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Public Speaking for College & Career


Hamilton Gregory Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College

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Published by McGraw-Hill, a business unit of The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc., 1221 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020. Copyright © 2018 by Hamilton Gregory. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. Previous editions © 2013, 2010, 2008, and 2005. No part of this publication may be reproduced or distributed in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written consent of The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc., including, but not limited to, in any network or other electronic storage or transmission, or broadcast for distance learning.

Some ancillaries, including electronic and print components, may not be available to customers outside the United States.

This book is printed on acid-free paper.

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ISBN 978-0-07-803698-9 (student edition) MHID 0-07-803698-4 (student edition) ISBN 978-1-259-89992-8 (annotated instructor’s edition) MHID 1-259-89992-6 (annotated instructor’s edition)

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Gregory, Hamilton. Title: Public speaking for college & career / Hamilton Gregory. Other titles: Public speaking for college and career Description: Eleventh edition. | New York : McGraw-Hill, 2016. | Includes    index. Identifiers: LCCN 2016040032 | ISBN 9780078036989 (alk. paper) Subjects: LCSH: Public speaking. Classification: LCC PN4121 .G716 2016 | DDC 808.5/1—dc23 LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2016040032

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Dedicated to the memory of Merrell, my beloved wife and best friend

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Brief Contents

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Preface xi

Foundations of Effective Communication Chapter 1 Introduction to Public Speaking 2

Chapter 2 Managing Nervousness 20

Chapter 3 Listening 36

Developing a Focus Chapter 4 Reaching the Audience 52

Chapter 5 Selecting Topic, Purpose, and Central Idea 72

Preparing Content Chapter 6 Locating Information 88

Chapter 7 Evaluating Information and Avoiding Plagiarism 108

Chapter 8 Suporting Your Ideas 130

Chapter 9 Presentation Aids 148

Organizing the Speech Chapter 10 The Body of the Speech 178

Chapter 11 Introductions and Conclusions 198

Chapter 12 Outlining the Speech 216

Presenting the Speech Chapter 13 Wording the Speech 236

Chapter 14 Delivering the Speech 254

Types of Public Speaking Chapter 15 Speaking to Inform 280

Chapter 16 Speaking to Persuade 302

Chapter 17 Persuasive Strategies 322

Chapter 18 Speaking on Special Occasions 352

Chapter 19 Speaking in Groups 368

Glossary 384

Index 388

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Preface xi

Part 1 Foundations of Effective Communication

Chapter 1 Introduction to Public Speaking 2

Benefits of a Public Speaking Course 4

The Speech Communication Process 6

Elements of the Process 6

TIP 1 Seek Feedback 9

The Process in Everyday Life 10

The Speaker’s Responsibilities 10

Maintain High Ethical Standards 10

Enrich Listeners’ Lives 11

Take Every Speech Seriously 12

Speech Introducing Yourself or a Classmate 12

Sample Self-Introduction Speech 13

Sample Speech Introducing a Classmate 13

Quick Guide to Public Speaking 14

Preparation 14

Delivery 16

TIP 2 Avoid the Five Biggest Mistakes Made by Speakers 17

Resources for Review and Skill Building 17

Chapter 2 Managing Nervousness 20

Reasons for Nervousness 22

The Value of Fear 22

Guidelines for Managing Nervousness 23

In the Planning Stage 23

Immediately before the Speech 26

During the Speech 27

TIP 1 Prepare for Memory Lapses 30

Resources for Review and Skill Building 34

Chapter 3 Listening 36

Introduction to Listening 38

The Problem of Poor Listening Skills 38

How to Listen Effectively 39

Prepare Yourself 39

Be Willing to Expend Energy 39

Listen Analytically 40

Take Notes 40

TIP 1 Take Notes in Important Conversations and Small-Group Meetings 42

Resist Distractions 42

TIP 2 Learn How Listeners Show Respect in Different Cultures 43

Avoid Fake Listening 43

Give Every Speaker a Fair Chance 43

Control Emotions 44

The Listener’s Responsibilities 44

Show Courtesy and Respect 44

TIP 3 Confront Electronic Rudeness 46

Provide Encouragement 47

Find Value in Every Speech 47

Speech Evaluations 48

When Evaluating 48

TIP 4 Express Appreciation to a Speaker 49

When Receiving Evaluations 49

Resources for Review and Skill Building 50

Part 2 Developing a Focus

Chapter 4 Reaching the Audience 52

The Audience-Centered Speaker 54

TIP 1 Be Sensitive to Audience Discomfort 55

Getting Information about the Audience 55

Interviews 55

Surveys 56

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Audience Diversity 56

Gender 57

Age 58

Educational Background 58

Occupation 58

Religious Affiliation 58

Economic and Social Status 59

International Listeners 59

America’s Diverse Cultures 60

TIP 2 Work Closely with Interpreters 61

Listeners with Disabilities 62

Audience Knowledge 63

Audience Psychology 64

Interest Level 64

Attitudes 64

The Occasion 66

Time Limit 66

TIP 3 Be Prepared to Trim Your Remarks 67

Expectations 67

Other Events on the Program 67

Audience Size 68

Adapting during the Speech 68

Resources for Review and Skill Building 69

Chapter 5 Selecting Topic, Purpose, and Central Idea 72

Selecting a Topic 74

Select a Topic You Care About 74

Select a Topic You Can Master 74

Select a Topic That Will Interest the Audience 77

Narrow the Topic 78

The General Purpose 79

To Inform 79

To Persuade 79

To Entertain 79

TIP 1 Examine Your Hidden Purposes 80

The Specific Purpose 80

Begin the Statement with an Infinitive 81

Include a Reference to Your Audience 81

Limit the Statement to One Major Idea 81

Make Your Statement as Precise as Possible 81

Achieve Your Objective in the Time Allotted 82

Don’t Be Too Technical 82

The Central Idea 82

Devising the Central Idea 83

Guidelines for the Central Idea 84

Overview of Speech Design 85

Resources for Review and Skill Building 86

Part 3 Preparing Content

Chapter 6 Locating Information 88

Misconceptions about Research 90

Finding Materials Efficiently 90

Begin with a Purpose Statement 90

Plan Your Time 91

Searching Electronically 91

Libraries 92

Getting Help from Librarians 92

Books 93

Articles 93

Interlibrary Loan 94

Online Research 94

Search Engines 94

Specialized Research 95

Apps 95

Online Communities and Individuals 96

Field Research 96

Experiences and Investigations 97

Surveys 97

Interviews with Experts 97

Saving Key Information 101

TIP 1 Develop a Filing System for Important Ideas 102

Printouts and Photocopies 102

Notes 102

Resources for Review and Skill Building 105

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Chapter 7 Evaluating Information and Avoiding Plagiarism 108

Being an Honest Investigator 110

Finding Trustworthy Information 110

Applying Critical-Thinking Skills 111

Recognize Dubious Claims 111

Find More Than One Source 112

Examine Opposing Viewpoints 112

Be Cautious When Using Polls 113

Recognize the Fallibility of Experts 113

Beware of Groups with Misleading Names 114

TIP 1 Be Willing to Challenge Reports in the Media 115

Analyzing Internet Sites 115

Don’t Be Swayed by Widespread Dissemination 115

Watch Out for Web Manipulation 116

Don’t Be Dazzled by High-Tech Design 116

Investigate Sponsors and Authors 117

Look for Verifications 119

Avoiding Plagiarism 120

Types of Plagiarism 120

Giving Credit to Sources 121

TIP 2 Be Specific When Citing Internet Sources 124

Using Copyrighted Material 124

Resources for Review and Skill Building 126

Chapter 8 Supporting Your Ideas 130

Reasons for Using Support Materials 132 To Develop and Illustrate Ideas 132

To Clarify Ideas 132

To Make a Speech More Interesting 132

To Help Listeners Remember Key Ideas 132

To Help Prove a Point 133

Types of Support Materials 133 Definition 133

Vivid Image 134

Example 134

Narrative 134

Comparison and Contrast 136

Analogy 136

Testimony 137

TIP 1 Give Listeners Bonus Material 138

Statistics 139

Sample Speech with Commentary 143

Resources for Review and Skill Building 146

Chapter 9 Presentation Aids 148

Advantages of Visual Aids 150

Types of Visual Aids 150

Graphs 151

Charts 152

Drawings and Photos 153

Video and Animation 154

Objects and Models 155

TIP 1 Never Let Visuals Substitute for a Speech 156

Yourself and Volunteers 156

Presentation Software 156

Types of Software 157

PowerPoint Slides 157

Media for Visual Aids 166

Multimedia Projectors 166

Boards 166

Posters 166

Flip Charts 167

Handouts 167

Visual Presenters 168

Overhead Transparencies 168

Preparing Visual Aids 168

Choose Visuals That Truly Support Your Speech 168

Prepare and Practice Far in Advance 169

Choose the Appropriate Number of Visuals 169

Make Visual Aids Simple and Clear 169

Aim for Back-Row Comprehension 169

Use Colors Carefully 170

Presenting Visual Aids 170

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Choose the Best Time to Show Visuals 170

Never Circulate Visual Aids among the Audience 171

TIP 2 Ask a Friend to Assist You 172

Remove Physical Barriers 172

Make Sure Listeners Get Maximum Benefit from Visuals 172

Don’t Let Visuals Distract from Your Message 173

Don’t Talk to Your Visual Aid 173

Use Progressive Revelation 173

Plan for Emergencies 174

Communicating in Other Channels 174

Hearing 174

Taste and Smell 174

Touch and Physical Activity 175

Using Multiple Channels 175

Resources for Review and Skill Building 175

Part 4 Organizing the Speech

Chapter 10 The Body of the Speech 178

The Importance of Organization 180

Creating the Body 180

Devising Main Points 182

Limit the Number of Main Points 182

Restrict Each Main Point to a Single Idea 183

Avoid Announcements 183

Customize Points for Each Audience 183

TIP 1 Test and Verify Your Material 184

Use Parallel Language Whenever Possible 184

Organizing Main Points 185

Chronological Pattern 185

Spatial Pattern 186

Cause–Effect Pattern 186

Problem–Solution Pattern 187

Topical Pattern 187

Selecting Support Materials 189

Supplying Transitions 191

Bridges 191

Internal Summaries 192

Signposts 192

Spotlights 192

Simplifying the Process 193

Resources for Review and Skill Building 194

Chapter 11 Introductions and Conclusions 198

Introductions 200

Gain Attention and Interest 200

Orient the Audience 204

TIP 1 Use an “Icebreaker” to Start Off a Commu- nity Speech 205

Guidelines for Introductions 207

Conclusions 208

Signal the End 208

Summarize Key Ideas 208

Reinforce the Central Idea with a Clincher 209

Guidelines for Conclusions 211

Sample Introduction and Conclusion 211

Resources for Review and Skill Building 212

Chapter 12 Outlining the Speech 216

Guidelines for Outlining 218

Choose an Outline Format 218

Use Standard Subdivisions 221

Avoid Single Subdivisions 221

TIP 1 When No Time Limit Is Set, Speak Briefly 222

Parts of the Outline 222

TIP 2 Decide How You Will Reveal Your Sources 224

Sample Outline with Commentary 224

Speaking Notes 228

Guidelines for Preparing Notes 229

Options for Notes 230

Controlling Your Material 231

Sample Speech as Presented 232

Resources for Review and Skill Building 234

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Part 5 Presenting the Speech

Chapter 13 Wording the Speech 236

The Power of Words 238

Finding the Right Words 238 Using Appropriate Words 239

Use Gender-Neutral Terms 239

Avoid Gender-Biased Pronoun Usage 239

TIP 1 Omit Crude Language 240

Using Words Accurately 240 Use Precise Denotations 240

Control Connotations 241

Use Correct Grammar 241

Achieving Clarity 243 Use Simple Words 243

Use Concrete Words 243

Use Precise Words 243

Using Vivid Language 246 Imagery 246

Metaphors and Similes 247

Using Rhetorical Devices 247 Alliteration 247

TIP 2 Explore Rhetorical Devices 248

Antithesis 248

Parallel Structure and Repetition 248

Oral versus Written Language 249 Resources for Review and Skill Building 250

Chapter 14 Delivering the Speech 254

The Key to Good Delivery 256 Methods of Speaking 256

Memorization 256

Manuscript 257

Impromptu 258

Extemporaneous 259

Voice 260 Volume 260

Clarity 261

Expressiveness 261

Nonverbal Communication 265 Personal Appearance 266

Eye Contact 267

Facial Expressions 267

Posture 267

TIP 1 Decide Whether and How to Use a Lectern 268

Movement 268

Using Notes 268

Gestures 269

TIP 2 Deal with Distractions in a Direct but Good- Humored Manner 270

Beginning and Ending 270

The Question-and-Answer Period 271 Practice 273 Speaking in Front of a Camera 274

General Strategies 274

Strategies When You Are in Charge 275

Resources for Review and Skill Building 277

Part 6 Types of Public Speaking

Chapter 15 Speaking to Inform 280

Goals of Informative Speaking 282 Types of Informative Speeches 282

Definition Speech 282

Description Speech 283

Process Speech 285

Explanation Speech 287

Guidelines for Informative Speaking 289 Relate the Speech to the Listeners’ Self-Interest 289

Make Information Interesting 289

TIP 1 For Long Presentations, Plan a Variety of Activities 291

Avoid Information Overload 291

Tailor Information for Each Audience 291

Use the Familiar to Explain the Unfamiliar 292

Help Listeners Remember Key Information 292

Sample Informative Speech 293

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The Outline with Commentary 294

The Speech as Delivered 298

Resources for Review and Skill Building 299

Chapter 16 Speaking to Persuade 302

Goals of Persuasive Speaking 304 Types of Persuasive Speeches 304

Speech to Influence Thinking 304

Speech to Motivate Action 305

TIP 1 Use Role Play to Change Behavior 307

Patterns of Organization 307 Motivated Sequence 307

Problem–Solution Pattern 311

Statement-of-Reasons Pattern 311

TIP 2 View Persuasion as a Long-Term Process 312

Comparative-Advantages Pattern 312

Sample Persuasive Speech 313

The Outline with Commentary 313

The Speech as Delivered 317

After the Persuasive Speech 319

Resources for Review and Skill Building 320

Chapter 17 Persuasive Strategies 322

Knowing Your Audience 324

Analyze Listeners 324

Use a Persuasion Scale 324

Plan Your Strategy 324

TIP 1 Don’t Expect Universal Success 325

Building Credibility 327

Explain Your Competence 327

Be Accurate 327

Show Your Open-Mindedness 328

TIP 2 In a Debate, Be Reasonable and Fair 329

Show Common Ground with Your Audience 329

Providing Evidence 331

Using Sound Reasoning 332

Deduction 333

Induction 334

Fallacies in Reasoning 336

Appealing to Motivations 340

Some Common Motivations 340

Multiple Motivations 341

Arousing Emotions 341

Sample Persuasive Speech 343

The Outline with Commentary 344

The Speech as Delivered 346

Resources for Review and Skill Building 348

Chapter 18 Speaking on Special Occasions 352

Entertaining Speech 354

Techniques for Entertaining 354

TIP 1 Move Listeners Together 356

Sample Entertaining Speech 356

Speech of Introduction 358

Speech of Presentation 360

Speech of Acceptance 360

Speech of Tribute 361

Wedding Speeches 361

Toasts 362

Eulogies 363

Inspirational Speech 364

Resources for Review and Skill Building 364

Chapter 19 Speaking in Groups 368

Meetings 370

Responsibilities of Leaders 370

Responsibilities of Participants 373

The Reflective-Thinking Method 374

Group Presentations 377

Team Presentation 377

TIP 1 Strive to Improve Communication Skills 378

Symposium 379

Panel Discussion 379

TIP 2 Remember the Essentials 381

Resources for Review and Skill Building 382 Glossary 384

Index 388

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McGraw-Hill Connect: An Overview McGraw-Hill Connect offers full-semester access to comprehensive, reliable content and Learning Resources for the Public Speaking course. Connect’s deep integra- tion with most learning management systems (LMS), including Blackboard and Desire2Learn (D2L), offers single sign-on and deep gradebook synchronization. Data from Assignment Results reports synchronize directly with many LMS, allowing scores to flow automatically from Connect into school-specific gradebooks, if required.

The following tools and services are available as part of Connect for the Public Speaking course:


Tool Instructional Context Description

Connect Insight for Instructors

• SmartBook is an engaging and interactive reading experience for mastering fundamental Public Speaking content.

• The metacognitive component confirms learners’ understanding of the material.

• Instructors can actively connect SmartBook assignments and results to higher-order classroom work and one-on-one student conferences.

• Learners can track their own understanding and mastery of course concepts and identify gaps in their knowledge.

• Connect Insight for Instructors is an analytics resource that produces quick feedback related to learner performance and learner engagement.

• It is designed as a dashboard for both quick check-ins and detailed performance and engagement views.

• SmartBook is an adaptive reading experience designed to change the way learners read and learn. It creates a personalized reading experience by highlighting the most impactful concepts a student needs to learn at that moment in time.

• SmartBook creates personalized learning plans based on student responses to content question probes and confidence scales, identifying the topics learners are struggling with and providing Learning Resources to create personalized learning moments.

• SmartBook includes a variety of Learning Resources tied directly to key content areas to provide students with additional instruction and context. This includes video and media clips, interactive slide content, mini lectures, and image analyses.

• SmartBook Reports provide instructors with data to quantify success and identify problem areas that require addressing in and out of the classroom.

• Learners can access their own progress and concept mastery reports.

• Connect Insight for Instructors offers a series of visual data displays that provide analysis on five key insights:

• How are my students doing?

• How is this one student doing?

• How is my section doing?

• How is this assignment doing?

• How are my assignments doing?

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Tool Instructional Context Description

Speech Assignment/ Video Submission Assignment

Connect Insight for Students

• Connect Insight for Students is a powerful data analytics tool that provides at-a-glance visualizations to help learners understand their performance on Connect assignments.

• Speech Assignment (Video Submission Assignment in student view) provides instructors with a comprehensive and efficient way of managing in-class and online speech assignments, including student self-reviews, peer reviews, and instructor grading.

• Connect Insight for Students offers details on each Connect assignment to learners. When possible, it offers suggestions for the learners on how they can improve scores. This data can help guide learners to behaviors that will lead to better scores in the future.

• The Speech Assignment tool allows instructors to easily and efficiently set up speech assignments for their course that can easily be shared and repurposed, as needed, throughout their use of Connect.

• Customizable rubrics and settings can be saved and shared, saving time and streamlining the speech assignment process from creation to assessment.

• Speech Assignment allows users, both students and instructors, to view videos during the assessment process. Feedback can be left within a customized rubric or as time-stamped comments within the video-playback itself.

Speech Preparation Tools

• Speech Preparation Tools provide learners with additional support and include Topic Helper, Outline Tool, and access to third-party Internet sites like EasyBib (for formatting citations) and Survey Monkey (to create audience-analysis questionnaires and surveys).

• Speech Preparation Tools provide learners with additional resources to help with the preparation and outlining of speeches, as well as with audience-analysis surveys.

• Instructors have the ability to make tools either available or unavailable to learners.

Instructor Reports

• Instructor Reports provide data that may be useful for assessing programs or courses as part of the accreditation process.

• Connect generates a number of powerful reports and charts that allow instructors to quickly review the performance of a given learner or an entire section.

• Instructors can run reports that span multiple sections and instructors, making it an ideal solution for individual professors, course coordinators, and department chairs.

Student Reports

• Student Reports allow learners to review their performance for specific assignments or for the course.

• Learners can keep track of their performance and identify areas with which they struggle.

Pre- & Post-Tests

• Instructors can generate their own pre- and post-tests from the test bank.

• Pre- and post-tests demonstrate what learners already know before class begins and what they have learned by the end.

• Instructors have access to two sets of pre- and post-tests (at two levels). Instructors can use these tests to create a diagnostic and post- diagnostic exam via Connect.

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Tool Instructional Context Description

Simple LMS Integration

Tegrity • Tegrity allows instructors to capture course material or lectures on video.

• Students can watch videos recorded by their instructor and learn course material at their own pace.

• Connect seamlessly integrates with every learning management system.

• Instructors can keep track of which learners have watched the videos they post.

• Learners can watch and review lectures by their instructor.

• Learners can search each lecture for specific bites of information.

• Learners have automatic single sign-on.

• Connect assignment results sync to the LMS’s gradebook.

Instructor’s Guide to Connect for Public Speaking for College & Career When you assign Connect you can be confident—and have data to demonstrate—that the learners in your course, however diverse, are acquiring the skills, principles, and critical processes that constitute effective public speaking. This leaves you to focus on your highest course expectations.

TAILORED TO YOU. Connect offers on-demand, single sign-on access to learners— wherever they are and whenever they have time. With a single, one-time registration, learners receive access to McGraw-Hill’s trusted content. Learners also have a courtesy trial period during registration.

EASY TO USE. Connect seamlessly supports all major learning management systems with content, assignments, performance data, and LearnSmart, the leading adaptive learning system. With these tools you can quickly make assignments, produce reports, focus discussions, intervene on problem topics, and help at-risk learners—as you need to and when you need to.

Public Speaking for College & Career SmartBook A PERSONALIZED AND ADAPTIVE LEARNING EXPERIENCE WITH SMARTBOOK. Boost learner success with McGraw-Hill’s adaptive reading and study experience. The Public Speaking for College & Career SmartBook highlights the most impactful public speaking concepts the student needs to learn at that moment in time. The learning path continuously adapts and, based on what the individual learner knows and does not know, provides focused help through targeted question probes and Learning Resources.

ENHANCED FOR THE NEW EDITION! With a suite of new Learning Resources and question probes, as well as highlights of key chapter concepts, SmartBook’s intui- tive technology optimizes learner study time by creating a personalized learning path for improved course performance and overall learner success.

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HUNDREDS OF INTERACTIVE LEARNING RESOURCES. Presented in a range of interactive styles, Public Speaking for College & Career Learning Resources support learners who may be struggling to master, or simply wish to review, the most important public speaking concepts. Designed to reinforce the most important chapter concepts—from topic selection and research skills to the outlining and delivery of presentations—every Learning Resource is presented at the precise moment of need. Whether video, audio clip, or interactive mini-lesson, each of the 200-plus Learning Resources was created for the new edition and was designed to give learners a lifelong foundation in strong public speaking skills.

SmartBook highlights the key concepts of every chapter, offering the learner a high-impact learning experience. Here, highlighted text and an illustration together explain the researching process (left). Highlights change color (right) when a student has demonstrated his or her understanding of the concept.

MORE THAN 1,000 TARGETED QUESTION PROBES.  Class-tested at col- leges and universities nationwide, a treasury of engaging question probes—new and revised, more than 1,000 in all—gives learners the information on public speaking they need to know, at every stage of the learning process, in order to thrive in the course. Designed to gauge learners’ comprehension of the most important Public Speaking for College & Career chapter concepts, and presented in a variety of

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interactive styles to facilitate student engagement, targeted question probes give learners immediate feedback on their understanding of the material. Each question probe identifies a learner’s familiarity with the instruction and points to areas where additional remediation is needed.

INFORMED BY THE LATEST RESEARCH. The best insights from today’s lead- ing public speaking scholars infuse every lesson and are integrated throughout Public Speaking for College & Career.

FRESH EXAMPLES ANCHORED IN THE REAL WORLD.  Every chapter of Public Speaking for College & Career opens with a vignette exploring both public speaking challenges and successes. Dozens of additional examples appear throughout the new edition, each demonstrating an essential element of the public speaking process. Whether learners are reading a chapter, responding to a question probe, or reviewing key concepts in a Learning Resource, their every instructional moment is rooted in the real world. McGraw-Hill research shows that high-quality examples reinforce academic theory throughout the course. Relevant examples and practical scenarios—reflecting interactions in school, the workplace, and beyond—demonstrate how effective public speaking informs and enhances students’ lives and careers.

FEATURES. Critical-thinking skills are vital in the classroom, on the job, and in the community. Students who build these skills will be better speakers, listeners, and citizens as they strive to understand and evaluate what they see, hear, and read. The new edition of Public Speaking for College & Career includes a variety of boxed and end-of-chapter features to support student learning and enhance critical-thinking skills.

∙ “Examining Your Ethics” exercises provide real-world scenarios that pose ethical dilemmas and ask students to make a choice. Students can check their answers at the end of the chapter.

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speaker’s mistakes?” Here is an example of how one business executive profited from a poor speech:

At a convention recently I found myself in an extremely boring seminar (on listening, ironically enough). After spending the first half-hour wishing I had never signed up, I decided to take advantage of the situation. I turned my thought, “This guy isn’t teaching me how to run a seminar on listening,” into a question: “What is he teaching me about how not to run a seminar?” While providing a negative example was not the presenter’s goal, I got a useful lesson.17

“When life hands you a lemon, make lemonade,” some wise person once advised. If you look for value or a how-not-to-do-it lesson in every poor speech, you will find that the sourest oratorical lemon can be turned into lemonade. “Know how to listen,” the Greek writer Plutarch said 20 centuries ago, “and you will profit even from those who talk badly.”18

Speech Evaluations Both evaluators and speakers profit from a speech evaluation. Evaluators gain insights into what works and what doesn’t work in speechmaking, and speakers can use sugges- tions to improve their speaking skills.

When Evaluating Evaluating speeches should not be limited to a public speaking class. You also can apply these techniques to speeches that you hear in your career.

Establish criteria. Before you listen to a speech, decide upon the criteria for judging it. This will keep you from omitting important elements. For classroom speeches, your instructor may give you a checklist or tell you to analyze certain features of a speech. Otherwise, you can use the “Quick Guide to Public Speaking” found in the introduction to public speaking chapter for your criteria.

Listen objectively. Keep an open mind. Don’t let yourself be swayed emotionally by the speaker’s delivery or appearance. If, for example, a speaker sounds ill at ease and uncer- tain, this doesn’t necessarily mean that her arguments are inferior. Don’t let your own biases influence your criticism; for example, if you are strongly against gun control, but the speaker argues in favor of it, be careful to criticize the speaker’s ideas fairly and objectively.

Take notes. Jot down your observations throughout the speech so that you capture key elements.

Look for both positive and negative aspects. Emphasize the positive (so that the speaker will continue doing what works well) in addition to pointing out opportunities for improvement.

Give positive comments first. When it comes to public speaking, most people have easily bruised egos. If you start out a critique with negative remarks, you can damage the

Examining Your Ethics

Suppose that a classmate is rude and inattentive when you are giving a speech. When he gives his speech, which of the following is the best approach for listening to him?

A. As he speaks, show him how awful distractions are for a speaker by staring him down with a disapproving facial expression.

B. Ask him unfriendly and difficult questions during the question- and-answer period.

C. Listen to his speech attentively and politely.

For the answer, see the last page of this chapter.

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∙ “Tips for Your Career” boxes in every chapter give students insight about the types of things they will need to think about as presenters in their professional lives.

∙ “Building Critical- Thinking Skills” features at the end of each chapter give students practice in this valuable skill.

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Chapter 3 Listening 49

speaker’s confidence and self-esteem. Always begin by discussing his or her strengths. Point out positive attributes that might seem obvious to you but may not be obvious to the speaker. For example, you might say, “You looked poised and confident.”

Couple negative comments with positive alternatives. When you point out a flaw, immediately give a constructive alternative. For example, you can inform a speaker that she seems to be reading long sentences from a script, and then you can suggest an alternative: “Use note cards with just a few words on each card so that you can look at the audience most of the time and sound conversational.”

In most cases, ignore nervousness. Because most people cannot help being jittery, don’t criticize nervousness—unless you can give a useful tip. For example, it is unhelpful to say, “You looked tense and scared,” but it is helpful to say, “Your hands trembled when you held your note cards, and this was distracting. Next time, put your notes on the lectern.”

Be specific. Instead of saying, “You need to improve your eye contact,” say, “You looked at the floor too much rather than at the audience.” Instead of “You did great,” say, “Your introduction captivated me, and your stories were extremely interesting.”

When Receiving Evaluations To get maximum benefit from evaluations, follow these guidelines:

Don’t be defensive. Try to understand criticism and consider its merits. Don’t argue or counterattack.

Seek clarification. If an evaluator makes a comment that you don’t understand, ask for an explanation.

Strive for improvement. In your next speech, try to correct problem areas. But don’t feel that you must eliminate all errors or bad habits at once.

Whenever you find a speech enjoyable or profitable, let the speaker know. No matter how busy or important he or she is, genuine feedback will be greatly appreciated.

After giving a speech, some speakers are physically and emotionally exhausted, and they sit down with a nagging doubt: Did it go okay? A word of thanks or a compliment from a listener is refreshing and gratifying. (If you can’t express your appreciation in person right after the speech, write the speaker a brief note or send an e-mail or text message.)

Be sure to say something positive and specific about the content of the speech. A corporation president told me of a commencement address he had delivered to a col- lege several years before. “I sweated blood for a whole month putting that speech together and then rehearsing it

Tips for Your Career

Express Appreciation to a Speaker



dozens of times—it was my first commencement speech,” he said. “When I delivered the speech, I tried to speak straight from my heart. I thought I did a good job, and I thought my speech had some real nuggets of wisdom. But afterwards, only two people came by to thank me. And you know what? They both paid me the same compliment: they said they were grateful that I had kept the speech short! They said not one word about the ideas in my speech. Not one word about whether they enjoyed the speech itself. It’s depressing to think that the only thing noteworthy about my speech was its brevity.”

Sad to say, there were probably dozens of people in the audience whose hearts and minds were touched by the eloquent wisdom of the speaker—but they never told him.

50 Part 1 Foundations of Effective Communication

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Summary Listening effectively is often a difficult task, but it can be rewarding if you are willing to make the effort. Guidelines for effective listening include the following: 1. Prepare yourself intellectually and physically. Do back-

ground research to maximize your understanding of the new material in the speech. Get some exercise before the speech if necessary.

2. Listen analytically. Focus on main ideas and evaluate supports.

3. Take notes, not only to record key points but also to keep your mind from wandering.

4. Resist distractions, both external and internal. Use rigor- ous self-discipline to focus on the speaker’s remarks.

5. Avoid fakery. Don’t pretend to be listening when in fact your mind is wandering. This kind of behavior can settle into a hard-to-break habit.

6. Give every speaker a fair chance. Don’t discount a speaker because of personal appearance or the organiza- tion he or she represents.

7. Control your emotions. Don’t mentally argue with a speaker or else you might misunderstand what he or she is really saying.

As a listener you have three important obligations to a speaker: show courtesy and respect, provide encouragement, and find value in every speech. The more support you give a speaker, the better the speech will be, and the more you will profit from it.

Evaluating speeches can help you improve your own speechmaking skills. Look for both positive and negative aspects of a speech, and give specific, constructive suggestions. When you are on the receiving end of evaluations, don’t be defensive. Try to understand the criticism and then make improvements.

Key Terms hearing, 39 listening, 39

1. When a person is truly and deeply listening to you, what behaviors do you detect in his or her tone of voice, facial expression, eyes, and overall body language?

2. Science writer Judith Stone wrote, “There are two ways to approach a subject that frightens you and makes you

Building Critical-Thinking Skills feel stupid: you can embrace it with humility and an open mind, or you can ridicule it mercilessly.” Translate this idea into advice for listeners of speeches.

Resources for Review and Skill Building

1. What is the difference between hearing and listening? 2. Name at least four problems caused by ineffective listening. 3. What is the difference between listening to easy material

and listening to complex material? 4. List at least two ways in which you can prepare yourself

physically and intellectually to listen to a speech. 5. What two speech elements should a listener examine


Review Questions 6. List two advantages of taking notes during a speech. 7. The text lists four types of distractions: auditory, visual,

physical, and mental. Give two examples of each type. 8. How can texting during a meeting hurt you in your career? 9. When you are a listener, how can you encourage a speaker? 10. When you evaluate a speech, how should you handle

both the positive and the negative aspects that you observe?

Speech Assignment/Video Submission Assignment Designed for use in face-to-face, real-time classrooms, as well as online courses, Speech Assignment (Video Submission Assignment in student view) allows you to evaluate your learners’ speeches using fully customizable rubrics. You can also create and manage peer review assignments and upload videos on behalf of learners for optimal flexibility.

Learners can access rubrics and leave comments when preparing self-reviews and peer reviews. They can easily upload a video of their speech from their hard drive or use Connect’s built-in video recorder. Learners can even attach and upload additional files or documents, such as a works cited page or a PowerPoint presentation.

PEER REVIEW. Peer review assignments are easier than ever. Create and manage peer review assignments and customize privacy settings.

SPEECH ASSESSMENT.  Speech Assignments let you customize the assignments, including self- reviews and peer reviews. It also saves your fre- quently used comments, simplifying your efforts to provide feedback.

SELF-REFLECTION. The self-review feature allows learners to revisit their own presentations and compare their progress over time.

Data Analytics Connect Insight provides at-a-glance analysis on five key insights, available at a moment’s notice from your tablet device. The first and only analytics tool of its kind, Insight will tell you, in real time, how individual students or sections are doing (or how well your assign- ments have been received) so that you can take action early and keep struggling students from falling behind.

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Instructors can see how many learners have completed an assignment, how long they spent on the task, and how they scored.

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Instructors can see, at a glance, indi- vidual learner performance: analytics showing learner investment in assign- ments, and success at completing them, help instructors identify and aid those who are at risk.

Connect Reports Instructor Reports allow instructors to quickly monitor learner activity, making it easy to identify which learners are struggling and to pro- vide immediate help to ensure those learners stay enrolled in the course and improve their performance. The Instructor Reports also highlight the concepts and learning objectives that

the class as a whole is having difficulty grasping. This essential information lets you know exactly which areas to target for review during your limited class time. 

Some key reports include:

Progress Overview report—View learner progress for all modules, including how long learners have spent working in the module, which modules they have used outside any that were assigned, and individual learner progress. 

Missed Questions report—Identify specific probes, organized by chapter, that are problem- atic for learners. 

Most Challenging Learning Objectives report—Identify the specific topic areas that are challenging for your learners; these reports are organized by chapter and include specific page references. Use this information to tailor your lecture time and assignments to cover areas that require additional remediation and practice.

Metacognitive Skills report—View statistics showing how knowledgeable your learners are about their own comprehension and learning.

Classroom Preparation Tools Whether before, during, or after class, there is a suite of Gregory products designed to help instructors plan their lessons and to keep learners building upon the foundations of the course.

ANNOTATED INSTRUCTOR’S EDITION. The Annotated Instructor’s Edition provides a wealth of teaching aids for each chapter in Public Speaking for College & Career. It is also cross-referenced with SmartBook, Connect, and other supplements that accompany Public Speaking for College & Career. 

POWERPOINT SLIDES. The PowerPoint presentations for Public Speaking for College & Career provide chapter highlights that help instructors create focused yet individualized lesson plans.

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TEST BANK. The Test Bank is a treasury of more than 1,000 examination questions based on the most important public speaking concepts explored in Public Speaking for College & Career; more than 100 of the questions are new or revised for this edition.

Support to Ensure Success

∙ Digital Success Academy—The Digital Success Academy on Connect offers a wealth of training and course creation guidance for instructors and learners alike. Instructor support is presented in easy- to-navigate, easy-to-complete sections. It includes the popular Connect how-to videos, step-by-step Click through Guides, and First Day of Class materials that explain how to use both the Connect platform and its course-specific tools and features. http:// createwp.customer.mheducation.com/ wordpress-mu/success-academy/

∙ Digital Success Team—The Digital Success Team is a group of special- ists dedicated to working online with instructors—one-on-one—to demonstrate how the Connect platform works and to help incorporate Connect into a customer’s specific course design and syllabus. Con- tact your digital learning consultant to learn more.

∙ Digital Learning Consultants—Digital Learning Consultants are local resources who work closely with your McGraw-Hill learning technology consultants. They can provide face-to-face faculty support and training. http://shop.mheducation.com/store/paris/user/findltr.html

∙ Digital Faculty Consultants—Digital Faculty Consultants are experienced instructors who use Connect in their classrooms. These instructors are avail- able to offer suggestions, advice, and training about how best to use Connect in your class. To request a Digital Faculty Consultant to speak with, please e-mail your McGraw-Hill learning technology consultant. http://connect.customer. mheducation.com/dfc/

∙ National Training Webinars—McGraw-Hill offers an ongoing series of webinars for instructors to learn and master the Connect platform, as well as its course-specific tools and features. We hope you will refer to our online sched- ule of national training webinars and sign up to learn more about Connect! http://webinars.mhhe.com/

CONTACT OUR CUSTOMER SUPPORT TEAM McGraw-Hill is dedicated to supporting instructors and learners. To

contact our customer support team, please call us at 800-331-5094 or visit us online at http://mpss.mhhe.com/contact.php

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xx Preface

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Chapter-by-Chapter Changes to the New Edition: Highlights New and updated material in this edition of Public Speaking for College & Career reflects the latest research in the field and the current available technology. Chapter 14 now includes a new section on how to speak in front of a camera, which provides guid- ance for being filmed for interviews or speeches, as well as for personally conducting online video interviews and filming speech assignments.

Chapter 1 Introduction to Public Speaking: New sample self-introduction speech, sample speech introducing a classmate, and chapter opening vignette

Chapter 2 Managing Nervousness: Updated coverage of public figures who experi- ence speech anxiety; new chapter opening vignette

Chapter 3 Listening: Updated images and examples

Chapter 4 Reaching the Audience: Revised sections on audience diversity; new Tips for Your Career box about being sensitive to audience discomfort; new chapter opening vignette

Chapter 5 Selecting Topic, Purpose, and Central Idea: Updated figure; revised sec- tion on selecting a topic; new chapter opening vignette

Chapter 6 Locating Information: Updated graph on research options; expanded coverage on library resources, research misconceptions, and searching electronically; revised examples and MLA formatting in Table 1; updated Tips for Your Career box on filing important ideas; new chapter opening vignette

Chapter 7 Evaluating Information and Avoiding Plagiarism: Updated coverage on recognizing dubious claims, being wary of groups with misleading names, and analyz- ing Internet sites; revised Tips for Your Career box on being willing to challenge reports in the media

Chapter 8 Supporting Your Ideas: Revised sections on definition, vivid images, and statistics; revised Tips for Your Career box on giving listeners bonus material; new chapter opening vignette

Chapter 9 Presentation Aids: Updated examples of visual aids; expanded coverage of linear versus non-linear presentation software; revised coverage of using colors care- fully; placement of PowerPoint slide problems and their solutions from an appendix to within the chapter; new Examining Your Ethics box on presenting appropriate visual aids; new chapter opening vignette

Chapter 10 The Body of the Speech: Updated section on devising main points; new Examining Your Ethics box on organizing a speech; revised Tips for Your Career box on testing and verifying material; new chapter opening vignette

Chapter 11 Introductions and Conclusions: Updated images and examples

Chapter 12 Outlining the Speech: Revised Tips for Your Career box on speech time limits, including new information on TED talks; new Examining Your Ethics box on devising an appropriate speech title; revised section on using a full sheet of paper for notes

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Chapter 13 Wording the Speech: Revised sections on using words accurately and achieving clarity; updated examples; new chapter opening vignette

Chapter 14 Delivering the Speech: New section on speaking in front of a camera; revised Tips for Your Career box on dealing with distractions while giving a speech; new chapter opening vignette

Chapter 15 Speaking to Inform: Revised sections on definition speeches and on mak- ing information interesting; new sample process speech

Chapter 16 Speaking to Persuade: Revised section of speeches to motivate action; new section, “After the Persuasive Speech,” with tips on creating “leave behinds” for an audience; new example of the motivated sequence; new chapter opening vignette

Chapter 17 Persuasive Strategies: Revised sections on knowing your audience, providing evidence, and using sound reasoning; new examples of choosing evidence from credible sources and arousing emotions during a persuasive speech; new chapter opening vignette

Chapter 18 Speaking on Special Occasions: New sample entertainment speech; expanded coverage of using humor; new chapter opening vignette

Chapter 19 Speaking in Groups: New Tips for Your Career box on essential public speaking advice; revised chapter opening vignette

Speeches Online To view 24 videos of full-length sample student speeches and dozens of video speech clips, visit the media bank in the Gregory Connect site. Included in the media bank are all the major speeches presented in this text, plus many more, including thirteen videos that are brand new to this edition. See below for a list of many of the full-length speeches available in Connect:

∙ House Arrest ∙ How to Hide Valuables ∙ Humanoid Robots ∙ Inmates and Tomatoes ∙ Not as Healthy as They Sound ∙ One Slip—and You’re Dead ∙ Scars and Bruises ∙ Sleep Deficiency ∙ Wedding Crashers ∙ Would You Vote for Aardvark? ∙ Your Body Needs Detoxification

(Needs Improvement)

∙ Animal Helpers (Needs Improve- ment Version)

∙ Animal Helpers (Improved Version)

∙ The Deadliest Natural Disaster ∙ Do You Need Detox? (Improved

Version) ∙ Failed to Get the Job? (Needs

Improvement) ∙ Failed to Get the Job? (Improved

Version) ∙ The Four-Day Work Week—Pros

and Cons ∙ Gold Fever

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xxii Preface

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Acknowledgments Over 200 instructors have reviewed this book in its successive editions. Their advice has not only shown me how to improve the book but has also helped me to improve my own classroom teaching. I am grateful to the reviewers for their insights, encourage- ment, and willingness to help a colleague.

For this edition, reviewers include Ferald J. Bryan, Northern Illinois University; Michele Daniels, Kilgore College; Jill Dietze, Northeast Texas Community College; Brandon Gainer, De Anza College; Carla  J.  Harrell, Old Dominion University; Dr. Pamela D. Hopkins, East Carolina University; Carolyn Jones, Medgar Evers College; Linda Levitt, Stephen F. Austin State University; William Maze, Northwest Mississippi Community College; Brad Nason, Ph.D., Pennsylvania College of Technology; Andrea Patterson-Masuka, Ph.D.,Winston-Salem State University;  Lawrence J. Timko, Frederick Community College; Michael L. Tress, New Jersey Institute of Technology; Dr. Mary Tripp, Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College; and Carolyn Weber, Minnesota West Community and Technical College.

From the earliest days of this book, Betty Dvorson, an inspiring and popular instructor at City College of San Francisco, has given me lots of valuable advice and enthusiastic support. For their creative ideas, special thanks to Barbara Guess, Forsyth Technical Community College; Ruth Bennett, Betty Farmer, and Jim Manning, all of Western Carolina University; and Tom W. Gregory, Trinity College in Washington, D.C.

For this edition, I profited from working with Victoria DeRosa, a sagacious editor who helped me adapt the book to the needs and interests of today’s college students. I also benefitted from the support and vision of Nancy Huebner, Brand Manager; Lisa Pinto, Lead Product Developer; Laura Kennedy, Marketing Manager; Meghan Campbell, Director of Product Development; Sally Constable, Market Development Manager; and Michael O’Loughlin, Product Developer. I also appreciate the whole- hearted backing I have received from McGraw-Hill executives David Patterson, Managing Director, and Michael Ryan, Vice President and General Manager of Products & Markets.

