Research shows that even people who are poor communicators can improve their verbal, nonverbal, and interpersonal communication skills by taking communication courses ( Zabava & Wolvin , 1993). Communication skills are also tied to academic success. Poor listening skills have been shown to contribute significantly to failure in a person’s first year of college. Also, students who take communication courses report having more confidence in their communication abilities, and these students have higher grade point averages and are less likely to drop out of school. Much of what we do in a classroom, whether it is the interpersonal interactions with our classmates and instructor, individual or group presentations, writing assignments, asking questions, or listening, can be used to build or add to a foundation of good communication skills and knowledge that can carry through t o professional, personal, and civic contexts .  

is speech the most important component of communication

Professional Skills

The Corporate Rec r uiters Survey Report ( Graduate Management Admission Council, 2017 , p. 50 ) found that employers in h ealth c are and pharmacy, technology, nonprofit and government, and products and services industries list oral, written, listening, and presentation communication skills in their top five skills sought for midlevel positions. Adaptability was also ranked in the top five in three out of the four industries— the ability to be adaptable can be the result of a person’s ability to perceive, interpret, and share information. The survey also found that the need for teamwork skills is growing in deman d. The ability to follow a leader, delegation skills, valuing the op inions of others, cross-cultural sensitivity, and adaptability were listed as t eamwork ski lls , and these skills can also be the result of one’s communication skills.  

Table 1.1. Top Five Skills Employers Seek, in Order of Required Proficiency, by Industry

Oral communication Oral communication Oral communication Oral communication
Listening skills Listening skills Listening skills Integrity
Written communication Written communication Written skills Written communication
Presentation skills Adaptability Presentation skills Drive
Integrity Presentation skills Adaptability Adaptability

Note: Adapted from Corporate Recruiters Survey Report 2017 , by the Graduate Management Admission Council, p. 50. https://www.mba.com/-/media/files/gmac/research/employment-outlook/2017-gmac-corporate-recruiters-web-release.pdf?la=en

Desired communication skills vary from career to career, but again, the academic sphere provides a foundation onto which you can build communication skills specific to your professional role or field of study. Poor listening skills, lack of conciseness, and the inability to give constructive feedback have been identified as potential communication challenges in professional contexts. Despite the well-documented need for communication skills in the professional world, many students still resist engaging in communication classes. Perhaps people think they already have good communication skills or can improve their skills on their own. Although either of these may be true for some, studying communication can only help.  

Personal Communication Skills

Many students know from personal experience and from the prevalence of communication counselling on television talk shows and in self-help books that communication forms, maintains, and ends our interpersonal relationships, but they do not know the extent to which that occurs. Although we learn from experience, until we learn specific vocabulary and develop a foundational knowledge of communication concepts and theories, we do not have the necessary tools to make sense of these experiences. Just having a vocabulary to name the communication phenomena in our lives increases our ability to consciously alter our communication to achieve our goals, avoid miscommunication, and analyze and learn from our inevitable mistakes.

As mentioned earlier in the chapter, communication is required for us to meet our personal physical , instrumental , relational , and identity needs.

  • Physical needs are needs that keep our bodies and minds functioning.
  • Instrumental needs are needs that help us get things done in our day-to-day lives and achieve short- and long-term goals. 
  • Relational needs are needs that help us maintain social bonds and interpersonal relationships.
  • Identity needs include our need to present ourselves to others and be thought of in particular and desired ways.  

Civic Engagement

Civic engagement   refers to working to make a difference in our communities by improving the quality of life of community members; raising awareness about social, cultural, or political issues (Image 1.10); or participating in a wide variety of political and nonpolitical processes (Ehrlich, 2000).  The civic part of our lives is developed through engagement with the decision making that goes on in our society at small-group, local, state, regional, national, and international levels. Such involvement ranges from serving on a neighbourhood advisory board to sending an email to a political representative. Discussions and decisions that affect our communities happen around us all the time, but it takes time and effort to become part of that process. Communication scholars have been aware of the connections between communication and a person’s civic engagement or citizenship for thousands of years. Aristotle, who wrote the first and most influential comprehensive book on communication 2,400 years ago, taught that it is through our voice, our ability to communicate, that we engage with the world around us and participate in our society .  