Program Manager Jennifer Shekleton displayed admirable skill and care (and patience with me!) in guiding the book through the production stages, aided by Samantha Donisi-Hamm, Content Project Manager; Debra Kubiak, Design Manager; Jessica Serd, Designer; Janet Byrne Smith, Digital Product Analyst; Shawntel Schmitt and DeAnna Dausener, Content Licensing Specialists; Deb DeBord, proof- reader; and Christopher Greene, copyeditor. 

Special thanks go out to the team behind the scenes who built and continue to maintain speech assignment functionality on Connect: Irina Blokh-Reznik, Vijay Kapu, Swathi Malathi, Rishi Mehta, Bob Myers, Bhumi Patel, Dan Roenstch, Ayeesha Shaik, Kapil Shrivastava, and Udaya Teegavarapu.

A new section in Chapter 14, “Speaking in Front of a Camera,” was derived from the ideas and insights of three communication instructors: Stephanie O’Brien, a member of the Director’s Guild of America who worked in Los Angeles on award-winning television series and motion pictures for 17 years as an assistant director and currently teaches communication and media studies courses at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College; Jan Caldwell, a communication instructor at the same college; and Melody Hays, Continuing Education Planner at Mountain Area Health Education Center in Asheville, North Carolina.

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I wish to thank the following colleagues for ideas, inspiration, and support: Kenet Adamson, Jennifer Browning, Jan Caldwell, Angela Calhoun, Jim Cavener, Patricia Cutspec, Rebecca Davis, Michael Flynn, Lynne Gabai, Deborah L. Harmon, Cris Harshman, Melody Hays, Peggy Higgins, Patrizia Hoffman, David Holcombe, Rusty Holmes, Lisa Johnson, Dennis King, Erika Lytle, Deb Maddox, Mary McClurkin, Celia Miles, Stephanie O’Brien, Jim Olsen, Rolfe Olsen, Susan Paterson, Ellen Perry, Heidi Smathers, Beth Stewart, Mary Sugeir, and Heather Vaughn.

I am indebted to the hundreds of students in my public speaking classes over the years who have made teaching this course a pleasant and rewarding task. From them I have drawn most of the examples of classroom speeches.

And for their support and patience, special thanks to my late wife Merrell and to our children, Jess, Jim, and June.

— Hamilton Gregory

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Benefits of a Public Speaking Course

The Speech Communication Process

The Speaker’s Responsibilities

Speech Introducing Yourself or a Classmate

Quick Guide to Public Speaking

OBJECTIVES After studying this chapter, you should be able to

1. Explain five benefits of a public speaking course. 2. Identify and explain the seven elements of the speech

communication process.

3. Describe the main responsibilities that speakers have toward their listeners.

4. Prepare a speech introducing yourself or a classmate.

UPSET WHEN THEY DISCOVERED that African-American students were being

barred from joining sororities on their campus, two University of Alabama students—

Khortlan Patterson of Houston, Texas, and Yardena Wolf of Corvallis, Oregon—felt

compelled to speak out. They led a march of 400 students and professors to the

steps of the administration building, where they both gave speeches calling for an

end to the segregated system.

Their message was heard loud and clear. University president Judy Bonner quickly

proclaimed that “the University of Alabama will not tolerate discrimination of any

kind,” and a few days later, she announced that traditionally white sororities had

invited 11 African-American students to join.1

Both Patterson and Wolf had taken a public speaking course, so they knew how

to plan a speech and manage their nerves. Patterson says she calmed herself by

Introduction to Public Speaking



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focusing on “the message [she] wanted to convey.”2 Wolf used positive

thoughts: “I realized that it wasn’t really about me, rather about the big-

ger picture, and that not speaking wasn’t an option.”3

Patterson and Wolf not only displayed courage by speaking out, but they

also demonstrated that public speakers can touch lives and make contri-

butions to society.

University of Alabama students Khortlan Patterson, left, and Yardena Wolf speak out against the university’s segregated sorority system.

© Dave Martin/AP Images

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Benefits of a Public Speaking Course Many college graduates say that of all the courses they took, public speaking proved to be one of the most valuable.4 Here are some of the reasons:

1. You learn how to speak to an audience. Being able to stand up and give a talk to a group of people is a rewarding skill you can use throughout your life. Imagine yourself in these public speaking scenarios:

∙ In one of your college classes, you must give a 30-minute presentation on a research project.

∙ To 50 colleagues at work, you give a brief speech appealing for contributions to the United Way charity drive.

∙ In court, you explain to a jury why a traffic accident was not your fault.

2. You learn skills that apply to one-on-one communication. Although the emphasis of this course is on speaking to groups, the principles that you learn also apply to communication with individuals.5 Throughout your lifetime you will be obliged to talk in situations such as these:

∙ In a job interview, a human resources manager says, “We’ve got 50 well- qualified applicants for this job. Why should we hire you?” If you know how to give a reply that is brief, interesting, and convincing, you obviously improve your chances of getting the job. In a public speaking course, you learn how to organize and present persuasive messages.

∙ You sit down with a bank executive to ask for a loan so that you can buy a new car. The skills of nonverbal communication (such as eye contact and facial expres- sion) that you learn in a public speaking course should help you convey to the banker that you are a trustworthy and reliable person who will repay the loan.

After taking a public speaking course, many students report that their new skills help them as much in talking to one person as in addressing a large audience. 3. You develop the oral communication skills that are prized in the job market.

When you go to a job interview, which of the following is most likely to influence the employer when he or she decides whether to hire you?

∙ The reputation of your school ∙ Your grade-point average ∙ Letters of reference ∙ Technical knowledge in your field ∙ Oral communication skills—speaking and listening ∙ Written communication skills—reading and writing

Research shows that “oral communication skills” is the correct answer—a finding that surprises many students.6 Surely “technical knowledge in your field” is the most important factor for jobs in science and technology, isn’t it? Not according to employ- ers. You can be brilliant in your field, says one executive, but if you can’t communicate successfully with co-workers and the public, your brilliance is of little value.7

Once you have a job, being a good communicator can help you win advancement. Michael Wolfe, CEO of Pipewise, Inc., describes the qualities of those who win promo- tions: “Being a good communicator. Being visible. Being helpful. Building relation- ships. You can’t be a leader without doing those things.”8

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Chapter 1 Introduction to Public Speaking 5

4. You learn in an ideal environment for gaining experience and building confidence. The classroom is a perfect place to practice and develop your skills. No one will deny you a job or a loan on the basis of your classroom speeches. Your audience is friendly and sympathetic—all your classmates are going through the same experience.

The critiques given by your instructor and by fellow students are valuable parts of the course. If, for example, you say “um” or “uh” so often that it distracts your listeners, you are probably unaware of this unconscious habit. Being told of the problem is the first step toward correcting it.

If you are like most students, your public speaking class will help you gain self- confidence. You will enjoy the pride that comes from meeting a challenge and handling it successfully.

5. You can make a contribution to the lives of other people. While attending a funeral service for a beloved aunt, my former student Karen Walker heard the minis- ter give a brief eulogy and then say, “Would anyone like to say a few words?”

A few people went to the microphone and shared some memories, but most audi- ence members were silent. “I wanted to pay tribute to my aunt, but I was too scared,” said Walker. “I felt really bad because there were a lot of important things about my aunt and her life that were never said.” A few years later, Walker took a public speaking class, and a year or so afterward, she attended another funeral—for her grandfather. “This time I vowed that I would not pass up the opportunity to honor a wonderful person. I asked to be part of the service, and I spoke about my childhood memories of my grandfather.”

Victor Ulloa, a star player for the Major League Soccer club FC Dallas, demonstrates how public speaking allows a person to contribute positively to the lives of others. He gives talks to students at Dallas-area middle schools and high schools about the importance of staying in school and receiving a quality education.

© Cooper Neill/Getty Images

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The eulogy, said Walker, was appreciated by her family members, who told her that she had expressed beautifully what they would have said if they had possessed the cour- age and the skills to stand up and speak. “It gave me a good feeling to know that I could represent the family in this way,” she said.

Being able to speak in public—offering a toast, sharing information, providing encouragement, attempting persuasion—can bring pleasure and joy to yourself and to others. Walker said that her success was possible because of what she had learned in her public speaking class.

The Speech Communication Process When a speaker gives a speech, does communication take place?

Sometimes yes, sometimes no—because speaking and communicating are not the same thing. You can speak to a listener, but if the listener does not understand your message in the way you meant it to be understood, you have failed to communicate it.

For example, at a business dinner at a restaurant in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Joe Lentini told the server that he knew little about wine and asked her to “recommend something decent.” She suggested a bottle of cabernet sauvignon sold under the name Screaming Eagle, and she said the price was “thirty-seven fifty.” Lentini thought she meant $37.50, and he approved. But when the bill arrived at the end of the meal, he was astonished and dazed to see that the cost was $3,750.9

This incident illustrates that speaking and communicating are not synonymous. As a slogan of the Hitachi Corporation puts it: “Communication is not simply sending a message. It is creating true understanding—swiftly, clearly, and precisely.”

To help you send messages that truly communicate, it is helpful to understand the process of speech communication. As we discuss the process, use Figure 1 as a visual reference.

Elements of the Process The speech communication process has seven distinct components.

Speaker When you are a speaker, you are the source of a message that is transmitted to a lis- tener. Whether you are speaking to a dozen people or 500, you bear a great responsibil- ity for the success of the communication. The key question that you must constantly ask yourself is not “Am I giving out good information?” or “Am I performing well?” but, rather, “Am I getting through to my listeners?”

Listener The listener is the recipient of the message sent by the speaker. The true test of commu- nication is not whether a message is delivered by the speaker but whether it is accurately received by the listener. “A speech,” says management consultant David W. Richardson of Westport, Connecticut, “takes place in the minds of the audience.”10

If communication fails, who is to blame—the speaker or the listener? It could be either, or both. Although speakers share part of the responsibility for communication, listeners also must bear some of the burden. They must focus on the speaker, not day- dream or text a friend. They must listen with open minds, avoiding the tendency to prejudge the speaker or discount a speaker’s views without a fair hearing.

speaker the originator of a message sent to a listener.

listener the receiver of the speaker’s message.

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Chapter 1 Introduction to Public Speaking 7

Figure 1 The Speech Communication Process  In this model of the speech communication process, a speaker creates a message and sends it via a channel to the listener, who interprets it and sends feedback via a channel to the speaker. Interference is whatever impedes accurate communication. The situation refers to the time and place in which communication occurs.

Speaker Interference

Speaker creates message

Speaker interprets feedback

Listener interprets message

Listener sends feedback



Ch ann

el Messa


Feedbac k

Cha nne


The speech communication process is often dynamic, with communicators sending and receiving messages in rapid sequence, sometimes even simul- taneously. In this informal business presentation, the speaker sends mes- sages while receiving feedback (both verbal and nonverbal) from listeners. At various times, a speaker and a listener may exchange roles.

© Pressmaster/Shutterstock

Message The message is whatever the speaker communicates to the listeners. The message is sent in the form of symbols—either verbal or nonverbal.

Verbal symbols are words. It’s important for you to recognize that words are not things; they are symbols of things. If you give me an apple, you transfer a solid object from your hand to mine. But if you make a speech and you mention the word “apple,” you do not transfer a concrete thing. You transfer a verbal symbol.

message whatever is commu- nicated verbally and nonverbally to the listener.

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Nonverbal symbols are what you convey with your tone of voice, eyes, facial expression, gestures, posture, and appearance.

So far, the process sounds simple, but now we enter a danger zone. As a speaker transmits verbal and nonverbal symbols, the listeners must receive and interpret them. Unfortunately, listeners may end up with a variety of interpretations, some of them quite different from what the speaker intended. Consider our simple word apple. One listener may think of a small green fruit, while another conjures an image of a big red fruit. One listener may think of crisp tartness, while another thinks of juicy sweetness.

If such a simple word can evoke a variety of mental pictures, imagine the con- fusion and misunderstanding that can arise when abstract words such as imperial- ism, patriotism, and censorship are used. The term censorship may mean “stamping out filth” to some listeners, but it may mean “total government control of the news media” to others.

As a speaker, use symbols that are clear and specific. Don’t say, “Smoking may cause you a lot of trouble.” The phrase “a lot of trouble” is vague and might be interpreted by some listeners to mean “coughing,” by others to mean “stained teeth,” or by still others to mean “cancer.” Be specific: “Smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer.”

Sometimes a speaker’s verbal symbols contradict his or her nonverbal symbols. If you say to an audience at the end of a speech, “Now I would like to hear your views on this subject,” but your expression is tense and your voice sounds irritated, the listeners are getting a mixed message. Which will they believe, your words or your nonverbal behavior? Listeners usually accept the nonverbal behavior as the true message. In this case, they will conclude that you do not welcome comments.

Make sure the nonverbal part of your message reinforces, rather than contradicts, the verbal part. In other words, smile and use a friendly tone of voice when you ask for audience participation.

Channel The channel is the medium used to communicate the message. In everyday life, you receive messages via televisions, phones, the Internet, and direct voice communication. For public speaking, your main channels are auditory (your voice) and visual (gestures, facial expressions, visual aids). You can also use other channels—taste, smell, touch, and physical activity—which will be discussed in the chapter on presentation aids.

Feedback Feedback is the response that the listener gives the speaker. Sometimes it is verbal, as when a listener asks questions or makes comments. In most public speeches, and cer- tainly in the ones you will give in the classroom, listeners wait to give verbal feedback until the question-and-answer period.

Listeners also give nonverbal feedback. If they are smiling and nodding their heads, they are obviously in agreement with your remarks. If they are frowning and sitting with their arms folded, they more than likely disagree with what you are saying. If they are yawning, they are probably bored or weary. “A yawn,” wrote English author G. K. Chesterton, “is a silent shout.”11

If you receive negative feedback, try to help your listeners. If, for example, you are explaining a concept, but some of your listeners are shaking their heads and giving you looks that seem to say, “I don’t understand,” try again, using different words, to make your ideas clear.

channel the pathway used to transmit a message.

feedback verbal and nonverbal responses made by a listener to a speaker.

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Some speakers develop unconscious habits when they speak, such as smoothing their hair or straightening their clothes. The best way to discover and discard these quirks is to get feedback from your listeners in the form of an evaluation. Although feedback is valuable for pinpoint- ing delivery problems, it is even more important as a way to assess the content of your speech: are your remarks enlightening or confusing to the listeners?

You don’t need an evaluation of every speech in your career, but you should seek feedback occasionally. Strive to get both positive input and constructive suggestions so that you can keep the good and eliminate the bad. Here are four good methods:

1. Ask several friends or colleagues to critique your speech. Don’t make an imprecise request like “Tell me how I do on this” because your evaluators will probably say at the end of your speech, “You did fine—good speech,” regardless of what they thought of it, to avoid hurting your feelings. Instead give them a specific assignment: “Please make a note of at least three things that you like about the speech and my delivery, and at least three things that you feel need

Tips for Your Career

Seek Feedback



improvement.” Now your listeners know exactly what you need. As a result, you are likely to get helpful feedback.

2. Use an evaluation form. Distribute sheets to all lis- teners, asking for responses to a series of questions about your delivery and the content of your speech. To protect anonymity, you can have someone collect the forms.

3. Ask a small group of listeners to sit down with you after a meeting to share their reactions. This is especially useful in finding out whether the listen- ers understood and accepted your message. Try to listen and learn without becoming argumentative or defensive.

4. Record your presentation on video. Invite colleagues to watch the video with you and help you evaluate it. Because many people are never pleased with either themselves or their speeches on video, colleagues often can provide objectivity. For example, an intro- duction that now seems dull to you might strike your colleagues as interesting and captivating.

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Chapter 1 Introduction to Public Speaking 9

Interference can be caused by a daydreaming listener.

© StockLite/Shutterstock

Interference Interference is anything that blocks or hinders the accurate communica- tion of a message. There are three types:

∙ External interference comes from outside the listener: someone coughing, people talking on their smartphones, or broken air- conditioning that leaves the listeners hot and sticky.

∙ Internal interference comes from within the listener. Some listen- ers might be hungry or tired or sick, or they might be daydreaming or worrying about a personal problem. As a speaker, you can help such listeners by making your speech so engaging that the audi- ence wants to listen to you.

∙ Speaker-generated interference can occur if you distract your listen- ers with unfamiliar words, confusing concepts, or bizarre clothing.

Sometimes listeners will try to overcome interference—for example, straining to hear the speaker’s words over the noise of other people talk- ing. But too often, listeners will fail to make the extra effort.

When you are a speaker, stay alert for signs of interference and respond immediately. For example, if a plane roars overhead, you can either speak louder or pause while it passes.

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interference anything that obstructs accurate communica- tion of a message.

situation the setting in which communication takes place.

Examining Your Ethics

Suppose you are speaking in support of a good cause, but the statistics you want to use in your speech are complicated and hard to explain. You could convince your audience more easily if you made up some simplified statistics. Is it okay to fabricate a small amount of data so that it is easier for your audience to understand?

A. Yes, it’s okay if the data is close to being accurate. B. No, it is not okay. C. Sometimes yes, sometimes no—it depends on the context.

For the answer, see the last page of this chapter.

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Situation The situation is the context—the time, place, and circumstances—in which communi- cation occurs. Different situations call for different behaviors. In some settings, speak- ers can crack jokes and audiences can laugh, while in others, speakers must be serious and listeners should remain silent.

Time of day determines how receptive an audience is. Many listeners, for example, become sluggish and sleepy about an hour after a big meal. If you give a presentation dur- ing that period, you can enliven it by using colorful visual aids and hands-on activities.

When you prepare a speech, find out as much as possible about the situation: What is the nature of the occasion? How many people are likely to be present? Will the speech be given indoors or outdoors? Once you assess these variables, you can adapt your speech to make it effective for the situation.

The Process in Everyday Life So far, our discussion might suggest that speech communication is a simple process: a speaker sends a message, a listener provides feedback—back and forth, like a tennis match. But in everyday life, the process is usually complex and dynamic. Instead of speaker and listener taking turns, communicators often send and receive messages at the same time.

For example, you go into your boss’s office to ask for a raise. As you start your (verbal) message, she is giving you a friendly, accepting smile, a (nonverbal) message that seems to say that she is glad to see you. But as your message is spelled out, her smile fades and is replaced by a grim expression of regret—negative feedback. “I wish I could give you a big raise,” she says, “but I can’t even give you a little one.” As she is saying these last words, she interprets your facial expression as displaying disbelief, so she hastily adds, “Our departmental budget just won’t permit it. My hands are tied.” And so on . . . a lively give-and-take of verbal and nonverbal communication.

The Speaker’s Responsibilities When you give a speech, you should accept certain responsibilities.

Maintain High Ethical Standards The standards of conduct and moral judgment that are generally accepted in a society are called ethics. In public speaking, the focus on ethics is on how speakers handle their material and how they treat their listeners. Speakers should be honest and straightforward with listeners, avoiding all methods and goals that are deceitful, unscrupulous, or unfair.

“Examining Your Ethics” boxes throughout the book will help you exercise your skills at points where ethical issues are discussed.

Let’s examine three important ethical responsibilities of the speaker.

Never Distort Information As an ethical speaker, you should always be honest about facts and figures. Distorting information is not only dishonest—it’s fool- ish. Let’s say that in your career, you persuade some colleagues to take a certain course of action but it is later discovered that you got your way by distorting facts and statistics.

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Chapter 1 Introduction to Public Speaking 11

In the future, your colleagues will distrust everything you propose—even if you have sound logic and impeccable evidence on your side. “A liar will not be believed,” said the ancient Greek writer Aesop, “even when he [or she] speaks the truth.”12

Respect Your Audience Some speakers talk down to their listeners. Speaking in a scolding, condescending tone, one speaker told an audience of young job-seekers, “I know you people don’t believe me, but you’re wasting your time and money if you pay a consultant to critique your résumé.” When speakers are condescending or disrespectful, they are likely to lose the respect and attention of the audience. Their credibility is crippled.

Humorist Will Rogers once said, “Everybody is ignorant, only on different subjects” and “There is nothing as stupid as an educated man if you get him off the thing he was educated in.”13 When you are the expert on a subject, remember that your “ignorant” lis- teners are experts on topics within their own realm of knowledge and experience.

Reject Stereotyping and Scapegoating A stereotype is a simplistic or exaggerated image that humans carry in their minds about groups of people. If you were asked to give a speech to raise funds for a home- less shelter, you might have difficulty generating sympathy because many people have a negative stereotype of the homeless, referring to them as “bums” and assuming them to be addicted to alcohol or drugs.

Like all stereotypes, this one is unfair, as illustrated by the story of Dave Talley, a homeless man in Tempe, Arizona, who found a backpack containing a laptop computer and $3,300 in cash. He turned in the backpack, which had been lost by Bryan Belanger, a student at Arizona State University. Belanger said he had withdrawn the money from his bank account to buy a new car after his old one had been wrecked. As for Dave Tal- ley, he said he had no hesitation about turning in the lost items. “Not everybody on the streets is a criminal,” he said. “Most of us have honor and integrity.”14

You should reject stereotypes because they force all people in a group into the same simple pattern. They fail to account for individual differences and the wide range of characteristics among members of any group. For example, a popular stereotype depicts lawyers as dishonest. Some lawyers are dishonest, yes, but many are sincere advocates who make positive contributions to society.

While avoiding stereotyping, you also should reject its close cousin, scapegoating. A scapegoat is a person or a group unfairly blamed for some real or imagined wrong. In recent years, the alleged decline in the quality of education in the United States has been blamed on public school teachers, who have been vilified as incompetent and uncaring. While there may be some teachers who deserve such labels, most are dedicated profes- sionals who care deeply about their students.

Enrich Listeners’ Lives Before a speech, some speakers make remarks such as these to their friends:

∙ “I hope not many people show up.” ∙ “When I ask for questions, I hope nobody has any.” ∙ “I want to get this over with.”

Often a speaker makes these comments out of nervousness. As you will see in the chapter on managing nervousness, speech anxiety is a normal occurrence that can be motivated by a variety of understandable reasons. However, such remarks show that the speaker is focused on his or her own emotions rather than on the audience.

stereotype an oversimplified or exaggerated image of groups of people.

scapegoat an individual or a group that innocently bears the blame of others.

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Instead of viewing a speech as an ordeal, consider it an opportunity to enrich the lives of your listeners. One of my students, Mary Crosby, gave a classroom speech on poisonous spiders—what they look like, how to avoid them, and what to do if bitten. She had spent six hours researching the topic. If the 17 of us in the audience had dupli- cated her research, spending six hours apiece, we would have labored for 102 hours. Thus, Crosby saved us a great deal of time and effort and, more importantly, gave us useful information. Most of us probably never would have taken the time to do this research, so her speech was all the more valuable.

Take Every Speech Seriously Consider two situations that some speakers erroneously assume are not worth taking seriously: classroom speeches and small audiences. Classroom speeches. Contrary to what some students think, your classroom speeches are as important as any speeches that you may give in your career or community, and they deserve to be taken seriously. They deal with real human issues and are presented by real human beings. As a teacher, I look forward to classroom speeches because I learn a lot from them. I have learned how to save the life of a person choking on food, how to garden without using pesticides, how to set up a tax-free savings account for my children, and so much more. Small audiences. Some speakers mistakenly think that if an audience is small, they need not put forth their best effort. Wrong. You should try as hard to communicate with an audience of five as you would with an audience of 500. James “Doc” Blakely of Wharton, Texas, tells of a colleague who traveled to a small town in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan to give a speech and found that only one person had shown up to hear him. He gave the lone listener his best efforts, and later that listener started a national movement based on the speaker’s ideas.15

Speech Introducing Yourself or a Classmate A speech introducing yourself or a classmate to the audience is often assigned early in a public speaking class. The speech gives you an opportunity to use an easy topic to gain experience. It also gives you and other members of the class a chance to learn key information about one another so that future classroom speeches can be tailored to the needs and interests of the audience.

Strive to show your audience what makes you or your classmate interesting and unique. Unless your instructor advises otherwise, you may include the follo wing items.

Background Information

∙ Name ∙ Hometown ∙ Family information ∙ Work experience ∙ Academic plans ∙ Post-graduation goals

Unique Features

∙ Special interests (hobbies, sports, clubs, etc.) ∙ One interesting or unusual thing about you or your classmate ∙ One interesting or unusual experience

The last three items are especially important because they give the audience a glimpse into the qualities, interests, and experiences that make you or your classmate unique.

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Chapter 1 Introduction to Public Speaking 13

Sample Self-Introduction Speech Rachel Chavez introduces herself to a public speaking class.


My name is Rachel Chavez, and I am from San Diego, California. I am majoring in environmental science.


I am very interested in solar energy. I have a part-time job installing solar panels for a company that is owned by my two older brothers. It is hard work, climbing up on roofs and installing panels, but it is very rewarding.

At the end of a job, I ask customers to turn on their system and then look at the electric meter. Because of the extra solar energy flowing in, they can see that

their meter has started running in the opposite direc- tion. In other words, they are sending power back to the grid—they are now making money. In two or three years, they will have earned the equivalent of all the money they spent on buying and installing the solar system.


You can see why I love solar energy. I hope that in the years ahead, I can help move this country further and further down the road toward free energy from the sun for everybody.

Sample Speech Introducing a Classmate In this speech, Chris Richards introduces classmate Utsav Misra.


Utsav Misra, who is a sophomore, comes to us all the way from India, and he’s the first person in his family to go to college. He is majoring in culinary arts.


At the moment, Utsav’s grand passion in life is cricket, which is the most popular sport in India. He grew up playing cricket, and he’s trying to organize a cricket club on our campus. Not only is he recruiting international students who know the sport well, but he’s also trying to recruit students who have never played the sport. Cricket is becoming more and more popular in the United States. Today over 80 American colleges have cricket clubs.

For those of you who don’t know what cricket is all about, it’s similar to baseball. Pitchers are called

bowlers, and they throw the ball toward an opposing batsman, who tries to prevent the ball from hitting the wicket behind him. A wicket is made up of three upright wooden poles that are hammered into the ground. Utsav tells me that cricket involves a lot more than what I’ve told you, and the rules can be a bit complicated for Americans. But it’s like any sport. Once you learn the rules, it’s fun to play and it’s fun to watch.


For one of his speeches in this class, Utsav is planning to give you an introduction to cricket. He will show you a cricket ball and a bat, and he will use videos so that you can understand what’s going on when you see a cricket match on TV. I, for one, am eager to learn about this intriguing sport.

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Quick Guide to Public Speaking To help you with any major speeches that you must give before you have had time to study this entire book, we will take a look at the key principles of preparation and delivery.

The guide below assumes that you will use the most popu- lar method of speaking—extemporaneous—which means that you carefully prepare your speech but you don’t read or memo- rize a script. Instead you look directly at your listeners and talk in a natural, conversational way, occasionally glancing at notes to stay on track.

The extemporaneous style and three other methods of speaking—manuscript (reading a document), memorization (speaking from memory), and impromptu (speaking with little or no time to prepare)—will be fully discussed in the chapter on delivering the speech.

Preparation Audience. The goal of public speaking is to gain a response from your listeners—to get them to think, feel, or act in a cer- tain way. To reach the listeners, find out as much as you can about them. What are their ages, genders, racial and ethnic backgrounds, and educational levels? What are their attitudes toward you and the subject? How much do they already know about the subject? When you have completed a thorough anal- ysis of your listeners, adapt your speech to meet their needs and interests.

Topic. Choose a topic that is interesting to you and about which you know a lot (either now or after doing research).

Your topic also should be interesting to the listeners—one they will consider timely and worthwhile. Narrow the topic so that you can comfortably and adequately cover it within the time allotted.

Purposes and central idea. Select a general purpose (to inform, to persuade, etc.), a specific purpose (a statement of exactly what you want to achieve with your audi- ence), and a central idea (the message of your speech boiled down to one sentence). For example, suppose you want to persuade your listeners to safeguard their dental health. You could create objectives such as these:

General Purpose: To persuade Specific Purpose: To persuade my listeners to take good care of their teeth and


Next, ask yourself, “What is my essential message? What big idea do I want to leave in the minds of my listeners?” Your answer is your central idea. Here is one possibility:

Central Idea: Keeping your mouth healthy can contribute to your overall health.

This central idea is what you want your listeners to remember if they forget every- thing else.

If you are excited about vacationing in Hawaii— including jumping off Maui’s famous Black Rock— you have a good speech topic.

© Jeanne Provost/Shutterstock

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Chapter 1 Introduction to Public Speaking 15

Finding materials. Gather information by reading books and periodicals (such as magazines and journals), searching for information on the Internet, interviewing knowl- edgeable people, or drawing from your own personal experiences. Look for interesting items such as examples, statistics, stories, and quotations. Consider using visual aids to help the audience understand and remember key points.

Organization. Organize the body of your speech by devising two or three main points that explain or prove the central idea. To continue the example from above, ask yourself this question: “How can I get my audience to understand and accept my central idea?” Here are two main points that could be made:

I. Medical researchers say that poor oral health can lead to diabetes, heart disease, pneumonia, and some types of cancer.

II. Know how to protect your teeth and gums.

The next step is to develop each main point with support material such as exam- ples, statistics, and quotations from experts. Underneath the first main point, these two items could be used to illustrate the health risks of poor oral health:

∙ Researchers at Columbia University’s School of Public Health tracked 9,296 men and women for 20 years and found that those participants who developed gum disease had a much greater risk of becoming diabetic than participants without gum disease.

∙ A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine established that having gum disease significantly increases the chances of developing heart disease.

Under the second main point, discuss the needs to brush and floss daily, to use anti- bacterial mouthwash, and to get a professional cleaning from a dental hygienist twice a year.

Transitions. To carry your listeners smoothly from one part of the speech to another, use transitional words or phrases, such as “Let’s begin by looking at the problem,” “Now for my second reason,” and “Let me summarize what we’ve covered.”

Introduction. In the first part of your introduction, grab the attention of the listeners and make them want to listen to the rest of the speech. Attention-getters include fascinating sto- ries, intriguing questions, and interesting facts or statistics. Next, prepare listeners for the body of the speech by stating the central idea and/or by previewing the main points. Give any background information or definitions that the audience would need in order to understand the speech. Establish credibility by stating your own expertise or by citing reliable sources.

Conclusion. Summarize your key points, and then close with a clincher (such as a quotation or a story) to drive home the central idea of the speech.

Outline. Put together all parts of the speech (introduction, body, conclusion, and tran- sitions) in an outline. Make sure that everything in the outline serves to explain, illus- trate, or prove the central idea.

Speaking notes. Prepare brief speaking notes based on your outline. These notes should be the only cues you take with you to the lectern.

Practice. Rehearse your speech several times. Don’t memorize the speech, but strive to rehearse ideas (as cued by your brief speaking notes). Trim the speech if you are in danger of exceeding the time limit.

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Delivery Self-confidence. Develop a positive attitude about yourself, your speech, and your audience. Don’t let fear cripple you: nervousness is normal for most speakers. Rather than trying to banish your jitters, use nervousness as a source of energy—it actually can help you to come across as a vital, enthusiastic speaker.

Approach and beginning. When you are called to speak, leave your seat without sighing or mumbling, walk confidently to the front of the room, spend a few moments standing in silence (this is a good time to arrange your notes and get your first sentences firmly in mind), and then look directly at the audience as you begin your speech.

Eye contact. Look at all parts of the audience throughout the speech, glancing down at your notes only occasionally. Avoid staring at a wall or the floor; avoid looking out a window.

Speaking rate. Speak at a rate that makes it easy for the audience to absorb your ideas—neither too slow nor too fast.

Expressiveness. Your voice should sound as animated as it does when you carry on a conversation with a friend.

Clarity and volume. Pronounce your words distinctly and speak loud enough so that all listeners can clearly hear you. Avoid verbal fill- ers such as uh, ah, um, er, okay, ya know.

Gestures and movement. If it is appropriate and feels natural, use gestures to accompany your words. They should add to, rather than distract from, your message. You may move about during your speech, as long as your movements are pur- poseful and confident—not random and nervous. Don’t do anything that distracts the audience, such as jingling keys or riffling note cards.

Posture and poise. Stand up straight. Try to be comfortable, yet poised and alert. Avoid leaning on the lectern or slouching on a desk.

Use of notes. Glance at your notes occasion- ally to pick up the next point. Don’t read them or absentmindedly stare at them.

Enthusiasm. Don’t simply go through the motions of “giving a speech.” Your whole manner—eyes, facial expression, posture, voice—should show enthusiasm for your subject, and you should seem genuinely interested in communicating your ideas.

Ending and departure. Say your conclusion, pause a few moments, and then ask—in a tone that shows that you sincerely mean it—“Are there any questions?” Don’t give the appearance of being anxious to get back to your seat, such as by pocket- ing your notes or by taking a step toward your seat.

Gestures are an important part of delivery. Musician Jake Shimabukuro, a ukulele virtuoso and composer from Honolulu, Hawaii, uses effective gestures during a presentation in Pasadena, California.

© Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP Images

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In a survey, 370 business and professional leaders were asked to name the most common mistakes made by pub- lic speakers in the United States today. Here are the most common ones:

1. Failing to tailor one’s speech to the needs and inter- ests of the audience. A poor speaker bores listen- ers with information that is stale or useless. A good speaker sizes up the listeners in advance and gives them material that is interesting and useful.

2. Using PowerPoint ineffectively. If used wisely, Power- Point slides can be wonderful, but if used poorly, they can irritate an audience. The chapter on presentation aids will give you tips on creating effective slides.

3. Speaking too long. If you want to avoid alienating an audience, stay within your time limit. Time yourself when you practice, and refrain from ad-libbing and going off on tangents when you give your speech.

4. Being poorly prepared. A good speech does not just happen. The speaker must spend hours research- ing the topic, organizing material, and rehearsing the speech before he or she rises to speak. As many speakers have discovered, slapping together a pre- sentation a few hours beforehand is not sufficient. You need at least two weeks to prepare.

5. Being dull. A speech can be made boring by poor content or by poor delivery. To avoid being dull, you

Tips for Your Career

Avoid the Five Biggest Mistakes Made by Speakers



should (a) choose a subject about which you are enthusiastic, (b) prepare interesting material, (c) have a strong desire to communicate your message to the audience, and (d) let your enthusiasm shine during your delivery of the speech.

Source: Survey by the author of 370 business and professional leaders, February–March 2011.

Listeners get bored if a speech is uninteresting or too long.

© Tomas Rodriguez/Corbis RF

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Chapter 1 Introduction to Public Speaking 17

Summary A public speaking course helps you develop the key oral com- munication skills (speaking well and listening intelligently) that are highly prized in business, technical, and professional careers. You gain both confidence and experience as you prac- tice those skills in an ideal environment—the classroom— where your audience is friendly and supportive.

The speech communication process consists of seven elements: speaker, listener, message, channel, feedback, inter- ference, and situation. Communication does not necessarily take place just because a speaker transmits a message; the message must be accurately received by the listener. When the speaker sends a message, he or she must make sure that the

Resources for Review and Skill Building

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two components of a message—verbal and nonverbal—don’t contradict each other.

Communicators often send and receive messages at the same time, creating a lively give-and-take of verbal and non- verbal communication.

Speakers should maintain high ethical standards, never distorting information, even for a good cause. They should

respect their audiences and avoid a condescending attitude. They should reject stereotyping and scapegoating.

Good communicators don’t view a speech as an ordeal to be endured, but as an opportunity to enrich the lives of their listeners. For this reason, they take every speech seriously, even if the audience is small.

Key Terms channel, 8

feedback, 8

interference, 9

listener, 6

message, 7

scapegoat, 11

situation, 10

speaker, 6

stereotype, 11

1. Name five personal benefits of a public speaking course.

2. Why is speaking not necessarily the same thing as communicating?

3. What are the seven elements of the speech communica- tion process?

4. If communication fails, who is to blame—the speaker or the listener?

5. If there is a contradiction between the verbal and nonverbal components of a speaker’s message, which

component is a listener likely to accept as the true message?

6. What two channels are most frequently used for class- room speeches?

7. Why are communication skills important to your career? 8. What are the three types of interference? 9. What are stereotypes? Give some examples. 10. According to a survey, what are the five biggest mis-

takes made by public speakers?

Review Questions

1. Describe an instance of miscommunication between you and another person (friend, relative, salesperson, etc.). Discuss what caused the problem and how the inter- change could have been handled better.

2. Interference can block effective communication. Imag- ine you are a supervisor and you are giving important instructions at a staff meeting. You notice that a few

Building Critical-Thinking Skills employees are not receiving your message because they are carrying on a whispered conversation. What would you do? Justify your approach.

3. Who is the most engaging public communicator (politician, teacher, religious leader, etc.) you have ever encountered? What are the reasons for his or her success?

1. Working in a group, analyze a particular room (your classroom or some other site that everyone is familiar with) as a setting for speeches (consider the size of the room, seating, equipment, and potential distractions). Prepare a list of tips that speakers can follow to mini- mize interference and maximize communication.

Building Teamwork Skills 2. For each member of a group, take turns stating your

chosen (or probable) career. Then, working together, imagine scenarios in that career in which oral communi- cation skills would play an important part.

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Chapter 1 Introduction to Public Speaking 19

Answer: B. Making up data is never acceptable or ethical. It is okay to summarize complicated data for your audience, but be sure to tell them that you did so, and never alter data to suit your agenda.

Examining Your Ethics

1. Kayla Webley, “Revolution on Sorority Row,” Marie Claire, www.marieclaire.com (accessed September 19, 2015).

2. Khortlan Patterson, e-mail interview, June 25, 2014.

3. Yardena Wolf, e-mail interview, August 9, 2014.

4. Hamilton Gregory, e-mail survey of 742 business and professional speakers (91 percent of the 487 who said that they had taken either a college public speaking course or a communication course with a public speaking component rated the course as “highly valuable”).

5. Gerhard Gschwandtner, The Pocket Sales Mentor (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2006), p. 199.

6. National Association of Colleges and Employers, “Job Outlook 2014,” www.naceweb.org (accessed September 20, 2015); L. Darling and Deanna P. Dannels, “Practicing Engineers Talk about the Importance of Talk: A Report on Oral Communication in the Workplace,” Communication Education, January 2003, pp. 1–16.

7. Marilyn Mackes, executive director, National Association of Colleges and Employers, e-mail interview, January 22, 2009.

End Notes 8. Michael Wolfe, “What Are the Real Reasons Some

People Get Promoted and Others Don’t?” Forbes, www.forbes.com (accessed January 6, 2016).

9. “I Read It in the Tabloids,” The Week magazine, Nov. 21, 2014, p. 14.

10. David W. Richardson, management consultant, Westport, Connecticut, e-mail interview, May 9, 2000.

11. G. K. Chesterton, BrainyQuote, brainyquote.com, accessed September 23, 2015.

12. Aesop’s Fables, Bartleby.com, www.bartleby.com (accessed September 20, 2015).

13. Rogers, Will, “From Nuts to Soup” (syndicated column number 90). The New York Times, August 31, 1924.

14. Bradley Blackburn, “Person of the Week: Arizona Homeless Man Dave Tally Turns in Lost Backpack with $3,300,” ABC News, abcnews.go.com/US/ PersonOfWeek/arizona-homeless-man-turns-lost- backpack-3300/story?id=12191814 (accessed January 6, 2016).

15. James (“Doc”) Blakely, professional speaker, Wharton, Texas, e-mail interview, November 13, 2007.

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Reasons for Nervousness

The Value of Fear

Guidelines for Managing Nervousness

OBJECTIVES After studying this chapter, you should be able to

1. Identify and describe the five fears that can cause nervousness.

2. Explain why nervousness can actually help a public speaker. 3. Apply techniques that can be used before and during a

speech to manage nervousness.

H A R RY ST Y L E S ,  a celebrity singer with One Direction, performs in front of vast

crowds in concerts throughout the world, and he admits to sometimes experiencing

stage fright. But far more terrifying than singing before thousands, he says, was giv-

ing a speech as best man at his mother’s wedding reception for 100 family members

and friends in Congleton, England.

“It was the most nerve-wracking thing I’ve ever done,” he recalled about standing up

to honor his mother, who had just married his stepfather. Nevertheless, reports Lon-

don’s Daily Mail newspaper, he “managed to pull off the dreaded speech and charm

the entire room.”

How did Styles manage his nerves so successfully? “I practiced on my own for days

beforehand,” he explained. He also focused his mind on paying tribute to his beloved

“mum” by balancing emotion and humor in his speech.1

Managing Nervousness



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If you experience ner-

vousness as a public

speaker, you are not

alone. Most people—even

public figures like Harry

Styles—suffer from stage

fright when called upon

to speak in public.2 In fact,

when researchers ask

Americans to name their

greatest fears, the fear of

speaking to a group of

strangers is listed more

often than fear of snakes,

insects, lightning, deep

water, heights, or flying in


With the tips offered in

this chapter, you should

be able to manage your

nervousness and become

a confident speaker.

Harry Styles of One Direction speaks to a crowd of admirers at Central Park in New York City.

© Kevin Mazur/WireImage/Getty

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Reasons for Nervousness Is it ridiculous to be afraid to give a speech? I used to think so, back when I first began public speaking. I was a nervous wreck, and I would often chide myself by saying, “Come on, there’s no good reason to be scared.” But I was wrong. There is good reason to be scared; in fact, there are many good reasons, including the five below.

1. Fear of being stared at. If you haven’t had experience being the center of atten- tion, it can be unnerving to have all eyes in a room focused on you.

2. Fear of failure or rejection. If you are like most people, you are afraid of look- ing stupid. You ask yourself, “What if I make a fool of myself?” or “What if I say something really dumb?”

3. Fear of the unknown. New events, such as your first job interview, can be scary because you cannot anticipate the outcome. Fortunately, this fear usually eases in public speaking as you gain experience. You develop enough confidence to know that nothing terrible will happen.

4. A traumatic experience in the past. You may have painful memories of a humil- iating event in a classroom or a presentation that flopped.

5. Social anxiety. Because of your genetic makeup or temperament, you may be awkward, uneasy, or apprehensive in public. You may feel defensive around other people and fearful of being evaluated and judged.

All of these reasons are understandable, and you do not need to feel ashamed if any of them apply to you. Recognizing them is an important step in learning how to manage your nervousness.

The Value of Fear In the first hour of my public speaking class, many students tell me that one of their goals is to eliminate all traces of nervousness. My response may surprise you as much as it surprises them: You should not try to banish all your fear and nervousness. You need a certain amount of fear to give a good speech.

You need fear? Yes. When accepted and managed, fear energizes you; it makes you think fast. It gives you vitality and enthusiasm. Here is why: When you stand up to give a speech and fear hits you, your body’s biological survival mechanisms kick in. You experience the same feeling of high alert that saved our cave-dwelling ancestors when they faced hungry wolves and either had to fight or flee to survive. Though these mechanisms are not as crucial in our day-to-day lives as they were to our ancestors, this system is still nice to have for emergencies: if you were walking down a deserted street one night and someone threatened you, your body would release a burst of adrenaline into your bloodstream, causing freshly oxygenated blood to rush to your muscles, and you would be able to fight ferociously or retreat quickly. The benefit of adrenaline can be seen in competitive sports; athletes must get their adrenaline flowing before a game begins. The great home-run slugger Reggie Jackson said during his heyday, “I have but- terflies in my stomach almost every time I step up to the plate. When I don’t have them, I get worried because it means I won’t hit the ball very well.”4

Many musicians, actors, and public speakers have the same attitude. Singer Garth Brooks says, “If I ever stop getting nervous before a performance, it’s time for me to quit.”5 In public speaking, adrenaline infuses you with energy. It enables you to think with greater clarity and quickness. It makes you come across to your audience

adrenaline a hormone, triggered by stress, that stimu- lates heart, lungs, and muscles and prepares the body for “fright, flight, or fight.”

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Chapter 2 Managing Nervousness 23

as someone who is alive and vibrant. Elayne Snyder, a speech teacher, uses the term positive nervousness, which she describes in this way: “It’s a zesty, enthusiastic, lively feeling with a slight edge to it. Positive nervousness is the state you’ll achieve by con- verting your anxiety into constructive energy . . . . It’s still nervousness, but you’re no longer victimized by it; instead you’re vitalized by it.”6

If you want proof that nervousness is beneficial, observe speakers who have abso- lutely no butterflies at all. Because they are 100 percent relaxed, they usually give speeches that are dull and flat, with no energy, no zest. There is an old saying: “Speakers who say they are as cool as a cucumber usually give speeches about as interesting as a cucumber.” One speaker, the novelist I. A. R. Wylie, said, “I rarely rise to my feet without a throat constricted with terror and a furiously thumping heart. When, for some reason, I am cool and self-assured, the speech is always a failure. I need fear to spur me on.”7

Another danger of being too relaxed is you might get hit with a sudden bolt of panic. A hospital official told me that she gave an orientation speech to new employees every week for several years. “It became so routine that I lost all of my stage fright,” she said. Then one day, while in the middle of her talk, she was suddenly and inexplicably struck with paralyzing fear. “I got all choked up and had to take a break to pull myself together,” she recalled.

I have had a similar experience, and so have many other speakers. We get too relaxed, and then we get blindsided by sudden panic. For this reason, if I find myself overly calm before a speech, I tell myself to be alert for danger. I try to encourage “posi- tive nervousness,” and this helps me to avoid being caught off-guard.

Guidelines for Managing Nervousness A complete lack of fear is undesirable, but what about the other extreme? Is too much nervousness bad for you? Of course it is, especially if you are so incapacitated that you forget what you were planning to say, or if your breathing is so labored that you cannot get your words out. Your goal is to keep your nervousness under control so that you have just the right amount—enough to energize you, but not enough to cripple you. You can achieve a good balance by following the tips below.

In the Planning Stage By giving time and energy to planning your speech, you can bypass many anxieties.

Choose a Topic You Know Well Nothing will unsettle you more than speaking on a subject that is unfamiliar to you. If you are asked to do so, I suggest you decline the invitation (unless, of course, it is an assignment from an instructor or a boss who gives you no choice). Choose a topic you are interested in and know a lot about—or want to learn more about. This will give you enormous self-confidence; if something terrible happens, like losing your notes, you can improvise because you know your subject. Also, familiarity with the topic will allow you to handle yourself well in the question-and-answer period after the speech.

Prepare Yourself Thoroughly Here is a piece of advice given by many experienced speakers: the very best precaution against excessive stage fright is thorough, careful preparation. You may have heard the expression “I came unglued.” In public speaking, solid preparation is the “glue” that will hold you together.8 Joel Weldon of Scottsdale, Arizona (who quips that he

positive nervousness useful energy.

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Examining Your Ethics

Mick was nervous and lacked confidence in his ability to choose a good topic, so he gave a speech about meteors that his friend Aditya had created. Aditya was quite knowledgeable about astronomy and had created a good speech, but Mick himself did not know much about meteors. Which of the following are valid arguments against Mick’s behavior?

A. His delivery might be shaky because of unfamiliarity with the subject matter.

B. He is guilty of plagiarism, passing off someone else’s work as his own.

C. Not knowing his topic very well, he risks embarrassment if he is unable to answer simple questions during the question-and- answer period.

For the answer, see the last page of this chapter.

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used to be so frightened of audiences that he was “unable to lead a church group in silent prayer”), gives his personal formula for managing fear: “I prepare and then prepare, and then when I think I’m ready, I prepare some more.”  Weldon recommends five to eight hours of preparation for each hour in front of an audience.9

Start your preparation far in advance of the speech date so that you have plenty of time to gather ideas, create an outline, and prepare speaking notes. Then practice, practice, practice. Don’t just look over your notes—actually stand up and rehearse your talk in whatever way suits you: in front of a mirror, a video camera, or a live audience of family or friends. Don’t rehearse just once—run through your entire speech at least four times. If you present your speech

four times at home, you will find that your fifth delivery—before a live audience—will be smoother and more self-assured than if you had not practiced at all.

Never Memorize a Speech Giving a speech from memory courts disaster. Winston Churchill, the British prime minister during World War II who is considered one of the greatest orators of the twen- tieth century, learned this lesson as a young man. In the beginning of his career, he would write out and memorize his speeches. One day, while giving a memorized talk to Parliament, he suddenly stopped. His mind went blank. He began his last sentence all over. Again his mind went blank. He sat down in embarrassment and shame. Never again did Churchill try to memorize a speech. This same thing has happened to many others who have tried to commit a speech to memory. Everything goes smoothly until they get derailed, and then they are hopelessly off the track.

Even if you avoid derailment, there is another reason for not memorizing: you will probably sound mechanical. Your audience will sense that you are speaking from your memory and not from your heart, and this will undermine your impact.

Visualize Yourself Giving an Effective Speech Let yourself daydream a bit: picture yourself going up to the lectern, a bit nervous but in control of yourself, and then giving a forceful talk to an appreciative audience. This visualization technique may sound silly, but it has worked for many speakers and it may work for you. Notice that the daydream includes nervousness. You need to have a realistic image in your mind: nervous, but nevertheless in command of the situation and capable of delivering a strong, effective speech.

This technique, often called positive imagery, has been used by athletes for years. Have you ever watched professional golf on TV? Before each stroke, golfers carefully study the distance from the ball to the hole, the rise and fall of the terrain, and so on. Many of them report that just before swinging, they imagine themselves hitting the ball with the right amount of force and watching it go straight into the cup. Then they try to execute the play just as they imagined it. The imagery, many pros say, improves their game.

positive imagery visualization of successful actions.

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Robert Pattinson is a shy introvert.

© Everett Collection/ Shutterstock

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Chapter 2 Managing Nervousness 25

Positive imagery works best when you can couple it with believing that you will give a successful speech. Is it absurd to hold such a belief? If you fail to prepare, yes, it is absurd. But if you spend time in solid preparation and rehearsal, you are justified in believing in success.

Whatever you do, don’t let yourself imagine the opposite—a bad speech or poor deliv- ery. Negative thinking will add unnecessary fear to your life in the days before your speech and rob you of creative energy—energy that you need for preparing and practicing.10

Know That Shyness Is No Barrier Some shy people think that their temperament blocks them from becoming good speak- ers, but this is erroneous. Many shy introverts have succeeded in show business: Nicole Kidman, Elton John, Amanda Seyfried, Blake Lively, Robert Pattinson, Johnny Depp, and Keira Knightley, to name just a few.11  Many less-famous people also have suc- ceeded. “I used to stammer,” says Joe W. Boyd of Bellingham, Washington, “and I used to be petrified at the thought of speaking before a group of any size.” Despite his shy- ness, Boyd joined a Toastmasters club to develop his speaking skills. Two years later, he won the Toastmasters International Public Speaking Contest by giving a superb speech to an audience of more than 2,000 listeners.12

Shift Focus from Self to Audience Before a speech, some speakers worry about whether listeners will like them. This is a big mistake, says Johnny Lee, a specialist in preventing workplace violence who man- ages his nervousness by focusing on his audience rather than on himself. To worry about yourself and your image, he says, “is a kind of vanity—you are putting yourself above your audience and your message.”13

Some experienced speakers say that focusing on yourself is an act of inexcusable selfishness. Instead of worrying about whether listeners like you, focus on the audience and try to fulfill their interests, needs, and desires.

One good way to shift the focus from self to audience is to change your “self- talk.” Whenever you have a self-centered thought such as, “I will make a total idiot out of myself,” substitute an audience-centered thought such as, “I will give my listeners information that will be useful in their lives.” This approach eases your anxiety and also empowers you to connect with your audience.

Plan Visual Aids In addition to adding spice and interest to a speech, visual aids reduce anxiety because you can shift the audience’s stares from you to your illustrations. Also, moving about as you display your aids siphons off some of your excess nervous energy. Your aids don’t have to be elaborate, and you don’t need many—sometimes one or two will suffice.

Make Arrangements At least several days before you give your speech, inspect the location and anticipate any problems: Is there an extension cord for the multimedia projector? Do the windows have curtains or blinds so that the room can be darkened? Is there a whiteboard and a marker? Some talks have been ruined and some speakers turned into nervous wrecks because, at the last moment, they discover that there isn’t an extension cord in the entire building.

Devote Extra Practice to the Introduction Because you will probably have the most anxiety at the beginning of your speech, you should spend a lot of time practicing your introduction.

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Greet listeners as they arrive.

© violetblue/Shutterstock

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Most speakers, actors, and musicians report that after the first minute or two, their nervousness eases and the rest of the event is relatively easy. German opera singer Ernestine Schumann-Heink said, “I grow so nervous before a performance, I become sick. I want to go home. But after I have been on the stage for a few minutes, I am so happy that nobody can drag me off.”14 Perhaps happiness is too strong a word for what you will feel, but if you are a typical speaker, the rest of your speech will be smooth sail- ing once you have weathered the turbulent waters of the first few minutes.

Immediately before the Speech Here are a few tips for the hours preceding your speech.

Verify Equipment and Materials On the day of your speech, arrive early and inspect every detail of the arrangements you have made. Is the equipment you need in place and in good working order? If there is a public-address system, test your voice on it before the audience arrives so that you can feel at ease with it. Learn how to adjust the microphone.

Get Acclimated to Audience and Setting It can be frightening to arrive at the meeting place at the last moment and confront a sea of strange faces waiting to hear you talk. If you arrive at least one hour early, you can get acclimated to the setting and chat with people as they come into the room. In this way, you will see them not as a hostile pack of strangers but as ordinary people who wish you well.

If possible, during your talk, refer to some of the audience members with whom you have chatted: for example, “I was talking to Gabriela Ramirez before the meeting, and she told me about the problems you have been experiencing with getting custom- ers to pay their bills on time.” In this way, you make your listeners feel valued, and you make yourself seem connected to them.

Danielle Kennedy of Sun Valley, Idaho, says that when she began her speaking career, she was so nervous she would hide out in a bathroom until it was time for her to speak. Now, she says, she mingles with the listeners as they arrive and engages them in conversation. “This reminds me that they are just nice people who want to be informed.

I also give myself pleasant thoughts. Things like: ‘Can you imagine, these people drove 100 miles just to hear me. I am so lucky. These people are wonderful.’ I get real warm thoughts going by the time I get up there.”15

Use Physical Actions to Release Tension Adrenaline can be beneficial, providing athletes and public speakers with helpful energy, but it also has a downside. When your body goes on high alert, you get pumped up and ready for action, but you also get a racing heart, trembling hands, and jittery knees. If you are an athlete, this is no problem because you will soon be engaged in vigorous play that will drain off excess nervous energy. As a public speaker, you don’t

have that outlet. Nevertheless, there are several tension releasers you can use:

∙ Take three slow, deep breaths and hold them. To prevent hyperventilating, be sure to inhale slowly and exhale slowly.

∙ Do exercises that can be performed without calling attention to yourself. Here are some examples: (1) Tighten and then relax your leg muscles. (2) Push your arm or hand muscles against a hard object (such as a desktop or a chair) for a few moments, and then release the pressure. (3) Press the palms of your hands against each other in the same way: tension, release . . . tension, release . . .

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Chapter 2 Managing Nervousness 27

During the Speech Here are proven pointers to keep in mind as you deliver a speech.

Pause before You Start All good speakers pause a few seconds before they begin their talk. This silence is effective because (1) it is dramatic, building up the audience’s interest and curiosity; (2) it makes you look poised and in control; (3) it calms you; and (4) it gives you a chance to look at your notes and get your first two or three sentences firmly in mind.

Many tense, inexperienced speakers rush up to the lectern and begin their speech at once, thus getting off to a frenzied, flustered start. They think that silence is an undesir- able void that must be filled up immediately. To the contrary, silence is a good breathing space between what went before and what comes next. It helps the audience to focus.

Deal Rationally with Your Body’s Turmoil If you are a typical beginning speaker, you will suffer from some or all of the following symptoms as you begin your talk:

∙ Pounding heart ∙ Trembling hands ∙ Shaky knees ∙ Dry, constricted throat ∙ Difficulty breathing ∙ Quivering voice ∙ Flushed face

You are likely to suffer the most during the first few minutes of a speech, and then things get better. However, if your symptoms get worse as you proceed, it might be because your mind has taken a wrong path. Examine the two paths diagrammed in Figure 1. If you take Route A, you are trapped in a vicious circle. Your mind tells your body that disaster is upon you, and your body responds by feeling worse. This, in turn, increases your brain’s perception of disaster.

You can avoid this rocky road by choosing Route B, in which your mind helps your body stay in control. The mental trick is to remind yourself that nervousness is an ally that can help energize you. Tell yourself that your symptoms, rather than being a prelude to disaster, are evidence that you are energized enough to give a good speech.

Think of Communication, Not Performance Regard your challenge as communication rather than performance. Dr. Michael T. Mot- ley of the University of California, Davis, says that speakers who suffer from excessive anxiety make the mistake of thinking of themselves as performing for listeners, whom they see as hostile evaluators. Such people say, “The audience will ridicule me if I make a mistake. I’ll be embarrassed to death.” But in fact, says Dr. Motley, audiences are more interested in hearing what you have to say “than in analyzing or criticizing how [you] say it.” Audiences “usually ignore errors and awkwardness as long as they get something out of a speech.”16

When you stop worrying about “How well am I performing?” and start think- ing about “How can I share my ideas with my audience?” two things usually happen: (1) your anxiety comes down to a manageable level and (2) your delivery improves

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dramatically. If you treat speechmaking as a dialogue with your listeners rather than as a performance, you will tend to talk with them instead of to them; you will tend to speak conversationally rather than in a stiff, unnatural way.

When one of my students, Maxine Jones, began her first classroom speech, her voice sounded artificial and cold; but after a few moments, she sounded animated and warm, as if she were carrying on a lively conversation. This caused her to become more interesting and easier to follow. Later she explained her transformation: “At first I was scared to death, but then I noticed that everyone in the room was looking at me with curiosity in their eyes, and I could tell that they really wanted to hear what I was saying. I told myself, ‘They really care about this information—I can’t let them down.’

Figure 1 The alternative paths that a speaker feeling stressed might take.


Correct Interpretation This is unpleasant but it

doesn’t mean disaster. If I concentrate on getting my

ideas across, my tension will stay under control and actually

improve my speech.

Wrong Interpretation I am falling apart . . . I won’t

be able to finish . . . This is total disaster.

Symptoms Your symptoms are still present, but are under


Symptoms Your symptoms get worse. Your heart beats faster, etc.

Result You let nervousness

energize you, and you proceed with your speech.

Result You panic . . . break down into tears, or rush from the room,

or stand in agony as your mind goes blank.


Pounding heart, trembling knees, etc.

Stressful Events

Being stared at, fear of failure, etc.

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Chapter 2 Managing Nervousness 29

So I settled down and talked to them as if they were my friends. I got so involved with explaining things to them that I didn’t worry too much about being scared.”

What Jones discovered is confirmed by athletes. Most tennis players, for example, are gripped by nervous tension before a match, but if they concentrate on hitting the ball, their tension recedes into the background. Likewise, public speakers may be filled with anxiety before a speech, but if they concentrate on communicating with the audi- ence, their anxiety moves to a back burner, where it provides energy for the task.

Know That Most Symptoms Are Not Seen Some speakers get rattled because they think the audience is keenly aware of their thumping heart and quaking hands. You, of course, are painfully aware of those symp- toms, but—believe it or not—your audience is usually oblivious to your body’s distress. Remember that people are sitting out there wanting to hear your ideas. They are not saying to themselves, “Let’s see, what signs of nervousness is this person displaying?”

I have had students tell me after a speech that they were embarrassed about their jit- tery performance, yet I and the other listeners in the class saw no signs of nervousness. We were listening to the ideas and failed to notice the speaker’s discomfort. Various studies have found the same thing to be true: audiences are unaware of the symptoms that the speakers think are embarrassingly obvious.17 In other words, you are probably the only one who knows that your knees are shaking and your heart is pounding.

TV talk show host Dick Cavett notes that a TV performer’s level of stage fright “varies from night to night. The best thing to do is tell yourself it doesn’t show one- eighth as much as you feel. If you’re a little nervous, you don’t look nervous at all. If you’re very nervous, you look slightly nervous. And if you’re totally out of control, you look troubled. It scales down on the screen.” People who appear on a talk show, says Cavett, should always remind themselves that everything they are doing looks better than it feels. “Your nervous system may be giving you a thousand shocks, but the viewer can only see a few of them.”18 The same thing holds true for a speech: you look better than you feel.

Never Mention Nervousness or Apologize Though most signs of nervousness are not visible, there may be times when an audience does notice your nervousness—when, for example, your breathing is audibly labored. In such a case, resist the temptation to comment or apologize. Everyone knows that most people get nervous when they talk in public, so why call attention to it or apologize for it?

Commenting about nervousness can create two big dangers. First of all, you might get yourself more rattled than you were to begin with. I remember listening to a teacher who was giving a talk to a PTA meeting one night. In the middle of her remarks, she suddenly blurted out, “Oh my god, I knew I would fall apart.” Up to that time, I had not been aware of any discomfort or nervousness. She tried to continue her talk, but she was too flustered. She gave up the effort and sat down with a red face. I don’t know what kind of internal distress she was suffering, of course, but I am certain that if she had said nothing about her nervousness, she could have dragged herself through the speech. When she sat down, I felt irritated and disappointed because I had been keenly inter- ested in her remarks. How selfish of her, I thought, to deprive me of the second half of her speech simply because she was nervous. I know that my reaction sounds insensitive, but it underscores an important point: your listeners don’t care about your emotional distress; they only want to hear your message.

The second risk of mentioning symptoms is that your audience might have been unaware of your nervousness before you brought it up, but now you have distracted

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them from your speech and they are watching the very thing you don’t want them to scrutinize: your body’s behavior. If you say, “I’m sorry that my hands are shaking,” what do you think the audience will pay close attention to, at least for the next few minutes? Your hands, of course, instead of your speech. Keep your audience’s attention focused on your ideas, and they will pay little or no attention to your emotional and physical distress.

A psychologist tells of the time when he was speaking at a convention as the presiding officer. At one point, he wanted to praise an associate who was sitting next to him at the head table for her hard work in planning the convention. “As I began my words of tribute,” he said, “my mind suddenly went blank, and I couldn’t remember her name! It was awful. This was a woman I had worked with for years. She was like a sister.”

Fortunately, he said, everyone was wearing name tags, so he leaned over, saw her name, and used it in his remarks—without the audience suspecting his memory lapse.

Such lapses are common, but don’t be alarmed. There is a simple solution: prepare a card with all basic information—names, dates, websites—and keep the card with your other notes for easy access.

Tips for Your Career

Prepare for Memory Lapses



This “card trick” is used by many ministers, politi- cians, and other public speakers. “When I perform wed- dings, even if I’m an old friend of the couple,” says one minister, “I have their names printed in big letters on a card that I keep in front of me.”

Use a card for any familiar passages, such as the Lord’s Prayer or the Pledge of Allegiance, that you are supposed to recite or to lead the audience in reciting. You may never need to read the card, but it’s nice to have a backup in case of emergency.

Please don’t misinterpret this tip to mean that you should write out an entire speech. Brief notes—a few words or phrases—are still recommended. Use the “card trick” only for names, numbers, and wordings that must be recalled with complete accuracy.

At public ceremonies, like this wedding, many ministers avoid embarrassment by having key information (such as the names of the bride and groom) on a card in front of them.

© Ned Frisk/Blend Images LLC

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Chapter 2 Managing Nervousness 31

Don’t Let Your Audience Upset You If you are like some speakers, you get rattled when you look out at the audience and observe that most listeners are poker-faced and unsmiling. Does this mean they are dis- pleased with your speech? No. Their solemn faces have nothing to do with you and your speech. This is just one of those peculiarities of human nature: in a conversation, people will smile and nod and encourage you, but when listening to a speech in an audience, most of them wear a blank mask. The way to deal with those stony faces is to remind yourself that your listeners want you to succeed; they hope that you will give them a worthwhile message. If you are lucky, you will notice two or three listeners who obvi- ously appreciate your speech—they nod in agreement or give you looks of approval. Let your eyes go to them frequently. They will give you courage and confidence.

If you are an inexperienced public speaker, you may get upset if you see members of an audience whispering to one another. You may wonder, “Are these people making negative comments about me?” If the listeners are smiling, it’s even worse: you ask yourself, “Did I say something dumb? Is there something wrong with my clothes?” If this happens to you, keep in mind that your rude listeners are probably just shar- ing some personal gossip. If they are whispering about something you’ve said, it’s not necessarily negative. They may be whispering that they agree with you 100 percent.

What if you see faces that look angry or displeased? Don’t assume the worst. Some people get a troubled look on their face whenever they concentrate on a speaker’s message. Michelle Roberts, a defense attorney in Wash- ington, DC, studies the facial expressions of every juror when she addresses the jury during a trial, but she has learned that frowning faces do not necessarily signify dis- approval. She says about jurors, “Sometimes they seem like they’re scowling and actually they’re with you.”19

What if a listener stands up and walks out of the room? For some inexperienced public speakers, this feels like a stunning personal defeat. Before you jump to conclusions, bear in mind that the listener’s behavior is probably not a response to your speech: he or she may have another meeting to attend or may need to use the rest room or may have become ill suddenly. But what if the listener is indeed storming out of the room in a huff, obviously rejecting your speech? In such a case, advises veteran speaker Earl Nightingale, “don’t worry about it. On controversial subjects, you’re bound to have listeners who are not in agreement with you—unless you’re giving them pure, unadulterated pap. Trying to win over every member of the audience is an impossible and thankless task. Remember, there were those who disagreed with wise, kind Socrates.”20

Act Poised To develop confidence when you face an audience, act as if you already are confident. Why? Because playing the role of the self-assured speaker can often transform you

Actress Moran Rosenblatt listens to a speaker at a film festi- val in Berlin. Is she displeased with the speaker’s remarks? Is she bored? Don’t jump to conclusions. Perhaps this is just her habitual expression when listening to an interesting topic.

© John MacDougall/AFP/Getty Images.

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into a speaker who is genuinely confident and poised. In various wars, soldiers have reported that they were terrified before going into combat, but nevertheless they acted brave in front of their buddies. During the battle, to their surprise, what started off as a pretense became a reality. Instead of pretending to be courageous, they actually became so. The same thing often happens to public speakers.

Look Directly at the Audience If you are frightened of your audience, it is tempting to stare at your notes or the back wall or the window, but these evasions will only add to your nervousness, not reduce it.

Force yourself to establish eye contact, especially at the beginning of your speech. Good eye contact means more than just a quick, furtive glance at various faces in front of you; it means “locking” your eyes with a listener’s for a couple of seconds. Locking eyes may sound frightening, but it actually helps to calm you. In an article about a pub- lic speaking course that she took, writer Maggie Paley said, “When you make contact with one other set of eyes, it’s a connection; you can relax and concentrate. The first time I did it, I calmed down 90 percent, and spoke . . . fluently.”21

Don’t Speak Too Fast Because of nervous tension and a desire to “get it over with,” many speakers race through their speeches. “Take it slow and easy,” advises Dr. Michael T. Motley of the University of California, Davis. “People in an audience have a tremendous job of information-processing to do. They need your help. Slow down, pause, and guide the audience through your talk by delineating major and minor points carefully. Remember that your objective is to help the audience understand what you are saying, not to pres- ent your information in record time.”22

To help yourself slow down, rehearse your speech in front of friends or relatives and ask them to raise their hands whenever you talk too rapidly. For the actual deliv- ery of the speech, write reminders for yourself in large letters on your notes (such as “SLOW DOWN”). While you are speaking, look at your listeners and talk directly to them in the same calm, patient, deliberate manner you would use if you were explaining an idea to a friend.

Get Audience Action Early in the Speech While it’s a bit unnerving to see your listeners’ expressionless faces, in some speeches, you can change those faces from blank to animated by asking a question. (Tips on how to ask questions will be discussed in the chapter on introductions and conclusions.) When the listeners respond with answers or a show of hands, they show themselves to be friendly and cooperative, and this reduces your apprehension. When they loosen up, you loosen up.

Eliminate Excess Energy For siphoning off excess energy during the speech, you can use visual aids (as men- tioned earlier) and these two tension releasers:

∙ Let your hands make gestures. You will not have any trouble making gestures if you simply allow your hands to be free. Don’t clutch note cards or thrust your hands into your pockets or grip the lectern. If you let your hands hang by your side or rest on the lectern, you will find that they will make gestures naturally. You will not have to think about it.

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Chapter 2 Managing Nervousness 33

∙ Walk around. Though you obviously should not pace back and forth like a caged animal, you can walk a few steps at a time. For example, you can walk a few steps to the left of the lectern to make a point, move back to the lectern to look at your notes for your next point, and then walk to the right of the lectern as you speak.

In addition to reducing tension, gestures and movement make you a more exciting and interesting speaker than someone who stands frozen to one spot.

Accept Imperfection If you think that you must give a perfect, polished speech, you put enormous—and unnecessary—pressure on yourself. Your listeners don’t care whether your delivery is perfect; they simply hope that your words will enlighten or entertain them. Think of yourself as a package deliverer; the audience is more interested in the package than in how skillfully you hand it over.

Making a mistake is not the end of the world. Even experienced speakers commit a fair number of blunders and bloopers. If you completely flub a sentence or mangle an idea, you might say something like, “No, wait. That’s not the way I wanted to explain this. Let me try again.” If you momentarily forget what you were planning to say, don’t despair. Pause a few moments to regain your composure and find your place in your notes. If you can’t find your place, ask the audience for help: “I’ve lost my train of thought—where was I?” There is no need to apologize. In conversation, you pause and correct yourself all the time; to do so occasionally in a speech makes you sound spontaneous and natural.

If you make a mistake that causes your audience to snicker or laugh, try to join in. If you can laugh at yourself, your audience will love you—they will see that you are no “stuffed shirt.” Some comedians deliberately plan “mistakes” as a technique for gaining rapport with their audiences.

Welcome Experience If you are an inexperienced public speaker, please know that you will learn to manage your nervousness as you get more and more practice in public speaking, both in your speech class and in your career. You should welcome this experience as a way to further your personal and professional growth.

One of my students told me at the beginning of the course that she just knew she would drop out of the class right before her first speech. She stayed, though, and developed into a fine speaker. She later got a promotion in her company partly because of her speaking ability. “I never thought I’d say this,” she admitted, “but the experience of giving speeches— plus learning how to handle nervousness—helped me enor- mously. Before I took the course, I used to panic whenever I started off a talk. I had this enormous lump in my throat, and I thought I was doing terrible. I would hurry through my talk just to get it over with.” But as a result of the course, she said, “I learned to control my nervousness and use it to my advan- tage. Now I’m as nervous as ever when I give a speech, but I make the nervousness work for me instead of against me.”

In your career, rather than shying away from speaking opportunities, seek them out. An old saying is true: experi- ence is the best teacher.

Like most public speakers, singer Shawn Mendes sometimes makes mistakes. Regarding a concert in Philadelphia, he says, “I fumbled my words on stage. I was between songs and meant to tell the fans to ‘sing along if you know the words,’ but it came out as an entirely jumbled sentence of gibberish.”

© Brad Barket/iHeartMedia/Getty Images

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Summary Nervousness is a normal, understandable emotion experi- enced by most public speakers. There are many reasons for jitters, but five of the most common are fear of being stared at, fear of failure or rejection, fear of the unknown, a traumatic experience in the past, and social anxiety. There is no reason to be ashamed if any of them apply to you.

Instead of trying to eliminate nervousness, welcome it as a source of energy. Properly channeled, it can help you give a better speech than you would deliver if you were completely relaxed.

The best way to avoid excessive, crippling nervous- ness is to pour time and energy into preparing and practic- ing your speech. Then, when you stand up to speak, deal

rationally with your nervous symptoms (such as trembling knees and dry throat); remind yourself that the symptoms are not a prelude to disaster but instead are evidence that you are energized enough to give a good speech. Never call attention to your nervousness and never apologize for it; the listeners don’t care about your emotional state—they just want to hear your message. Concentrate on getting your ideas across to the audience; this will get your mind where it belongs—on your listeners and not on yourself—and it will help you move your nervousness to a back burner, where it can still simmer and energize you without hindering your effectiveness.

Key Terms adrenaline, 22 positive imagery, 24 positive nervousness, 23

1. In an experiment, psychologist Rowland Miller asked col- lege students to do something embarrassing, such as singing “The Star-Spangled Banner,” while classmates watched. Those students who reported a great degree of embarrass- ment thought that their classmates would consider them fools and like them less, but Miller found just the opposite: The classmates expressed greater regard for the easily embarrassed students after the performance than before. What lessons can a public speaker draw from this research?

2. Imagine that while you are speaking to an audience, you notice that (a) everyone is very quiet, (b) a man in the front

Building Critical-Thinking Skills is rubbing his neck, and (c) a woman is looking in her purse. Using two columns on a piece of paper, give a nega- tive interpretation of these events in the left column, and then give a positive interpretation in the right column.

3. Many musicians make a distinction between “good nervousness” and “bad nervousness.” What does this distinction mean? How does it apply to public speakers?

4. Is it a good idea for speakers to focus during their speech on whether their clothes and grooming and overall image are pleasing to the audience? Defend your answer.

Resources for Review and Skill Building

1. What are the five common reasons for speakers’ nervousness?

2. Why are fear and nervousness beneficial to the public speaker?

3. Why is delivering a speech from memory a bad method? 4. Is shyness a liability for a speaker? Explain your answer. 5. How can a speaker reduce excessive tension before a

speech? 6. Explain the idea “Think of communication, not


Review Questions 7. Does an audience detect most of a speaker’s nervous

symptoms? Explain your answer.

8. Why should you never call attention to your nervousness?

9. Why should speakers not be upset when they see the unsmiling faces of their listeners?

10. Why should a speaker act as if he or she is confident?

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Chapter 2 Managing Nervousness 35

1. In a group, make a list of the nervous symptoms that group members have experienced before and during oral communication in public. (This may include being asked for comments during a class discussion.) Then discuss ways to control nervousness.

Building Teamwork Skills 2. Worrying about future events, say mental-health thera-

pists, can be helpful at certain times and harmful at other times. In a group, discuss the pros and cons of worrying, giving examples from everyday life. Then decide which aspects of speech preparation and delivery deserve to be worried about and which do not.

Answer: A, B, and C. Not knowing much about the topic can worsen speech anxiety and can cause embarrassment in the question-and-answer period. Plagiarism is a form of theft and is always unethical.

Examining Your Ethics

1. Ruby, Jennifer, “It Was the Most Nerve-Wracking Thing I’ve Ever Done,” Daily Mail, August 19, 2013.

2. “Conquering Stage Fright,” Anxiety and Depression Association of America, www.adaa.org/understanding- anxiety/social-anxiety-disorder/treatment/conquering- stage-fright (accessed January 7, 2016).

3. “Fear/Phobia Statistics,” Statistic Brain Research Institute, www.statisticbrain.com, accessed September 24, 2015; Joan Acocella, “I Can’t Go On! What’s Behind Stagefright?” The New Yorker, August 3, 2015, p. 69.

4. Reggie Jackson, interview during an ABC sports telecast, October 2, 1984.

5. Garth Brooks, quoted by Public Speaking Skills, www.422business.com/groups/public-speaking-skills (accessed January 6, 2016).

6. Elayne Snyder, Speechcoach, www.speechcoach.com (accessed May 16, 2015).

7. I. A. R. Wylie, quoted by Pushp Lata, Communicate or Collapse: A Handbook of Effective Public Speaking (New Delhi: Prentice-Hall of India, 2007), p. 22.

8. Adair Linn Nagata, “Cultivating Confidence in Public Communication,” Journal of Intercultural Communication, No.7, 2004, pp. 177–197.

9. Joel Weldon, professional speaker, Scottsdale, Arizona, e-mail interview, December 4, 2000.

10. Tammie Ronen, The Positive Power of Imagery (New York: John Wiley and Sons, 2011), p. 46.

11. Kiki Von Glinow, “Shy Celebrities: 15 Stars Who Have a Hard Time Shining in the Spotlight,”

End Notes Huffington Post, www.huffingtonpost.com (accessed November 17, 2015).

12. Joe W. Boyd, professional speaker, Bellingham, Washington, e-mail interview, December 4, 2000.

13. Johnny Lee, director of Peace at Work, Raleigh, North Carolina, e-mail interview, October 5, 2005.

14. Ernestine Schumann-Heink, quoted by Deborah Daiek and Nancy Anter, Critical Reading for College and Beyond (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2003), p. 341.

15. Danielle Kennedy, professional speaker, Sun Valley, Idaho, e-mail interview, June 8, 2000.

16. Michael T. Motley, “Taking the Terror out of Talk,” Psychology Today, January 1988, p. 49.

17. Colette R. Hirsch, et al., “Self-Images Play a Causal Role in Social Phobia,” Behaviour Research and Therapy, August 2003, pp. 909–921.

18. Dick Cavett, quoted in “Talk Shows: Dick Cavett,” www.talkshows.about.com/tvradio/talkshows/ msubcavett.htm (accessed November 12, 2015).

19. Michelle Roberts, quoted in David Segal, “Verdict: The Defense Can’t Rest Too Often” The Washington Post, July 3, 1999. A14.

20. Earl Nightingale, Communicate What You Think (Chicago: Nightingale-Conant Corp., 2001), Audiocassette #11.

21. Maggie Paley, “Modern Image Signal: Voice,” Vogue, August 1984, p. 412.

22. Michael T. Motley, “Taking the Terror out of Talk,” Psychology Today, January 1988, p. 49.

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Introduction to Listening

The Problem of Poor Listening Skills

How to Listen Effectively

The Listener’s Responsibilities

Speech Evaluations

OBJECTIVES After studying this chapter, you should be able to

1. Explain the difference between hearing and listening. 2. Describe eight key techniques to effective listening. 3. Define three major responsibilities that listeners have

toward speakers.

4. Know how to give and receive evaluations of speeches.

A I R F O R C E T E C H N I CA L S E R G E A N T   Marquis Mullins and his daughter

Anya are giving their full attention to a speaker at an Independence Day celebra-

tion in Washington, DC. They are displaying the attributes of ideal listeners—eyes

focused on the speaker and mind engaged with what the speaker is saying.

They also illustrate one of the key points of this chapter: when listeners are absorbed

and attentive, they not only learn a lot—they also help to energize and encourage the





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When listeners are fully engaged, they help to energize the speaker.

© Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images.

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Introduction to Listening Can you remember key ideas from a speaker’s presentation 24 hours after you listen to it? Before you answer, consider this:

Samantha Rudolph gives presentations on college campuses throughout the United States to try to recruit students to work at ESPN, the popular sports network (Figure 1). During a presentation at one college, she spent most of her time talking about the many ESPN jobs that are available at headquarters in Connecticut, but at one point, she men- tioned that there are also a number of positions available in other states.1

The next day a professor, who had sent her Mass Communication class to listen to the presentation, discussed ESPN opportunities with her students, and she was surprised to learn that at least half the class believed that Rudolph had given the following message: “If you can’t live in Connecticut, you can forget about working for ESPN.”

The students who failed to listen carefully were not stupid, and we should not feel superior to them. All of us face a challenge when we listen to a presentation. We don’t have printed words to linger over and re-read if necessary. All we have is oral communi- cation, which is written on the wind—fast-moving and impermanent.

Although listening effectively is a challenging task, you can become a better lis- tener by employing the techniques discussed in this chapter. These techniques should also help you become a better speaker. As you gain more awareness of the difficulties of the listening process, you will be able to plan your presentations to ensure that you give listeners messages that are clear and memorable.

The Problem of Poor Listening Skills A parent says to a child, “Are you listening to me?”

The child replies, “I hear you. I hear you.”

Figure 1 Samantha Rudolph tries to recruit college students to work for ESPN, but a listening error by some stu- dents blocks effective communication. © Lucio Villa

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Chapter 3 Listening 39

Although in conversation we sometimes use the words “hear” and “listen” inter- changeably, we should not treat them as synonyms. Hearing occurs when your ears pick up sound waves transmitted by a speaker. Listening involves making sense out of what is being transmitted. In the words of Keith Davis, a business professor at Arizona State University, “Hearing is with the ears, but listening is with the mind.”2

Listening is a major part of daily life. We spend an estimated 50 to 70 percent of our communication time listening, but research shows that most of us are not very effective as listeners. According to tests by Dr. Lyman K. Steil of the University of Minnesota in St. Paul, here is what happens after the average person listens to a 10-minute oral presentation:

∙ Ten minutes later: The listener has heard, understood, properly evaluated, and retained only about 50 percent of what was said.

∙ Two days later: The listener’s comprehension and retention have dropped to only 25 percent of what was said.3

You might think that our chief problem is failing to retain information, but actually our biggest error is miscomprehending and distorting what we hear. The results can be disastrous. Throughout the world, instructions are misunderstood, equipment breaks down from improper use, productivity declines, profits sag, sales are lost, relationships are damaged, morale is lowered, rumors get started, and health is harmed.4

How to Listen Effectively Many businesses have discovered that they can boost productivity and sales by teaching their employees to listen more effectively. Here are some key techniques.

Prepare Yourself Listening to difficult material is hard work, so prepare yourself as thoroughly as a run- ner prepares for a race.

Prepare yourself physically. Get enough sleep the night before. Consider exercising right before the speech or lecture. For example, if you suspect you will become drowsy in a warm classroom mid-afternoon, take a brisk walk beforehand to make yourself alert.

Prepare yourself intellectually. If the subject matter of the speech is new or com- plex, conduct research or do background reading beforehand. In this way, the speech will be much easier to understand. The American philosopher Henry David Thoreau once said, “We hear and apprehend only what we already half know.”5

Be Willing to Expend Energy When you watch a comedian on TV, do you have to work hard to pay attention? Of course not. You simply sit back and enjoy the humor. It is easy, effortless, and fun. If you are like many listeners, you assume that when you go to a presentation on a difficult subject, you should be able to sit back and absorb the content just as easily as you grasp a comedian’s jokes. But this is a major misconception. Listening effectively to difficult material requires work. You must be alert and energetic, giving total concentration with your eyes, ears, and mind.

According to Dr. Ralph G. Nichols, who did pioneering work on listening skills at the University of Minnesota, listening “is characterized by faster heart action, quicker circulation of the blood, and a small rise in body temperature.”6

If you tend to drift away mentally whenever a speaker begins to talk about unfamil- iar or difficult material, try to break yourself of the habit. Vow to put as much energy as necessary into paying attention.

hearing the process by which sound waves are received by the ear.

listening the act of interpreting and evaluating what is being said.

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Listen Analytically You should analyze a speech, not to nitpick or poke holes in it, but to help yourself understand and remember the speaker’s message. Here are two elements to analyze:

Focus on main ideas. After a speech, some listeners remember the interesting stories and fascinating visuals, but they can’t tell you the points that the speaker was trying to make. Look for the key ideas of the speech.

Evaluate supports. Effective speakers use stories, statistics, and quotations to explain, illustrate, or prove their main points. As a listener, you should evaluate those supports, asking yourself these questions:

∙ Do the supports seem to be accurate and up-to-date? ∙ Are they derived from reliable sources, or are they merely hearsay? ∙ Do they truly explain or prove a point?

Listening analytically helps you become a better listener, and it also helps you improve the quality of your own speeches because you can avoid the mistakes you see in the speeches of others. For an example of how to analyze, see Figure 2, which involves note taking, our next subject.

Take Notes Note taking facilitates effective listening in two key ways:

1. Note taking helps you remember. Studies show that people who take notes in meetings and lectures retain far more information than people who don’t take notes.7

2. Note taking helps you stay focused on the speaker. Because it prevents your mind from wandering, it is a good idea to take notes on all speeches, even if you even- tually throw the notes away. One of my colleagues explains:

I take notes at any talk I go to. I review the notes right after the meeting to solid- ify the key points in my mind. Afterwards, I may save the notes for my files or for some sort of follow-up, but I usually throw them away. This doesn’t mean that I had wasted my time by taking notes. The act of writing them helped me to listen analytically. It also—I must confess—kept me from daydreaming.

Note taking is effective only if you take notes systematically. Follow these strategies:

Don’t try to write down everything. Jot down just the key information. If you try to record one sentence after another, you will wear your hand out, or worse, you might fall into the habit of transcribing without evaluating.

Summarize. Put the speaker’s ideas into your own words. This will help to ensure that you understand the speaker’s message. If you can’t summarize a speaker’s message to yourself or a friend, that is a good sign that you do not understand the material.

Use a note taking method. If you have not already developed a method that works well for you, consider using one of the two methods in Figure 2. In Option A, the first column is labeled “Main Ideas,” and the second column is labeled “Supports.” Enter the speaker’s key points in the first column and any supporting points in the second column. The third

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Chapter 3 Listening 41

Figure 2 Two methods of note taking are shown as Option A and Option B.

Speaker’s Words

“Hackers are able to get into e-mail, Facebook, and bank accounts because most people use easy-to-guess passwords, according to the New York Times. Amichai Shulman is the chief technology o�cer at Imperva, a company that makes software to block hackers. He says that the most popular passwords are 123456, iloveyou, password, abc123, and america. The solution is to use a long password that mixes letters and numbers. But be careful. The password should be complex—for example, tp38jqx72wkw—instead of something simple, such as ilovemycat6789.”

Main ideas Support Follow-up

Hackers can access accounts email, Facebook, bank

Passwords too simple

Solution – long, with letters & numbers

123456, iloveyou, america


Are people just lazy?

Too hard to memorize?

Option A The speaker’s message is analyzed and sorted. (See text for details.)

Hackers can access accounts

email, Facebook, bank

Passwords too simple

123456, iloveyou, america – Are people just lazy?

Solution – long, with letters & numbers

tp38jqx72wkw – Too hard to memorize?

Option B Because it is some- times hard to distin- guish between main ideas and subpoints while a speaker is talk- ing, some listeners jot down one item per line.

Later, the listener can analyze the notes, using a highlighter to focus on key ideas and a red pen for follow-up items.

Hackers can access accounts

email, Facebook, bank

Passwords too simple

123456, iloveyou, america – Are people just lazy?

Solution – long, with letters & numbers

tp38jqx72wkw – Too hard to memorize?

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column is titled “Follow-up,” which you can use to ask questions during the question-and- answer period, or to conduct research later (for example, you might remind yourself: “Get more info on this”). You should use the Follow-up column only as needed.

Option B is a good choice when a speaker talks fast or does not clearly distinguish between main points and supports. Write one note per line. Later use a highlighter to mark the key ideas. In pen, circle any items that you need to follow up on.