is speech the most important component of communication

Diversity in Communication

Communication is the sharing of understanding and meaning (Pearson & Nelson, 2000), but what is intercultural communication ? If you answered “the sharing of understanding and meaning across cultures,” you’d be close, but what is a culture ? Culture is defined by more than ethnicity, race, or geography. A culture can exist wherever there is a group of people with shared beliefs, attitudes, values, and traditions. Multiple factors can shape a culture, including but not limited to age, gender, ethnicity, race, geography, workplace settings, family, abilities, and interests. According to Rogers and Steinfatt (1999), intercultural communication is the exchange of information among individuals who are “unalike culturally.” Let’s explore what intercultural communication can look like.

A culture’s beliefs, attitudes, values, and traditions are represented and expressed by the behaviours of its members. The language we use, the holidays we celebrate, the clothes we wear, the movies we watch, or the video games we play are just some of the ways we express our culture. Environment also shapes a culture, and a culture can shape the environment. For example, a person can grow up in a mountainous region and value the environment. If the person moves to a beach town, they may display pictures of their favourite mountains and participate in an outdoor club to continue to express and engage in their culture. Culture also involves the psychological aspects of our expectations of the communication context. For example, if we are raised in a culture where males speak while females are expected to remain silent, the context of the communication interaction governs behaviour, itself a representation of culture. From the choice of words (message), to how we communicate (in person or by email), to how we acknowledge understanding with a nod or a glance (nonverbal feedback), to the internal and external interference, all aspects of communication are influenced by culture. 

Can there be intercultural communication within a culture? If all communication is intercultural, then the answer would be yes, but we still have to prove our case. Imagine a three-generation family living in one household. This family is a culture, but let’s look a bit closer. The grandparents may represent another time and different values from the grandchildren. The parents may have a different level of education and pursue different careers from the grandparents. The schooling the children receive may prepare them for yet other careers. From music to food preferences to how work is done may vary across time—singer Elvis Presley may seem like ancient history to the children. The communication across generations represents intercultural communication, even if only to a limited degree.

Another example is student culture. Let’s consider what other cultures likely impact the student culture at a school, university, or college. A group of students are likely all similar in age and educational level (Image 1.11). Do gender and the societal expectations of roles influence their interactions? Of course. And so we see that, among these students, the boys and girls not only communicate in distinct ways, but not all boys and girls are the same. A group of siblings may have common characteristics, but they will still have differences, and these differences contribute to intercultural communication. We are each shaped by our upbringing, and it influences our worldview, what we value, and how we interact with each other. We create culture, and it creates us. 

is speech the most important component of communication

If intercultural communication is the exchange of information among individuals who are “unalike culturally,” after reflecting on our discussion and its implications, you may arrive at the idea that ultimately we are each “a culture of one”—we are simultaneously a part of community and its culture(s) and separate from it in the unique combination that represents us as an individual. All of us are separated by a matter of degrees from each other even if we were raised on the same street, have parents of similar educational background and profession, and have many other things in common.

Communication with yourself is called  intrapersonal communication , and it may also be intracultural, as you may only represent one culture, but most people belong to many groups, each with their own culture. Within our imaginary intergenerational home, how many cultures do you think we might find? If we only consider the parents, and consider work one culture and family another, we now have two. If we were to look more closely, we would find many more groups, and the complexity would grow exponentially. Does a conversation with yourself ever involve competing goals, objectives, needs, wants, or values? How did you learn of those goals or values? Through communication within and among individuals, they themselves are representative of many cultures. We struggle with the demands of each group and their expectations, and could consider this internal struggle intercultural conflict, or simply intercultural communication. 

Culture is part of the very fabric of our thought, and we cannot separate ourselves from it, even when we leave home, defining ourselves anew in work and achievement. Every business or organization has a culture, and within what may be considered a global culture, there are many subcultures or co-cultures. For example, consider the difference between the sales and accounting departments in a corporation—we can quickly see two distinct groups, each with their own symbols, vocabulary, and values. Within each group there may also be smaller groups, and each member of every department comes from a distinct background that in itself influences behaviour and interaction.