Soon after a presentation, review your notes. If necessary, clarify them while the speak- er’s words are still fresh in your mind. If any parts of your notes are vague or confusing, seek help from another listener or, if available, the speaker—he or she will be flattered.

Resist Distractions Four common types of distractions make concentrating on a speech difficult:

∙ Auditory – people coughing or whispering, a cell phone ringing, loud noises in the hallway

∙ Visual – an interesting poster left over from a previous meeting, an intriguing listener seated nearby, people walking into or out of the room

∙ Physical – hunger, a headache or stuffy nose, an uncomfortable seat, a room that is too hot or too cold

∙ Mental – daydreams, worries, preoccupations

Mental distractions are often caused by the fact that your mind runs faster than a speaker can talk. As a listener, you can process speech at about 500 words per minute, while most speakers talk at 125 to 150 words a minute. This gap creates a lot of mental spare time, and we can easily start daydreaming or thinking of unrelated matters.

How can you resist distractions? By using rigorous self-discipline. Prepare yourself for active listening by arriving in the room a few minutes early and getting yourself situ- ated. Find a seat that is free from distractions such as blinding sunlight or friends who might want to whisper to you. Make yourself comfortable, lay out paper and a pen for taking notes, and clear your mind of personal matters. When the speech begins, concen- trate all your mental energies on the speaker’s message.

Whenever your supervisors and colleagues talk to you (either one-on-one or in a group meeting) about work- related matters, take notes. Not only does this give you a written record of important discussions, but it also is a compliment, a nonverbal way of saying “Your ideas are important to me—so important that I want to make sure I get them down correctly.” Contrary to what some may think, taking notes does not signify to others that you have a poor memory.

Tips for Your Career

Take Notes in Important Conversations and Small-Group Meetings



One of the most common complaints of employees is that “the boss never listens to what we say.” So, if you are ever in a supervisory position, take notes when an employee comes to you with a suggestion. Doing so dem- onstrates that you value the employee’s comments and are prepared to take action if necessary. Even if you can’t take action, you have shown that you truly listen and value input.

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Chapter 3 Listening 43

Avoid Fake Listening Many members of an audience look directly at a speaker and seem to be listening, but in reality they are just pretending. Their minds are far away.

If you engage in fake listening, you might miss a lot of important information, but even worse, you risk embarrassment and ridicule. Imagine that you are engaged in fake listening during a meeting and your boss suddenly asks you to comment on a statement that has just been made. You don’t have a clue. You’ve been caught.

If you have the habit of tuning speakers out while pretending to listen, one of the best ways to force yourself to pay attention is to take notes, as discussed earlier.

Give Every Speaker a Fair Chance Don’t reject speakers because you dislike their looks, their clothes, or the organiza- tion they represent. Instead, focus on their message, which might be interesting and worthwhile.

If speakers have ragged delivery, or they seem shaky and lacking in confidence, don’t be too quick to discount the content of their speech.

Wyatt Rangel, a stockbroker, relates an incident:

At a dinner meeting of my investment club, one of the speakers was a woman from Thailand who had lived in the U.S. only a year or so, and she spoke English

The Chinese character for “the act of listening” includes ( 1 ) ear, (2) self, (3) eyes, (4) undivided attention, and (5) heart. Why do you think these components are included?

© Shi Yali/Shutterstock

While Gail Opp-Kemp, an American artist, was giving a speech on the art of Japanese brush painting to an audience that included visitors from Japan, she was disconcerted to see that many of her Japanese listeners had their eyes closed. Were they turned off because an American had the audacity to instruct Japanese in their own art form? Were they deliber- ately trying to signal their rejection of her?

Opp-Kemp later found out that her listeners were not being disre- spectful. Japanese listeners some- times close their eyes to enhance concentration. Her listeners were pay- ing tribute to her by meditating upon her words.

Someday you may be either a speaker or a listener in a situation involving people from other countries or backgrounds. Learning how differ- ent cultures signal respect can help you avoid misun- derstandings. Here are some examples:

Tips for Your Career

Learn How Listeners Show Respect in Different Cultures



• In the deaf culture of North America, many listeners sig- nify applause not by clapping their hands but by waving them in the air.

• In some cultures (both overseas and in some groups in North America), listeners are considered disre-

spectful if they look directly at the speaker. Respect is shown by looking in the general direction but avoiding direct eye contact. • In some countries, whistling by lis-

teners is a sign of approval, while in other countries, it is a form of jeering.

For detailed information about dif- ferent cultures, simply type the name of

the nation or group into a search engine like Google. Add the search terms “culture”

and “customs.” For example, for India, your search terms would be “India culture customs.”

Source: Stella Ting-Toomey, Communicating Across Cultures (New York: The Guilford Press, 2012), pp. 114–129; Adam D’Arpino, “11 American Behaviors That Are Considered Rude Around the World,” Mental Floss, mentalfloss.com (accessed November 19, 2015).

© Ollyy/Shutterstock

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with a heavy accent. It took a lot of concentration to understand what she was saying, and frankly I didn’t think a recent immigrant could give me any worth- while information. I was tempted to tune her out, but I made the effort, and I’m glad I did. She had some good insights into Asian corporations, and I was able to parlay her tips into financial gain a few months later.

Give every speaker a fair chance. You may be pleasantly surprised by what you learn.

Control Emotions During many question-and-answer periods, I have seen listeners verbally attack a speaker for espousing a position that any careful listener would know was not the speak- er’s true position.

Some listeners don’t listen well because they have a powerful emotional reaction to a topic or to some comment the speaker makes. Their strong emotions cut off intelligent listening for the rest of the speech. Instead of paying attention to the speaker’s words, they “argue” with the speaker inside their heads or think of ways to retaliate in the question-and-answer period. They often jump to conclusions, convincing themselves that the speaker is saying something that he or she really is not.

When you are listening to speakers who seem to be arguing against some of your ideas or beliefs, make sure you understand exactly what they are saying. Hear them out, and then prepare your counterarguments.

The Listener’s Responsibilities As discussed in the introduction to public speaking chapter, the speaker who is honest and fair has ethical and moral obligations to his or her listeners. The converse is also true: the honest and fair listener has ethical and moral obligations to the speaker. Let’s examine three of the listener’s primary responsibilities: to show courtesy and respect, to provide encouragement, and to find value in every speech.

Show Courtesy and Respect Are you a polite listener? To make sure that you are not committing acts of rudeness, keep the following points in mind.

Follow the Golden Rule of Listening If you were engaged in conversation with a friend, how would you feel if your friend yawned and fell asleep? Or started reading a book? Or talked on a cell phone? You would be upset by your friend’s rudeness, wouldn’t you?

Many people would never dream of being so rude to a friend in conversation, yet when they sit in an audience, they are terribly rude to the speaker. They fall asleep, study for a test, check their e-mail or text messages, or carry on a whispered conversa- tion with their friends.

Fortunately, a public speaking class cures some people of their rudeness. One stu- dent realized his rudeness to speakers after being in their position:

I had been sitting in classrooms for 12 years and until now, I never realized how much a speaker sees. I always thought a listener is hidden and anonymous out there in a sea of faces. Now that I’ve been a speaker, I realize that when you look out at an audience, you are well aware of the least little thing somebody does. I am ashamed now at how I used to carry on conversations in the back of class. I was very rude, and I didn’t even know it.

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Chapter 3 Listening 45

Follow the golden rule of listening: “Listen unto others as you would have others listen unto you.” When you are a speaker, you want an audience that listens attentively and courteously. So when you are a listener, you should provide the same response.

Reject Electronic Intrusion During a meeting or presentation, if you read and send text messages, play games on your phone, or browse the Internet on your laptop, you are sending a strong, clear mes- sage to the speaker: “You are not important to me, and your comments don’t merit my respect and my attention.”

To be courteous, keep your eyes and attention on the speaker. Follow these rules:

∙ Before a meeting begins, turn off any electronics that might ring, beep, or chirp. Remove headphones or earbuds, even if they are not connected to devices.

∙ Never talk on a cell phone or headset. Even whispers are distracting. ∙ Don’t send or read text messages. “People mistakenly think that tapping is not

as distracting as talking,” says Nancy Flynn, executive director of the ePolicy Institute. “In fact, it can be more distracting. And it’s pretty insulting to the speaker.”8

∙ Unless you have an emergency situation, turn off vibrate mode on your phone. A vibrating phone can still be noisy and distracting. Also, if you get up and leave the room to respond to a friend’s casual call, you are creating an unneces- sary disruption.

Sometimes the rules above can be broken, such as in cases like these:

∙ If you ask a speaker for permission beforehand, you may take notes on a tablet, laptop, or smartphone. Show the speaker that you are paying attention by look- ing at him or her frequently (rather than keeping your eyes focused nonstop on your computer). If you play games, text, or browse, the speaker will sense what you are doing and think that you are being disrespectful.

∙ In some classes or training sessions, you will be encouraged or even required to use an electronic device as part of the learning process. As suggested above, look at the speaker frequently to convey that you are connected to him or her.

∙ If you are on call (for example, if you are a firefighter or a paramedic), or if you are awaiting news related to an ongoing emergency, go to the speaker in advance and explain the situation. Set your phone to vibrate and sit near the door if you can. If you get a call, leave the room quietly and answer the phone well away from the door.

Beware the Pitfalls of Multitasking We all multitask every day, combining such simple acts as driving a car and listening to music. When the tasks are easy and routine, there is no problem; but multitasking is a bad strategy in two situations: (1) when the tasks are complex, and (2) when you may insult or alienate other people. Here is some important information that you need to know.

Multitasking can mar your performance. Although multitaskers think they are per- forming all activities effectively, studies show that their comprehension suffers. For example, researchers at Cornell University arranged for two groups of students to listen to the same lecture and then take a test immediately afterward. One group was allowed to use their laptops to browse the Internet during the lecture, while the other

Is this woman justified in being upset because her date is talking to a friend during lunch?

© Stockphoto4u/Getty Images RF

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group was asked to keep their laptops closed. When tested, the students with open laptops remembered significantly less information from the lecture than did the stu- dents with closed laptops.9

Many other research studies show that in complex tasks, multitaskers of all ages are more likely to misunderstand information and make mistakes.10 René Marois, a psychol- ogy researcher at Vanderbilt University, says, “Our research offers neurological evidence that the brain cannot effectively do two things at once.”11 Note the key word: effectively.

Multitasking can hurt you professionally. Because they are considered discourteous or inattentive, multitaskers may be given extra work or unpleasant assignments, passed over for promotions, or even fired.12 Here are some example incidents:

∙ An executive at a top hospital lost her job because she “disrespected” the board of directors by “working on her laptop during presentations, firing off e-mails, and focusing on her own projects instead of participating or listening to the chair and other speakers,” according to The Cost of Bad Behavior, a book by professors Christine Pearson of the Thunderbird School of Global Management and Christine Porath of the University of Southern California.13

∙ Tom Golisano, a billionaire and power broker in New York State politics, pushed to remove Malcolm A. Smith as the State Senate majority leader after

If you are like most speakers, you will be irritated or even unnerved if you see listeners who are immersed in their private world of electronic devices. It is hard to communicate effectively with people who are tuning you out.

What can you do to capture their full attention? If possible, forbid the use of electronic devices.

Many speakers—including corporate executives and military officers—ban the use of smartphones and tab- lets during meetings and presentations. Some compa- nies require employees to put their electronic devices on a table as they enter a conference room.

What if you lack the power to order a ban? If pos- sible, ask the person in charge of a group to request— before you rise to speak—that all equipment be turned off. But what if those strategies aren’t possible and you see that some of your listeners are using electronic equipment? Try saying something like this: “I hate to inconvenience anyone, but I have a problem. I have trouble concentrating on what I want to say when I look out and see people working on their computers or talking on their cell phones. I would appreciate it if you would help me out and turn off your equipment while

Tips for Your Career

Confront Electronic Rudeness



I’m speaking.” By emphasizing your difficulties rather than attacking their rudeness, you enhance your chances of gaining compliance.

One final strategy that has been successful for some speakers is to use an attention-getter in the introduction of your speech that is so compelling that the audience becomes totally absorbed in listening to you. (Samples of attention-getters are presented in the chapter on intro- ductions and conclusions.)

If you saw these rude listeners in your audience, how would you handle the situation?

© Sean De Burca/Shutterstock

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Chapter 3 Listening 47

a budget meeting in which the senator spent the time reading e-mails on his smartphone instead of listening respectfully to Golisano, according to the New York Times.14

∙ Danielle Gregory, a judge in Marion County (Indiana) Juvenile Court, lost her job because while she was “on the bench conducting court sessions,” she sent “multiple text messages” to friends instead of giving her full attention to the discourse in the courtroom, reports WTHR-TV Eyewitness News in Indianapolis.15

What if nobody complains to you about texting? Is it okay? Hank London of Pacifica, California, who leads workshops on career development, says, “Just because coworkers, supervisors, or clients don’t say anything about your [texting while in meetings], doesn’t mean they haven’t taken notice.” Your rudeness, he warns, can come back to haunt you.16 In some cases, people may develop a dislike for you without being aware of the subconscious reason for their antagonism.

Provide Encouragement Encourage the speaker as much as possible by giving your full attention, taking notes, leaning slightly forward instead of slouching back in your seat, looking directly at the speaker instead of at the floor, and letting your face show interest and animation. If the speaker says something you particularly like, nod in agreement or smile approvingly. 

The more encouragement a speaker receives, the better his or her delivery is likely to be. Most entertainers and professional speakers say that if an audience is lively and enthusiastic, they do a much better job than if the audi- ence is sullen or apathetic. Even if just a few people are displaying lively interest, their nods, smiles, and eager eyes can inspire and energize the speaker.

When we help a speaker to give a good speech, we are doing more than an act of kindness. We are creating a payoff for ourselves because the better the speaker, the easier it is to listen. And the easier it is to listen, the better we will understand, remember, and gain knowledge.

Find Value in Every Speech Sometimes you will be obliged to hear a speech that you feel is boring and worthless. Instead of tuning the speaker out, try to exploit the speech for something worthwhile. Make a game of it: see how many diamonds you can pluck from the mud. Is there any new information that might be useful to you in the future? Is the speaker using techniques of delivery that are worth noting and emulating?

If a speech is so bad that you honestly cannot find anything worthwhile in it, use it as a how-not-to-do-it lesson. Ask yourself, “What can I learn from this

Rude employees are sometimes given extra work.

© Nomad Soul/Shutterstock

When listeners are fully engaged, they help to encourage and energize the speaker.

© wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock

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speaker’s mistakes?” Here is an example of how one business executive profited from a poor speech:

At a convention recently I found myself in an extremely boring seminar (on listening, ironically enough). After spending the first half-hour wishing I had never signed up, I decided to take advantage of the situation. I turned my thought, “This guy isn’t teaching me how to run a seminar on listening,” into a question: “What is he teaching me about how not to run a seminar?” While providing a negative example was not the presenter’s goal, I got a useful lesson.17

“When life hands you a lemon, make lemonade,” some wise person once advised. If you look for value or a how-not-to-do-it lesson in every poor speech, you will find that the sourest oratorical lemon can be turned into lemonade. “Know how to listen,” the Greek writer Plutarch said 20 centuries ago, “and you will profit even from those who talk badly.”18

Speech Evaluations Both evaluators and speakers profit from a speech evaluation. Evaluators gain insights into what works and what doesn’t work in speechmaking, and speakers can use sugges- tions to improve their speaking skills.

When Evaluating Evaluating speeches should not be limited to a public speaking class. You also can apply these techniques to speeches that you hear in your career.

Establish criteria. Before you listen to a speech, decide upon the criteria for judging it. This will keep you from omitting important elements. For classroom speeches, your instructor may give you a checklist or tell you to analyze certain features of a speech. Otherwise, you can use the “Quick Guide to Public Speaking” found in the introduction to public speaking chapter for your criteria.

Listen objectively. Keep an open mind. Don’t let yourself be swayed emotionally by the speaker’s delivery or appearance. If, for example, a speaker sounds ill at ease and uncer- tain, this doesn’t necessarily mean that her arguments are inferior. Don’t let your own biases influence your criticism; for example, if you are strongly against gun control, but the speaker argues in favor of it, be careful to criticize the speaker’s ideas fairly and objectively.

Take notes. Jot down your observations throughout the speech so that you capture key elements.

Look for both positive and negative aspects. Emphasize the positive (so that the speaker will continue doing what works well) in addition to pointing out opportunities for improvement.

Give positive comments first. When it comes to public speaking, most people have easily bruised egos. If you start out a critique with negative remarks, you can damage the

Examining Your Ethics

Suppose that a classmate is rude and inattentive when you are giving a speech. When he gives his speech, which of the following is the best approach for listening to him?

A. As he speaks, show him how awful distractions are for a speaker by staring him down with a disapproving facial expression.

B. Ask him unfriendly and difficult questions during the question- and-answer period.

C. Listen to his speech attentively and politely.

For the answer, see the last page of this chapter.

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Chapter 3 Listening 49

speaker’s confidence and self-esteem. Always begin by discussing his or her strengths. Point out positive attributes that might seem obvious to you but may not be obvious to the speaker. For example, you might say, “You looked poised and confident.”

Couple negative comments with positive alternatives. When you point out a flaw, immediately give a constructive alternative. For example, you can inform a speaker that she seems to be reading long sentences from a script, and then you can suggest an alternative: “Use note cards with just a few words on each card so that you can look at the audience most of the time and sound conversational.”

In most cases, ignore nervousness. Because most people cannot help being jittery, don’t criticize nervousness—unless you can give a useful tip. For example, it is unhelpful to say, “You looked tense and scared,” but it is helpful to say, “Your hands trembled when you held your note cards, and this was distracting. Next time, put your notes on the lectern.”

Be specific. Instead of saying, “You need to improve your eye contact,” say, “You looked at the floor too much rather than at the audience.” Instead of “You did great,” say, “Your introduction captivated me, and your stories were extremely interesting.”

When Receiving Evaluations To get maximum benefit from evaluations, follow these guidelines:

Don’t be defensive. Try to understand criticism and consider its merits. Don’t argue or counterattack.

Seek clarification. If an evaluator makes a comment that you don’t understand, ask for an explanation.

Strive for improvement. In your next speech, try to correct problem areas. But don’t feel that you must eliminate all errors or bad habits at once.

Whenever you find a speech enjoyable or profitable, let the speaker know. No matter how busy or important he or she is, genuine feedback will be greatly appreciated.

After giving a speech, some speakers are physically and emotionally exhausted, and they sit down with a nagging doubt: Did it go okay? A word of thanks or a compliment from a listener is refreshing and gratifying. (If you can’t express your appreciation in person right after the speech, write the speaker a brief note or send an e-mail or text message.)

Be sure to say something positive and specific about the content of the speech. A corporation president told me of a commencement address he had delivered to a col- lege several years before. “I sweated blood for a whole month putting that speech together and then rehearsing it

Tips for Your Career

Express Appreciation to a Speaker



dozens of times—it was my first commencement speech,” he said. “When I delivered the speech, I tried to speak straight from my heart. I thought I did a good job, and I thought my speech had some real nuggets of wisdom. But afterwards, only two people came by to thank me. And you know what? They both paid me the same compliment: they said they were grateful that I had kept the speech short! They said not one word about the ideas in my speech. Not one word about whether they enjoyed the speech itself. It’s depressing to think that the only thing noteworthy about my speech was its brevity.”

Sad to say, there were probably dozens of people in the audience whose hearts and minds were touched by the eloquent wisdom of the speaker—but they never told him.

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Summary Listening effectively is often a difficult task, but it can be rewarding if you are willing to make the effort. Guidelines for effective listening include the following: 1. Prepare yourself intellectually and physically. Do back-

ground research to maximize your understanding of the new material in the speech. Get some exercise before the speech if necessary.

2. Listen analytically. Focus on main ideas and evaluate supports.

3. Take notes, not only to record key points but also to keep your mind from wandering.

4. Resist distractions, both external and internal. Use rigor- ous self-discipline to focus on the speaker’s remarks.

5. Avoid fakery. Don’t pretend to be listening when in fact your mind is wandering. This kind of behavior can settle into a hard-to-break habit.

6. Give every speaker a fair chance. Don’t discount a speaker because of personal appearance or the organiza- tion he or she represents.

7. Control your emotions. Don’t mentally argue with a speaker or else you might misunderstand what he or she is really saying.

As a listener you have three important obligations to a speaker: show courtesy and respect, provide encouragement, and find value in every speech. The more support you give a speaker, the better the speech will be, and the more you will profit from it.

Evaluating speeches can help you improve your own speechmaking skills. Look for both positive and negative aspects of a speech, and give specific, constructive suggestions. When you are on the receiving end of evaluations, don’t be defensive. Try to understand the criticism and then make improvements.

Key Terms hearing, 39 listening, 39

1. When a person is truly and deeply listening to you, what behaviors do you detect in his or her tone of voice, facial expression, eyes, and overall body language?

2. Science writer Judith Stone wrote, “There are two ways to approach a subject that frightens you and makes you

Building Critical-Thinking Skills feel stupid: you can embrace it with humility and an open mind, or you can ridicule it mercilessly.” Translate this idea into advice for listeners of speeches.

Resources for Review and Skill Building

1. What is the difference between hearing and listening? 2. Name at least four problems caused by ineffective listening. 3. What is the difference between listening to easy material

and listening to complex material? 4. List at least two ways in which you can prepare yourself

physically and intellectually to listen to a speech. 5. What two speech elements should a listener examine


Review Questions 6. List two advantages of taking notes during a speech. 7. The text lists four types of distractions: auditory, visual,

physical, and mental. Give two examples of each type. 8. How can texting during a meeting hurt you in your career? 9. When you are a listener, how can you encourage a speaker? 10. When you evaluate a speech, how should you handle

both the positive and the negative aspects that you observe?

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Chapter 3 Listening 51

1. In a group, conduct this role play: One student gives an impromptu speech describing his or her classes this term, while all the other group members exhibit rude behaviors (such as texting, chatting, and browsing the Internet). Then the speaker discusses how he or she felt about the rudeness. If time permits, let other group members play the speaker’s role.

Building Teamwork Skills 2. Working in a group, compile a list of the attributes that

would describe “the ideal listener” for a speech. Then do likewise for a conversation. In what ways are the lists similar and different?

Answer: C. Nothing can be gained by engaging in retaliation. You can hope that your responsive behavior will be a good model for others.

Examining Your Ethics

1. Samantha Rudolph, Associate Director of Stats and Information, ESPN network, e-mail interview, February 15, 2011.

2. Keith Davis, quoted in “How to Be a Better Listener,” The Small Business Knowledge Base, www.bizmove.com (accessed June 5, 2015).

3. Lyman K. Steil, “Your Personal Listening Profile,” booklet published by Sperry Corporation, undated, p. 5.

4. “The Costs of Poor Listening,” Innolect, innolectinc.com/ services-overview/the-cost-of-poor-listening (accessed January 7, 2016).

5. Henry David Thoreau, I to Myself: An Annotated Selection from the Journal of Henry D. Thoreau. Ed. Jeffery S. Cramer (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2012).

6. Dr. Ralph G. Nichols, quoted in Beasley, William V., “Effective Listening,” Truth Magazine 20(8) February 19, 1976 p. 7–9.

7. Cindi May, “A Learning Secret: Don’t Take Notes with a Laptop,”  Scientific American, June 3, 2014, scientificamerican.com (accessed September 27, 2015);  Andreas Kapardis, Psychology and Law: A Critical Introduction, 3rd ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), p. 189.

8. Alex Williams, “At Meetings, It’s Mind Your Blackberry or Mind Your Manners,” New York Times Online, nytimes.com (accessed September 27, 2015).

9. Helene Hembrooke and Geri Gay, “The Laptop and the Lecture: The Effects of Multitasking in Learning Environ- ments,” Journal of Computing in Higher Education, avail- able online www.ugr.es (accessed September 27, 2015).

10. David E. Mayer, director of the Brain, Cognition and Action Laboratory at the University of Michigan, and

End Notes René Marois, director of the Human Information Pro- cessing Laboratory at Vanderbilt University, as quoted by Steve Lohr, “Slow Down, Multitasker, Especially If You’re Reading This in Traffic,” New York Times Online, nytimes.com (accessed September 27, 2015).

11. René Marois, PhD, Department of Psychology, Vanderbilt University, quoted by Dave Crenshaw, The Myth of Multi- tasking (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2008), p. 18.

12. Christine Pearson, “Sending a Message That You Don’t Care,” New York Times Online, nytimes.com (accessed September 27, 2015); Blue Avocado (Food-for-Thought for Nonprofits), “Ground Rules for the New Generation,” www.blueavocado.org (accessed September 27, 2015); Donald G. Zauderer, “Workplace Incivility and the Man- agement of Human Capital,” www.dzauderer.com (accessed September 27, 2015).

13. Christine Pearson and Christine Porath, The Cost of Bad Behavior (New York: Portfolio, 2009), p. 111.

14. Alex Williams, “At Meetings, It’s Mind Your Black- berry or Mind Your Manners,”  New York Times Online, nytimes.com (accessed September 27, 2015).

15. Sandra Chapman, “Judge Loses Job over Texting during Hearings,” wthr.com Eyewitness News (Indianapolis, IN), www.wthr.com (accessed September 27, 2015).

16. Hank London, “To Tweet or Not to Tweet?” Hank London’s Blog, http://hanklondon.com (accessed September 27, 2015).

17. Anonymous speaker quoted by Ronald B. Adler and Jeanne Marquardt Elmhorst, Communicating at Work, 8th ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2005), p. 125.

18. “Plutarch Quotes,” Goodreads, goodreads.com (accessed November 19, 2015).

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The Audience-Centered Speaker

Getting Information about the Audience

Audience Diversity

Audience Knowledge

Audience Psychology

The Occasion

Adapting during the Speech

OBJECTIVES After studying this chapter, you should be able to

1. Describe the difference between a speaker who is audience-centered and one who is not.

2. Define audience analysis and audience adaptation and state why they are important.

3. Use interviews and surveys to gain information about an audience in advance.

4. Explain how speakers can be responsive to diverse audiences.

5. Describe how speakers can adapt to varying levels of audience knowledge, attitudes, and interest level.

6. Explain how speakers should adapt to the occasion (time limit, purpose, and size of audience).

7. Describe how a speaker can adapt to the audience dur- ing a speech.

W H AT I S T H E M O ST I M P O RTA N T R U L E   for public speaking? Many

veteran speakers would say that it is to care deeply about your audience.

One speaker who has a reputation for caring deeply about her audiences is Kimberly

Wright Cassidy, president of Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania. Cassidy gives talks

to high schools, colleges, community groups, and professional associations. Before

each presentation, she tries to find out as much as she can about the interests and

needs of her future listeners. Then she tailors her remarks in an effort to give them a

rich and satisfying experience.

Reaching the Audience



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Even before she became a college president, Cassidy had established

herself as a caring person. At her inauguration, one of her former stu-

dents, Aybala Warner Ozturk, said, “As an undergrad I enrolled in Presi-

dent Cassidy’s Ed Psych course, a class that our president is still teaching

today. For me, that class was transformative. First and foremost it forced

me to wake up at 8am, something I swore to never do in college. More

importantly, I was willing to see the early hours of the morning because

of the passion and academic rigor President Cassidy encouraged in the

classroom. She always made time for her students, serving as a true

advocate for our education and showing interest and care in our lives

while pushing us to higher academic achievements.”1

To become a listener-oriented speaker like Cassidy, you should develop

techniques for connecting with an audience. In this chapter we will look

at these techniques and how you can use them in both college and

career settings.

On the occasion of her inauguration as presi- dent of Bryn Mawr Col- lege, Kimberly Wright Cassidy agrees to a “selfie” with five of the students who listened to her inauguration speech.

© Clem Murray/The Philadelphia Inquirer/AP Images

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Examining Your Ethics

A registered nurse is scheduled to give a presentation to a group of college freshmen about maintaining healthy lifestyles while in school. She plans to inform them that tanning beds can cause premature skin aging as well as increase the risk of skin cancer. As she gathers information about her audience in advance, she discovers that several of her future listeners visit tanning salons regularly. What should she do?

A. Drop the information about tanning beds to avoid offending some listeners.

B. Mention the issue but downplay it and recommend that listeners do research and decide for themselves.

C. Keep the information and emphasize medical studies about the harm caused by tanning beds.

For the answer, see the last page of this chapter.

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The Audience-Centered Speaker Some speeches are ineffective because the speaker is self-centered, focusing on “How do I look?” and “Am I doing a good job?” and “Does everyone like me?” The self- centered speaker fails to focus on the audience members and their needs.

A better approach is taken by the audience-centered speaker—one who tries to connect with listeners and offer them a meaningful experience. If you are an audience- centered speaker, you learn everything you can about your listeners in advance, and then you tailor your speech to their needs and interests. You look directly at the audi- ence, speak with enthusiasm, and try to reach every listener.

Consider the experience of Jill Sieburg, a health educator who gives presentations aimed at persuading people to become organ donors. Before every talk, she sends an e-mail to people who will be in the audience to find out their views. Are some of them, for example, opposed to organ donation because they fear their bodies will be disfig- ured? If yes, she will spend time in her talk explaining how organ donation is like any other kind of surgery—“Your body is sewed up afterwards and you are not disfigured.”

Sieburg demonstrates two important tasks that all audience-centered speakers should perform: (1) audience analysis to find out exactly who they are and where they stand on the issues to be discussed, and (2) adaptation of the speech to the listeners’ knowledge level and viewpoints.

This process of analysis and adaptation is sometimes called customizing, a cru- cial strategy in the business world. If you are a web designer, you would find out what features each client needs and then build the website accordingly. For a blogger, you would need to create a comments section; for a band, you would need to include an audio player for music clips; and for a vacation destination, you would add links to local hotels, restaurants, and entertainments. Customizing in public speaking means tailoring a speech to fit a particular audience.

Here are some guidelines for customizing speeches.

Prepare a separate analysis of each audience. Don’t assume that if a speech works well with one group, it will surely succeed with another. Sometimes it will, but some- times it won’t.

I once delivered a speech that was received with much laughter and applause. So sweet was the success that I delivered the same speech a month later to another group. It was a dud. If I had not been so giddy with success, I would have seen that the second audience had a different educational back- ground and a different set of attitudes. They needed a different speech.

Customize for different segments of the same audience. Many audiences contain subgroups, with the people in each subgroup sharing the same needs and level of under- standing. Try to reach all the subgroups. For example, in a speech on traveling abroad, one subgroup—young parents—may want information on activities for children, while another subgroup—older travelers—may want information on discounts for seniors.

audience-centered speaker one who tries to establish a meaning- ful connection with listeners.

audience analysis collecting informa- tion about audience characteristics.

adaptation adjusting one’s mate- rial and delivery to meet listeners’ needs.

customize to make or alter to a customer’s specifications.

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Some speakers like to keep a room’s temperature on the chilly side so that their listeners stay alert. Alert- ness is a good goal, of course, but audiences can’t be alert to a speaker’s message if they are shivering and miserable.

Don’t let audience discomfort undermine the effec- tiveness of your speech. Keep the room temperature from being too hot or too cold. Make sure the micro- phone amplification is neither too loud nor too soft (you can ask listeners for feedback). If a meeting lasts a long time, give periodic breaks. If your presentation is right before a scheduled meal, be sure to end on time (even if it means shortening your remarks)—hungry listeners quickly become irritated with a speaker who keeps them from a meal.

Tips for Your Career

Be Sensitive to Audience Discomfort



© Spaxiax/Shutterstock

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Chapter 4 Reaching the Audience 55

Never sacrifice ethical principles. Customizing does not mean telling listeners what- ever would make them happy—regardless of truth. An ethical speaker never lies or distorts information.

Getting Information about the Audience A speaker’s worst nightmare is being laughed at by listeners. This came true for Lawrence B. Gibbs. When he was Internal Revenue Commissioner, he spoke to an audience of 1,000 tax preparers at a convention in Las Vegas, and he tried to brag about how smoothly the latest tax preparation season had been. Some people, he said, had made “gloomy predictions that this tax-filing season would drive taxpayers crazy, confuse them unmerci- fully, or break them financially. [Dramatic pause] It just hasn’t happened, folks!”2

The convention hall exploded with laughter. The tax preparers had just finished a tax season in which the scenario that Gibbs dismissed as nonexistent had (from their perspec- tive) actually occurred. Regardless of whose viewpoint was accurate, Gibbs had revealed that he knew nothing about his listeners’ feelings and experience. If he had spoken with just a few of the members of the audience beforehand, he could have escaped public ridicule.

You can avoid this kind of blunder by finding out as much as possible about your listeners—their backgrounds and what they know and don’t know. Two good ways to collect information about them are interviews and surveys.

Interviews Start by interviewing the person who invited you to speak. Find out all that you can about the listeners’ knowledge level, attitudes, needs, interests, and backgrounds. Get details about the occasion, such as the purpose of the event, other speakers on the pro- gram, size of audience, and most importantly, your time limit. Next, ask for the names and contact information of a few prospective listeners and interview them to find out

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what they already know about your subject, what ideas and information they are hoping to receive from your speech, and whether any particular approach (such as visual aids) works well with this group. When you start your speech, you can thank the people you interviewed by name. Doing so will add to your credibility because it shows your desire to meet the needs and interests of your listeners.

Surveys Another good way to get information about your audience is to conduct a survey in advance of your speech, using a questionnaire to poll listeners’ knowledge, interests, and attitudes. For a classroom speech, work with your instructor to decide how and when to distribute the questionnaire. For a career or community speech, try to get per- mission to contact your future listeners through an electronic channel that is common among them, such as an e-mail distribution list, a Facebook page, or a LinkedIn group.

A questionnaire can have two kinds of questions: open-ended questions, which encourage respondents to elaborate on their views, and closed questions, which give respondents pre-selected options, such as yes/no, true/false, and multiple choice. In Figure 1, the first question is open-ended, while all the rest are closed.

Let’s suppose you are planning a speech on why most people need to add more vegeta- bles to their daily diet, and you want to find out what your listeners know about vegetables and what their attitudes are. The questionnaire in Figure 1 shows some sample questions.

The first question is open-ended so that you can get a picture of how your future listeners view vegetables. Do they dislike them? It is helpful to know the listeners’ attitudes. The rest of the questions are designed to help you decide what to include in your speech. For example, the second question probes whether the listeners know that a multivitamin pill does not substitute for vegetables. If all respondents indicate that they already know this, you can omit it from your speech. The fourth question investigates whether your listeners understand what vegetables can and cannot do for the body.

Here are some guidelines for surveys:

∙ Keep it short. One page is ideal. Most people will not fill out a long document. ∙ Phrase questions in a way that doesn’t suggest the answer you want or anticipate.

Instead of “Do you resist eating vegetables because your parents tried to force them on you?” ask, “If you don’t like to eat vegetables, can you explain why?”

∙ Test your questionnaire in advance with a few friends or colleagues who can point out any confusing questions.

Sometimes the results of a survey can be included in a speech as a point of inter- est. In your speech on vegetables, for example, you can say, “According to my survey, half of you think that fresh foods are always healthier than frozen foods. But nutrition researchers have found that frozen vegetables are often healthier than fresh produce sold in supermarkets. Why? Because vegetables chosen for freezing tend to be processed at their peak ripeness. That’s the time when they are loaded with maximum nutrients.”

Audience Diversity In most presentations, you are likely to see a wide diversity of listeners: men and women of different ages, educational backgrounds, occupations, religions, economic and social statuses, nationalities, cultures, and physical abilities. To be a successful communicator, you should welcome the opportunity to meet the needs of all listeners, not just those who are like you.

open-ended question a question that per- mits a broad range of responses.

closed question a question requiring only a short, specific response.

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Figure 1 Types of Survey Questions

Ranking 6. Which of these vegetables do you eat most often? Rank them in order, from 1 (most often) to 5 (least often).

Checklist 4. What are the health benefits of a diet rich in vegetables? (Check all that are true.)

Lower blood pressure

Reduced risk of some cancers

Improved vision

Higher intelligence

Improved digestion

Scale 5. “The average person does not eat as many vegetables as he or she should.”


Simple options

Multiple choice 3.

2. Do vitamin supplements provide all of the necessary nutrients that are contained in vegetables? Yes No Not sure

Which one of the following statements is correct?

Iceberg lettuce contains no nutrients.

Fresh foods are always healthier than frozen foods.

Cooked carrots are healthier than raw carrots.

Colorless foods like white cabbage have low nutritional value.

1. What is your emotional reaction when you hear the word vegetables? (Jot down a few words or sentences.)

Strongly Agree

Strongly DisagreeAgree

Corn Carrots Onions Tomatoes Potatoes

Not sure Disagree

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Chapter 4 Reaching the Audience 57

Gender The gender of your listeners may give you some clues about their social and economic situations. For example, despite the advances made by women in the workplace in recent decades, many females still receive a lower wage than male co-workers who perform the same job. A speaker trying to persuade workers to join a labor union could stress such inequities if some of the listeners are women.

Although gender can sometimes give clues, you should avoid making assumptions based on gender stereotypes. Men may become irritated by a speaker who assumes that only females are interested in issues concerning the health of babies. And women would

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be annoyed by a speaker who suggests that only men are interested in new mechani- cal technologies for jet engines. Listeners can lose respect for a speaker who uses gender-biased language—that is, words that convey stereotypes about men or women. Instead of saying “an engineer should apply his math skills,” say “engineers should apply their math skills.” Instead of “the best man for the job,” say “the best person for the job.” (Gender-biased language is discussed in more detail in the chapter on wording the speech.)

Don’t make assumptions about marriage and sexual orientation. For example, don’t assume that everyone is married or is heterosexual. Instead of announcing to employ- ees, “You and your husband or wife are invited to the party,” say, “You and your guest are invited to the party.”

Age If you have a variety of ages represented in your audience, be sensitive to the interests, attitudes, and knowledge of all your listeners, giving explanations or background when- ever necessary. If, for example, you talk about a new trend in music that is popular with young people, give a brief explanation for the benefit of older members of the audience.

Be careful about making generalizations concerning any age group. For an audi- ence of older people, for example, you are wise to consider the fact that many people suffer hearing loss as they age, but you shouldn’t jump to the conclusion that you must shout during your speech. Not all older people are hard of hearing, and those who are might be wearing hearing aids.

Educational Background Find out the educational level of your listeners. Avoid talking over their heads, using concepts that they may not understand. Also avoid the other extreme: talking down to your listeners and treating them as if they are ignorant.

Define terms whenever necessary. Fred Ebel, past president of a Toastmasters club in Orlando, Florida, talks about his experience with one audience: “I told a joke which referred to an insect called a praying mantis. I thought everyone knew what a praying man- tis was. But I was greeted by silence that would have made the dropping of a pin sound like a thunderclap. Several listeners came up to me and asked, ‘What is a praying mantis?’”3

Occupation Knowing your listeners’ occupational background can help you shape your remarks. Let’s say you give speeches on résumé padding. To a group of students, you might want to point out how one’s career can be ruined if an employer finds out that an employee lied on a résumé. To a group of human resources managers, you can give tips on how to detect false information. To a group of lawyers, you can discuss legal action that can be taken against someone who has lied on a résumé.

Religious Affiliation Knowing the religious affiliations of your audience will give you good clues about their beliefs and attitudes. Most Seventh-Day Adventists, for example, are very knowledge- able about nutrition because of the strong emphasis the denomination places on health and diet. If you are asked to speak to an Adventist group on a health-related issue, you can assume that the audience has a higher level of background knowledge on the subject than the average audience. You can therefore avoid going over basic information they already know.

gender-biased language words based on gender stereotypes.

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Chapter 4 Reaching the Audience 59

Although religious background can give you clues about your audience, be cau- tious. You cannot assume that all members of a religious group subscribe to official doctrines and pronouncements. A denomination’s hierarchy, for example, may call for a stop to the production of nuclear weapons, but the majority of the members of that denomination may not agree with their leaders’ views.

Economic and Social Status Be sensitive to the economic and social status of your listeners so that you can adapt your speech accordingly. Suppose you are going to speak in favor of an economic stimulus package intended to create new manufacturing jobs. If your listeners are blue-collar workers or unemployed, they will probably be favorably disposed to your ideas before you even begin. You therefore might want to aim your speech at encour- aging them to support political candidates who endorse the stimulus program. How- ever, if your listeners are wealthy members of the business community, many of them may be opposed to your ideas because they fear higher taxes, or they cannot easily relate to the people whom the stimulus would most benefit. Therefore, you could aim your speech at showing how new manufacturing jobs can contribute to the overall prosperity of the community, and you could spend time discussing the facts that con- cern the audience members most, such as taxes, labor union involvement, or political implications.

International Listeners The world today is a “global village” with interlocking interests and economies, and you must know how to interact with customers and associates from many different coun- tries. Whether you are speaking on campus, in the community, or in your career, any audience you face is likely to include people for whom English is a second language.

To reach international listeners, consider the following:

Respect taboos. Every culture has its own set of taboos, and violating them can undermine a speaker’s credibility. Stacie Krajchir of Venice Beach, California, who works around the world as a television producer, says, “I have a habit of put- ting my hands on my hips when I talk.” In Indonesia, she was told that “when you stand that way, it’s seen as a sign of rudeness or defiance.”4

You can avoid taboos by educating yourself about a culture—a task that will be discussed below.

Learn nonverbal signals. Body language cues such as eye con- tact vary from country to country. American business executives assume a person who won’t look them in the eye is evasive and dishonest, but in many parts of Latin America, Asia, and Africa, keeping your eyes lowered is a sign of respect.5 A few years ago, some Americans who were trying to negotiate a contract with Jap- anese executives were happy to see nods of assent throughout the meeting but were later stunned when the Japanese rejected their pro- posal. The Americans were unaware that in Japan a nod doesn’t mean agreement; it signifies only that the listener understands what is being said.6

Although nonverbal cues vary from culture to culture, there are some cues that are recognizable everywhere. First and fore- most is the smile, which Roger Axtell, an international behavior

In American culture, this posture is fine, but in some cultures, putting hands on hips signals disrespect.

© iofoto/Shutterstock

taboo an act, word, or object that is forbidden on grounds of morality or taste.

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expert, calls the most understood and most useful form of communication in the world.7 As a Mexican- American proverb puts it: Todos en el mundo sonreímos en el mismo idioma—“Everyone in the world smiles in the same language.” (The smile discussed here is the natural involuntary expression that all people make when they are happy—not variations such as the embarrassed smile of someone caught in a shameful act.)

Conduct research. If you are like most people, you don’t have time to become well-versed in all the cultures in the world, but you can focus on cultures that are likely to be represented in an upcoming presentation. Here are a couple of ways to prepare:

1. Get insights by browsing websites specializing in international cultures. Books and articles also can be good sources, but make sure they are recent because cultural information can become outdated.

2. Contact knowledgeable people. You can use social media sites like Facebook to consult people who live in or visit the country you have questions about. Or, you can find an expert on your campus or in your community whom you can interview face-to-face.

Is a smile a universal cue?

© Charlotte Purdy/Shutterstock Be careful with jargon and slang. Avoid using idiomatic expressions, such as “cram- ming for an exam,” “bite the bullet,” and “the ball is in your court,” as they are often not familiar to non-native English speakers. If you must use jargon, such as “interface” or “virtual reality,” explain or illustrate each term.