Intercultural communication is a part of our everyday lives and occurs interpersonally (with others) and intrapersonally (within ourselves). Intercultural communication competency is rooted in understanding the cultures around us and adapting our communication to establish, maintain, and grow positive intercultural relationships.  

Relating Theory to Real Life

Consider the definition of culture: 

  • What cultures do you feel you are a part of? What beliefs, attitudes, values, traditions, and behaviours represent your cultures?
  • What cultures do you see within your own family?
  • What cultural groups will you encounter in your future professional role?
  • What will you need to learn to be a competent intercultural communicator in the workplace?

Ethical Communication in the Workplace

As demonstrated by the communication models presented earlier in this chapter, when we communicate, there is an immediate impact on others. This means communication has broad ethical implications. Not only do we need to learn how to communicate, but we also need to become ethical communicators by learning how to communicate the “right” way. But what does that look like?

Communication ethics deals with the process of negotiating and reflecting on our actions and communication regarding what we believe to be right and wrong. For example, we may make the choice to communicate our opinions about education to others. We would undergo a process of negotiating the ethics of this decision, such as to whom is it okay to communicate our opinions? When is it appropriate to tell others about our personal opinions? What details about our opinions is it okay to share? What is the right method for sharing our opinion? In communication ethics, we are more concerned with the decisions people make about communicating what is right and wrong than the systems, philosophies, or religions that inform those decisions. Much of ethics is a grey area. Although we talk about making decisions in terms of what is right and what is wrong, the choice is rarely that simple. Aristotle said that we should act “to the right extent, at the right time, with the right motive, and in the right way.” This quote connects to communication competence, which focuses on communicating effectively and appropriately.

We all make choices daily that are more ethical or less ethical, and we may confidently make a decision only to learn later that it wasn’t the most ethical option. In any given situation, multiple options may seem appropriate, but we can only choose one. If, in a situation, we make a decision and reflect on it, and then realize we could have made a more ethical choice, does that make us a bad person? Although many behaviours can be easily labelled as ethical or unethical, communication isn’t always as clear. Physically assaulting someone is generally thought of as unethical and illegal, but many instances of hurtful speech, or even what some would consider hate speech, have been protected as free speech. This shows the complicated relationship between protected speech, ethical speech, and the law. In some cases, people see it as their ethical duty to communicate information that they feel is in the public’s best interest. The people behind WikiLeaks, for example, have released thousands of classified documents related to wars, intelligence gathering, and diplomatic communication. WikiLeaks claims that exposing this information forces politicians and leaders to be accountable and keeps the public informed, but government officials claim that the release of the information should be considered a criminal act. Both parties consider their own communication ethical and the other’s communication unethical, so who is right?

is speech the most important component of communication

Since many of the choices we make when it comes to ethics are situational, contextual, and personal, various professional fields have developed codes of ethics to help guide members through areas that might otherwise be grey or uncertain. A profession’s code of ethics describes what ethical behaviours , including communication, are expected of any member of the profession . Table 1.2 below lists a few examples of professions and which communication behaviours are considered ethical and expected as described in that  profession’s code of ethics . Looking across different professions, we can see that ethical communication is expected in all service areas and that communication skills are key to meeting professional standards.

Table 1.2. Professional Organizations and Ethical Communication Expectation

  • What situations might arise in your future professional role that will require you to communicate ethically?
  • Why is it important for you , others, your workplace, and your community to be co nfident in communicating ethically ?

Dynamic Communication Skills Are Needed in Current Workplaces

Communication is key to your success in your current workplace.

Your current ability to communicate comes from past experience, which can be an effective teacher. Now is the time to examine your current skillset and compare it to current workplace needs and skills that have been proven necessary when working on teams. “Great teams are distinguished from good teams by how effectively they communicate. Great team communication is more than the words that are said or written. Power is leveraged by the team’s ability to actively listen, clarify, understand, and live by the principle that ‘everything communicates.’ The actions, the tone, the gestures, the infrastructure, the environment, and the things that are not done or said speak and inform just as loudly as words” (O’Rourke & Yarbrough, 2008).