Maintain a serious, formal tone. Americans are accustomed to speakers using a humor- ous and informal approach to public speaking, but American presenters who adopt this tone with international audiences are often viewed as frivolous and disrespectful. Telling jokes and coming across as “laid-back” can destroy the effectiveness of a presentation.

If possible, provide handouts covering some of your main points a day or two before a presentation. Most non-native speakers of English have greater comprehension when reading than when listening. If they read the material beforehand, they can find out the meaning of any terms they don’t understand, and when they come to the actual presen- tation, they will have a knowledge base that will maximize their understanding of your remarks. Be sure to avoid giving out lengthy material immediately before or during a meeting, for reasons discussed in the chapter on presentation aids.

Provide visual and tactile learning. To make sure that your words are understood, can you use visual aids or demonstrations to illuminate your ideas? Can you provide any hands-on experiences?

America’s Diverse Cultures The same sensitivity you show toward international listeners should be extended to eth- nic, racial, religious, and other groups in the United States. Below are some suggestions for showing respect to all cultures and groups.

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Use interpreters if there is a chance that some listeners will not hear or understand your message. For example, you might use a sign-language interpreter for deaf listeners and a foreign-language interpreter for non-English- speaking listeners. Here are some tips for using interpreters effectively:

• Because interpreters say that they stumble less and make fewer misinterpretations when they know the speaker’s message in advance, provide a copy of your outline to the interpreter well before the event.

• If possible, ask him or her to rehearse with you several times and to alert you if any elements in your speech are likely to be misunderstood.

• In your opening remarks, introduce the interpreter to the audience and express your appreciation for his or her assistance.

• When using a foreign-language interpreter, you will probably employ the popular consecutive interpretation method, in which you and the interpreter take turns. Say only a few sentences at a time, so that neither language group gets weary of waiting its turn. A less-frequent method is simultaneous interpretation, in which the translation is rendered into a separate microphone a few seconds later for listeners wearing headphones. At large international meetings, a speech may be translated into many languages simultaneously.

Tips for Your Career

Work Closely with Interpreters



• To demonstrate your desire to connect with all listeners, learn a few words and phrases from sign language and/ or a foreign language to sprinkle into your presentation. Practice with a fluent user to make sure you are giving an accurate rendition.

• Even if all listeners are using the services of a sign- language interpreter, you should still talk directly to the listeners, not to the interpreter.

Sean Berdy, who was born deaf, uses American Sign Language to translate the words of Constance Marie Lopez at a press conference in Pasadena, California. Both Berdy and Lopez are actors on the ABC TV series “Switched at Birth.”

© Chris Pizzello/AP Images

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Chapter 4 Reaching the Audience 61

Avoid ethnocentrism. The belief that one’s own cultural group is superior to other groups is known as ethnocentrism. People who are ethnocentric view the customs and standards of other groups as inferior or wrong.

In most cases, different customs are not a matter of right and wrong but of choice and tradition. In some African-American churches, listeners shout affirmative responses during a sermon, while in some other churches, listeners remain silent. One custom is not superior to the other; they are simply different.

Learn the expectations and viewpoints of different cultures and groups. Let’s say you are a manager giving an informal training talk to a group of employees and you try to encourage them to ask questions as you go along. Some of the Asian-American employees, however, never ask questions. Before you conclude that these employees are uninvolved and uninterested, keep in mind that for some Asian Americans, asking ques- tions is considered a disrespectful challenge to the speaker’s authority.

If you don’t know much about the attitudes and viewpoints of an American ethnic group, interview a few representative audience members beforehand to learn about their backgrounds and needs. Also, ask for advice from associates who have had experience

ethnocentrism judging other cultures as inferior to one’s own culture.

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communicating with the kinds of listeners to whom you will be speaking.

Focus on individuality. Although becoming informed about group differences is important, treat your knowledge as possible clues, not as absolute certainties. In the exam- ple above, notice that I spoke of some Asian Americans— not all. If you have Asian Americans in your audience, be sensitive to possible cultural differences, but you should treat these listeners primarily as individuals who may have characteristics that do not coincide with those of other Asian Americans. In dealing with diverse groups, be sensi- tive to possible differences and special needs, but as much as possible, focus on the individuality of each listener.

Never ridicule any group. Some people think that if no members of a particular group (such as women, gays and lesbians, or other minorities) are present, it is okay to make insulting jokes. It is never okay. Such slurs are offensive and unfunny to many people who don’t belong to the group being ridiculed, and they will automatically lose respect for a speaker who uses them.

Listeners with Disabilities People with disabilities are active in the workplace and in

their communities. How can speakers know what accommodations to make? Simply ask the most qualified sources of information—persons with disabilities themselves. Don’t be afraid of making a social blunder. If some listeners have hearing impairments, for exam- ple, you can ask them where they would like for you to stand during your presentation.8

Here are some general tips for being sensitive to listeners with disabilities:

∙ Before you ask your audience to gather around you for a demonstration, or involve them in an activity, be sure to determine if listeners with disabilities can participate. Encourage them to do so.

∙ Many people, without realizing it, treat adults with disabilities as if they were chil- dren. Don’t use first names unless you are using first names with all others present. Don’t speak in an exaggerated, condescending manner. Don’t talk down to them.

∙ Don’t equate physical limitations with mental limitations. The fact that a listener is in a wheelchair has nothing to do with his or her mental abilities.

∙ You can certainly offer help to a person with a disability if it seems needed, but don’t insist on helping if your offer is declined.

∙ Never take the arm of a person with a mobility or visual impairment. Instead, offer your arm.

Now let’s look at tips for specific types of disabilities.

Listeners with Mobility Impairments

∙ Try to remove barriers that would limit wheelchair access. Whenever there is a choice, ask the listener where he or she would like to sit—don’t assume that he or she would prefer to be in the back or the front of the room.

Many American audiences today have a diverse eth- nic composition, in part because 700,000 immigrants become U.S. citizens each year. A native of Jamaica, Marine Corporal Everton Bryon, left, and a native of the Dominican Republic, Army Specialist Johanna Abreu, became U.S. citizens in a naturalization ceremony in Arlington, Virginia. Every year, 9,000 service members become American citizens.

Courtesy of U.S. Defense Dept./Sergeant First Class Doug Sample

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Chapter 4 Reaching the Audience 63

∙ Never patronize people in wheelchairs by patting them on the head or shoulder. ∙ Shake hands with people in wheelchairs like you would with anyone else. ∙ Don’t lean against or hang on someone’s wheelchair. It is viewed by the person

as part of his or her personal space.9

Listeners Who Are Deaf or Hearing-Impaired

∙ If hearing-impaired listeners must see your mouth to understand your words, try to avoid turning away. At the same time, don’t put them in a spotlight by stand- ing directly in front of them and looking at only them.

∙ “It is not necessary to exaggerate your words,” says Deborah L. Harmon, a college counselor for students with disabilities, “although it may be appro- priate to slow your rate of speech slightly when talking with people who are hearing-impaired.”

∙ Whenever possible, speakers should augment their remarks with visual aids, says Harmon. “Write technical terms on a board when first introduced” so that deaf audience members can see how the terms are spelled and thus can figure out their pronunciation.10

∙ Be aware that many people in the deaf community refer to deafness not as a dis- ability, but as an alternate culture.11

Listeners Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

∙ Talk in a normal voice. Just because a person has limited vision, don’t assume that he or she has a hearing impairment, too.

∙ Don’t touch or call a guide dog, says Harmon. Trying to play with it interferes with the performance of its duties. These animals are highly trained work dogs that will not disrupt a speech. They don’t need to be soothed or distracted by you.12

∙ Don’t assume that listeners who are blind or visually impaired will not want copies of your handouts. “Even if they can’t read them at the meeting,” says Sharon Lynn Campbell of St. Louis, Missouri, “they may want to have them read aloud later.”13

∙ If you say to a listener who is blind, “Do you see what I mean?” or a similar phrase, there is no need to become flustered or apologetic. The listener realizes that you are using a common phrase out of habit and that you intend no insult.

Audience Knowledge Thomas Leech, a business consultant in San Diego, California, tells of a manager at an electronics firm who was asked to explain a new electronics program to a group of visiting Explorer Scouts. “He pulled two dozen visuals used for working meetings, went into great detail about technical aspects, and spoke of FLMs and MOKFLTPAC,” says Leech. “He was enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and totally ineffective, since his audience was lost for about 44 of his 45 minutes.”14

This man made a common mistake: failing to speak at the knowledge level of his listeners. To avoid this mistake, find out what your listeners know and don’t know about your subject, and then adapt your remarks to their level.

If your pre-speech analysis shows that your listeners know a lot about your topic, you can skip an explanation of basic concepts and go straight into advanced material.

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On the other hand, if your analysis shows that listeners know little or nothing about your topic, you will need to start at a basic level and add advanced material as you go along. Avoid overwhelming them with more information than they can comfortably absorb.

So far, so good, but now comes the tricky part. What should you do if some of your listeners know a lot about your subject and others know noth- ing? Whenever possible, the solution is to start off at a simple level and add complexity as you go along (and tell your audience that this is what you will do). For example, if you are speaking on identity theft to a mixed audi- ence, you can hold the attention of everyone by saying something like this: “I realize that some of you know little about identity theft, while some of you have already been victims. So, to bring everyone up to speed, I want to begin by defining what identity theft is, and then I’ll get into the nitty-gritty of how you can prevent the crime.” Regardless of their level of knowledge, listeners usually appreciate this kind of sensitivity.

Audience Psychology Your listeners do not see the world the same way you do because they have lived differ- ent lives with different experiences, different mistakes, and different successes. To fur- ther your understanding of your listeners, assess their level of interest and their attitudes.

Interest Level Through interviews or surveys, ask your listeners whether they are interested in your topic. If they seem indifferent or bored, your challenge is to generate interest during the speech. Let’s say you are planning to speak on the possibility of the Federal Reserve raising the federal funds rate. That sounds boring, so you would need to show listen- ers how raising the rate could impact their wallets. For example, you could quote NBC reporter Kristin Wong, who says, “Your credit card’s interest rate is probably variable, meaning it can and will change along with the Fed’s rate. If you carry credit card debt, this means you can expect to pay more in interest over time.”15

To keep an audience interested throughout the entire speech, avoid getting bogged down in tedious, technical material. Use interesting examples, lively stories, and capti- vating visuals. All of these techniques will be discussed in more detail in later chapters.

Attitudes Attitudes are the emotional inclinations—the favorable or unfavorable predispositions— that listeners bring to a speech. Each listener’s attitudes are derived from a complex inner web of values, beliefs, experiences, and biases.

Before your speech, try to determine your listeners’ attitudes—negative, neutral, or positive—toward your goal, you as a speaker, and the occasion.

Attitudes toward the Goal Unfavorable. If listeners are negative toward your goal or objective, you should design your speech either to win them over to your views or—if that is unrealistic—to move them closer to your position.

When Najuana Dorsey, a student at Georgia Southern University, planned a speech on the desirability of insects as a source of protein for low-income people in impover- ished countries, she knew (from a questionnaire) that her classmates were repulsed by the idea of anyone eating insects. So she devised a plan to change their attitude. In the

attitude a predisposition to respond favorably or unfavorably toward a person or an idea.

For a speech on gambling, don’t assume that all your listeners know what blackjack is. Find out in advance.

© Ingram Publishing/SuperStock

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Chapter 4 Reaching the Audience 65

early part of her speech, she gave solid scientific data about the nutritional value of insects. Near the end, she pulled out a cricket cake and said, “The crickets are roasted, and they taste like pecans. Why don’t you try just one bite?” Despite initial squeamish- ness, all but one of her classmates ended up eating an entire piece, finding the cake to be surprisingly delicious. On after-speech evaluation sheets, students indicated that they now agreed with Dorsey’s contention that insects could help alleviate hunger in the world.16 (See Figure 2.)

Neutral. If your listeners are apathetic or neutral, try to involve them in the issue, and then win them over to your side. For example, if an audience seems unconcerned about the extinction of hundreds of species of plants every year, you can tell them of the many medicines that are derived from plants. Digitalis, which is derived from the leaves of the foxglove plant, is used to treat heart disease. “Who knows,” you can say, “if one of the many plants that will disappear from earth this year contains an ingredi- ent that could have saved your life someday?” What you are trying to do, of course, is show that the issue is not a faraway abstraction but a real concern that could affect listeners’ own lives.

Favorable. If your audience is favorably disposed toward your ideas, your task is to reinforce their positive views and even motivate them to take action. For example, you might give a pep talk to members of a political party in your community, urging them to campaign on behalf of the party’s candidate in an upcoming election.

Figure 2 When student speaker Najuana Dorsey invited her classmates at Georgia Southern University to try cricket cake, she managed to bring her listeners closer to her position.

Courtesy of Georgia Southern University

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Attitudes toward the Speaker Listeners will have a negative attitude toward a speaker if they suspect that he or she is unqualified to speak on a particular subject. This skepticism can be overcome if the person introducing you states your credentials and expertise. Otherwise, you can estab- lish your credibility yourself at the beginning of your speech. Angie Chen, a student speaker, gave a classroom speech on acupuncture. During her introduction, she revealed that she had grown up in China, had undergone acupuncture treatment herself, and had watched it be performed on friends and relatives. Though Chen did not claim to be a medical expert, her summary of her experiences showed that she knew a great deal about the subject.

You also can enhance your credibility by explaining how you got your information. Let’s say you give a report on recovery programs for drug addicts in your community. In your introduction, it is appropriate to mention that you have read two books on the sub- ject and interviewed a local expert on chemical dependency. This is not bragging; it is simply a way to let the audience know that your information is based on solid research.

Attitudes toward the Occasion Sometimes listeners are irritated because they have been ordered to attend—they are a “captive audience”—and because they think the meeting is unnecessary. With such audiences, give a lively presentation geared to their precise needs. If possible, show an awareness of their situation and your desire to help.

One speaker had to address a group of disgruntled employees who were required to attend a 4 P.M. meeting to listen to her suggestions about filling out employee self- evaluations—a topic they felt was a waste of time. At the beginning she said, “I know you’d rather be somewhere else right now, and I know you think this meeting is point- less, but let’s make the best use of our time that we can. I have talked to several of you about your concerns, and I’d like to zero in on them and see if we can improve the situ- ation. And I promise to be finished by 5, so we can all go home.” Her comments, she said, caused the listeners to lean forward and listen attentively to her presentation.

The Occasion Find out as much as you can about the occasion and the setting of your speech, espe- cially when you are giving a speech in your community or at a career-related meeting. Some issues to ask about include your time limit, your expectations, other events on the program, and the audience size; pay special attention to the issue of time limit.

Time Limit Many public occasions are marred by long-winded speakers who drone on and on, oblivious to the lateness of the hour and the restlessness of the audience.

I once observed a minister who spoke for over an hour giving a Mother’s Day ser- mon at a Sunday morning service. At one point he said, “I know I’m going on too long, but . . . ” Some members of the congregation were upset because they had reservations at a restaurant (Mother’s Day is the busiest day of the year for restaurants). Some people had roasts in the oven, while others had elderly parents waiting to be picked up. The overlong sermon became a frustration and a source of resentment.

Always find out how much time has been allotted for your speech, and never exceed the limit. This rule applies when you are the sole speaker and especially when you are one of several speakers. If four speakers on a program are supposed to speak for only

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One of the most exasperating situations you can face is when, because of circumstances beyond your control, your speech comes at the end of a long, tedious meet- ing when listeners are weary and ready to leave. Often the best response is to trim your speech. As the following inci- dent shows, the audience will be grateful:

An all-day professional conference was supposed to end at 3:30 P.M. so that participants would have plenty of daylight for driving back to their hometowns. Unfortu- nately, most of the speakers on the program exceeded their time limit, and the final speaker found himself start- ing at 3:18. Without commenting on the insensitivity of the other speakers, he started out by saying, “How many

Tips for Your Career

Be Prepared to Trim Your Remarks



of you would like to leave at 3:30?” Every hand went up. “I will end at 3:30,” he promised. Though it meant omit- ting most of his prepared remarks, the speaker kept his promise. One of the participants said later, “We appreci- ated his sensitivity to us and his awareness of the time. And he showed class in not lambasting the earlier speak- ers who stole most of his time. He showed no anger or resentment.”

Here’s a technique to consider: when I am invited to speak at meetings where there are several speakers, I pre- pare two versions of my speech—a full-length one to use if the other speakers respect their time limits and a shorter version if events dictate that I trim my remarks.

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Chapter 4 Reaching the Audience 67

10 minutes apiece, imagine what happens when each speaks for 30 minutes. The audi- ence becomes fatigued and inattentive.

Some speakers have absolutely no concept of time. For a 5-minute speech, some of my students talk for 20 minutes and then swear later that they could not have talked for more than 5 minutes and that something must have been wrong with my stopwatch. Practicing your speech at home and timing yourself will help you keep within time lim- its. If you tend to be a talkative speaker, follow the wise formula of President Franklin D. Roosevelt to make a compelling speech and exit gracefully:17

∙ Be sincere. ∙ Be brief. ∙ Be seated.

Expectations Actor Steve Martin upset a lot of listeners one evening when he appeared at the 92nd Street Y in New York City and talked about art history. The audience of 900, who had paid $50 each to hear him, had assumed he would talk about his film and television career as a comedian. Many of the listeners complained by phone and e-mail the next day, and the Y issued an apology and promised to send a $50 gift certificate to any unhappy listener.18

If listeners expect one thing, and you present another, they may be disappointed, even angry. Find out in advance the purpose of a meeting or presentation, and then make sure you give listeners the kind of material they are expecting.

Other Events on the Program Find out all that you can about other events on a program. Are there other speakers on the agenda? If so, on what topic will they speak? It would be disconcerting to prepare a speech on how to protect yourself from identity theft online and then discover during the ceremony that the speaker ahead of you is talking on the same subject.

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Even more alarming is to come to a meeting and find out that you are not just giv- ing a speech but also debating someone on your topic. Obviously you need to know such information in advance so that you can anticipate the other speaker’s argument and prepare your rebuttal.

Audience Size It can be unsettling to walk into a room expecting an audience of 20 but instead finding 200. Knowing the size of your audience ahead of time will help you not only to prepare yourself psychologically but also to plan your presentation. Will you need extra-large visual aids? Will you need a microphone?

It’s easier to connect with your listeners if they are close to you physically. If you have relatively few listeners, and they are scattered throughout a big room or are all clumped together in the back rows, ask them to move to the front and center. Because some listen- ers dislike having to move, you may have to appeal for their cooperation by saying some- thing like, “I hate to bother you, but it will save my throat if I don’t have to shout.”

Adapting during the Speech Adapting your speech to your audience, so important during the preparation stages, also must take place during the actual delivery of the speech. Be sensitive to your listeners’ moods and reactions, and then make any appropriate adjustments that you can.

For example, one of my students, Lester Petchenik, used a portable chef’s stove to demonstrate how to cook green beans amandine. At one point, he sprinkled a large amount of salt into his pan—an action that caused several members of the audience to exchange glances of surprise. Noticing this reaction, Petchenik ad-libbed, “I know it looks like I put too much salt in, but remember that I’ve got three pounds of green beans in this pan. In just a moment, when you taste this, you’ll see that it’s not too salty.” (He was right.)

Try to overcome any barriers to communication. Sometimes, for example, audiences are unable to focus on your remarks because of people walking in late. In this case, you can pause until the newcomers have settled in. John Naber of Pasadena, California, an Olympic gold medalist in swimming, says that he once gave a speech in a room with poor acoustics. Realizing the audience would have trouble understanding him if he stayed at the lectern, he said, “I moved into the middle of the group and walked among them as I spoke.”19

Be sensitive to the mood of the audience. You can tell if listeners are bored, drowsy, or restless by observing their body language. Are they yawning, letting their heads droop down, averting their eyes from the speaker, or fidgeting in their seats? Some- times they are listless not because your speech is boring but because of circumstances beyond your control. It is eight o’clock in the morning, for example, and you have to explain a technical process to a group of conventioneers who have stayed up partying half the night.

Try to “wake up” a listless audience. For droopy listeners, here are some techniques you can use: (1) Invite audience participation by asking for examples of what you are talking about or by asking for a show of hands of those who agree with you. (2) Rev up your delivery by moving about, by speaking slightly louder at certain points, or by speaking occasionally in a more dramatic tone.

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Chapter 4 Reaching the Audience 69

Summary To be an effective speaker, concentrate your attention and energies on your audience, and have a strong desire to com- municate your message to them. Analyze the listeners before- hand and adapt your materials and presentation to their needs and interests.

To get information about an audience, you can interview the program director, you can interview a few future listeners, or you can conduct a survey of your listeners.

A wide diversity of listeners—men and women of differ- ent ages, nationalities, ethnic groups, religions, economic lev- els, and physical abilities—are likely to be in your audiences.

When speaking to international audiences, learn as much as you can about the culture of the listeners. Learn nonverbal signals, be careful with jargon and slang, and maintain a seri- ous, formal tone. If possible, provide handouts covering some of your main points a day or two before a presentation.

Extend the same sensitivity to America’s diverse cul- tures. Avoid ethnocentrism, the belief that one’s own cultural group is superior to other groups. Learn the expectations and viewpoints of different cultures, but treat your knowledge as

possible clues, not absolute certainties. As much as possible, treat listeners primarily as individuals who may have charac- teristics that do not coincide with those of others in their cul- tural group.

Try to accommodate the needs of listeners with disabili- ties. If you are in doubt about what they need, simply ask them. Never treat adults with disabilities as if they were children, and don’t equate physical limitations with mental limitations.

Analyze and adapt your presentations to such factors as age, gender, educational levels, occupations, religious affilia- tions, and economic and social status.

Consider your listeners’ level of knowledge about your material, their level of interest in your subject matter, and their attitudes toward the goal, the speaker, and the occasion.

Analyze the occasion to gather details about the time limit, audience expectations, other events on the program, and the number of people who will attend.

Be prepared to adapt to the needs of the listeners during the speech itself. Be sensitive to the cues that indicate bore- dom, restlessness, or lack of understanding.

Resources for Review and Skill Building

Key Terms adaptation, 54

attitude, 64

audience analysis, 54

audience-centered speaker, 54

closed question, 56

customize, 54

ethnocentrism, 61

gender-biased language, 58

open-ended question, 56

taboo, 59

1. What is an audience-centered speaker? 2. What is meant by audience analysis and adaptation? 3. How can a speaker get advance information about an


4. What are taboos, and why are they an important concern for a speaker?

5. Do international audiences usually prefer a presentation that is humorous and informal or one that is serious and formal? Explain your answer.

6. What is ethnocentrism? 7. Who is the best source of information about the needs of

listeners with disabilities, and why?

8. What approach should you take if listeners have an unfa- vorable attitude toward your speech goal?

9. What guidelines should be followed for a speech to an audience that knows little or nothing about your topic?

10. What might happen if you give a speech that is different from the one the audience was expecting?

Review Questions

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1. Several websites provide ready-made speeches that public speakers are welcome to use as their own. Aside from the dishonesty involved, why would using such speeches be a mistake?

2. At what time of day are you normally least alert? What conditions in a room (such as temperature and noise) cause you to be inattentive? Now imagine that you are

Building Critical-Thinking Skills a listener in these circumstances. What would a speaker need to do to keep you awake and engaged?

3. Why is it insulting to assume that all persons in a wheel- chair want to sit in the back of a room?

4. While you are waiting to give a speech, you discover that the person speaking just before you is covering the same topic. When you stand up, what will you do and say?

1. Work with a group to create a questionnaire aimed at find- ing out where an audience stands concerning one of these issues: (a) Should “vicious” breeds of dogs such as pit bulls be outlawed? (b) Should the legal drinking age be changed? (c) Should pain sufferers be given medical marijuana? Use all the types of questions shown in Figure 1.

Building Teamwork Skills 2. In a group, create a list of 10 examples of American

slang or jargon that might be misunderstood by visit- ing physicians from Hong Kong who speak British English.

Answer: C. The speaker should neither omit nor water down her information, especially since she believes it can prevent long-term harm.

Examining Your Ethics

1. Aybala Warner Ozturk, remarks at the inauguration of Kimberly Wright Cassidy, Bryn Mawr College, inside .blogs.brynmawr.edu (accessed September 25, 2015).

2. Greg Anrig Jr., “Taxpayers’ Revenge,” in How to Manage Your Taxes, a booklet published by Money magazine, undated, pp. 2–3.

3. Fred Ebel, “Know Your Audience,” Toastmaster, June 1985, p. 20.

4. Perry Garfinkel, “On Keeping Your Foot Safely out of Your Mouth,” New York Times Online, nytimes.com, (accessed September 28, 2015).

5. Joe Navarro, “The Body Language of the Eyes,” Psychology Today, www.psychologytoday.com, accessed September 28, 2015.

6. Edward Daimler, travel agent, San Diego, California, telephone interview, September 12, 2005.

7. Axtell is quoted in Mary Ellen Guffey, Business Communication, 7th ed. (Mason, OH: Thomson South-Western, 2011), p. 92.

End Notes 8. “Strategies for Working with People Who Have

Disabilities,” University of Washington, www.washington.edu (accessed November 21, 2015).

9. Deborah L. Harmon, Serving Students with Disabilities (Asheville, NC: Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College, 1994), pp. 7–9.

10. Deborah L. Harmon, Serving Students with Disabilities (Asheville, NC: Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College, 1994), p. 9.

11. Allegra Ringo, “Understanding Deafness,” The Atlantic online, www.theatlantic.com (accessed September 28, 2015).

12. Deborah L. Harmon, Serving Students with Disabilities (Asheville, NC: Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College, 1994), p. 9.

13. Sharon Lynn Campbell, “Helping the Toastmaster of Disability,” Toastmasters International, www .toastmasters.org (accessed September 29, 2015).

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Chapter 4 Reaching the Audience 71

14. Thomas Leech, San Diego, California, consultant, “Tips and Articles,” Winning Presentations, www.winningpresentations.com (accessed September 28, 2015).

15. Kristin Wong, “5 Ways a Fed Rate Hike Could Affect Your Pocketbook,” NBC News, www.nbcnews.com (accessed January 8, 2015).

16. Najuana Dorsey, interview via the Georgia Southern University Marketing and Communications Department, May 1, 2001.

17. “Franklin D. Roosevelt Quotes,” Goodreads, www .goodreads.com (accessed November 21, 2015).

18. Felicia R. Lee, “Comedian Conversation Falls Flat at 92nd Street Y,” New York Times Online, nytimes.com (accessed September 28, 2015).

19. John Naber, professional speaker, Pasadena, California, telephone interview, November 12, 2000.

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Selecting a Topic

The General Purpose

The Specific Purpose

The Central Idea

Overview of Speech Design

OBJECTIVES After studying this chapter, you should be able to

1. Select appropriate and interesting speech topics. 2. Specify the general purpose of a speech. 3. Develop a clear, concise specific purpose statement for

every speech you prepare.

4. Develop a clear, coherent central idea for every speech you prepare.

5. Understand how the specific purpose and the central idea fit into the overall design of a speech.

W H E N H E WAS A H I G H S C H O O L ST U D E N T  in a small city in India,

Amol Bhave was bored with his classes. Then one day while surfing the Internet,

he discovered a repository of online video courses from Massachusetts Institute of

Technology (MIT).

Bhave immediately signed up. The courses were free, and he found them interesting

and challenging. He performed so well that the prestigious school gave him a full

scholarship. He excelled in engineering and computer science classes and became

a teaching assistant.

Because of his academic success, Bhave is invited to give talks to students and tele-

vision audiences, and he always chooses a topic about which he is passionate: why

people should take advantage of online courses, which are often free, to gain valu-

able information and learn new skills.1

Selecting Topic, Purpose, and Central Idea



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During a television program sponsored by The New York Times in New York City, MIT student Amol Bhave explains why he is enthusiastic about online courses.

© Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

For Bhave, choosing a topic

for a speech is easy. But

some speakers—on cam-

pus and beyond—select

topics they are not passion-

ate about, and they end up

boring the audience. Other

speakers are enthusiastic

about their topics, but they

fail to have clear objec-

tives. They meander and

roam, causing listeners to

become irritated and confused.

To help you avoid these mistakes, the first half of this chapter shows how

to choose a good topic, and the second half explains how to develop

clear objectives using three valuable tools: general purpose, specific

purpose, and central idea.

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Selecting a Topic For some speeches that you will give as part of a job, your topic will be chosen by someone else. Your boss, for example, may instruct you to present a new policy to your fellow employees.

In most public speaking classes, students are permitted to choose their own topics—a freedom that causes some students a great deal of agony, as they moan to friends, “I have to give a speech next week and I can’t think of a thing to talk about.” Don’t let yourself get stuck at this stage. Choose your topic far in advance, because you will need to spend your time and energy on researching, outlining, and practicing. If you are indecisive and delay, you may find yourself without enough time to prepare the speech adequately.

While you are taking this course, keep a notepad or smartphone handy and record ideas for topics as they come to you so that you will have a stockpile from which to draw. In the weeks ahead, you can add to your list as you come up with more ideas.

Here are some important points to bear in mind as you look for a topic.

Select a Topic You Care About Has anything ever happened to you that was so exciting or interesting or infuriating you could hardly wait to tell your friends about it? That’s the way you should feel about your speech topic. It should be something you care about, something you are eager to communicate to others. Are you exhilarated by the sport of kayaking? Speak on how to get started in kayaking. Are you angry over the rising number of car thefts in your com- munity? Speak on how to foil car thieves.

Enthusiasm is contagious. If you are excited, your excitement will spread to your listeners. If you are not excited about your topic, you are likely to do a lackluster job of preparing the speech, and your delivery will probably come across as dull and unconvincing.

Select a Topic You Can Master A nightmare scenario: You give a speech on a subject about which you know very little. In the question-and-answer period, some listeners (who know the subject well) point out your omissions and errors.

This nightmare happened to me once in college, and it has happened to many other speakers, but it need not happen to you. Make things easy for yourself. Speak on a subject with which you are already thoroughly familiar—or about which you can learn through research.

Here are several ways to probe for topics about which you already know (or can learn) a lot.

Personal Experiences If you are permitted to choose your own topic, start your search with the subject on which you are the world’s foremost expert—your own life.

“But my life isn’t very interesting or exciting,” you might say. Not so. Maybe you are not an international celebrity, but there are dozens of aspects of your life that could make compelling speeches. Here are some examples, all involving students:

∙ After a friend was defrauded by a student-loan scam, Christina Morales researched the crime and told classmates how to find honest, reliable lenders for student loans.

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Chapter 5 Selecting Topic, Purpose, and Central Idea 75

∙ Michael Kaplan demonstrated how to make a crepe (a type of thin pancake) filled with spinach, cheese, and tomato.

∙ Yuna Paragas gave a classroom speech on how she responded to a malicious effort to embarrass her on a social media site.

These students were ordinary people who chose to speak on ordinary aspects of their lives, but their speeches turned out the way all good speeches should turn out— interesting. When you are searching for a topic, start by looking for intriguing experi- ences in your own life.

To help you assess your interests, you can create a personal inventory using the cate- gories shown in Figure 1. After you have filled in the inventory, go back and analyze the list for possible speech topics. You may want to ask a friend or an instructor to help you.

Figure 1 A personal inventory, as filled in by one student

Name: Rachel Zamora

Personal Inventory

Jot down as much information about yourself as you can in the categories below.

Work experience (past and present) Radiology intern, St. Francis Hospital Volunteer assistant, children

, s cancer ward

Part-time server, Thai restaurant

Special skills or knowledge Managing money (I

, m paying my way through college)

Making hospital patients feel relaxed and comfortable

Pastimes (hobbies, sports, recreation) Swimming Chatting on Facebook Watching movies

Travel New York City Grand Canyon Yosemite Yellowstone

Unusual experiences Encountering a black bear in Yosemite Helping to build a house for Habitat for Humanity

School interests (academic and extracurricular) Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Hanging out with International Club students

Concerns or beliefs (politics, society, family, etc.) Society must stop cutting funds for elementary schools We need to find a cure for multiple sclerosis More money should be spent on solar energy research

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All the items in this inventory are potentially good speech topics. The best one would be whichever the student is most eager to share with the audience.

Exploring Interests Can you identify a topic that intrigues you—a topic that you have always wanted to know more about? If you choose such a topic, you will not only have fun researching, but you will also gain a stockpile of new and interesting information. 

Your topic might even influence the direction of your life. In a freshman public speaking class at Humboldt State Univer- sity in California, Jonathan Castro chose a topic that he had

always wanted to investigate—volcanoes. Preparing and delivering the speech ignited a passionate interest that led Castro to choose volcanology as his life’s work. After graduating from Humboldt, he earned a PhD in geology at the University of Oregon, and today he is a volcano specialist at Oberlin College.2

Even if it doesn’t change the course of your life, an intriguing topic can yield ben- efits. One student had always wanted to know the safest options for investing in the stock market. She researched and gave a speech on the subject, and a year later, she used the information to make her own investments.

Brainstorming If the methods already discussed don’t yield a topic, try brainstorming (so called because it is supposed to create intellectual thunder and lightning). In brainstorming, you write down whatever pops into your mind. For example, if you start off with the word helicop- ter, the next word that floats into your mind might be rescue and then the next word might be emergencies, and so on. Don’t censor any words. Don’t apply any critical evaluation. Simply write whatever comes into your mind. Nothing is too silly or bizarre to put down.

Using a sheet of paper (with categories such as those in Figure 2), jot down words as they come to your mind. When you finish brainstorming, analyze your list for pos- sible topics. Don’t discard any possibility until you have chosen a topic.

One student’s brainstorming notes are shown in Figure 2. Let’s examine one category, Social Problems, in which the student started with traffic accidents, a serious problem in society today. This led him to jot down “distractions,” perhaps because distracted drivers cause a large number of accidents. This prompted him to think of “smartphones,” fol- lowed by “texting”—two big factors in driver distraction. This led him to think of teenage drivers, who cause the majority of driving-while-texting mishaps. Finally, his brainstorm produced the idea of “driver education.” Later, as he analyzed the list, he chose to speak on the need for classes to warn teens of the dangers of texting while driving.

You may be wondering why you should put all this down on paper. Why not just let all your ideas float around in your mind? The advantage of writing your thoughts down is that you end up with a document that can be analyzed. Seeing words on a page helps you focus your thinking.

Exploring the Internet An enjoyable way to find topics is to travel around the Internet. Here are some sample approaches:

∙ For current events, you can visit news media sites, such as those of the New York Times, ABC News, and MSNBC News, and then browse through various sections (Health, Technology, Business, etc.).

brainstorming generating many ideas quickly and uncritically.

A college classroom speech on volcanoes changed the course of Jonathan Castro’s life.

© Ammit Jack/Shutterstock

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Examining Your Ethics

For her next speech in a public speaking class, Adrienne wants to recycle the key materials that she developed in a research paper in a psychology class last semester. Which course of action should she take?

A. Ask her speech instructor for permission to recycle the old materials in her upcoming speech.

B. Recycle the old materials in her speech without informing anyone of her decision.

C. Recycle the old materials in her speech but state clearly in the introduction that she did her research in another class.

For the answer, see the last page of this chapter.

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Chapter 5 Selecting Topic, Purpose, and Central Idea 77

∙ For general-interest articles, look through the websites of National Public Radio, Psychology Today, and National Geographic.

∙ Social media outlets and web databases can be helpful tools for finding inspira- tion. If you are stumped, try browsing Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Wikipe- dia, or another informational hub that you are familiar with. Make notes about what catches your atten- tion. Most of these sites are not adequate bibliographic sources on their own, but they can help you cycle through lots of ideas quickly and give you a jumpstart.

Select a Topic That Will Interest the Audience To engage your audience, choose a topic that is timely, worthwhile, and interesting. A talk on why people decide to take vaca- tions would be dull and obvious—everyone

Brainstorming Guide

People     comedians     Tracy Morgan     Stephen Colbert     talk show hosts     Jimmy Fallon

Places     Washington, DC     Smithsonian     Jefferson Memorial     Tidal Basin     FDR Memorial

Things     e-book reader     Kindle     Nook     tablet     iPad

Health     healthy food     dried cranberries     pomegranate seeds     blueberries     apricots     sunflower seeds

Music     Lady Gaga     Adele     Rihanna     Taylor Swift     Modest Mouse

Sports     pitchers     lefthanders     knuckleball     no-hitter     perfect game

Current Events     depletion of fish in oceans     mercury in tuna     farm fish     tilapia     salmon

Social Problems     traffic accidents     distractions     smartphones     texting     teenage drivers     driver education

Figure 2  One student’s entries on a brainstorming guide

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One student wanted to know if “extreme” roller coasters are safe, but she didn’t know if her classmates were interested in the topic. She queried six of them, and they all expressed great interest, which helped her select this topic.

© Allen.G/Shutterstock

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already knows that people take vacations to get away, relax, and experience something different and fun. Instead, give a lively presentation on sightseeing in Boston or backpacking in the Rockies.

“I’m excited about my topic,” some students say, “but I’m afraid the audience will be bored. How can I know?” Most listeners are bored by speeches that give them no personal enrichment. Their attitude is “What’s in it for me?” To see things from their perspective, imagine a typical listener approaching you five minutes before your presentation and saying, “I’m try- ing to decide whether to stay for your talk. What do I stand to gain by listen- ing to you?” If you realize that you can’t make a compelling case, change your topic.

This doesn’t mean that you must show listeners a dollar-and-cents gain, such as how to make money on the stock market. Perhaps their payoff is simply the pleasure of learning something new and fascinating. For example, you could explain why scientists anticipate that by the year 2100, extinct animals could be brought back to life and displayed in zoos.3

Two other ways to determine whether a topic is boring or interesting are to (1) ask your instructor and (2) survey classmates several weeks before your talk by asking them to rate several potential speech topics as “very interesting,” “moderately interesting,” or “not very interesting.”

Narrow the Topic Once you find a topic, you often need to narrow it. Suppose that you want to give a speech on weather; 5 minutes—or 20—is not enough time to adequately cover such a broad topic. How about limiting yourself to just storms? Again, 5

minutes would be too short to do justice to the topic. How about one type of storm— thunderstorms? This subject perhaps could be handled in a 5-minute speech, but it would be advisable to narrow the topic down even more—to one aspect of the subject: “how to avoid being struck by lightning.”

Narrowing a topic helps you control your material. It prevents you from wander- ing in a huge territory and allows you to focus on one small piece of ground. Instead of talking on the vast subject of elections, you might limit yourself to explaining how some states conduct voting online.

Ask yourself this question: Is my topic one that can be adequately and comfortably discussed in the time limit I’ve been given? If the honest answer is no, you can keep the topic, but you must narrow the focus.

Here are some examples of broad topics and how they can be narrowed:

Too broad: Native Americans Narrowed: Shapes, colors, and legends in Pueblo pottery Too broad: Prisons Narrowed: Gangs in federal and state prisons Too broad: Birds Narrowed: How migrating birds navigate

An important way to narrow your topic is to formulate a specific purpose, which will be discussed later in this chapter. First, let’s take a look at your general purpose.

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Chapter 5 Selecting Topic, Purpose, and Central Idea 79

The General Purpose Establishing a general purpose for your speech will help you bring your topic under control. Most speeches have one of the following purposes: ∙ To inform ∙ To persuade ∙ To entertain

Other purposes, such as to inspire, to pay tribute, and to introduce, will be dis- cussed in the chapter on special occasion speeches.

To Inform In an informative speech, your goal is to give new information to your listeners. You can define a concept (such as bitcoins); explain a situation (why honeybees are essential for agriculture); demonstrate a process (how earthquakes occur); or describe a person, place, or event.

Your main concern in this kind of speech is to have your audience understand and remember new information. You are in effect a teacher—not a preacher, a salesperson, or a debater.

Here is a sampling of topics for informative speeches:

∙ The pros and cons of Internet dating sites ∙ Bullies in the workplace ∙ How your credit score is figured

To Persuade Your aim in a persuasive speech is to win your listeners to your point of view. You may want them to change or discontinue a certain behavior (for example, convince them to stop buying ivory and other products from elephants) or prompt them to take action (for instance, persuade them to buy and drive an all-electric car).

In this kind of speech, you can try to persuade people to

∙ walk or jog one hour per day. ∙ vote for your candidate for a public office. ∙ donate money for autism research.

To Entertain An entertaining speech is aimed at amusing or diverting your audience. It is light, fun, and relaxing.

Some students mistakenly think that an entertaining speech is a series of jokes. Although jokes are an obvious component of many entertaining speeches, you can amuse or divert your audience just as easily with other types of material: stories, anecdotes, quotations, examples, and descriptions. (For more details, see the chapter on special occasion speeches.)

Here are some examples of topics for entertaining speeches:

∙ My life with a parrot named Alex ∙ The five most outrageous excuses for absenteeism at work ∙ Being an “extra” in a Hollywood movie

general purpose the broad objective of a speech.

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Professor Jane Tompkins confessed that earlier in her career, while teaching at Columbia University, she was more concerned about making a good impression than meeting students’ needs. She was focused on “three things: (a) to show the students how smart I was, (b) to show them how knowledgeable I was, and (c) to show them how well-prepared I was for class. I had been put- ting on a performance whose true goal was not to help the students learn but to perform before them in such a way that they would have a good opinion of me.”

If other speakers were as candid as Professor Tompkins, they would admit that they, too, often have hidden, unstated objectives that are far afield from listener-focused purposes such as “to inform” or “to

Tips for Your Career

Examine Your Hidden Purposes



persuade.” If their purposes were written out, they might look like this:

• To dazzle my boss with my presentation skills • To get listeners to like me and consider me smart and


Hidden objectives are not necessarily bad. We all have unstated goals such as looking our best and deliver- ing a polished speech. But we should watch for ulterior purposes that make us self-centered and insensitive to our listeners’ needs.

Tompkins, Jane, “Pedagogy of the Distressed” College English 52(6) October 1990.

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The Specific Purpose After you have chosen a topic and determined your general purpose, your next step is to formulate a specific purpose, stating exactly what you want to accomplish in your speech. Here is an example:

Topic: Student loans General Purpose: To inform Specific Purpose: To tell my listeners how to find student loan services that are

trustworthy and fair

The specific purpose is an important planning tool because it can help you to bring your ideas into sharp focus so that you don’t wander aimlessly in your speech and lose your audience.

Let’s say you choose “protection of the environment” as a topic for a speech. It’s a good topic, but much too broad—you might make the mistake of cramming too many different issues into the speech. How about “protecting national parks”? Now your topic is more manageable, especially if you devise a specific purpose that focuses on just one park:

Topic: Preserving Yosemite National Park General Purpose: To persuade Specific Purpose: To persuade my audience to support steps to reverse

overcrowding and neglect in Yosemite National Park

Now you have a sharp focus for your speech. You have limited yourself to a topic that can be covered adequately in a short speech.

Here are some guidelines for formulating a specific purpose statement.

specific purpose the precise goal that a speaker wants to achieve.

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Chapter 5 Selecting Topic, Purpose, and Central Idea 81

Begin the Statement with an Infinitive An infinitive is a verb preceded by to—for example, to write, to read. By beginning your purpose statement with an infinitive, you clearly state your intent.

Poor: Solar energy Better: To explain to my audience how to use solar energy to power all

home appliances

For informative speeches, your purpose statement can start with such infinitives as “to explain,” “to show,” and “to demonstrate.” For persuasive speeches, your purpose statement can start with infinitives such as “to convince,” “to prove,” and “to get the audience to believe.”

Include a Reference to Your Audience Your specific purpose statement should refer to your audience. For instance, “To con- vince my listeners that . . .” This may seem like a minor matter, but it serves to remind you that your goal is not just to stand up and talk but also to communicate your ideas to real flesh-and-blood human beings.

Poor: To explain how some employers are using psychological tests to determine whether prospective employees are honest

Better: To explain to my listeners how some employers are using psychological tests to determine whether prospective employees are honest

Limit the Statement to One Major Idea Resist the temptation to cover several big ideas in a single speech. Limit your specific purpose statement to only one idea.

Poor: To persuade the audience to support efforts to halt the destruction of rain forests in Central and South America, and to demand higher standards of water purity in the United States

Better: To persuade the audience to support efforts to halt the destruction of rain forests in Central and South America

In the first example, the speaker tries to cover two major ideas in one speech. Although it is true that both themes pertain to the environment, they are not closely related and should be handled in separate speeches.

Make Your Statement as Precise as Possible Strive to formulate a statement that is clear and precise.

Poor: To help my audience brighten their relationships

Better: To explain to my listeners three techniques people can use to communicate more effectively with loved ones

The first statement is fuzzy and unfocused. What is meant by “to help”? What is meant by “brighten”? And what kind of relationships are to be discussed: marital, social, business? The second statement is one possible improvement.

infinitive a verb form beginning with “to.”

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Achieve Your Objective in the Time Allotted Don’t try to cover too much in one speech. It is better to choose a small area of knowledge that can be tightly focused than to select a huge area that can’t be covered completely.

Poor: To tell my audience about endangered species Better: To convince my audience that international action should be

taken to prevent poachers from slaughtering elephants

The first statement is much too broad for a speech; you would need several hours to cover the subject. The second statement narrows the topic to one animal so that it can be covered easily in a short speech.

Don’t Be Too Technical You have probably sat through a speech or lecture that was too technical or complicated for you to understand. Don’t repeat this mistake when you stand at the lectern.

Poor: To explain to my listeners the biological components of the Salmonella enterica bacterium, a common cause of food poisoning

Better: To explain to my audience the steps to take to avoid food poisoning 

The first statement is too technical for the average audience. Many listeners would find the explanation tedious and over their heads. The second statement focuses on valuable information that people can use to safeguard their health.

The Central Idea In a college class, a counselor from an alcohol rehabilitation center spoke on alcohol- ism, giving many statistics, anecdotes, and research findings. I did not hear the speech, but afterward, I overheard some of the listeners arguing about it. Several contended that the speaker’s message was “Drink moderately—don’t abuse alcohol,” while others thought the speaker was saying, “Abstain from alcohol completely.” Still others said they were confused—they didn’t know what the speaker was driving at.

If you give a speech and people later wonder or debate exactly what point you were trying to make, you have failed to accomplish your most important task: to communi- cate your central idea.

The central idea is the core message of your speech expressed in one sentence. It is the same as the thesis sentence, controlling statement, or core idea—terms you may have encountered in English courses. If you were forced to boil your entire speech down to one sentence, what would you say? That is your central idea. If, one month after you have given your speech, the audience remembers only one thing, what should it be? That is your central idea.

As we will see in later chapters, the central idea is a vital ingredient in your out- line for a speech. In fact, it controls your entire speech. Everything you say in your speech should develop, explain, illustrate, or prove the central idea. Everything? Yes, everything—all your facts, anecdotes, statistics, and quotations.

If you are unclear in your own mind about your central idea, you will be like the counselor who caused such confusion: listeners will leave your speech wondering, “What in the world was that speaker driving at?”

central idea the key concept of a speech.

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Chapter 5 Selecting Topic, Purpose, and Central Idea 83

Devising the Central Idea Let’s imagine that you decide to give a speech on why governments should spend money to send powerful radio signals into outer space. The specific purpose statement of your speech might look like this:

Specific Purpose: To persuade my listeners to support government funding of radio transmissions into outer space

How are you going to persuade your audience? Can you simply say, “Folks, please support radio transmissions into outer space”? No, because merely stating your position won’t sway your listeners. To convince them, you need to sell the audience on a central idea that, if believed, might cause them to support your position:

Central Idea: Most scientists agree that radio transmissions are the best means for making contact with extraterrestrial civilizations (if any exist).

If you can sell this idea, you will probably succeed in your specific purpose: To persuade the listeners to support public funding of radio transmissions. They will be persuaded because the central idea is so intriguing: Most people like the notion of com- munication with aliens from faraway planets, and if most scientists back the idea, it cannot be considered far-out and impractical. “Yes,” the listeners will say, “let’s spend some of our tax dollars to find other life.”

After you decide on a central idea, your task in preparing the rest of the speech is to find materials—such as examples, statistics, and quotations—to explain and prove the central idea. In this case, you would need to explain the technology and cite the testi- mony of eminent scientists who support radio transmissions into space.

Some students have trouble distinguishing between the specific purpose and the central idea. Is there any significant difference? Yes. The specific purpose is written from your point of view—it is what you set out to accomplish. The central idea is written entirely from the listeners’ point of view—it is the message they go away with.

To learn to distinguish between the specific purpose and the central idea, study the examples in Table 1.

Topic General Purpose Specific Purpose Central Idea

Space junk To inform To inform my audience about the dangers of “space junk” (dead satellites and bits of expended rocket stages) that orbits the earth

More than 9,000 pieces of debris orbit the earth, threatening com- mercial and scientific satellites.

Buying a car To persuade To persuade my audience to avoid high-pressure sales tactics when buying a car

By comparing prices and using reputable car guides, consumers can avoid being “taken for a ride” by car salespeople.

Driving tests To entertain To amuse my audience with the true story of my abysmal failure to pass my first driving test

Taking the test for a driver’s license is a scary and sometimes disastrous event.

Table 1 How Topics Can Be Developed

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In planning your speech, write the specific purpose statement first—before you start gathering material. In many cases, you will be able to write the central idea immediately afterward. Sometimes, however, you may need to postpone the central idea until you have completed your research. For example, let’s say you are planning a speech on the use of steroids by athletes and bodybuilders. Here is your goal:

Specific Purpose: To convince my audience not to use steroids for building muscle

You haven’t done any research yet, so you can’t really write a central idea. But after you spend a few days studying articles on steroids, you are able to create your central idea:

Central Idea: Individuals who chronically use steroids risk kidney and liver damage.

Central Idea for a persuasive speech: Sugar consumption by children should be limited because of the risk of weight gain and diabetes.

© McGraw-Hill Education

Guidelines for the Central Idea

1. Include only one central idea in your speech. Why not two? Or three? Because you will be doing well if you can fully illuminate just one big idea in a speech. If you try to handle more than one, you run the risk of overwhelming the listeners with more information than they can absorb.

2. Put the central idea on paper. Writing it down gives you a clear sense of the direction your speech will take.

3. Limit the central idea to a single sentence. Whenever theatrical producer David Belasco was approached by people with an idea for a play, he would hand them his business card and ask them to write their concept on the back. If they protested that they needed more space, that proved they didn’t have a clear idea.

4. Make an assertion rather than an announcement or a statement of fact. A common mistake is to formulate the central idea as a mere announcement:

Ineffective: I will discuss robots as surgeons. (This is a good topic, but what idea does the speaker want to communicate?)

Another mistake is to put forth nothing more than a statement of fact:

Ineffective: Several operations at Johns Hopkins Medical Center have been performed by surgeons using robots. (This is interesting, but it is just a fact—a piece of information that can be included in the speech but does not stand alone as an overarching theme.)

Now let’s turn to a better version—one that makes an assertion:

Effective: Robots are valuable assistants in surgery because they can work with great precision and no fatigue. (This is a good central idea because it asserts a worthwhile point that can be developed in a speech.)

5. Let the central idea determine the content of the entire speech. As you prepare your outline, evaluate every potential item in light of the central idea. Does Fact A help explain the central idea? If yes, keep it. If no, throw it out. Does Statistic B help prove the central idea? If yes, keep it. If no, throw it out.

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Chapter 5 Selecting Topic, Purpose, and Central Idea 85

Overview of Speech Design How do the items discussed in this chapter fit into the overall design of a speech? If you look at Figure 3, which is an overview of a typical plan for a speech, you will see this chapter’s items—general purpose, specific purpose, and central idea—listed in the top oval, labeled “Objectives.” These items are planning tools to help you create a coherent speech. They are not the opening words of your speech. The bottom oval, “Documentation,” is also a planning tool and does not represent the final words of a speech. The actual speech that you deliver is shown in the rectangles: Introduction, Transition, Body, Transition, and Conclusion.

Figure 3 An overview of a typical plan for a speech. “Objectives” are explained in this chapter. The other terms will be covered in later chapters.


Objectives General Purpose Specific Purpose Central Idea







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Don’t make the mistake of assuming that a speaker should create the rectangles from top to bottom, in the order in which they appear. For reasons that will be obvious later, it makes sense to work on the body first, and then tackle the introduction and the conclusion.

Let’s pause a moment to consider where we are headed. The next seven chapters will show you how to build a strong speech. First we will look at how to find good primary research materials and finesse them with raw materials. Next we will examine how to develop the body of the speech, the introduction, and the conclusion. Finally, we will discuss how to arrange all the parts in your outline and your speaking notes.

All this work may seem wasteful of your time and energy, but in the long run, it pays rich dividends. It channels your thinking and prevents you from scattering your efforts across too wide a field. It helps you fashion an orderly, understandable speech, increas- ing the chances that you will enlighten, rather than confuse or bore, your listeners.

Summary In choosing a topic for your speech, think of subjects (1) about which you care a great deal, (2) about which you know a lot (either now or after you complete your research), and (3) that your audience will find interesting.

In looking for topics, start with yourself. What personal experiences might yield an interesting speech? If you want to go outside your own life, explore topics that intrigue you— subjects about which you have always wanted to know more.

Other methods for finding a topic include brainstorming (writing down ideas that come to your mind) and exploring websites that list subjects for college papers and speeches. Be sure to choose a topic narrow enough for the time allotted.

After you choose a topic, decide upon your general purpose in speaking (such as to inform, to persuade, or to

entertain) and then formulate your specific purpose— exactly what you hope to accomplish in the speech. Follow these guidelines: (1) Begin the statement with an infinitive. (2) Include a reference to your audience. (3) Limit the state- ment to one major idea. (4) Make your statement as precise as possible. (5) Make sure you can achieve your objective in the time allotted. (6) Don’t be too technical.

Next, write out your central idea: the one key idea that you want your audience to remember even if they forget everything else in the speech. Make sure the central idea is phrased as an assertion rather than an announcement or a statement of fact.

In the long run, these preliminary steps will help you organize your ideas in a coherent, understandable form.

Resources for Review and Skill Building

Key Terms brainstorming, 76

central idea, 82

general purpose, 79

infinitive, 81

specific purpose, 80

1. When a speaker is enthusiastic about his or her ideas, how do listeners usually react?

2. Name the three main strategies for selecting a good speech topic.

3. How does brainstorming work?

4. List three general purposes for speeches. 5. Are jokes required for an entertaining speech? Explain

your answer.

6. What are hidden purposes, and how should you handle them?

Review Questions

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Chapter 5 Selecting Topic, Purpose, and Central Idea 87

1. If handled poorly, “painting a room” could be a boring topic. How would you make it interesting to an audience of college students?

2. “Telling about white collar crime.” How could you improve this statement of specific purpose?

3. If the central idea of a speech is “The best computer passwords relate to obscure places and events known only to you,” what do you think the specific purpose is?

4. Narrow down the following broad subjects to specific, manageable topics:

a. Outdoor recreation b. Musical groups c. Illegal drugs d. Saving money e. Cloning

Building Critical-Thinking Skills 5. All but one of the specific purpose statements below

are either inappropriate for a brief classroom speech or incorrectly written. Identify the good one, and rewrite the bad ones so that they conform to the guidelines in this chapter:

a. To inform my audience of the basics of quantum inelastic scattering and photodissociation code

b. To inform my listeners about creativity on the job, getting raises, and being an effective manager

c. To explain to my audience how to perform basic yoga exercises

d. How persons with disabilities can fight back against job discrimination

e. Immigration since 1800 f. To persuade my audience to be careful

1. Before you meet, each group member should list five potential speech topics. In your group, evaluate each topic: Is it interesting and appropriate for a classroom speech?

2. In a group, brainstorm topics that would be boring or inappropriate for speeches in your class. Choose one person to write down the topics. Remember that no one

Building Teamwork Skills should criticize or analyze during the brainstorming session. Afterward, the group (or the class) can discuss each choice (Does everyone agree? Why is the topic inappropriate?).

3. Follow the instructions for item 2, except brainstorm topics that would be interesting and appropriate for speeches in your class.

Answer: A. You should know—and respect—your instruc- tor’s policy. Some instructors may give permission, while oth- ers may prefer that you conduct fresh research.

Examining Your Ethics

7. List the six criteria discussed in this chapter for writing a specific purpose statement.

8. What is the central idea of a speech? 9. What is the difference between the specific purpose and

the central idea?

10. For the central idea, is an assertion or an announcement better? Explain your answer.

1. Laura Pappano, “How Colleges Are Finding Tomor- row’s Prodigies,” Christian Science Monitor online, csmonitor.com (accessed June 16, 2015); “Roll Over IIT, MIT Is Here,” The Telegraph (Calcutta, India), www.telegraphindia.com (accessed June 16, 2015);  Avijit Chatterjee, “Short Cut to MIT,” The Telegraph (Calcutta, India), www.telegraphindia.com (accessed December 7, 2015).

End Notes 2. Jonathan Castro, Oberlin College, e-mail interview, May

14, 2015.

3. Michio Kaku, Physics of the Future (New York: Doubleday, 2011), pp. 160–164; Marcus Hall (ed.), Restoration and History (New York: Routledge, 2010), pp. 288–230.

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Misconceptions about Research

Finding Materials Efficiently

Searching Electronically


Online Research

Field Research

Saving Key Information

OBJECTIVES After studying this chapter, you should be able to

1. Understand why the Internet is sometimes a less desir- able source than traditional library materials.

2. Develop research strategies for finding materials quickly and efficiently.

3. Use electronic search techniques for finding books, articles, and information.

4. Take advantage of the services and materials offered by librarians and libraries.

5. Locate useful materials on the Internet. 6. Recognize the value of deriving material from experi-

ences, investigations, and surveys.

7. Conduct effective interviews with experts. 8. Take notes with precision, care, and thoroughness.

A VO LU N T E E R A I D WO R K E R F R O M JA PA N ,  Miyuki Konnai, came to

Turkey in 2011 to help the victims of an earthquake. But while she was in her hotel, a

second earthquake struck, and she found herself buried underneath the rubble. Five

hours later, a co-worker was found dead and Konnai was found badly injured. She

eventually recovered.

Why had she traveled all the way to Turkey (which is 5,300 miles from Japan)? She said

she felt the need to help Turkish victims because Turkey had given support to the peo-

ple of Japan following an earthquake and tsunami in Japan that had occurred seven

months earlier. “I wanted to repay the Turkish people for their kindness,” she said.

Locating Information



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To educate the public,

Konnai gives presenta-

tions explaining earth-

quakes and how to

prepare for them. She

draws from her own

experiences, but she

goes beyond what hap-

pened to her. She inter-

views experts, makes

queries on social-media

sites, and reads books,

articles, and websites.1

Konnai’s approach—

gathering material from

many different sources—

is a good model for all

public speakers. If you

speak only from your

own experience or from

just one article, you risk

having a speech that

is erroneous, skimpy,

or dull. But if you find a

wide variety of informa-

tion, you maximize your chances of being accurate, comprehensive, and


Miyuki Konnai shows a piece of debris from the hotel rubble that injured her and trapped her for five hours in an earth- quake in Turkey.

© Kyodo/AP Images

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For children, is milk bet- ter than fruit drinks?

© Ingram Publishing/SuperStock

Misconceptions about Research Many people have two erroneous notions about research.

1. Misconception: Searching websites is always faster and more efficient than using traditional library resources such as books.

Reality: Although using a search engine is quick and can lead you to multiple sites, it is sometimes more time consuming to find a relevant and credible source online than it is to consult a book. One of my former students, Carole Campbell, who is a cabinetmaker, says that when she needs help on how to perform a com- plicated technique, she can find information on the Internet, but it usually takes her 30 minutes to ferret out reliable advice. “I can find the same information in two minutes if I use a book on cabinetmaking,” she says. “And the illustrations are more attractive and more helpful than anything I can find on the web.”

2. Misconception: For accurate information, websites are the best resource. Reality: Many websites contain inaccurate or misleading information, especially

concerning controversial or disputed issues, so your best option in many cases is to consult books and articles by reputable experts.

Let's say you are trying to verify the healthiest foods for children and you dis- cover that some websites extol fruit drinks as ideal, while other websites criticize them. How can you know which position is correct? For trustworthy advice, consult Complete Food and Nutrition Guide, a large book (available in print or e-book for- mat) sponsored by the American Dietetic Association, the largest group of food and nutrition professionals in the world. ADA experts recommend that children drink milk and water most of the time, with only occasional fruit drinks. They say that too many fruit drinks can add up to a lot of calories and crowd out nourishing foods like whole fruit and healthy beverages like milk.2 It is true that you might be able to get this information online, but there are pit-

falls to depending on websites. Unless you have advanced training in nutrition, you would not know which websites are accurate and which are not. The Guide’s experts provide reliable conclusions, in contrast to the misinformation and crackpot theories that abound on the Internet. And in addition to the fruit drink issue, the experts have compiled the best information available on hundreds of nutrition topics—all gathered in one convenient volume.

Figure 1 gives an overview of the major research options and a sampling of the resources that you can use. All these resources will be discussed in this chapter. The next chapter will cover how to evaluate the information that you find.

Finding Materials Efficiently To avoid research that is unproductive and irrelevant, use the following techniques.

Begin with a Purpose Statement Decide the specific purpose of your speech before you start your research. It will focus your efforts.

Some students find it helpful to turn the purpose statement into a question. For example, “To inform my listeners how they can determine if their drinking water is free of dangerous contamination” could be asked as “How can we know if our water is safe to drink?”

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Chapter 6 Locating Information 91

Whichever form you use, write it out and keep it in front of you at each step of your research. It will guide your efforts and prevent wasted time.

Plan Your Time To give yourself ample time before the speech date, start your research far in advance. Determine the materials and resources you will need, and then create a schedule. (See a sample schedule in Figure 2.)

Call to arrange personal interviews early in the process so that the interviewees can fit you into their schedules.

Searching Electronically Most research materials today are located by means of electronic searches:

∙ Books in a library catalog ∙ Articles in a periodicals database ∙ Information online via websites or apps

The starting point for most electronic search systems is a keyword that can lead to relevant material. Follow these guidelines for searches.

keyword a word looked for in a search command.

Figure 1 Research Options  The resources shown here sometimes overlap. For example, libraries provide access to the Internet, and the Internet provides access to traditional library materials such as maga- zine articles.

InternetLibraries Field Research

• Books

• Articles

• Electronic resources

• Websites and apps

• Groups and forums

• Blogs and vlogs

• Interviews with experts

• Experiences and investigations

• Surveys

Major Resources

Figure 2 Sample Schedule  Check off items as they are completed.

Feb. 4

Feb. 4

Feb. 5

Feb. 8

Feb. 9

Feb. 11

Feb. 12

11 a.m.

2 p.m.

3 – 5 p.m.

7 – 9 p.m.

7 – 9 p.m.

4 – 5 p.m.

10 a.m.

Call to reserve Internet workstation in library for Feb. 8

See reference librarian; explain my topic and get advice

Library: look for info in books and encyclopedias

Surf Internet for info; start with Google

Library: look for full-text articles in electronic databases

Review all notes in preparation for interview tomorrow

Interview with Suzanne Ludtke at Pure Water Analysis office, 836 Broadway

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To narrow your search, use multiple keywords. Imagine that you are planning a speech on steroids and the dangers they pose for athletes. If you search a database of newspaper and magazine articles, using only one keyword—steroids—you may see 5,750 articles listed, but you obviously don’t have time to wade through such a huge number. If you use two keywords—steroids sports—you may see 519 articles listed. Still too many. If you use three keywords—steroids sports danger—you may see 23 articles. Now the list is manageable, and the articles probably discuss your precise topic.

Use phrases whenever possible. To narrow a search for information on the use of dogs in military operations, you can use the phrase “war dogs.” (In most search systems, phrases must be placed in quotation marks.) One potential problem is that a phrase might miss some good material. (For example, some articles on military dogs might not use the phrase “war dogs.”) The solution is to perform several searches, using a differ- ent phrase each time, such as “combat dogs” and “dogs in battle.”

Learn how to use advanced techniques. Most electronic search systems have a Help menu or Advanced Features that you can consult to improve your chances of finding what you need. Here are some examples:

∙ Dates: Many systems permit you to specify “past month” or “past year,” and some permit setting a range of dates.

∙ Minus sign: To exclude unwanted material, use a minus sign. If you search online for Madagascar (the country), you will get thousands of unrelated pages about a movie titled Madagascar. To exclude the unwanted pages, use a minus sign in front of the term for which you do not want results (Madagascar –movie).

∙ Or: To find pages that might use one of several keywords, use “or” (movie or film). ∙ Wildcards: In Google, use an asterisk (*) to act as a placeholder (or wildcard)

for one or more characters. For instance invit* returns invitation, invite, inviting, invitational, and so on. (Note that Google permits a wildcard operator only at the end of a search term.)

Use the “find” feature. Once you open a document, you can go straight to what you are looking for if you use the find function—hold down the Control key (or Command if using a Mac) as you press the letter F, and then enter a keyword in the search field.

Libraries Libraries offer a treasury of resources for your speeches. Begin with your campus library, and also consider public libraries and specialized libraries maintained by muse- ums and other organizations in your community. To verify that a library provides the services you need, call in advance or visit the library’s website.

Getting Help from Librarians Some people are reluctant to approach a librarian for help because they fear they will be bothersome. Nonsense. The main role of librarians is not to place books on shelves but to help patrons, so don’t be shy about asking for help.

In most libraries, the person who is best able to help you with your research is called a reference librarian. This person is a specialist who has training and experi- ence in tracking down information. Drop by, call for an appointment, or send in your query via the library’s website.

reference librarian a specialist in informa- tion retrieval.

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Chapter 6 Locating Information 93

“Don’t spin your wheels and waste a lot of time if you get stuck or encounter some- thing confusing,” advises Kathy Herrlich, a librarian at Northeastern University. “A reference librarian can save you time and help you find better information, more effi- ciently. For example, we can suggest a couple of the best databases for your topic.” Also, she says, if a library fails to have what you are looking for, a librarian can provide referrals to other sources and collections outside your campus—at another library, for example, or a community agency.3

Books Here are some tips on using books:

Use your library’s catalog. The catalog, an online compilation of all books owned by the library, permits you to make a quick search in at least three categories: (1) author’s name, (2) title, and (3) subject.

Pay attention to the date of publication because an old book may be useless for some research (such as current events). Another important item is the call number, which tells where a book is located in the library’s stacks. If you have any problem find- ing a book, ask a librarian for help.

Some catalogs will indicate whether a book is already checked out and will permit you to place a “hold” on it. As soon as it is returned to the library, it will be reserved for you.

Consult reference books. Reference materials such as encyclopedias, dictionaries, and maps are carefully researched and double-checked for accuracy. They are available in either print or electronic versions.

Consider using e-books. Many books in electronic form are likely to be available at your library. E-books can be viewed on a variety of devices such as computers, smart- phones, tablets, and e-book readers. A key advantage of e-books is that you can quickly search an entire book to find words or phrases.

Find previews. Sometimes, when an entire book is not readily available, you can still find key information by searching online for previews. Let’s say you are researching the challenges that will face astronauts when they land on Mars someday, and you want to know how hot or cold it will be. Go to a book site like Google Books or Amazon, search for a book on travel to Mars, and enter the keyword “temperature.” For example, if you find the book How We’ll Live on Mars and search for “temperature,” you will find pre- view pages that include this passage:

Landing near the equator allows the astronauts to take advantage of milder tem- peratures that can reach 70 degrees Fahrenheit on a summer day. But at night, the temperature easily reaches minus 100 degrees.4

If this passage provides the key information you need, you have saved yourself the time and effort you would have spent tracking down the book itself.

Articles Libraries provide access to articles in three types of periodicals: newspapers (such as The Wall Street Journal), popular magazines (such as National Geographic and Time), and scholarly journals (such as African Studies Quarterly and Journal of Supercomputing).

A reference librarian can be very helpful in finding information.

© bikeriderlondon/Shutterstock

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Articles are available in two formats:

1. Print. Libraries carry a wide variety of publications and keep past issues for at least one year.

2. Electronic. Most libraries have searchable databases (such as ProQuest and EBSCO) that are available to you but not to the general Internet user. 

Electronic databases provide information in three forms:

1. Citation. A citation is a basic bibliographical reference that includes the title of the article, the name(s) of the author(s), the name of the magazine, the publication date, and page numbers.

2. Abstract. An abstract, or brief summary, of an article is designed to give you enough information to decide whether you want to see the complete text of that article. Sometimes the abstract itself gives you all the information you need.

3. Full text. Some databases offer complete or full-text articles.

Interlibrary Loan If your library does not have a book or an article that you want, librarians can seek help from other libraries, using interlibrary loan. A book can be borrowed, often at no cost to you, and an article can be photocopied (you pay only the copying fee).

Because a book or an article may take a few days or even weeks to arrive, make your request as far ahead of speech day as possible.

Online Research When information is placed online, it is usually stored in either websites or apps. Here are some effective tools for locating information. Instead of using just one of the tools, you may need to use two or more for some searches.

Search Engines A search engine  finds documents on the Internet that match the keywords you have provided. Most search engines return results in order of relevance—the most relevant at the top, the least relevant at the bottom. Promising search engines include Google, Bing, Yahoo Search, and DuckDuckGo, an option that doesn’t store or share your per- sonal information. Some “metasearch” sites return queries from several search engines at the same time, such as Dogpile or Ixquick.

You can save time by learning the advanced features that are available on your favorite search engine. For example, Google, Bing, and Yahoo Search allow you to limit a search to a certain domain or website. If you are investigating classroom cheat- ing at colleges, you can put keywords like “classroom cheating site:.edu” in the search box, and all of the results will come from educational institutions. Likewise, the key- words “classroom cheating site: umich.edu” will yield results only from the University of Michigan website.

Because search engines usually return a staggering number of “hits,” some people assume that they can use them to find anything that is on the Internet. This is not true. While using multiple search engines can broaden the types of sources available to you, search engines are still unable to produce certain valuable resources. For example, some magazines and newspapers have large archives of articles that you can access only by going to the publication’s website. 

citation basic facts about a source.

abstract summary of key information.

full text every word of a document.

interlibrary loan sharing of materials and services among libraries.

search engine a service that lets you search for key- words on Web pages throughout the world.

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Chapter 6 Locating Information 95

Specialized Research In addition to using a search engine, which casts a broad net, you can narrow your focus to a specialized research option, such as the following: ∙ For articles about current events, try the New York Times, BBC News, or Google

News websites. ∙ For complete books or excerpts, visit Project Gutenberg, Google Books, or

Amazon.com online. ∙ For scholarly articles in academic journals, try Google Scholar (scholar.google.com)

or Directory of Open Access Journals (doaj.org). ∙ For images or videos, go to the Google or Bing websites, click on “Images” or

“Videos,” and enter your keywords. ∙ For a definition or a synonym for a word, visit the websites for The Free Dic-

tionary or Merriam-Webster.

Apps Apps are specialized, narrowly focused software applications that can be used on desk- top computers or on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. For example, USA Today newspaper has a free app that gives the latest scores of major sporting events, while another free app from NOAA (the U.S. government’s weather forecasting agency) provides up-to-the-minute weather updates for any location you select. 

Many apps are available free or at minimal cost to the general public (from Apple, Android, and other vendors), but there are some apps that are available only to patrons of a college or public library. If you use a smartphone or a tablet, your library may provide apps that permit you to (1) search the library catalog, (2) find and read articles, (3) study reference works, (4) download e-books, and (5) ask librarians for help. Some libraries even offer live chats with librarians.

Let’s look at samples to give you an idea of the kinds of options that you might find.

Research Apps Many research apps enable you to find information from printed and multimedia sources.  ∙ Using an app called Overdrive, one student gathered information

about dolphins by reading an e-book and watching a video. ∙ A student used her library’s Zinio Magazine Collection app to

download the latest issue of Smithsonian magazine to study an article on how ancient Egyptians built their pyramids.

∙ A ProQuest app enabled one student to quickly find and down- load an article from the Wall Street Journal about Internet gam- bling scams.

Productivity Apps Some apps help you to organize your material and your time.

∙ To keep track of your research, use apps like Evernote, which puts notes, check- lists, and articles at your fingertips.

∙ EasyBib is one of several apps designed to help you cite sources in the correct style (such as MLA and APA).

∙ Assignment Calculator is a time management app that breaks down research assign- ments into a series of manageable steps and can be downloaded to your computer.

app a piece of software designed to fulfill a particular purpose  

Apps are becoming increasingly popular for research.

© Twin Design/Shutterstock

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Online Communities and Individuals In addition to consulting websites and apps, you can tap the experiences and insights of people around the world who are eager and willing to share their knowledge and view- points. Here are three ways to find them.

Groups and Forums Groups and forums are message centers where people who have similar interests can share ideas and observations. Sponsored by Facebook, Google, Yahoo, and other orga- nizations, groups and forums cover just about any subject you can imagine. For exam- ple, if you are interested in watching and protecting whales, you will find dozens of groups or forums that provide commentary, as well as photos and videos, on whales.

For a researcher, the vital part of a group or forum is its archives. Messages are organized by “threads”—that is, all the messages that deal with an original query can be viewed, one after another. For example, one person asked for comments about a com- pany that was offering her a college scholarship. In response, over a dozen people from different geographic regions posted messages warning that they had been defrauded by the company’s scholarship scam. All those messages, organized by thread, can be viewed sequentially in the archives.

Note of caution: Although it is acceptable to ask a group for help with small, spe- cific items, don’t ask members to prepare a speech for you. Such a query is not only unethical but also unwise. People in groups are friendly and generous, but they get irritated when a lazy student writes, “I’ve got to give a speech next week on the death penalty, and I’d appreciate all the help I can get.”

Blogs and Vlogs A blog—a shortened term for Web log—is a website that posts material that the blogger (the person or organization that owns the site) wants to share with the world.

For researchers, the most useful blogs are those that give the latest news in a partic- ular field and provide links to other sources. For example, The Health Care Blog reports on current developments in the health care system, with links to related websites.

In addition to text, a blog may contain images and videos. If its content is primarily in video format, it is sometimes called a vlog (short for video blog).

Many blogs and vlogs permit readers to post responses or comments, thereby per- forming some of the same functions as groups and question-and-answer sites. 

Blogs and vlogs are included in the results of the search engines listed above. If you want to isolate them, add “blog” or “vlog” to your keywords.

Question-and-Answer Sites Question-and-answer services sometimes provide information that you cannot get any- where else on the Internet. But beware: the quality varies. Some sites have top people in a given field, but other sites have self-proclaimed experts whose expertise may be dubious.

Some well-known sites are Ask.com, Quora.com, Answers.com, and Yahoo! Answers. Additional sites can be found by typing “ask the experts” and “ask an expert” into a search engine like Google.

Field Research Field research means gathering information firsthand by observing, surveying, inter- viewing, or being part of some activity.

blog frequently updated online log.

vlog frequently updated video log.

field research firsthand gathering of information.

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Chapter 6 Locating Information 97

Experiences and Investigations As you gather materials for a speech, don’t overlook your own personal experiences, which can bolster your key points. For example, if you escaped serious injury in a car accident because you were wearing a seat belt, you can use the story to supplement national statistics on the value of seat belts.

You can also undertake investigations. David Marcovitz, a medi- cal student at Vanderbilt University, investigated what food stamp recipients can afford to eat. For five straight days, he spent only one dollar for each of his three meals—the amount of money the average food stamp recipient can spend in Nashville, Tennessee. For lunch one day, he had to limit himself to half an apple, a carrot, and a cold-cut sandwich made with day-old bread. (See Figure 3.) His investigation left him hungry and helped him walk in the shoes of his future low- income patients and have empathy for them.5

Surveys Student speaker Kathleen Brady had heard a rumor that walk buttons at pedestrian crosswalks don’t actually cause traffic lights to change. She tried a button in her neighborhood and it had no effect, but she wondered if the situation was the same throughout the country. So she conducted a survey by sending a query to her Facebook friends in different regions of the United States. She wrote:

In your neighborhood, please test the button at the nearest crosswalk for pedes- trians. How long does it take the traffic light to change if you push the button? And how long does it take if you don’t push the button?

Brady received 37 responses from Facebook friends in many different locales. All but four reported that pushing the crosswalk button in their neighborhood had no effect.

In her speech, she said that traffic officials told her that walk buttons were deactivated years ago with the advent of computer-controlled traffic signals. The buttons are kept on the streets because (1) they give pedestrians a psycho- logical sense of control, and (2) it would be too expensive to remove them.

In addition to using Facebook, you can conduct surveys via e-mail, or you can distribute paper questionnaires in person. For more information, see the discussion of surveys in the chapter on reaching your audience.

Interviews with Experts Bestselling author Frederick Forsyth has written spy novels that have been acclaimed for their authenticity and accuracy. For his research, he says he avoids “all online fact searching because so much is either rubbish or inadequate.” He elaborated, “I seek out the expert steeped in knowledge of his subject and ask for an hour of his time. I usually secure everything I need and probably several extraordinary anecdotes that would never be found on the Internet.”6

Like Forsyth, many speakers and writers have discovered that interviews with experts—people who are highly knowledgeable about a topic—can yield valuable facts and insights. Often these experts can provide up-to-date informa- tion not yet available in magazines or books.

Let’s look at two avenues for interviews: electronic and personal.

Figure 3 Medical student David Marcovitz found out what it’s like to be a food stamp recipient. 

© Larry McCormack/The Tennessean/AP Images

Chances are, this walk button doesn’t work.

© Gary Whitton/Shutterstock

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Examining Your Ethics

Jennifer conducts research as part of her plan to convince her audience that frequent use of cell phones can cause brain cancer. She interviews three different cancer specialists, all of whom say that her theory is possible but highly unlikely. In her speech, which approach should she take?

A. Quote the specialists as saying the theory is possible, but omit the “highly unlikely” qualifier.

B. Avoid any mention of the interviews and find specialists whose findings support the speaker’s argument.

C. Report that all three specialists found the theory to be possible but highly unlikely.

For the answer, see the last page of this chapter.

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Electronic Electronic communication via e-mail and social networks (such as Facebook) can be an excellent tool for interviewing experts. To find knowledgeable people on the Inter- net, visit websites or social media sites on your topic and click on links that take you to the authors’ information.

If you already know the name of an expert, you can use a search engine to try to find his or her e-mail address. Another option is to go to the website of the organization with which the expert is affiliated. For example, if a scholar teaches at a certain university, you can visit the school’s website, click on the directory of faculty members, and then locate the professor’s e-mail address.

Bryant Wilson is a two- time NCAA national champion in pole vault. If you were preparing a speech on the sport of pole vaulting, you could interview vaulters like Wilson in person, by phone, or electronically (e-mail, Facebook, etc.). 

© Paul L. Newby, II/The Grand Rapids Press/AP Images

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Chapter 6 Locating Information 99

Personal For face-to-face interviews, where can you find experts? Start with faculty members at your own college; some of them may have special knowledge on your speech topic. Then look at the larger community beyond the campus. Are any businesses or agencies involved in your subject? If so, e-mail or call them to ask for the appropriate expert. If you are speaking on snakebites, for example, call the nearest zoo and ask to speak to the chief herpetologist.

If you are lucky, there can sometimes be a wonderful bonus from an interview: you might develop a rewarding professional contact or personal friendship. Consuela Mar- tinez, an accounting major in one of my classes several years ago, interviewed an offi- cial at a local bank to get information for a speech. The official was so impressed with Martinez that when she graduated and returned to the bank seeking a job, he hired her.

Don’t let fear of rejection deter you. Some students have the idea that the knowl- edgeable people they want to interview are so important and so busy they will have no time for a “lowly” student. On the contrary, my students have found that every- one they approach loves to be interviewed. If this surprises you, think about yourself for a moment: when a friend asks you for advice, don’t you enjoy holding forth as an “expert”? The same is true of knowledgeable people in your community: they are flat- tered to be interviewed by a student.

Preparing for an Interview Before an interview, there are a few things you should do.

Make an appointment. Never drop by and expect the person to agree to an interview on the spot. When you call or e-mail to line up the appointment, explain what you are trying to find out and how much time you are requesting.

Conduct research before the interview. If you learn the basic facts about your subject beforehand, you can ask questions that will be right on target, yielding good informa- tion. Doing your homework can also help you avoid asking embarrassing questions. Suppose you are interviewing a neurologist about brain injuries suffered by Iraq War veterans and you ask, “Where is Iraq?” The expert would resent your wasting her time as she spoon-feeds you elementary material you should already know.

There are two other advantages of doing research before an interview: (1) If you are confused by something in your reading, the expert may be able to clarify. (2) If you are unable to find vital information in your library research, the expert can often supply it or tell you where to find it.

Prepare questions. Decide ahead of time exactly what questions you want to ask, and write them down. Be sure to put the most important ones first—in case you run out of time.

If possible, e-mail the most important questions ahead of time to help the inter- viewee prepare for the interview.

Decide how to record the interview. Since human memory is highly fallible, you need a system for recording the interview. Most interviewers use either or both of the follow- ing methods:

1. Writing down key ideas. Jot down key ideas only. If you try to write down every word the person is saying, you will be completely absorbed in transcribing sen- tences instead of making sense out of what is being said.

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2. Using a recorder. Smartphones with audio or video recording capabilities and video cameras are ideal when you want to get a word-for-word record of the inter- view. Sometimes you can even use part of the recording in your actual speech, as did one speaker who showed his audience excerpts of a smartphone video of a police officer demonstrating how to take a DNA sample from a suspect.

If you want to use a recorder, seek permission from the interviewee beforehand. Most people will permit recording, but a few will refuse (because it makes them feel uncomfortable or intimidated). You should, of course, respect their wishes. Using a hid- den device is unethical.

Conducting an Interview Here are some tips on how to conduct an interview.

Start in a friendly, relaxed manner. Before you begin your questions, you need to establish rapport. You can express appreciation (“Thanks for letting me come by to talk to you today”) and sincerely make complimentary remarks (about the pictures on the wall, the person’s organization, etc.). Try to read the person’s body language—does he or she seem relaxed and unrushed, or does he or she seem tense and hurried? Feedback will help you decide whether to plunge quickly into the subject of the interview.

Get biographical information. Since the person you are interviewing is one of your sources, you need to be able to tell your audience later why he or she is an authority on your subject. If you have not been able to get background information in advance, the early part of the interview is a good time to get it because it continues the building of rapport. You could say, for example, “Where did you get your doctorate?” or “How long have you been working on this issue?”

Ask both prepared and spontaneous questions. Earlier we noted that you should decide ahead of time exactly what questions you want to ask. There are two types of questions that can be prepared in advance: closed and open-ended.

Closed questions require only yes or no responses or short, factual answers. Examples: “Do Democrats outnumber Republicans in this state?” “What percentage of registered voters actually voted in the last presidential election?” Closed questions are effective in getting specific data.

Open-ended questions give the interviewee a wide latitude for responding. For example, “How do you feel about negative political ads?” The advantage of such a broad question is that the interviewee can choose the points he or she wishes to emphasize—points about which it may not have occurred to you to ask. The disad- vantage is that such questions may allow an interviewee to wander off the subject into irrelevant side issues.

There are two types of questions that cannot be prepared in advance and may need to be asked spontaneously during the interview: clarifying and follow-up.

Clarifying questions are used when you are confused about what the person means. Ask a question like “Could you explain that a little more?” or say “Correct me if I’m wrong, but what I think you’re saying is . . .” Don’t shy away from asking clarifying questions because you are afraid of showing your ignorance. Remember that you are there to interview the person precisely because you are “ignorant” in his or her area of expertise. So ask about any point that you don’t understand. The interviewee will appre- ciate it and respect you more.

closed question a question requiring only a short, specific response.

open-ended question a question that per- mits a broad range of responses.

clarifying question a question designed to clear up confusion.

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follow-up question a question designed to stimulate elaboration.

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Chapter 6 Locating Information 101

Follow-up questions are designed to encourage the interviewee to elaborate on what he or she has been saying—to continue a story or to add to a comment. Here are some examples: “What happened next?” “Were you upset about what happened?” “Could you give me some examples of what you’re talking about?”

Make the interview more like a relaxed chat than an interrogation. Be natural and spontaneous, and follow the flow of conversation. In other words, don’t act as if you must plow through your list of questions item by item. Simply check off the questions as they are answered. Toward the end of the interview, ask those questions that still have not been covered. Also, the person may bring up surprising aspects of your topic that you have not thought about; this should inspire you to ask spontaneous follow-up questions.

Ask about other sources and visual aids. Interviewees may be able to tell you about other people you can interview, and they may point you to promising books and web- sites that you were unaware of. They may even be willing to lend or give you visual aids that you can use in your speech.

Ask if you’ve omitted any questions. When you have gone through all the prepared questions, ask the interviewee if there are any items that you have failed to ask about. You may find that you have inadvertently overlooked some important matters.

End the interview on time. Respect the amount of time that was granted when you set up your appointment; if you were allotted 20 minutes, stay no more than 20 minutes— unless, of course, the interviewee invites you to stay longer. If you still have questions when the time is up, you can ask for permission to e-mail or phone with a few extra questions. As you leave, be sure to thank the person again.

Following Up After you leave the interview, you have three important tasks.

Promptly expand your notes. Immediately after the interview, go through your notes and expand them (by turning words and phrases into complete sentences) while the conversation is fresh in your mind. If you wait two weeks to go over your notes, they will be stale and you may have to puzzle over your scribbling or you may forget what a particular phrase means.

Evaluate your information. Evaluate your notes to see if you got exactly what you were looking for. If you are confused on any points or find that you need more informa- tion on a particular item, call or e-mail the interviewee and ask for help. This should not be a source of embarrassment for you—it shows that you care enough about the subject and the interviewee to get the information exactly right.

Write a thank-you note. A brief note thanking the interviewee is a classy finale. If pos- sible, mention some of the interviewee’s points that you will likely use in your speech.

Saving Key Information You should systematically save the key information that you find. Being organized will allow you to craft your speech more efficiently and will also help you to avoid plagiariz- ing and attributing information to incorrect sources. Below are some tips to help you manage your material.

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Do you have a stockpile of key ideas that you will be able to use after you start your post-college career? If not, start building one today. To succeed in any career, you must have information available on short notice, so a bank of information will come in handy when it’s time to write a report or prepare a presentation. Managers and colleagues will be impressed by the wealth of rel- evant information at your fingertips.