Workplace environments have evolved. An article in the Harvard Business Review states that current workplace teams are more “diverse, dispersed, digital, and dynamic (with frequent changes in membership). But while teams face new hurdles, their success still hinges on a core set of fundamentals for group collaboration” (Haas & Mortensen, 2016). Haas and Mortensen further describe four conditions that need to be established for effective collaboration: compelling direction (when a team establishes explicit goals), strong structure (the team has the right mix of members, and the right processes and norms in place to guide behaviour), supportive context (the team has a reward system, an information system, and an educational system in place to enable progress), and a shared mindset (when a team develops a common identity and understanding). Communication is central to establishing all four conditions. Effective teams and groups in current workplace environments need effective communication. Now is the time to consider what communication skills you have and which ones you need to grow to effectively contribute to your future team. 

Communication Merges You and Them

When we join a workplace team, communication is a non-negotiable skill in a complex environment. Being able to communicate allows us to share a part of ourselves, connect with others, and meet our needs on a team. Being unable to communicate might mean losing, hiding, or minimizing a part of yourself. Sharing with others feels vulnerable. For some, this may be a positive challenge, whereas for others it may be discouraging, but in all cases, your ability to communicate is central to your expression of self.

is speech the most important component of communication

On the other side of the coin, your communication skills help you understand others on a team—not just their words, but also their tone of voice, their nonverbal gestures, and the format of their written documents provide you with clues about who they are and what their values and priorities may be. Expressing yourself and understanding others are key functions of an effective team member and part of the process of becoming an effective team (Image 1.13).  

Communication Influences How You Learn

You need to begin the process of improving your communication skills with the frame of mind that it will require effort, persistence, and self-correction. You learn to speak in public by first having conversations, then by answering questions and expressing your opinions in class, and finally by preparing and delivering a “stand-up” speech. Similarly, you learn to write by first learning to read, then by writing and learning to think critically. Your speaking and writing are reflections of your thoughts, experience, and education, and part of that combination is your level of experience listening to other speakers, reading documents and various styles of writing, and studying formats similar to what you aim to produce. Speaking and writing are both key communication skills that you will use in teams and groups.

As you study group communication, you may receive suggestions for improvement and clarification from professionals more experienced than yourself. Take their suggestions as challenges to improve—don’t give up when your first speech or first draft does not communicate the message you intended. Stick with it until you get it right. Your success in communicating is a skill that applies to almost every field of work, and it makes a difference in your relationships with others. Remember that luck is simply a combination of preparation and timing. You want to be prepared to communicate well when given the opportunity. Each time you do a good job, your success will bring more success.

Communication Represents You and Your Employer

You want to make a good first impression on your friends and family, on your instructors, and on your employer. They all want you to convey a positive image because it reflects on them. In your career, you will represent your business or company in teams and groups, and your professionalism and attention to detail will reflect positively on you and set you up for success.

As an effective member of the team, you will benefit from having the ability to communicate clearly and with clarity. You will use these skills for the rest of your life. Positive improvements in these skills will have a positive impact on your relationships, your prospects for employment, and your ability to make a difference in the world.

Communication Skills Are Desired by Business and Industry

Oral and written communication proficiencies are consistently ranked in the top 10 desirable skills by employer surveys year after year. In fact, high-powered business executives sometimes hire consultants to coach them in sharpening their communication skills. According to the National Association of Colleges Job Outlook 2023 survey (Gray, 2022), the top five attributes that employers seek on a candidate’s resumé are the following:

  • Problem-solving skills
  • Ability to work on a team
  • Strong work ethic
  • Analytical and quantitative skills
  • Written communication skills
  • Technical skills

Knowing this, you can see that one way for you to be successful and increase your promotion potential is to improve your ability to speak and write effectively.

Teams and groups are almost universal across all fields because no one person has all the skills, knowledge, or ability to do everything with an equal degree of excellence. Employees work with each other in manufacturing and service industries on a daily basis. An individual with excellent communication skills is an asset to every organization. No matter what career you plan to pursue, learning to interact, contribute, and excel in groups and teams will help you get there.

Digital and Electronic Communication Are Here to Stay

Computers and the internet entered the world in the 1940s and have been on the rise ever since. According to Jotform (2021), a global pandemic necessitated the use of digital and electronic communication because people were required to work from home as much as possible. Digital and electronic communication tools such as video-conferencing platforms, cloud storage, messaging platforms, and digital forms are now widely used and easily accessible. It’s not clear yet what digital and electronic communication methods will remain in use; however, because of their prevalence, we need to consider our communication skills in these digital and electronic environments.

Netiquette refers to etiquette, or protocols and norms for communication, when communicating using digital and electronic methods. Whatever digital device you use, written communication in the form of brief messages, or texting, has become a practical way to connect when talking on the phone or when meeting in person would be cumbersome. Texting is not useful for long or complicated messages, and careful consideration should be given to the audience. Email is frequently used to communicate among co-workers and has largely replaced print hard-copy letters for external (outside the company) correspondence, as well as taking the place of memos for internal (within the company) communication (Guffey, 2008). Email can be very useful for messages that have slightly more content than a text message, but it is still best used for fairly brief messages. Emails may be informal in personal contexts, but business communication requires attention to detail, an awareness that your email reflects you and your company, and a professional tone so that the email may be forwarded to a third party, if needed. Remember that when these tools are used for business, they need to convey professionalism and respect.

  • Knowing what communication skills employers and current workplace environments require, what skills are you strong in right now? What skills do you need to develop?
  • How do you see face-to-face and digital and electronic communication skills being similar and/or different? Where do you see face-to-face and digital and electronic communication in your future professional role?


Unless otherwise indicated, material on this page has been reproduced or adapted from the following resource:

University of Minnesota. (2016).  Communication in the real world: An introduction to communication studies . University of Minnesota Libraries Publishing. https://open.lib.umn.edu/communication , licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 , except where otherwise noted.

Alberta Health Services (AHS). (2023). Ethics & compliance . https://www.albertahealthservices.ca/about/Page645.aspx

Alberta Health Services (AHS). (2016). Code of conduct . https://www.albertahealthservices.ca/assets/about/policies/ahs-pub-code-of-conduct.pdf

Alberta Therapeutic Recreation Association (ATRA). (2021). Code of ethics: A guide for ethical and moral decision-making for recreational therapists . https://www.alberta-tr.ca/media/91513/codeofethics11may2021.pdf

Bourque, T., & Horney, B. (2016). Principles of veterinary medical ethics of the CVMA . Canadian Veterinary Medical Association. https://www.canadianveterinarians.net/about-cvma/principles-of-veterinary-medical-ethics-of-the-cvma/

Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA). (2016). Principles of veterinary medical ethics of the CVMA . https://www.canadianveterinarians.net/media/o5qjghc0/principles-of-veterinary-medical-ethics-of-the-cvma.pdf

Child and Youth Care Association of Alberta (CYCAA). (2008). Code of ethics . https://www.cycaa.com/about-us/code-of-ethics

College of Alberta Dental Assistants (CADA). (2019). Code of ethics . http://abrda.ca/protecting-the-public/regulations-and-standards/code-of-ethics/

Cyr, C., Helgason, E., Appleton, K., & Yunick, A. (2021). Code of ethics: A guide for ethical and moral decision-making for recreation therapists . Alberta Therapeutic Recreation Association. https://www.alberta-tr.ca/media/91513/codeofethics11may2021.pdf

Ehrlich, T. (Ed.). (2000). Civic responsibility and higher education . Oryx Press.

Government of Alberta. (2023). Code of conduct and ethics for the Alberta Public Service . https://www.alberta.ca/code-of-conduct-and-ethics-for-the-alberta-public-service.aspx

Graduate Management Admission Council. (2017). Corporate recruiters survey report 2017 .  https://www.mba.com/-/media/files/gmac/research/employment-outlook/2017-gmac-corporate-recruiters-web-release.pdf?la=en

Gray, K. (2022, November 15). As their focus on GPA fades, employers seek key skills on college grads’ resumes . National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). https://www.naceweb.org/talent-acquisition/candidate-selection/as-their-focus-on-gpa-fades-employers-seek-key-skills-on-college-grads-resumes/

Guffey, M. (2008).  Essentials of business communication (7th ed.). Thomson/Wadsworth.