A two-part system tends to work best:

1. Computer files for materials you find online. Store relevant text files and screenshots in labeled

Tips for Your Career

Develop a Filing System for Important Ideas



folders, and bookmark important websites. You can create subdirectories within the file folders and book- mark folders with obvious names (for example, TAX LAW for information on tax laws in your field).

2. File folders for clippings, printouts, and photocopied articles. For each folder, use a sticky note as a label (this makes it easier to discard a topic that is no lon- ger of interest). Include notes that you take during presentations and interviews. Since many of your instructors are experts in their fields, you may want to file lecture notes from some of your college classes.

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Printouts and Photocopies If you make printouts of websites and photocopies of articles and book pages, analyze them carefully to extract the most important details and to plan any necessary follow-up research. Use a highlighter to spotlight information that supports your topic so that you can quickly review the main points of your sources later. On each separate document, be sure to identify the author, publication or website, publication date, and page numbers in case your papers get disorganized. Storing your printouts and photocopies in labeled folders can help keep you organized. 

If you’re unable to print digital sources, copy and paste the text to a Word docu- ment and highlight key information there. Include the publication information as you would on a printout or photocopy, and label your document clearly.

Notes There are two types of notations you should make: bibliography citations and notes of key ideas. These notes do not have to be handwritten, of course. You can create the equivalent on your computer, tablet, or smartphone.

Bibliography Citations As you gather materials, record the names of books and articles that seem promising. These citations will help you locate materials and will come in handy later when you put together the bibliography for your speech. In addition, if you need to consult a book or an article again for clarification or amplification of facts, the data on your citation should help you find it quickly. Figure 4 shows two sample bibliography citations.

Make a bibliography notation for every book or article that you think might be helpful. You may end up with more sources than you have time to consult, but it is better to have too many sources than not enough. Leave space on each citation for personal comments, which can help you evaluate which sources are most likely to yield good information.

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Figure 4 Sample Bibliography Citations for a Book and a Magazine Article

Library call number

Author, title, place of publication, publisher, and date of publication

Author, title, publication, date, page numbers

Personal comment

Personal comment


[Do other scientists believe that Mars has lots of underground water?]

[See p. 5 on why travel to Mars is an insurance policy for humans.]

Semuels, Alana. Moving to Mars. The Atlantic Nov, 2015: 28-30. Print.

Petranek, Stephen. How We ll Live on Mars. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2015. Print.

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Chapter 6 Locating Information 103

Table 1 shows how to format the most common citations, using the style guidelines of either the Modern Language Association (MLA) or the American Psychological Association (APA). Find out if your instructor has a preference.

Notes of Key Ideas As you read through books and articles, make notes of key ideas. Put a subject heading at the top of each note, as shown in Figure 5. These headings will be valuable when you fin- ish making your notes because they will help you to group the notes into related batches. Identify each note with the author’s name. There is no need to write down full biblio- graphical information, because those details are already on your bibliography citations.

In making notes, follow these steps:

∙ Quickly read through the material to see if there is anything worth noting. ∙ If there is, reread the material, this time very carefully. ∙ Try to summarize the key points in a few simple sentences. Your task is to inter-

pret, evaluate, and boil down ideas, not convey a text verbatim. ∙ While striving for brevity, make sure that you put summarized information in

a coherent form. If you jot down a phrase like “anorexia—Cheerios,” and then wait five days before organizing your notes, you may forget the meaning of that note. Write out a coherent sentence such as this: “One anorexic woman bragged about eating nothing but Cheerios—one Cheerio a day.”

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Book with one author MLA Wilcox, Christie. Venomous: How Earth’s Deadliest Creatures Mastered Biochemistry. Scientific American/FSG Books, 2016. 

APA Wilcox, C. (2016). Venomous: How earth’s deadliest creatures mastered biochemistry. New York, NY: Scientific American/FSG Books.

Book with two authors MLA Fairgrieve, Duncan, and Richard S. Goldberg. Product Liability. 3rd ed., Oxford UP, 2016. 

APA Fairgrieve, D., & Goldberg, R.S. (2016). Product liability (3rd ed.). Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press.

E-book MLA Lilla, Mark. The Shipwrecked Mind. Kindle ed., New York Review of Books, 2016.

APA Lilla, M. (2016). The shipwrecked mind [Kindle ebook]. Retrieved from http://www.amazon.com

Magazine article MLA Gladwell, Malcolm. “Thresholds of Violence.” The New Yorker, 19 Oct. 2015, pp. 30–38. 

APA Gladwell, M. (2015, October 19). Thresholds of violence. The New Yorker, 30–38.

Scholarly journal article MLA Simmons, Cameron P. “A Candidate Dengue Fever Vaccine Walks a Tight- rope.” The New England Journal of Medicine, vol. 373, 2015, pp. 1263–64.

APA Simmons, C.P. (2015). A candidate dengue fever vaccine walks a tight- rope. New England Journal of Medicine, 373, 1263–1264.

Web document MLA Rosner, Hillary. “The Bug That’s Eating the Woods.” National Geographic, 24 Apr. 2015, ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2015/04/pine-beetles/ rosner-text.

APA Rosner, H. (2015, April 24). The bug that’s eating the woods. National Geographic website. Retrieved November 24, 2015, from http://ngm. nationalgeographic.com/2015/04/pine-beetles/rosner-text

E-mail MLA Hernandez, Maria. “Installing a Modem and a Router.” Message to Susan Jackson, 6 Apr. 2015. 

APA Hernandez, M. (personal communication, April 6, 2015).

Interview MLA Strickland, Melanie. Personal interview. 7 Oct. 2015.

APA Strickland, M. (personal interview, October 7, 2015).

DVD, film, or video recording MLA Rick Steves’ Europe. PBS, 2016.

APA PBS Documentaries. (2016). Rick Steves’ Europe [DVD]. Arlington, VA: PBS.

For situations not covered here, you can visit MLA and APA style guides on the Internet.

Table 1 How to Cite Sources

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∙ Occasionally, you will find an arresting phrase or a short, vivid sentence that you want to convey to your listeners in the form of a direct quotation. Be sure to put quotation marks around such passages in your notes. Don’t use too many direct quotations in your notes, however, because you may end up copying large blocks of text without proper evaluation and condensation.

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Figure 5 Sample Note for an Article Summary

Subject heading

Author and page number

Summary of author’s information

Habitation on Mars

Semuels, p. 30

Humans could live in underground caverns that would protect from solar radiation and dust storms and keep the temperature constant.

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Chapter 6 Locating Information 105

∙ Take more notes than you probably will need. It is better to have too much raw material than not enough.

∙ You can add personal comments at the end of a note to provide ideas on how to use the note or how to connect it to other notes. You also can express a personal reaction, such as “Sounds implausible—check other sources.” Use square brack- ets or some other device to distinguish your own comments from the text that you are summarizing.

∙ Use a separate note for each idea. This will make it easy to sort your notes by subject headings.

In the chapter on evaluating information and avoiding plagiarism, we will turn our attention to how to assess the information that you have gathered.

Summary As you research, it is important to know the limitations of online searches. Contrary to popular misconceptions, using traditional library resources such as books is sometimes faster and more efficient than searching the Internet, and websites are not always the best resource for accurate information.

In finding materials for your speeches, you can draw from three major resources—libraries, the Internet, and field research. To begin the process, develop a specific purpose statement for your speech, and then devise a detailed research plan. Start early and follow your plan systematically.

Use keywords when you search for books, articles, or information online. To narrow a search, use multiple key- words or phrases.

Libraries are good resources because they often have material that is unavailable elsewhere. If you need help, talk to a reference librarian, who is a specialist in locating information. If your library doesn’t have materials that you need, a librar- ian might be able to get the items for you from another library through interlibrary loan. Libraries can often provide access to restricted apps that you can use to find additional sources.

The Internet can be a valuable resource for information and graphics. Search tools include search engines, specialized research services, apps, online groups and forums, blogs and vlogs, and question-and-answer sites.

Field research—gathering information firsthand—can yield up-to-date information. You might rely upon your own

Resources for Review and Skill Building

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To save information, create a filing system using print- outs, index cards, or a computer. On all notes of key ideas, put a subject heading at the top and have only one idea per note. These notes can later be arranged systematically as you orga- nize and outline your material.

observations and experiences, or you can interview knowledge- able people on your campus or in your community. To prepare for an interview, do extensive research on the topic and then draw up a list of questions to ask. Conduct the interview in a relaxed, conversational manner. You also can conduct inter- views electronically via e-mail or social networks like Facebook.

Key Terms abstract, 94

app, 95

blog, 96

citation, 94

clarifying question, 100

closed question, 100

field research, 96

follow-up question, 101

full text, 94

interlibrary loan, 94

keyword, 91

open-ended question, 100

reference librarian, 92

search engine, 94

vlog, 96

1. Any person of any age can host a website on any sub- ject and include anything he or she desires. From the viewpoint of a researcher, what are the advantages and disadvantages of this wide-open system?

2. If you use a search engine to find information about lit- erature in the fantasy genre, and you enter the keyword fantasy, what kind of irrelevant websites are you likely to find in your list of results?

Building Critical-Thinking Skills 3. For a speech on medieval armor, which would provide

better information—books or websites? Defend your answer.

4. If you want a smartphone video of your interview with an expert, what would be the advantage of having a friend make the recording?

5. How do you save key information? What are the pros and cons of your method?

1. What role should your specific purpose statement play in the research stage of preparation?

2. In what ways are traditional library resources superior to websites?

3. What is interlibrary loan and how can it help you?

4. Which Internet search option returns results in order of relevance, with the most relevant at the top?

5. Where can you find research apps that are not available to the general public?

Review Questions 6. Which kinds of blogs are most useful to a researcher?

7. Why should most of your research be done before you ask someone for an interview?

8. For finding an expert for a face-to-face interview, where is a good place to start?

9. What is the advantage of using a recorder in an interview?

10. What steps should you take after an interview is completed?

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Chapter 6 Locating Information 107

1. In a group, choose a topic about which everyone would like to know more. Then brainstorm at least 15 ques- tions that could be asked in an interview with an expert to elicit the most important information about the subject.

2. Working in a group, discuss which approach— Internet or traditional library resources (books,

Building Teamwork Skills magazines, etc.)—would be superior for finding answers to these research questions: (a) What are the causes of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? (b) How many people were killed in house fires last year in the United States? (c) How effective are flu shots? (d) What was the impact of the Black Death on European civilization? (e) What is the highest grossing film of all time?

Answer: C. An ethical speaker will give a report that is fair and accurate, even if giving the specialists’ assessment might seem to weaken her argument.

Examining Your Ethics

1. “Turkey Quake Survivor,” NBC News, www.nbcnews.com (accessed October 14, 2015); “Japanese Aid Worker Back in Quake-hit Van,” Anatolia News Agency, www.hurriyetdailynews.com (accessed October 14, 2015); Officials of the Association for Aid and Relief, Japan, telephone interview, September 29, 2015.

2. Roberta Larson Duyff, American Dietetic Association Complete Food and Nutrition Guide, Revised and Updated 4th Edition (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2012), p. 409.

3. Kathy Herrlich, Research and Instruction Department, Northeastern University, “Search Tips,” Northeastern

End Notes University Library website, www.lib.neu.edu/online_ research/help/search_tips (accessed October 18, 2015).

4. Stephen Petranek, How We’ll Live on Mars (New York: Simon & Schuster/TED, 2015), p. 3.

5. Associated Press, “Vanderbilt Medical Students Eat on $1 per Meal,” newsok.com/article/feed/123239 (accessed December 11, 2015).

6. Frederick Forsyth, quoted in “Writing Bytes,”  New York Times Book Review, November 3, 2013, p. 13.

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Being an Honest Investigator

Finding Trustworthy Information

Applying Critical-Thinking Skills

Analyzing Internet Sites

Avoiding Plagiarism

OBJECTIVES After studying this chapter, you should be able to

1. Explain the criteria for trustworthy information. 2. Reject claims based solely on anecdotes, testimonials,

and opinions.

3. Recognize the fallibility of polls and experts. 4. Investigate impressive-sounding names of organizations. 5. Know how to scrutinize Internet sites for signs of bias

and deception.

6. Avoid plagiarism. 7. Give proper credit to sources. 8. Avoid improper use of copyrighted materials.

D O W E H U M A N S   use only 10 percent of our brain? Student speaker Lauren

Malone thought that the answer was yes as she prepared a speech on how we can

make ourselves smarter.

She had read an article, “How to Train Your Brain,” on the website of Psychology

Today magazine. “Conventional wisdom holds that we use 10 percent of our brain

cells,” the article stated. “Why not put the rest of your head into gear?”1 She had also

seen TV commercials selling videos that promised to make you smarter by showing

you how to take advantage of the unused 90 percent of the brain.

Evaluating Information and Avoiding Plagiarism



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As Malone gathered more material, however, she discovered that the

Psychology Today article and the TV commercials were repeating a

widely believed myth that has been around for over a century and is

believed by two-thirds of Americans today. All neuroscientists today say

the notion that we use only 10 percent of our brain is nonsense, accord-

ing to Dr. Barry L. Beyerstein of the Brain Behavior Laboratory at Simon

Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada. Brain researchers using imaging

technology have verified that we use 100 percent of our brain.2

Realizing that her original topic was based on a myth, Malone switched

to a different topic.

In this chapter, we will look at how to evaluate information so that you

keep the reliable while eliminating the unreliable. Then we will discuss

how to report information in an ethical manner.

U.S. Air Force tests have verified that humans use all parts of their brain. Staff Sgt. Vaniece Shorter, a neu- rodiagnostics techni- cian, applies electrodes to test the brain waves of Senior Airman Chris- topher Morris.

Courtesy of the U.S. Air Force

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Being an Honest Investigator In the story at the beginning of this chapter, Lauren Malone acted wisely and ethically by changing her topic after discovering her original topic was based on a widely held myth. Unfortunately, some speakers would have acted differently. They would have clung to the original notion, not bothering to investigate whether it had the backing of reliable experts.

Conscientious, ethical speakers share two characteristics:

1. They are willing to work hard. Avoiding intellectual laziness, they dig for all rel- evant facts and refuse to rely on opinions, hearsay, and first impressions.

2. They are intellectually honest. Once they know the facts, they analyze them objec- tively and draw reasonable conclusions—even if it means admitting that their original idea is erroneous. They are more interested in finding and sharing truth than in clinging to a cherished cause or winning an argument.

In my classes, I have seen many students who embraced an idea but were willing to change their minds as they searched for truth. Here are some cases:

∙ Despite the popularity of the old saying “blind as a bat,” a student was surprised to learn that bats are not blind. Although they rely on sonar to track down prey, they have eyes and can see.

∙ One student believed that if a person gets drunk, coffee is an effective way to sober up. While doing research, however, he discovered that only time will sober up an intoxicated person. Coffee is deceptive. Because caffeine in coffee is a stimulant, it can make a person feel—mistakenly—as if he or she can per- form dangerous activities like driving.

∙ Not being gifted in math, a student had always felt comfort in the belief that Albert Einstein failed math in school. But she researched the well-known “fact” and found it to be untrue.

Finding Trustworthy Information As you examine information you have collected for a speech, your task is to determine which items are valuable and which are worthless. But how do you separate the accurate from the inaccurate? To be considered trustworthy, information should meet the following criteria:

1. Factual. Is the information based on facts—not on hearsay, distortions, or oversimplifications?

2. Reliable. Does the information come from sources that are honest and authoritative?

3. Well-supported. Do the sources provide strong evidence to prove a case? 4. Current. Is the information up-to-date? 5. Verifiable. Can the information be cross-checked against reliable sources? 6. Fair. Does the information come from unbiased and evenhanded sources? Is it

presented in a spirit of fair play? 7. Comprehensive. Does the information include all relevant data?

To help you use these criteria in evaluating information, let’s turn to a valuable set of critical-thinking skills.

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Chapter 7 Evaluating Information and Avoiding Plagiarism 111

Applying Critical-Thinking Skills To be a savvy consumer of information, you must develop critical-thinking skills—the ability to evaluate evidence with fairness and intellectual rigor. You need healthy skep- ticism, which is not sour negativity that rejects everything, but open-minded inquiry that asks probing questions: “What is the source of this information?” “How do I know this is true?” “Could this source be biased?"

Critical thinkers go beyond the obvious. They dive deep for underlying truth. The following are some critical-thinking techniques to help you identify false infor-

mation and confirm the facts.

Recognize Dubious Claims Some claims are compelling because they seem to be based on common sense. But look more closely and you could see major flaws.

Reject claims based solely on anecdotes. Is the following statement true or false? “Super Bowl Sunday is the biggest day of the year for violence against women.” Millions of Americans would say true, and that includes Mika Brzezinski, co-host of MSNBC's “Morning Joe,” who reported in 2014 that “Super Bowl Sunday has the highest rate of domestic violence.”3

But the statement is false. It is a myth that began in 1993 when rumors spread that the Super Bowl caused an upsurge in domestic violence. News media like CBS News labeled Super Bowl Sunday as a “day of dread,” backing up the assertion by citing doz- ens of anecdotes from domestic abuse hotlines, battered women’s shelters, and hospital emergency rooms throughout the United States.

The anecdotes proved nothing because, sadly, abuse occurs every single day in every town and city. The key question is “On Super Bowl Sunday, is there more vio- lence than on other days?” The answer is no, according to researchers at Indiana University.4

The Super Bowl myth illustrates the mistake of relying upon anecdotes alone as proof. This doesn’t mean, however, that anecdotes are always bad. You can collect them in your research for possible use in a speech. Rightly used, they can add interest to your ideas. For example, anecdotes about thunderstorms can enrich a speech about protect- ing oneself from lightning. Just make sure that you never accept or make an assertion that is based exclusively on anecdotal evidence.

Reject claims based solely on testimonials. Like anecdotes, testimonials can be col- lected for possible use in a speech, but beware of claims based on nothing but personal recommendations.

Let’s imagine a con artist who wants to make money fast by selling a cure for warts. In his basement lab, he mixes skin moisturizer, honey, and lemon juice, and then bottles the stuff with an attractive label, “Guaranteed Miracle Wart Remover.” He sets up a website and sells the salve by mail. Before long, he is getting testimonials from people who are delighted and amazed. “This salve really is miraculous,” says one enthusiastic user. “All my warts are gone.”

Believe it or not, this scenario is not far-fetched, because his concoction really will remove warts. So will peanut butter or shoe polish or anything else lying around your home. In fact, anything under the sun will remove warts—or at least get credit for doing so. Here’s why: Scientists have found that if warts are left untreated, 85 percent of

anecdote a short account of an incident.

testimonial a statement support- ing a benefit received.

To stop violence against women, should we worry about Super Bowl Sunday?

© Joggie Botma/Shutterstock

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© In Green/Shutterstock

them will disappear on their own.5 This explains the popularity, for centuries, of such unlikely wart removers as pork fat and cow dung. No matter how weird, each cure “worked” for a large percentage of patients, and those grateful people gave enthusiastic testimonials to their friends and neighbors.

Testimonials can give us an indication of what might work, but they do not consti- tute proof. Be suspicious of claims that have no other substantiation.

Reject claims based solely on opinions. Avoid being swayed by the strongly held opinions of your sources. Advocates who believe passionately in their ideas are often highly persuasive and charismatic, winning people over with their sincerity and burning conviction. But unless your sources’ opinions are supported by solid evidence, they are worthless. Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion, but opinions are not facts.

Find More Than One Source When my wife and I started lifting weights, we had a disagreement about the correct way to breathe. Based on a weightlifting book I had checked out of the library, I said

that one should inhale when lifting; she argued that one should exhale. To settle the argument, we searched the Internet for articles on the subject.

The first article we found agreed with her: exhale. “It’s a toss-up,” I said. But then we looked at eight more articles. They all said the same thing: exhale. I lost the argument but avoided an exercise mistake—thanks to our persistence

in checking more than one source. (The book I used as a reference turned out to be 10 years old, advocating a method that fitness experts now agree is inferior.)

Never settle for just one source, because it might turn out to be wrong.

Examine Opposing Viewpoints Imagine that you see an article about a husband and wife who are joint managers of

a successful business. They say they love their company, they love each other, and they are having a wonderful time blending their marriage and their work.

So you decide to give a speech on the bliss that couples can achieve by working together as employees or as owners. In your research, you find dozens of other articles about happy work-together couples. So far, you are avoiding the mistake discussed previ- ously (using just one source), but you are making a different mistake—compiling sources that all agree with one another. You need to investigate whether there are opposing view- points. If you do so, you will find articles such as one in The Wall Street Journal that is headlined “Despite Success Stories, Working with a Spouse Is Very Risky Business” and features an expert who says that only “about 5% of couples can pull it off.”6

Finding this criticism doesn’t mean you need to scrap your speech. You can still praise couples who are work partners, but—to give the audience a true and balanced picture—you should include information about the negative aspects. You could say, “Although a work partnership can be enjoyable and rewarding, it isn’t a good choice for every couple. According to The Wall Street Journal . . .” and so on.

Evaluating all sides of an issue is especially important in persuasive speaking. If you are like many speakers, you become so devoted to your arguments that you find it hard to even look at opposing viewpoints. This attitude is unfortunate. You should want to find truth, even if it means you might need to revise your arguments or—in some cases—admit error and change your position.

In addition to ethical fairness, there are practical values in examining what the opposition says. It enables you to anticipate objections and design your speech to

opinion a conclusion or judg- ment that remains open to dispute but seems true to one’s own mind.

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Chapter 7 Evaluating Information and Avoiding Plagiarism 113

overcome them; you can plan what you will say in the question-and-answer period if a listener challenges you. Also, if listeners discover that you are unaware of opposing views, your credibility can be damaged.

Be Cautious When Using Polls Take care when interpreting data from polls and surveys. They have three frequent shortcomings.

Some people do not respond honestly. In surveys, about 40 percent of Americans say that they go to church every week, but in reality only about 20 percent do so.7 After presidential elections, a certain percentage of age- eligible Americans tell pollsters that they cast a ballot on election day, but the results show that a far lower percentage actually voted.8

Why the lies? Perhaps the less-than-candid participants like to think of themselves as the kind of people who go to church regularly and vote in national elections, and they don’t want to admit their shortcomings to a pollster.

In another form of lying, some people will offer an opinion on an issue about which they know nothing. The American Jewish Committee once sponsored a survey of American attitudes toward various ethnic groups, and they included a nonexistent group called Wisians to see if some Ameri- cans tend to dislike all ethnic groups. A majority of the people who were surveyed responded with “no opinion” concerning Wisians, but 40 percent expressed a view—a dim view. They gave the Wisians a low favorability rating—4.12 on a scale of 0 to 9.0.9

Results often depend upon how a question is asked. Marketing experts have learned that they can write questions for a poll in a way that will achieve the result they desire. For exam- ple, if they want to show that the public supports the Social Security system, they can use this question: “Do you favor employees paying money to Social Security out of each paycheck so that they can receive benefits when they retire?” Most people will say yes. But if the mar- keters want the public to say they disapprove of Social Security, they can use this question: “Do you favor the government forcing employees to contribute to the Social Security system, which might be bankrupt by the time they retire?” The majority will say no.10

Some polls are biased because they fail to query the right people. If pollsters want to find out the attitudes of young people living in poverty, would they get accurate results by calling numbers at random from a telephone directory of landlines? No, because people with a landline tend to be older and wealthier. Well, how about an online poll of Internet users? The pollsters are likely to reach younger people, but not poorer.

In trying to find out public attitudes about cancer treatments, would it be fair to poll dedicated followers of a TV health guru who argues in favor of shark cartilage extract as a cure for cancer? No, because their responses would be biased and not at all representa- tive of a wide cross-section of the population. 

As you can see, polls can be slippery. Before using polling data in a speech, investigate these issues: What survey questions were asked? Were they free of bias? Did the respon- dents have any reason to answer untruthfully? Did the pollsters have a hidden agenda?

Recognize the Fallibility of Experts Experts can be a good source of information, but don't assume they are infallible. Every year experts are proven wrong in one way or another. For many years, for example, some experts on tornado safety have given this advice: if you are caught by

Why do some people lie to pollsters about voting?

© Lisa S./Shutterstock

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a tornado, seek shelter under a highway overpass. But this advice is bad, and it has cost dozens of lives. The National Weather Service says that hiding under an over- pass is one of the worst things you can do because the overpass becomes a dangerous wind tunnel.11

Some experts have a PhD or an MD and are affiliated with a university or a medical facility, so they must be trustworthy, right? Unfortunately, there are unreliable, decep- tive people in every field. Consider the MDs who sponsor websites that sell worthless remedies—some of which are harmful. For example, if you search on the Internet for ephedra (or ma huang), you will find it is recommended by some doctors, but the Food and Drug Administration has found over 800 cases in which ephedra caused adverse reactions, including strokes, seizures, and heart attacks, and is linked to numerous deaths.12

What should your attitude toward experts be? Examine what they say because they often have valuable insights, but don’t suspend your skepticism. Evaluate the comments of both their defenders and their critics.

Beware of Groups with Misleading Names Research studies from worthy organizations can yield good information, but be careful. Some groups use impressive names to suggest that they are unbiased, neutral, and fair- minded when in reality they have backers with a hidden agenda. Consider these cases:

∙ The Greening Earth Society sounds like an environment-protection group, but it was organized by coal companies to argue that coal burning has no adverse impact on the environment.13

∙ The Bell Institute of Health and Nutrition sounds like an organization devoted to the best interests of consumers. But Dietitians for Professional Integrity warns that the institute is “a front group” run by a giant food company, General Mills. “It’s very important to be aware of front groups,” says the dietitians’ website. “Despite their benevolent names and claims to be science-based . . . they are representing the food industry, rather than the public good.” Other front groups are Beverage Institute for Health and Wellness (run by Coca-Cola) and Food Science Institute (run by Con-Agra).14

As a tornado approaches a highway overpass, it creates a dangerous wind tunnel.

© Ingram Publishing/ SuperStock; & © Don Farrall/ Getty Images.

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Chapter 7 Evaluating Information and Avoiding Plagiarism 115

In recent years, many TV shows, magazines, and websites have praised the benefits of bananas in curing or preventing dozens of health problems, including cancer, ulcers, stress, depression, heart- burn, anemia, high blood pressure, hangovers, and insomnia.

Suspecting that the claims were “too good to be true,” one stu- dent conducted an investigation of bananas. She discovered that nutri- tion experts and medical research- ers have concluded that no health problem is prevented or cured by eating bananas. While they do pro- vide some potassium and fiber, many other fruits are even better.

Why do some media reports convey false or exaggerated claims? In many cases, writers or producers fail to conduct thorough

Tips for Your Career

Be Willing to Challenge Reports in the Media



investigations. Some media people are even accused of embracing the principle of “Never let the facts get in the way of a good story.”

Some students are reluc- tant to challenge what is reported in the media because of the attitude “Who am I to question those knowledgeable writers and TV producers?” If this is your attitude, you need to trust your common sense when you encounter information that seems “too good to be true.”

Sources:  “Do You Know These 12 Reasons to Love Bananas?” Health News, www.ultimatesuperfoods. org (accessed October 30, 2015); “Despite the Meme on Facebook, Bananas Do Not Cure Cancer," Skeptical Raptor, www.skepticalrap- tor.com (accessed October 31, 2015).

Do bananas provide miraculous health benefits?

© Smolina Marianna/Shutterstock

Hundreds of groups like these—simply on the strength of their impressive names— arrange to have their spokespersons appear in TV interviews, and their news releases are often reprinted by unsuspecting newspapers and magazines. Their views and find- ings may have some merit, but these groups undermine their credibility when they use a misleading name and hide their sponsors.

To find out whether a group has hidden backers and undisclosed goals, use search engines to conduct keyword searches and evaluate what is being said by both friends and foes of the group.

Analyzing Internet Sites Because information on the Internet ranges from extremely useful to dangerously inac- curate, how can you sort out the good from the bad? Here are some suggestions.

Don’t Be Swayed by Widespread Dissemination When some people’s “facts” are challenged, they defend themselves by saying, “It must be true—it’s all over the Internet.” But widespread appearance on the Internet is no proof of accuracy. Unfortunately, misinformation can be spread to all parts of the planet with the click of a mouse.

Millions of people, for example, have received an e-mail warning about kid- ney theft. The message says that medically trained criminals are targeting healthy

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people—usually partygoers and business travelers—by drugging them, surgically removing a kidney, and then selling it for $10,000 in an illegal market. The victims wake up in a bathtub of ice with a note telling them they need to call 911 for medical help. Although the message has been circulating for decades, no reliable news stories of any such attacks have ever been published. The National Kidney Foundation says the warning is totally based on fiction.15

Some widespread information on the Internet can be deadly. Many cancer patients, avoiding medical treatment that might save their lives, try (unsuccessfully) to cure themselves by using miracle cures that various Internet sites tout as guaranteed to elimi- nate cancer.16

Watch Out for Web Manipulation When you watch TV, you can easily spot an infomercial—a show that tries to look like an informational report but really is a scripted commercial. For example, you see five people chatting about how the Fabulous Flat-Tummy Machine chiseled their torsos and made them highly attractive.

The Internet equivalent of infomercials is harder to detect. Let’s say you are searching for information on how to keep your car looking new, and you come across a website with 12 tips on maintaining a car’s exterior. The suggestions look like objective, reliable material. One of the tips (“Use high-quality wax”) has a link that, when clicked, takes you to a page that is openly commercial—it sells exterior wax. Unknown to you, the original page and the wax page are operated by the same source—a company that sells wax. The company has done nothing illegal, but it has acted unethically by leaving you with the impression that the tips page was written by impartial researchers who are honestly recommending the best product. You have been manipulated.

To avoid being manipulated, weigh advice you find online carefully and verify that the information is corroborated by independent sources that you know you can trust.

Don’t Be Dazzled by High-Tech Design News stories often tell of Internet users—including highly intelligent, college-educated men and women—who are lured into buying worthless merchandise or nonexistent ser- vices. How can so many bright people be fooled by con artists? One of the thieves’ techniques is to create a website that has beautiful graphic design. The high-tech sparkle gives the website an aura of professionalism, wealth, and respectability.

A study by Stanford University psychologist B. J. Fogg found that people usu- ally judge the reliability of a website by its appearance—not by an investigation into who sponsors it.17 Dr. Brent Coker of the University of Melbourne says a website that is visually appealing is usually considered trustworthy:  “As aesthetically orientated humans, we’re psychologically hardwired to trust beautiful people, and the same goes for websites.”18

Look at the advertisement in Figure 1, which purports to raise funds to fight a ter- rible childhood disease. Does it look legitimate to you? Many of my students—when shown this ad among a stack of both honest and dishonest ads found online—rate it as probably reliable. In fact, it is a fraud. I created it on my home computer to demonstrate how easy it is for Internet crooks to create impressive-looking graphics. Some students thought that the striking photo makes the ad look authentic. Don’t be dazzled by photos. In this case, the picture was a royalty-free image on the Internet that cost only a few dol- lars. I imported it to my computer and added text. Total time: 10 minutes.

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Chapter 7 Evaluating Information and Avoiding Plagiarism 117

Although my fictional ad was only used for a contained experiment, it suggests how a con artist in the real world could quickly and inexpensively create a convincing website. As you search for information, remember that high-tech design is no indicator of honesty and reliability.

Investigate Sponsors and Authors Who is behind a website? Are the owners and writers honest and unbiased? To help you evaluate a site, use these strategies.

Look for Author Credentials Is the author of a website qualified to write authoritatively on the subject at hand? Look for some mention of his or her credentials or achievements. If none are listed, look for an e-mail address and send a message like this: “Could you please tell me about your qualifications and experience on this subject?” If the author is affiliated with a profes- sional organization or has written other materials on the subject, it should be easy for you to verify. 

Get Background Information on Sponsors Who is funding or sponsoring a website? If the site does not display this information on the opening screen, sometimes you can get details on other pages of the site (such as “About Us”). Or, if there is an e-mail address, you can send a message requesting background information.

Figure 1 If you saw this adver- tisement on a website, would you assume that it is a legitimate appeal for funds?

© Ingram Publishing/Hemera Technologies/Getty Images

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Try investigating the website by feeding its name into a search engine such as Google. Evaluate what supporters and opponents of the website are saying about it. 

Examine Internet Domain Names An Internet address is known as a domain name. The suffix at the end of the name signifies the “top-level domain,” indicating whether the address belongs to a business, an educational institution, or one of the other broad categories shown in Table 1. These top-level domains can give you clues about a source’s objectivity and motivations.

Commercial websites (.com) tend to be the least objective of all the domains. The website for Tylenol (www.tylenol.com) is obviously biased in favor of using Tylenol for pain relief. You are more likely to find research that is objective and accurate if you visit an educational address (.edu)—for example, the Harvard Medical School (hms.harvard.edu).

But don’t jump to the conclusion that all “.com” addresses are untrustworthy. Many businesses offer excellent information. For example, WebMD (www.webmd.com) supplies valuable information about health. Some “.com” sites are operated by magazines and news- papers that provide reliable reporting. For example, the online Christian Science Monitor (www.csmonitor.com) is a business enterprise, but it has a reputation for honest, careful journalism.

Though “.edu” sites tend to be more objective and accurate than “.com” sites, this is not always the case. Some are student webpages, with varying degrees of reliability. Some university professors preach far-out ideas, using their school's “.edu” account. For example, Dr. Arthur R. Butz of Northwestern University has been repudiated by most of his colleagues for his assertion that the Holocaust—the extermination of millions of Jews and many others in Europe by the Nazis—never happened.19

We also should be cautious when evaluating other noncommercial domains. For example, nonprofit organizations (.org) are often reliable sources, but they, too, have biases. The United Nations (www.un.org) can provide trustworthy international statis- tics, but it obviously has a bias in reporting UN peacekeeping operations.

The vast majority of sites on the Internet are “.com,” and they can create a lot of clutter when you are trying to find purely educational material. To overcome this prob- lem, several search engines such as Google and Bing permit you to click on “Advanced” and then allow you to search by domain. In other words, you can specify that you want returns only from “.edu” sites.

Table 1 Top-Level Domains


.com commercial (business)

.org nonprofit organization

.net networks

.gov government nonmilitary organization

.mil U.S. military branches

.edu educational and research institutions


.biz businesses

.info informational

.name individuals

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Chapter 7 Evaluating Information and Avoiding Plagiarism 119

Look for Country of Origin Gathering information from throughout the world can be rewarding. If you are research- ing ways to combat soil erosion and you find a website on an innovative program in Costa Rica, you have broadened your knowledge base.

Beware, however, of using such material incorrectly. Suppose you come across an appealing website that lists major prescription drugs and the conditions they treat. If you notice that the page originates in another country, you would be wise to use the information carefully, if at all. Other countries have different trade names and different rules on which drugs are permissible. A prescription drug that is available in a develop- ing nation may not be FDA-approved for the United States.

Most websites display an address or give some indication of the place of origin. For those that do not, you will have to look for clues:

1. Investigate place names that do not sound familiar. If you are looking for articles on criminal law and you find a website about legal cases in New South Wales, find out just where New South Wales is located. When you dis- cover that it is a state in Australia, explore whether the information applies to your topic.

2. Be aware of international country abbreviations. Websites from many coun- tries include two-letter abbreviations. For example, “www.cite-sciences.fr” is the address for a French science site.

You can find a list of international abbreviations by typing “Internet top-level domains” into a search engine.

Below are a few abbreviations that are sometimes misinterpreted:

∙ ca stands for Canada, not California (which is ca.us). ∙ ch stands for Confederation Helvetica (Switzerland), not China (which is cn). ∙ co stands for Colombia, not Colorado (which is co.us). ∙ de stands for Deutschland (Germany), not Denmark (which is dn). ∙ za stands for South Africa, not Zambia (which is zm).

Check the Date Make sure you use recent sources. Most websites will give the date on which the infor- mation was created or updated. This information can usually be found at the bottom of the web page, and you should check the date on all pages of the website. 

If no date is given, don’t use the site’s information without confirming it on other sites. In some cases, the date will indicate whether the author is still interested in the subject and still making an effort to keep the research and material fresh.

Look for Verifications To find good information and avoid the bad, consult websites that evaluate information, such as these:

∙ Snopes.com is a leading source of corrections for myths and misconceptions on the Internet.

∙ About.com has many articles that can be retrieved for a specific topic (such as work-at-home scams) or a general term like “hoaxes” and “urban legends.”

∙ TruthOrFiction.org dispels rumors and disputed “facts.”

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Examining Your Ethics

Stealing written words and passing them off as your own in a spo- ken presentation is

A. a greater offense than using them in a printed document. B. equally as wrong as using them in a printed document. C. a lesser offense than using them in a printed document.

For the answer, see the last page of this chapter.

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You can also ask librarians and faculty members on your campus for their ideas on how to find reliable websites on your speech topic. Many university library websites have guides to evaluating Web pages. In addition to your own school’s library website, you can use a search engine to find valuable guides through other university libraries. 

Avoiding Plagiarism To enrich a speech, you can use materials (such as examples, stories, and statistics) from many different sources. As you do, though, take care to avoid plagiarism, which means taking someone else’s words, ideas, or images and pretending they are your own.

You will never be in danger of committing plagiarism if you do two things: (1) give credit to your sources and (2) use borrowed materials in an ethical, responsible way— not mindlessly copying or unacceptably paraphrasing, as explained in this section.20

Plagiarism is theft. It is unethical and in some cases illegal (if a copyright is infringed). It is a lazy avoidance of work. It plunders the hard work done by others, and it risks breaking a bond of trust that should exist between speakers and listeners.

Most listeners assume that a speech is the speaker’s own creation, and when they find out otherwise, they feel deceived and angry. Here’s an example:

Philip Baker resigned as dean of the University of Alberta’s medical school after admitting that he had plagiarized large portions of a speech at a graduation banquet. He had appropriated a famous address by surgeon Atul Gawande that had been delivered at Stanford University a year before and widely disseminated on the Internet.

As Baker delivered his speech, some students recognized the plagiarism, got out their smartphones, found the original speech online, and followed along as he gave Gawande’s speech word-for-word.

One of the students who had used her smartphone to track the speech, medical school graduate Sarah Fung, told a newspaper later that the incident showed a profound lack of respect for the students and the university.21 If caught, a plagiarist suffers humil- iation and sometimes a penalty, such as failing a class or losing a job.

Types of Plagiarism Information Technology Services at Penn State University cites three major types of plagiarism: wholesale copying, cut and paste, and unacceptable paraphrase.22

Wholesale Copying If you copy an entire work or a section of a work, making no changes or just a few minor tweaks, you are guilty of blatant theft. But what if you give credit to the origi- nal source—does this make the copying acceptable? No, because you have stolen the

author’s manner of expression, choice of words, and way of organizing the material.

Imagine a speaker who finds an article about the Galapagos Islands on the Smith- sonian Institution’s website, downloads it, and uses virtually the entire article as her speech. Even if she gives credit by saying, “I derived my information from the Smith- sonian Institution,” she is still guilty of plagiarism.

Other examples of wholesale copying are (1) buying a speech from a website that

plagiarism stealing the ideas or words of another and passing them off as one’s own.

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Examining Your Ethics

Steve, an executive at an advertising agency, is preparing a presentation on how a client can sell more vacuum cleaners. While gathering ideas, he interviews a colleague named Bob, who suggests a brilliant strategy for boosting sales. Steve likes the strategy so much that he uses it in his presentation, leaving the impression that it was his own idea. He makes no mention of Bob. Which of the following statements is correct?

A. Steve should have given full credit to his colleague Bob in the presentation.

B. There was no need for Steve to reveal his source because the audience was interested in the idea itself, not the identity of the creator.

C. Steve had no obligation to reveal whose idea it was, since the idea came from a colleague working for the same company, and all ideas should be shared among colleagues.

For the answer, see the last page of this chapter.

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Chapter 7 Evaluating Information and Avoiding Plagiarism 121

sells papers and speeches to students and (2) persuading a friend to create a speech for you. If you engage in these kinds of cheating, you are doing more than behaving unethically—you are cheating yourself of the learning experience that can be gained by preparing your own speech.

There is one exception to the no-copy rule. If you give credit, you may copy a brief quotation. For example, you might say, “In the words of humorist Erma Bom- beck, ‘Anybody who watches three games of football in a row should be declared brain dead.’”23 This can enliven your presentation.

Cut and Paste Samuel (we’ll call him) is a lazy researcher. He sits in front of his computer and searches online to get material for his next speech. He snags a piece of information from one website and copies it into a document. Then, directly underneath, he pastes another snippet from another website, and so on, until he has “created” a speech. Samuel has done his work mechanically, with no real thinking, no synthesis of ideas, no creativity, and no originality. He has committed “cut and paste” plagiarism by copying bits and pieces of material from several sources and stringing them together to make a speech. Even though he is stealing fragments instead of a whole document, it is still wrong because he is passing off the work of others as his own.

“Cut and paste” is not only unethical—it is sometimes counterproductive. Listeners don’t want a collection of miscellaneous fragments. They would prefer a summary and evaluation of what you have discovered.

Some students defend their “cut and paste” activities by pointing out that they give credit for each piece of information. That’s a good thing, but they need to go further— they need to make the information and the style of presenting it their own.

Unacceptable Paraphrase Paraphrasing—taking someone’s material and restating it in your own words—is a legitimate way to report what others have said (if you give credit). But you must put the material into your own way of speaking. If you just replace a few words—for instance, “freedom” for “liberty”—this still con- stitutes plagiarism because you retain the overall organization of ideas and the basic sentence structure of the original document. See Table 2  for an example of a bad para- phrase and a good one.

Giving Credit to Sources Always tell your audience where you got your information. This is important for three reasons: (1) You protect yourself from accusations of plagiarism. (2) You satisfy listeners’ curiosity about the origin of your material. (3) You demonstrate that you are an ethical researcher who wants to give credit where credit is due.

To look at the steps leading up to your speech, let’s discuss a hypothetical scenario:

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“Dogs catch our yawns. Just as happens between humans, dog subjects who saw someone yawning themselves began uncontrollably yawning in the next few minutes. Chimpanzees are the only other species we know of for whom yawning is contagious.”

— Alexandra Horowitz, Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell and Know (New York: Scribner, 2010), p. 280.


“Dogs imitate our yawns. In the same way that humans yawn, dogs who see someone yawning will yawn uncontrollably very soon. Chimps are the only other type of animals that we know about who yawn contagiously.”


This is too close to the original. The speaker fails to speak in his own language and style, and he fails to give credit to Alexandra Horowitz.


“Alexandra Horowitz, in her book Inside of a Dog, says that humans, dogs, and chimpanzees are the only spe- cies that yawn after seeing someone else yawn. For example, if a dog sees you yawn, it will yawn within the next few minutes.”


The speaker restates—in his own way of speaking— Horowitz’s ideas, and he is careful to give her credit.

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You are preparing a speech on how to invest money in the stock market. In your outline, you list all your sources. Here is an example of one entry:

Becket, Michael. How the Stock Market Works. London: Kogan Page, 2012. Print. In the speech itself, you don’t need to state the complete citation in the format

printed above. To do so would clutter your remarks with too many distracting details. Simply say, “In a book titled How the Stock Market Works, Michael Becket, the small- business editor of London’s Daily Telegraph, says . . .”