Haas, M., & Mortensen, M. (2016, June). The secrets of great teamwork . Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2016/06/the-secrets-of-great-teamwork

Jotform. (2021, December 8). How technology has changed workplace communication . https://www.jotform.com/blog/technology-and-workplace-communication/

O’Rourke, J., & Yarbrough, B. (2008). Leading groups and teams . South-Western Cengage Learning.

Pearson, J., & Nelson, P. (2000). An introduction to human communication: Understanding and sharing . McGraw-Hill.

Rogers, E., & Steinfatt, T. (1999). I ntercultural communication . Waveland Press.

Therapy Assistant Association of Alberta (ThAAA). (2012). Code of ethics . http://thaaa.ca/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/ThAAA_Code-of-Ethics.pdf

Zabava Ford, W. S., & Wolvin, A. D. (1993). The differential impact of a basic communication course on perceived communication competencies in class, work, and social contexts. Communication Education, 42 (3), 215–223. https://doi.org/10.1080/0363452930937892

Image Credits (images are listed in order of appearance)

Figure 6. Graduation by Hippo px  by U3167879, CC BY-SA 4.0

Protest-sofia-incinerator  by 008all, CC BY-SA 4.0

Group of students in front of the DARM  by Violetova , CC BY-SA 4.0

Meaning of ETHICS101  by Pokemon1244, CC BY-SA 4.0

Teamwork Skills Training Workplace Illustration  by Digits.co.uk Images , CC BY 2.0

Introduction to Communications Copyright © 2023 by NorQuest College is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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Module 1: Introduction to Public Speaking

Elements in a speech, learning objectives.

  • Describe the fundamental elements in a speech.
  • Identify the main differences between writing a paper and delivering a speech.

Most college students are familiar with writing research papers or perhaps engaging in class discussions. Preparing and delivering a speech, however, differs from these activities in fundamental ways. All these elements will be covered in more detail elsewhere in the course.

A teacher in her office

  • You can’t really adapt an essay to the context in which it is received. Is the reader (your professor) at home or in their office? Are they reading at night or in the morning?
  • Because a speech is delivered at a particular moment in time, you need to adapt its content to the speaking context. Great speeches fit the moment. Reflect on the purpose of your speech, the amount of time you’ll have, and the speaking environment. These elements will influence what you can realistically hope to accomplish with your audience. Consider the differences you might make to a presentation if you are delivering it first thing in the morning, just after lunch, or late Friday afternoon. The context of your speech can also help you determine which delivery type to use: impromptu, speaking notes, memorized, or a manuscript. If you are speaking for an hour, it may not be realistic to memorize a speech, but speaking notes or a manuscript can be very helpful. If your context will be highly emotional or require careful wording, then using a manuscript may be the best delivery type.
  • In writing , your audience has the benefit of reading at their own pace, visually grasping your organization through paragraphs or headings, looking up definitions for unfamiliar terms, and looping over detailed information.
  • In a speech, your audience doesn’t have any visual guideposts about the organization of the material. To adjust, you must provide clear, audible, organizational indicators or signposts. It helps to use language that is relatable, simple, and familiar, and to include vivid imagery and anecdotes.
  • In a research paper , your credibility is established through research, which is cited in the text as well and with a bibliography or footnote.
  • In a speech, citations are a bit more tricky. If your speech uses researched support, you must properly attribute your sources.  Although they may be included in your written outline, stating a full-source citation when delivering your speech can quickly lose your audience. Therefore, you will instead use abbreviated source citations, often with just the publication and date, or the author and title when citing a book.
  • Especially when they rely on complex data or visual information, essays can include graphs, charts, and illustrations.
  • In a speech, visual aids are often used to illustrate an idea, evoke emotion, summarize data, or draw attention to an important concept. A visual aid adds interest, can refocus your audience, and can help them remember an important aspect of your speech. If you use a visual aid, consider when to use it in your speech and what type of visual aid would best illustrate what you’ve chosen to highlight. The most common visual aid is PowerPoint, but visual aids can also be objects or any sort of pictorial representation. For example, a speech about a guitar could use a PowerPoint with pictures of various parts of a guitar—or an actual guitar.
  • In the case of an essay, we only perceive the writer through the style of their writing. Unless we have seen them in person, or look them up on the internet, we probably know very little about how they look, what they sound like, or how they carry themselves.
  • Unlike the invisible author of an essay, the speaker is physically or virtually present to deliver the speech. Their appearance, dress, posture, confidence, delivery style, and energy level will have profound effects on the audience’s experience of the event.

A person sleeping on his computer

Ready to present? Maybe not so much…

  • When turning in a paper, it doesn’t matter if you finished well in advance or the night before. Whether you wore yourself out finishing it or cruised to completion, the paper will be judged on its quality rather than your emotional and physical state at its completion.
  • In a speech, the quality of delivery will impact how well it is received, regardless of how carefully it was written and prepared. Verbal and nonverbal cues set the tone and engage your audience. Even when using speaking notes or a manuscript, you must be familiar enough with your speech that you avoid simply reading it. Therefore, you must build in plenty of time to practice.

To Watch: John McWhorter

In this TED talk, linguist John McWhorter discusses some of the differences between speaking and writing. For our purposes, the first five minutes will be the most informative, but the latter half is very interesting as well, particularly if you’re curious about the linguistic changes brought about by texting.

You can view the transcript for “John McWhorter: Txtng is killing language. JK!!!” here (opens in new window) .

What to watch for:

Notice how McWhorter starts his speech: “We always hear that texting is a scourge.” This statement sets up his thesis, which is that texting isn’t the downfall of language, but rather a “miraculous thing.” This style of opening, sometimes called “stabilization-destabilization,” can be a great way to get a speech off the ground. First you state the  stable  condition, the thing that everyone thinks is true. Then you  destabilize this idea by showing how it’s  not  true, or at least more complicated than the listener might think. The destabilizing move says “yet . . .” or “however. . . .” (McWhorter says “The fact of the matter is that it just isn’t true.”)

Note as well how McWhorter uses visual aids in this presentation. Even though he puts a lot of words on the screen, he is not expecting the audience to read and engage with the meaning of these passages. Instead, the words are there to say something about language style. When you really want your audience to engage with the meaning of words on a slide, you should keep the text as minimal and concise as possible. We’ll cover this concept in more detail when we learn about visual aids.

  • Tired. Authored by : Shanghai killer whale. Located at : https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Chronic_fatigue_syndrome.JPG . License : CC BY-SA: Attribution-ShareAlike
  • Teacher in office. Authored by : jsoto. Located at : https://pixabay.com/photos/woman-office-teacher-613309/ . License : Other . License Terms : Pixabay License
  • John McWhorter: Txtng is killing language. JK!!!. Provided by : TED. Located at : https://youtu.be/UmvOgW6iV2s . License : Other . License Terms : Standard YouTube License
  • Elements in a Speech. Authored by : Anne Fleischer with Lumen Learning. License : CC BY: Attribution

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  • Published: 19 June 2024

Language is primarily a tool for communication rather than thought

  • Evelina Fedorenko   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0003-3823-514X 1 , 2 ,
  • Steven T. Piantadosi 3 &
  • Edward A. F. Gibson 1  

Nature volume  630 ,  pages 575–586 ( 2024 ) Cite this article

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  • Human behaviour

Language is a defining characteristic of our species, but the function, or functions, that it serves has been debated for centuries. Here we bring recent evidence from neuroscience and allied disciplines to argue that in modern humans, language is a tool for communication, contrary to a prominent view that we use language for thinking. We begin by introducing the brain network that supports linguistic ability in humans. We then review evidence for a double dissociation between language and thought, and discuss several properties of language that suggest that it is optimized for communication. We conclude that although the emergence of language has unquestionably transformed human culture, language does not appear to be a prerequisite for complex thought, including symbolic thought. Instead, language is a powerful tool for the transmission of cultural knowledge; it plausibly co-evolved with our thinking and reasoning capacities, and only reflects, rather than gives rise to, the signature sophistication of human cognition.

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The authors thank A. Ivanova, R. Jackendoff, N. Kanwisher, K. Mahowald, R. Seyfarth, C. Shain and N. Zaslavsky for helpful comments on earlier drafts of the manuscript; N. Caselli, M. Coppola, A. Hillis, L. Menn, R. Varley and S. Wilson for comments on specific sections; C. Casto, T. Regev, F. Mollica and R. Futrell for help with the figures; and S. Swords, N. Jhingan, H. S. Kim and A. Sathe for help with references. E.F. was supported by NIH awards DC016607 and DC016950 from NIDCD, NS121471 from NINDS, and from funds from MIT’s McGovern Institute for Brain Research, Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Simons Center for the Social Brain, and Quest for Intelligence.

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Fedorenko, E., Piantadosi, S.T. & Gibson, E.A.F. Language is primarily a tool for communication rather than thought. Nature 630 , 575–586 (2024). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-024-07522-w

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is speech the most important component of communication

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The vital importance of the correct point of view in communication.

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Illustration of contrasting head silhouettes exchanging ideas with open minds

When I was a freshman at New York University, the manual for the requisite speech course was titled, “Handbook of Objective Speaking.” At the beginning of the course, I assumed that “objective” was a noun, which meant the focus of a speech should be on its endgame or goal. It was not until the professor enlightened me that “objective” was an adjective to differentiate it from “subjective,” that the focus of a speech must be meaningful to the audience and not simply a soliloquy about the presenter’s point of view.

After college, I moved into journalism and had that concept reinforced by both The Associated Press (AP) Stylebook and The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage . Each of those guides recommends that journalists should avoid using the first person—the “I”—in news writing so as to provide an objective point of view that reports facts rather than opinion.

The difference between objective and subjective communication can be measured as the difference between the frequency of the word “you” and “I” in an exchange. A simple example of how that applies is in common social situations such as a dinner party. Think of the times you have been trapped sitting next to a bore who goes on and on about themselves and never asks you a question. The likelihood is that the ratio of that person’s pronouns was heavily skewed to “I.”

The solution, of course, is for communication to be effective, it must factor in the intended recipient, the audience, the reader, and the listener. It must be about the “you”—about “them.” After all, the “co-“ in “communication” dictates that it must be about “you” as well as “I.”

John McWhorter, an associate professor of linguistics at Columbia University and a regular contributor to the New York Times , wrote in his column last week that “psychologists even encourage us to try thinking of ourselves as ‘you’ or ‘he/she/they’ in order to imagine how others see us. It’s another way of reminding yourself, ‘It’s not all about me.’” McWhorter references a workaround linguistic practice called “illeism” or referring to oneself in the third person. As examples, he cites basketball superstar LeBron James and former President Trump. But McWhorter goes on to call the practice “a Tarzanian linguistic tendency,” (as in, “Me Tarzan, you Jane”) and is still self-referential.

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In support of the importance of the correct point of view, McWhorter also references James Pennebaker, the author of The Secret Life of Pronouns , who “demonstrated that Anglophones say (and write) ‘I’ or ‘me’ with starkly different frequencies depending on the speakers’ intentions and mental states, so much so that one can use the pronouns’ frequency to deduce a person’s truthfulness, contentment and certainty. Specifically, using ‘I’ and ‘me.’” In this previous Forbes blog , you can see how Pennebaker applies his observations about pronouns to the most common form of communication: conversations.

And yet in the world of business communications, it is standard operating procedure to be subjective, e.g. , to present the speaker’s point of view with a laundry list recitation of the bells and whistles of a product and/or service. It’s fine to do that, but to be persuasive, the speaker must tell the audience what those bells and whistles mean to them. The benefits that the features provide. The “you” versus the “I.”

To be persuasive, be direct. Say “you” more than you say “I.”

It’s all about them .

Jerry Weissman

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