Some students wonder, if you don’t need to say the complete citation in the speech, why bother putting it in the outline? There are three reasons: (1) Your instructor will want to see it. (2) You need it for yourself if you have to go back to your sources for further investigation. (3) At the end of your speech, some listeners may ask for the com- plete data so that they can pursue your topic further.

There are five ways to share your sources with an audience. For classroom speeches, consult your instructor for guidance on which method he or she prefers. For career and community speeches, you can use any of these techniques, or even combine them.

1. Give credit as you go through your speech. When citing a source, use an oral footnote (which is the equivalent of a footnote in a written document); for exam- ple, you could say, “According to the CBS Evening News of March 15th of this year . . .” and “In the words of Thomas Jefferson . . .” (For more examples, see Table 3.)

Oral footnotes do more than just give credit: they also bolster your credibility. You are saying, in effect, “I didn’t pull this information out of thin air; I derived it from someone who is an authority on the subject.”

When you are quoting verbatim, use “oral” quotation marks, such as “To quote Albert Einstein . . .” or “In the words of Jane Austen . . .” This is smoother than saying “Quote” at the beginning of a statement and “Unquote” at the end. Use a slight pause to signal that you have finished quoting.

oral footnote a spoken citation of the source of one’s material.

Table 2 How to Paraphrase without Plagiarizing

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Chapter 7 Evaluating Information and Avoiding Plagiarism 123

An effective technique is to hold up your note with the quotation so that listen- ers can see that you are reading word-for-word.

2. Give global credit in the introduction. After they grab their listeners’ attention in the opening of a speech, some speakers like to provide an overview of all the resources they will be using in the body of the speech. For example, “All of my information in this speech comes from the book Wind Power by energy researcher Paul Gipe, an article in National Geographic published in April of this year, and a recent e-mail interview with Cristina Archer of Stanford University, one of the world’s top experts in alternative energy.”

3. Display a slide or a poster listing your sources. If you use this technique, you should not show complete citations (as you would in a handout, discussed below). Rather, you should have condensed versions of the bibliography information (to reduce text). Using the example we discussed earlier, you could condense book information like this:

How the Stock Market Works by Michael Becket

Interview “Two weeks ago, when I interviewed Dr. Jennifer Wang, head of the pediatrics unit at Memorial Hospital, she emphasized that all chil- dren should be vaccinated for measles.”

Website “According to the Honeymoon section of About.com, the most pop- ular honeymoon travel destination—by far—is Hawaii.”

News media “On NBC’s Today Show in February of this year, career counselor Zack Manchester discussed two keys to a successful job interview: wear the right outfit and maintain good eye contact.”

Book “In his recent book, Last of the Dinosaurs, dinosaur expert Thom Holmes says that evidence has been mounting that the mass extinction of most species of dinosaurs was caused by the collision of a large asteroid with the Earth.”

Table 3 Sample Oral Footnotes

Daniel Giuffra, a stu- dent at Washington University in St. Louis, describes his youth tobacco prevention campaign and his work with Casa de Salud, a nonprofit health clinic serving the St. Louis Hispanic community. In his speeches, Giuffra is careful to give credit to his sources.

© Kevin Wolf/AP Images

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4. Provide listeners with a handout listing sources. A complete list of your sources with full bibliography details can help listeners evaluate the credibility of your message. Your handout should be distributed at the end of a speech so that it does not distract the audience from focusing on your remarks.

5. Display all books, articles, and materials. During a speech on precious gems, one student showed photos and then invited classmates to visit a table in the back of the room at the end of class. On it were all her source materials—books and articles on gems, along with actual rubies, pearls, opals, and other gemstones that could be held and examined.

Using Copyrighted Material Copyright is the ownership of intellectual property, such as songs, books, articles, pho- tos, videos, websites, and computer software. A copyright can be held by the author or by the sponsoring company, and it is protected by U.S. and international laws. Except for some special situations (discussed below), it is illegal to use copyrighted material unless you get permission (and in some cases pay a fee).

Anyone who uses copyrighted material improperly can be charged with copyright infringement. If convicted, a person can be forced to pay a fine, and in some cases serve prison time.24

A copyright notice is usually attached to a product, but it is not required. In other words, an item such as a photo on the Internet is owned by the copyright holder even if there is no copyright notice attached.

How can you use copyrighted material and stay within the limits of law? The answer depends on the setting for your speech or presentation, as discussed below.

Classroom speeches. Good news for students: You don’t need to worry about copy- right in a classroom speech because you are engaged in a nonprofit, educational activity, which is exempt from legal restrictions. This means you can use anything—photos, vid- eos, music, poems, and so on—without worrying about whether you are violating the law.

copyright infringement unauthorized use of legally protected material.

“I got my information from the Internet.” That is a common statement by many speakers in

business and professional settings. It is worthless—like saying, “I got my information from people.”

Instead, when you speak to colleagues, say some- thing like this: “My information on TV’s depiction of women comes from an article by Sue Naegle, presi- dent of the cable TV network HBO. The article was posted on HBO’s website.”

Tips for Your Career

Be Specific When Citing Internet Sources



Another big mistake occurs when speechmakers cite a search engine (usually Google) as their source. Google is not a source—it’s a delivery system. Giving credit to Google is like citing the U.S. Postal Service as the source of medical information mailed to you by the American Medical Association. Don’t even mention Google. Instead say, “My information about cancer medications comes from Dr. Nancy H. Nielson, who provided a detailed report on the website of the American Medical Association.”

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Chapter 7 Evaluating Information and Avoiding Plagiarism 125

Career and community speeches. Outside of the classroom, different rules apply. Before you can use copyrighted materials in a presentation or in handouts, you must get permission to do so (and in some cases pay a fee)—unless an item falls under one of these three exceptions: public domain, fair use, and royalty-free. 

Public Domain Anything published or created before 1923 is no longer protected by copyright and is said to be “in the public domain,” which means you are free to use it however you please.25 If, for example, you find a drawing of Niagara Falls in a 1920 encyclopedia, you can use it in a speech or publication without violating the law.

Any publication of the federal (not state) government is not copyrighted and can be used freely. Thus, a U.S. Department of Agriculture booklet on avoiding food poi- soning can be reproduced and distributed without your needing to get permission or pay a fee.

Note of caution: In the realm of copyright, the U.S. Postal Service is not consid- ered a part of the federal government; it is an incorporated business and therefore can copyright its postage stamp designs. You cannot copy stamp designs without getting permission.

Fair Use A loophole in copyright laws—called the fair use doctrine—was created to enable scholars, writers, and public speakers to disseminate information without having to spend enormous amounts of time getting permission for every item used. The fair use doctrine allows you to use small amounts of material if you meet all three of the fol- lowing tests.26

1. You use only a small and relatively insignificant portion of a copyrighted work. 2. Your purpose is primarily educational, rather than commercial. 3. You do not cause economic harm to the copyrighted work.

Two notes of caution: (1) Fair use does not remove the need to cite your sources. You still should give credit. (2) A common mistake is to think that if you take a copyrighted work and make some changes here and there, it is no longer protected by copyright law and becomes your property. That is wrong. If you take the tran- script of a speech, change some words, rewrite some sentences, and modify the visual aids, the speech is still not yours. If you find a magazine photo of a movie star, scan it into your computer, and change the color of her hair and dress, the photo still does not belong to you. To think that manipulating a work makes it your property, says Steven Blaize, president of a multimedia production company, “is like saying as long as you paint flames on a stolen car before you display it in your col- lection, it’s yours.”27

Royalty-Free Material To avoid fees and legal uncertainties, many speakers, writers, and editors buy artwork (such as drawings and photos) and multimedia works (such as music, sound effects, and videos) that are royalty-free—that is, free of restrictions and fees. When you pay for a royalty-free product, you are buying the right to use it in a publication, speech, or video production without having to ask permission or pay anything extra. 

public domain what is owned by the community at large; unprotected by patent or copyright.

fair use allowable and reason- able exceptions to copyright rules.

royalty-free devoid of restrictions or fees.

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Summary When you evaluate material, look for high-quality informa- tion that is factual, reliable, well-supported, current, verifi- able, fair, and comprehensive.

Apply healthy skepticism, probing for erroneous or unreli- able data. Reject claims that are based solely on anecdotes, testi- monials, or opinions. Don’t use just one source, because it might turn out to be wrong. Examine opposing viewpoints in an effort to find truth and to be able to respond to possible listener objections.

Be cautious in using polls because some people don’t respond honestly, survey creators can be biased in whom they poll, and results often depend upon how a question is asked.

Recognize the fallibility of experts. Don’t assume that a PhD or an MD is always trustworthy. Don’t assume that affili- ation with a prestigious university is assurance of credibility.

Watch out for groups with names that can mislead the public into thinking they are unbiased. Find out who is finan- cially backing the group.

When analyzing websites, watch out for subtle manip- ulations. Examine domain names for clues on a source’s

objectivity and motivation. See if the material comes from a foreign country and may not be relevant to your topic. If a website has a beautiful, sophisticated design, don’t assume that it is reliable. Investigate its sponsors and authors to see if they are legitimate authorities on their subject matter.

When borrowing information for a speech, be careful to avoid plagiarism—taking someone else’s words, images, or other content and using them as your own creation. Plagia- rism is unethical, whether it involves wholesale copying of an entire work, cutting and pasting together bits and pieces from several different sources, or inappropriate paraphras- ing. You can avoid plagiarism if you are careful to summa- rize information in your own words, and if you give credit to your sources.

A related ethical and legal issue is copyright infringe- ment. Don’t use copyrighted material outside of the classroom unless you get permission from the copyright holder or unless the material falls into one of three categories: public domain, fair use, and royalty-free.

Resources for Review and Skill Building

Key Terms anecdote, 111

copyright infringement, 124

fair use, 125

opinion, 112

oral footnote, 122

plagiarism, 120

public domain, 125

royalty-free, 125

testimonial, 111

1. What are the characteristics of trustworthy information?

2. What is anecdotal evidence? Why does it fail to prove an assertion?

3. How do opinions differ from facts?

4. Why should more than one source be consulted?

5. Why are polls often unreliable?

Review Questions 6. What are the domain names for commercial, nonprofit,

and educational websites?

7. What is the meaning of the term cut and paste plagiarism?

8. What is an unacceptable paraphrase?

9. What is an oral footnote?

10. Define fair use.

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Chapter 7 Evaluating Information and Avoiding Plagiarism 127

1. Imagine a website called www.superamazingskin.com that touts a miracle drug that banishes acne. The drug is praised on the website by a man identified as Roger Taschereau, MD. You are trying to decide whether to recommend the product in a speech you are preparing. What is your evaluation of the website up to this point? What additional steps should you take before recom- mending the drug?

2. Project Gutenberg is a website with links to hundreds of books, poems, and plays that are in the public domain. If you want to copy a poem or a book chapter for distribu- tion to listeners at a business presentation, must you get permission? Explain your answer.

Building Critical-Thinking Skills 3. In a TV commercial, a tennis star claims that a certain

herbal supplement increases one’s stamina. Should con- sumers be skeptical? Defend your answer.

4. Imagine pollsters who want to survey public opinion on whether corporal punishment (spanking) should be permitted in elementary schools. If they want to make it appear that most people support spanking, what ques- tion could they ask? On the other hand, what question could they ask if they want to make it appear that most people do not support spanking?

1. Can a person find relief from pain by attaching tiny magnets to an injured area? In a group, discuss how to find reliable information on “biomagnetic therapy,” which has grown in popularity in recent years. Rank the sources below from (probably) most reliable to (prob- ably) least reliable. Discuss why some of these sources are likely to be more reliable than others.

a. A website devoted to debunking the claims of alternative medicine

b. A website that sells magnets and is operated by a self-styled “alternative healer” who claims that a magnetic mask placed on one’s face can cure head colds

c. A brochure by a corporation that sells over $1.5 billion worth of magnetic materials each year

Building Teamwork Skills d. A recently published scholarly book, with refer-

ence notes, by a biology professor at the Univer- sity of Washington

e. An endorsement of magnets by a professional base- ball pitcher who places them on his pitching arm

f. An e-mail interview this week with Edward McFarland, MD, head of sports medicine at Johns Hopkins University, who has studied biomagnetics

2. Working in a group, compile a list of current informa- tion sources used by you and other group members (for example, ABC News, USA Today, The Daily Show, Facebook pages, The Huffington Post). Next, place these sources into three categories: very reliable, fairly reliable, and not reliable. Justify your evaluation.

Ethics Box 1 Answer: B. It is an equally serious offense to steal someone else’s words in a spoken presentation as it is in a printed document, as evidenced by the number of public speakers who lose their jobs for plagiarizing.

Examining Your Ethics Ethics Box 2 Answer: A. An ethical researcher should always give credit where it is due. If you’re not sure, ask yourself, “How would I feel if I came up with a great idea and someone else took credit for it?”

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1. Layla Merritt, “How to Train Your Brain,” Psychology Today website, www.psychologytoday.com/articles (accessed October 26, 2015).

2. Scott O. Lilienfeld, Barry L. Beyerstein, et al., 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology (New York: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009), p. 22; Robynne Boyd, “Do People Only Use 10 Percent of Their Brains?” Scientific American online, www.scientificamerican.com (accessed October 26, 2015).

3. Katie Sanders, “Mika Brzesinki Repeats Myth That Super Bowl Sunday Has ‘Highest Rate of Domestic Violence,’” PolitiFact, www.politifact.com (accessed October 27, 2015).

4. Allen St. John, The Billion Dollar Game: Behind the Scenes of the Greatest Day in American Sport—Super Bowl Sunday (New York: Random House, 2010), pp. 44–45; “Increase of Violence against Women on Super Bowl Sunday Is a Myth,” SciNewsBlog, scinewsblog.blogspot.com (accessed October 27, 2015).

5. “Duct Tape, Warts and All,”  Harvard Health Letter, www.health.harvard.edu (accessed October 30, 2015).

6. Jared Sandberg, “Despite Success Stories, Working with a Spouse Is Very Risky Business,”  The Wall Street Journal, www.wsj.com/articles (accessed October 30, 2015).

7. Kelly Shattuck, “7 Startling Facts: An Up Close Look at Church Attendance in America,” ChurchLeaders.com, www.churchleaders.com/pastors/pastor-articles/139575- 7-startling-facts-an-up-close-look-at-church-attendance- in-america.html (accessed July 11, 2016).

8. Robert P. Abelson,  Elizabeth F. Loftus, and  Anthony G. Greenwald, “Attempts to Improve the Accuracy of Self-Reports of Voting” in Questions about Questions: Inquiries into the Cognitive Bases of Surveys, ed., Judith M. Tanur  (New York: Russell Sage, 1992), pp. 138–153.

9. Clarence Page, “You Just Can’t Trust Those Wisians,” Chicago Tribune, articles.chicagotribune.com (accessed October 30, 2015).

10. Isaiah J. Poole, “On Social Security, Pollsters Need to Ask the Right Questions,” Our Future, ourfuture.org (accessed October 30, 2015).   

11. “Overpasses and Tornado Safety—Not a Good Mix,” National Weather Service, Dodge City, Kansas, www.crh.noaa.gov (accessed October 30, 2015).

End Notes 12. Michele Pullia Turk, “Ephedrine’s Deadly Edge,” U.S.

News Online, www.usnews.com (accessed October 30, 2015).

13. “Greening Earth Society,”  SourceWatch,  http:// www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Greening_Earth_ Society (accessed January 11, 2016). 

14. “Front Groups,” Dietitians for Professional Integrity, integritydietitians.org (accessed December 16, 2015).

15. “You’ve Got to Be Kidneying,” Snopes.com, www. snopes.com (accessed October 28, 2015).

16. Jon Swaine, “Steve Jobs ‘Regretted Trying to Beat Cancer with Alternative Medicine for So Long,’” The Telegraph, www.telegraph.co.uk (accessed November 1, 2015); “Miracle Cancer Cures? Ask for Evidence,” Cancer Research UK, scienceblog.cancerresearchuk.org (accessed November 1, 2015).

17. Geoffrey Nunberg, “Teaching Students to Swim in the Online Sea,”  New York Times, nytimes.com (accessed November 1, 2015).

18. Dr. Brent Coker, University of Melbourne, quoted in “Prettier Websites Gain Trust,” Science Alert, www.sciencealert.com (accessed December 16, 2015).

19. Scott Jaschik, “A Holocaust Denier Resurfaces,” Inside Higher Ed, https://www.insidehighered.com/ news/2006/02/08/butz (accessed January11, 2016).

20. The Modern Language Association of America, MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing, 3rd ed. (New York: The Modern Language Association of America, 2008), pp. 165–167; Diana Hacker and Nancy Sommers, A Writer’s Reference, 8th ed. (Boston: Bedford/ St. Martin’s, 2015), pp. 17–27.

21. Codi Wilson, “Medical Dean’s Convocation Speech Angers U of A Students,” Edmonton Journal, www. edmontonjournal.com (accessed October 30, 2015); Sarah Boesveld, “University of Alberta Medical School Dean Resigns after Plagiarizing Speech,” National Post, http://news.nationalpost.com (accessed October 30, 2015).

22. Information Technology Services, Penn State University, tlt.psu.edu/plagiarism (accessed November 1, 2015).

23. “Erma Bombeck,” The Quotations Page, www. quotationspage.com (accessed November 1, 2015).

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Chapter 7 Evaluating Information and Avoiding Plagiarism 129

24. The Modern Language Association of America, MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing, 3rd ed. (New York: The Modern Language Association of America, 2008) pp. 34–59.

25. “When Works Pass into the Public Domain,” University of North Carolina Library, www.unc.edu/~unclng/ public-d.htm (accessed November 1, 2015).

26. “Copyright Information and Education,” University of Minnesota Libraries, www.lib.umn.edu/copyright (accessed November 1, 2015).

27. Steven Blaize, “Who Owns Rita Hayworth? Multimedia Rights: Yours and Theirs,” Digital Video, November 1994, p. 63.

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Reasons for Using Support Materials

Types of Support Materials

Sample Speech with Commentary

OBJECTIVES After studying this chapter, you should be able to

1. Explain why support materials are needed in a speech. 2. Describe nine types of support materials: definitions,

vivid images, examples, narratives, comparisons, con- trasts, analogies, testimonies, and statistics.

3. Discuss the use and abuse of statistics in speeches.

CA N F O OT B A L L FA N S   literally cause the earth to shake? Yes, asserted stu-

dent speaker Anthony Carino in an informative speech in his public speaking class.

At first his instructor was disbelieving—until Carino gave more details. In a football

playoff game in their home stadium, the Seattle Seahawks clinched a victory over

the New Orleans Saints when Marshawn Lynch ran 67 yards for a touchdown. This

caused a crowd of 66,336 in the stadium to cheer, jump, and stomp so vigorously that

the stands shook and the earth trembled.

John Vidale, a geophysicist at the University of Washington’s Pacific Northwest Seis-

mic Network, said that vibrations—the equivalent of a small earthquake (magnitude

1 or 2)—were detected by a nearby seismometer at 4:43 P.M., the precise moment

when Lynch reached the end zone for his touchdown. For the next 30 seconds, the

seismometer recorded “moderate shaking,” said Vidale. No damages were reported.1

Supporting Your Ideas



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Seattle Seahawks fans are known for being boisterous, but could they set off an earthquake?

© Kevin Terrell/AP Images

Carino’s instructor abandoned his disbelief because Carino backed up

his assertion with support materials, including testimony from a reputa-

ble expert (the geophysicist), statistics, and diagrams.

When you are a speaker, you can make assertions, but you can’t expect

your audience to believe you unless you back up your statements with

solid, credible support. In this chapter we will look at nine popular types

of support material.

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Reasons for Using Support Materials Support materials enable you to move from general and abstract concepts, which are often hard for audiences to understand and remember, to specific and concrete details, which are more easily grasped. Support materials add spice and flavor to a speech, but they are more than just seasonings. They are basic nourishment that is essential to the success of a speech. Let’s look at five reasons why support materials are so important.

To Develop and Illustrate Ideas In a speech on sharks, student speaker Austin Fitzgerald pointed out that, unlike most crea- tures of the sea, sharks behave unpredictably. To develop and illustrate his point, he said:

In one of his books on sharks, Jacques-Yves Cousteau, the famous oceanogra- pher, says that he has seen sharks flee from an almost naked, completely unarmed diver, but soon afterward hurl themselves against a steel diving cage and bite furiously at the bars. Sometimes a diver can scare off a shark by waving his or her flippers at it, while at other times sharks are so determined to attack that they are not deterred by the sight of five divers with spears. The terrifying thing, Cousteau says, is that sharks never give clues as to what kind of behavior they will exhibit.

Without these examples, Fitzgerald’s contention that sharks behave unpredictably would have been weak. With the examples, the listeners got a clear picture of sharks’ volatile behavior. Notice, too, that Fitzgerald enhanced the credibility of his remarks by attributing his information to a well-known authority.

To Clarify Ideas Helping the listener make sense out of your ideas is one of the main reasons for using support material. Student speaker Maria Burton gave a speech on pit-and-fissure seal- ants, which are used to cover the rough surfaces of teeth and prevent cavities.

“Sealants,” Burton explained, “are thin, clear plastic coatings that are painted on the teeth, much like nail polish on fingernails.”

With this analogy, the audience had a clear picture of what sealants are.

To Make a Speech More Interesting In a speech on galaxies, student speaker Jue Chen said:

The galaxy we live in—the Milky Way—is enormous. Astronomers estimate that it contains about 300 billion stars and at least 100 billion planets. The Milky Way is so vast that the fastest thing we know—light—takes 100,000 years to travel from one end of the galaxy to the other. If the universe consisted of only the Milky Way galaxy, its immensity would boggle your brain, but think about this amazing fact—the universe contains over 100 billion galaxies. To understand how enor- mous that is, consider that there are more stars in the universe than there are grains of sand on all of the beaches in the entire world.

Chen made her statistics interesting by using good support materials, including a memorable comparison (stars to grains of sand) and a surprising example (light takes 100,000 years to travel the galaxy).

To Help Listeners Remember Key Ideas Jeffrey Scott, a high school English teacher, says that his students are more likely to remember the meaning of a word in a vocabulary lesson if they are told the story of the word’s origin. For example, he tells his students that we get the word tantalize

support materials elements that illustrate or substantiate a point.

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Chapter 8 Supporting Your Ideas 133

from a king called Tantalus in Greek mythology: “As punishment for betraying Zeus, Tantalus was sentenced to hang from the branch of a fruit tree that spread out over a pool of water. Whenever he got hungry and reached for fruit, the wind would blow it out of his reach. Whenever he got thirsty and leaned over to drink from the pool, the water would recede.” This story, Scott says, helps his students to remember that when we tantalize people, we torment them by showing them something that is desirable but unattainable.

To Help Prove a Point If you want to prove an assertion, you must have evidence. If, for example, you wanted to prove that more counterfeiters are being caught today than ever before, you could quote a Secret Service official who states that the number of counterfeiting convictions this year is 10 times that of any previous year. Such a statistic from a reliable source is solid proof of your statement.

Note of caution: You can’t assume that any kind of support materials will prove any argument you make. To convince your audience, you must have credible informa- tion that is beyond doubt. Suppose a speaker is trying to prove that echinacea, an herbal remedy, is a cure for the common cold, and she gives stories of three friends who take echinacea daily and never get colds. These stories prove nothing. You probably could find three people who caught colds despite taking echinacea. To prove her point, the speaker would need indisputable research by reputable medical authorities, based upon long-term studies of thousands of people.

Types of Support Materials In this chapter, we will look at verbal support materials, reserving visual supports for the chapter on presentation aids. The cardinal rule of using verbal supports is that they must be relevant: they must develop, explain, illustrate, or reinforce your message. They should not be thrown in just to enliven a speech.

Let’s look at nine popular types of verbal support: definition, vivid image, exam- ple, narrative, comparison, contrast, analogy, testimony, and statistics.

Definition One of the biggest obstacles to successful communication is the assumption that your listeners define words and phrases the same way you do. If you are speaking on veg- etarianism, it is not enough to say, “I’m in favor of the vegetarian diet.” Exactly what do you mean by the term? Some vegetarians eat fish, while others avoid all types of meat. You need to give listeners your definition of the term so that they can know precisely what you are supporting. And you should also clarify how the vegetarian diet (as you define it) is at odds with the vegan diet, which is similar but more restrictive.

Avoid using formal dictionary definitions. Instead, use informal definitions that can be easily understood by the audience. Here is an instructive case: chutzpah, a slang word that the English language has borrowed from Yiddish, is defined by the Random House College Dictionary as “unmitigated effrontery or impudence.” I once heard a speaker give a humorous, informal definition of the word: “Chutzpah is the kind of audacity and gall that a youngster would show if he killed both of his parents and then demanded that the court be lenient to him because he was an orphan.” This informal definition drives home the point that chutzpah is more than ordinary gall; it is the ulti- mate form of gall. Such a definition does more than help the listeners understand the term—it also helps them remember it.

definition a statement of the meaning of a word or phrase.

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Vivid Image Student speaker Nandini Sundar uses vivid language to describe a fascinating type of bird:

Hummingbirds are small birds with feathers that seem to change colors depending on the light and the angle at which you look at them. They are called hum- mingbirds because they make a humming sound as they flap their wings at about 80 times per second. They can fly left or right, up or down, backwards, and even upside down. They can hover mid-air like a heli- copter. Their bills are long and tapered so that they can extract nectar from long, tubular flowers. They eat often because they are always hungry. If they are trapped—say, in a garage—and they don’t get food

within one hour, they will die of hunger. There are 16 different species of hum- mingbirds in the United States, ranging in size from 2.5 inches in length to about 8 inches. They have little or no sense of smell.2

This passage is an example of vivid images—word pictures that are created by describing objects, animals, people, places, or situations. To make your description come alive in the minds of your listeners, you must use specific details. Instead of merely say- ing, “The dessert tasted good,” say, “The crunchy pretzels were coated with a soft, white yogurt icing, giving a delicious blend of sweetness and saltiness in each bite.”

Example An example is an instance or a fact that illustrates a statement or backs up a generaliza- tion. Student speaker Sharon King told her classmates that it is risky to rely too heavily upon spell-checkers, and she gave examples of mistakes that appeared in the yearbook at Middletown Area High School in Pennsylvania. Its publisher’s spell-checker changed many students’ names. For example, Max Zupanovic was listed as “Max Supernova,” Kathy Carbaugh as “Kathy Airbag,” and Alessandra Ippolito as “Alexandria Impolite.”3

While these examples are short, you may want to give longer examples in some cases. In a speech on animal cleverness, student speaker Mark Dayton said:

Animals can develop ingenious strategies. For example, at the Institute for Marine Mammals Studies in Mississippi, trainers had taught dolphins to clean their pool by giving a reward—a fish—every time a dolphin brought up trash. One female dolphin figured out a clever way to maximize her rewards. She would hide trash under a rock at the bottom of the pool and then bring up one small piece of trash at a time.4

How many examples do you need to develop a point? In some cases, one example is sufficient; other situations might require a series of examples. Ask yourself, “If I were those people sitting out there, how many examples would I need in order to under- stand, remember, or be convinced?”

Narrative It’s called “the Miracle of Paris.” An 18-month-old boy was playing on the balcony of an apartment building in Paris (see Figure 1) when he slipped through the railing and fell seven stories. He bounced off a café awning and into the arms of a physician who was passing by, happened to see the fall, and positioned himself to catch the boy.

The child was unharmed, thanks to the physician’s alertness and another stroke of luck: The incident happened on a holiday, and the awning that cushioned the boy’s fall

vivid image a description that evokes a lifelike pic- ture within the mind of the listener.

example an instance that serves to illustrate a point.

If you browse in a store, ask store employees for advice, and then leave and order the product online elsewhere, you are “showrooming,” a behavior that retail stores despise. If you use the term “show- rooming” in a presenta- tion, be sure to define it.

© michaeljung/Shutterstock

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Chapter 8 Supporting Your Ideas 135

Figure 1 A toddler fell from the seventh floor of this apartment building in Paris.

© Miguel Medina/AFP/Getty Images

normally would have been folded up. But the night before, it had jammed, so the café owner left it standing.

Where were the boy’s parents? They had gone shopping, leaving the toddler and his 4-year-old sister alone in the apartment for several hours.5

This story was related by a student in a speech on why small children should never be left unattended. The speaker was using one of the most powerful of all support materials—a narrative, which is a story that explains or illustrates a message. Narra- tives are audience favorites, lingering in the mind long after a speech has ended.

People love stories, and even a sleepy or distracted member of the audience finds it hard to resist listening. As with all support materials, narratives must be relevant to your message. Never tell a story, no matter how spellbinding, if it fails to explain, illustrate, or reinforce your key ideas.

While the preceding story is factual, there are occasions when you may want to use a hypothetical narrative, that is, an imaginary situation. Katrina Benjamin, a pri- vate investigator interviewed by student speaker Diane Woolsey, wanted to explain how computers have invaded the average person’s privacy:

A company is trying to decide whether to hire you, and they ask me to investi- gate you. All I have is your name and address. I sit down in front of my computer and within five hours, I know a great deal about you: I know what jobs you have

narrative a story that illustrates a point.

hypothetical narrative imaginary story related to help listeners visualize a potential situation.

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held and how much you got paid. I know the names of your parents, siblings, spouse, and children. I know what kind of car you drive and how much you paid for it. I know if you have ever been arrested or charged with a crime—even if it’s just a ticket for speeding. I know the amount of the monthly payment on your home mortgage. I know what kinds of medical problems you have, and I know the names of all the prescribed medications you have taken in the past and are taking right now.

This hypothetical scenario dramatically demonstrates the easy availability of per- sonal information.

Comparison and Contrast Sometimes the best way to explain a thing or a concept is to make a comparison— that is, show how it resembles something else. One speaker gave an interesting comparison:

At the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga, there is an amazing exhibit entitled “Turtles: Nature’s Living Sculptures—Architecture in Bone.” Turtle shells are displayed alongside illustrations of masterpieces of architecture—Gothic cathe- drals, arches, buttresses, geodesic domes, and keystones. You can easily see that turtles and architectural wonders employ the same principles of design and the strength to withstand massive weights without being crushed.

By giving a comparison, the speaker enhanced the audience’s appreciation of both turtles and architectural splendors.

While a comparison shows how things are similar, a contrast shows how they are different. To show a big shift in attitudes toward wind, one speaker said:

For hundreds of years, ranchers and farmers on the Great Plains of the United States cursed the wind. Fierce windstorms would knock down trees, topple houses, and kill livestock. Frigid, icy winds would make it too cold to work out- doors. Terrible dust storms would bring huge clouds of sand and dust, blotting out the sun. Today, by contrast, many ranchers and farmers view wind as a friend because they can make thousands of dollars a year just by letting energy com- panies use their land for giant windmills. Now the whipping wind is the sweet sound of money.6

Sometimes it is helpful to use both comparison and contrast. For example, compar- ing and contrasting a tsunami and a tidal wave, two terms that are often mistakenly used interchangeably, can help listeners understand more fully the features of each.

Analogy A special type of comparison is the analogy, which explains a concept or an object by likening it to something that is—at first glance—quite different. For example, security expert William Cheswick explained how easily criminals can breach security walls at Internet sites: “The Internet is like a vault with a screen door on the back. I don’t need jackhammers and atom bombs to get in when I can walk in through the door.”7

How do analogies differ from ordinary comparisons? While ordinary comparisons show similarities between two things of the same category (for example, two cars), analogies show similarities between two things of different categories (for example, punctuation marks work like road signs and traffic signals). Student speaker Cheryl Williams used an analogy to show the futility of worry:

Worrying is like sitting in a rocking chair and rocking furiously. There is a great deal of movement and agitation, but you don’t go anywhere.

comparison showing how two or more items are alike.

contrast showing how two or more items are different.

analogy resemblance in some respects between things that are other- wise dissimilar.

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Figure 2 To calm fears, one speaker made a helpful analogy between planes and boats.

© Hamilton Gregory

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Chapter 8 Supporting Your Ideas 137

An analogy tries to show that what is true in one case is true in another. Student speaker Lisa Rathbone used this analogy:

Cramming for a test the night before is like trying to bake a cake faster by raising the oven temperature from 350 to 550 degrees. It just won’t work.

When an airliner travels through a turbulent storm, some inexperienced passengers fear that the plane might crash. One speaker tried to help his listeners avoid these fears by showing a photo (Figure 2) and making this analogy: “In a storm, a plane might shudder and shake and make sudden dips, but this doesn’t mean it’s about to crash. A plane flies through an ocean of air, and bumpiness in a storm is normal. It’s like a boat pushing through choppy waters. The boat bobs up and down, but the turbulence doesn’t mean it will sink.”

Testimony Suppose that one of your classmates gives a speech on the jury system in the United States, and she tells you that the method of selecting and using jurors in most communi- ties is inefficient, overly expensive, and demoralizing to the jurors. Would you believe her? Probably not, if all she gave was her personal opinion—after all, she is not a lawyer or a judge. But what if she quoted the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court saying the exact same thing? Now would you believe her? You probably would because the Chief Justice is one of the nation’s experts on what happens in our courts.

When you use what knowledgeable people have to say on your subject, you are using testimony to back up your assertions. The main advantage of using testimony is that it gives you instant credibility. Quoting an expert is a way of saying, “I’m not the only one who has this idea; it has the backing of a leading authority on the subject.”

How to Use Testimony There are three ways to use testimony: 1. Quote verbatim. Sometimes it is effective to quote a source word for word. For

example, Lorraine Vallejo made the following point in a speech on dreams: For all of us, dreams are weird, chaotic, and crazy. An expert on dreams, Dr. William Dement, says: “Dreaming permits each and every one of us to be quietly and safely insane every night of our lives.”

testimony statement by a knowl- edgeable person, used by a speaker to explain or bolster a point.

quote verbatim to cite the exact words used by a source.

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Quoting the expert verbatim was very effective because the statement was phrased in a colorful way. Paraphrasing would have weakened it.

2. Summarize. When a statement is long, quoting it verbatim can bore the audience. It may be best to summarize any quotation that is more than one or two sentences. In another part of Vallejo’s speech, she boiled a long quotation into one brief sentence:

Sigmund Freud believed that dreams reflect unconscious wishes and urges that we are afraid to think about during our daytime waking hours.

3. Paraphrase. If a quotation has archaic or technical language or is laced with jargon, you should paraphrase it. If, for example, you want to quote an expert on espionage who says, “Aldrich Ames was a Russian-sponsored mole working at the CIA,” you can paraphrase this jargon into plain English by saying, “Aldrich Ames was an American CIA employee who was secretly working for the Russians.”

Ethical Considerations Here are some guidelines for using testimony in an ethical and responsible manner.

Be fair. One speaker quoted a blogger as saying that a certain new smartphone was “glitzy and overpriced.” This was unfair because the speaker failed to give the entire quotation—“glitzy and overpriced, but the best smartphone on the market today.” To decide whether you are being fair, ask yourself if your listeners would admire you if they discovered your way of handling a quotation.

Use testimony from unbiased sources. Ethical speakers avoid using sources that are biased. Suppose you are researching the question of whether polygraphs (lie detectors)

summarize to give the substance of a statement in con- densed form.

paraphrase to restate material, using different words.

Imagine that you want to persuade an audience to rescue animals by adopting them, and you have been allotted 15 minutes to speak. You abide by the time lim- its, but you have to omit a couple of powerful video clips. What can you do?

Situations like this happen frequently. You have lots of good support materials but not enough time to fit them in. The solution is to provide bonus materials at the end of your presentation so that participants can examine them later. The materials can be placed on handouts or electronic media, such as USB flash drives, DVDs, and websites like YouTube or Dropbox.

For example, one speaker gave a speech on res- taurants in her community that provided tasty food at reasonable prices. At the end, she gave a bonus to each listener—an envelope containing the menus of all the restaurants she recommended.

Tips for Your Career

Give Listeners Bonus Material



© Golden Pixels LLC/Shutterstock

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Shoni Schimmel, one of the first Native Ameri- cans to play for the WNBA, tries to educate the public about Native Americans.

© Sue Ogrocki/AP Images

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Chapter 8 Supporting Your Ideas 139

are accurate, and you come across glowing pro-polygraph statements by two “experts” who are on the payroll of a firm that manufactures polygraph machines. Could you expect such sources to be unbiased? Of course not. Reject such “evidence” and look instead for statements by people who have no vested interest in the issue.

State the credentials of your source. If you quote a famous person, such as Abraham Lincoln, you don’t need to give any background information about the person. But for authorities who are not well known, be sure to give some biographical data to establish their credibility. For example, you might say, “Jack Smithson, who spent 25 years as a research scientist for NASA, says that …”

Statistics For a speech explaining the immense distances of space, Paula Schiller began with some mind-boggling facts:

Proxima Centauri, the star that is closest to our solar system, is only about 4.22 light years away. That doesn’t sound like a very great distance, does it? Is there any chance that we can reach that star—or one of its planets—in our life- time? Before you start fantasizing about being the first human to travel to the nearest star outside of our solar system, consider this fact: if you traveled to Proxima Centauri in the fastest spacecraft now in existence, it would take you 73,000 years to make the trip.

Schiller was using statistics, which are numerical ways of expressing information. As this example illus- trates, statistics don’t have to be dry and boring. They can be made interesting and even exciting.

In our society, people put a lot of trust in statistics. If a television commercial says that 78 percent of phy- sicians prefer Cure-All pain reliever over all competing brands, sales of the product will increase dramatically.

Statistics can be especially effective in persuading an audience to accept a particular point.  Shoni Schim- mel, one of the first Native American women to play for a professional basketball team, tries to educate the public about Native Americans. To dispel stereotypes and show that they are not all alike, she uses statistics. She tells her audience that there are more than 560 federally recognized Native tribes in the U.S., "with each one different from the rest.” She drives the point of her statistic home with personal, unique narratives about growing up in a middle- class home on the Umatilla Reservation in Oregon.

Understanding Statistics While statistics can provide powerful support for ideas, they also can be easily misused, either willfully or through carelessness or ignorance. Unfortunately, there is much truth in the old statement “You can prove anything with statistics.” To understand how statis- tics are used (and abused), let’s look at several of the more popular varieties: averages (mean, median, and mode), percentages, and correlations.

statistics numerical facts assem- bled to present signifi- cant information about a subject.

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Averages. The most popular kind of statistic is the average. It can provide interesting views of a subject, as when one speaker pointed out, “On an average day, 24 mail car- riers in the United States receive animal bites.” Giving the average in a case like this is much more compelling than simply stating the annual total.

Though averages seem like straightforward pieces of statistical data, there are pit- falls: most people are unaware that there are actually three kinds of averages: the mean, the median, and the mode. To understand these terms, consider Figure 3, which shows three ways for figuring the average age of recent winners of Oscars (Academy Awards) for Best Actress.

The mean, which is what most people use when they are asked to compute an aver- age, is derived by adding all the ages (for a total of 441) and dividing by the number of actresses (11). This makes the mean age 40.09.

The median is derived by listing the numerals, ranging from highest to lowest (or lowest to highest), and then locating the numeral that falls in the middle. (Memory aid: Just as the median is the strip in the middle of a highway, the median is the middle number.) In this case, 33 is precisely in the middle, so it is our median. Our example has an odd number of figures, which makes it easy to find the median; when you have an even number of figures, the median is defined as the number halfway between the median pair.

The mode is simply the number that occurs most frequently: in this case, 29. As a researcher, you need to know the meanings of these three terms, but as an

ethical speaker, you should restrict your use of the word average to the mean because that is what most people think of as the average. For the other two types of averages, simply explain them in context without using the word “average.” Regarding Figure 3, for example, you could say, “The age that appears most often on this list is 29.” For the median, it would help your audience if you said, “Ages range from 22 to 62, with 33 falling in the middle.”

average a single value that represents the general significance of a set of unequal values.

mean in a set of numbers, the sum of all figures divided by the number of figures.

median the number that falls in the middle of a numer- ical ranking.

mode the figure that appears most frequently in a set of figures.

Figure 3 Arranged from youngest to oldest, this list shows the ages of recent Best Actress Oscar winners at the time of receiv- ing the award. The ages can be averaged in three ways (mode, median, and mean).

Age of Recent Oscar Winners for Best Actress

Jennifer Lawrence

Natalie Portman

Reese Witherspoon

Hilary Swank

Marion Cotillard

Kate Winslet







Cate Blanchett

Sandra Bullock

Julianne Moore

Helen Mirren

Meryl Streep








The number that falls in the middle of a numerical ranking

Mode The number that occurs most frequently

Sum of all items divided by the number of items

441 ÷ 11 = 40.09

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Chapter 8 Supporting Your Ideas 141

Percentages. Giving a percentage (a portion of 100) can be a useful way to make a point. For example, suppose that you find that 2 percent of the employees in a company have physical disabilities, and yet only 1 percent of the parking spaces have been des- ignated for employees with disabilities. With these figures, you can make a good argu- ment for increasing the number of spaces for employees with disabilities.

Unfortunately, percentages can be misleading. A television commercial might say, “Eighty percent of the doctors interviewed said they recommend Feel Good pills for their patients.” How many doctors were involved? If only 10 doctors were interviewed, and 8 of them gave the endorsement, the commercial is accurate (8 out of 10 amounts to 80 percent) but misleading because you will likely expect that a larger number of doc- tors were interviewed.

Correlations. The term correlation refers to the degree of relationship between two sets of data.

Suppose I have the IQ scores and grade-point averages for you and 20 of your friends. When I compare the two sets of data, I find that for most of you, the higher the IQ, the higher the grade-point average. I can now state that there is a high correlation between the two sets of data. This should be no surprise: for most people in our society, the higher the IQ, the greater the level of academic achievement they experience. Statis- ticians would say that IQ scores and grade-point averages are highly correlated.

Now let’s suppose that I compare the IQ scores with the shoe sizes of you and your friends. Will I find that the larger the foot, the higher the IQ? No, of course not. There is absolutely no pattern to observe—no correspondence between foot size and intelli- gence. In the language of statisticians, there is no correlation at all.

Correlation is a handy statistical device because it can help us predict probable outcomes for individuals. For example, because a high correlation is known to exist between exercising regularly and longevity, medical experts can predict that a person who runs regularly is likely to live longer than someone who doesn’t exercise.

However, while correlation can be a highly effective way to interpret data, it is often misunderstood and misused by people who think that it proves a cause-and-effect relation- ship. Just because two sets of data are correlated, we cannot conclude that one causes the other. For example, research in Nature magazine in 1999 found that young children who slept with a light on in their bedroom were more likely than those who slept in darkness to develop nearsightedness (myopia). Because this research established a definite correla- tion, many parents felt compelled to turn off all bedroom lights at night. By 2003, however, further research showed that lighting had nothing to do with children’s vision. Nearsighted kids inherited their condition from their nearsighted parents, who were more likely to leave a light on in a child’s room so that they themselves could see better. So a correlation between lights and nearsightedness did exist, but it was not the lights that caused the problem.8

Guidelines for Using Statistics Here are some guidelines to consider when you are evaluating statistics for possible use in a speech.

Use statistics fairly. A health blogger informed Internet readers of a fact that seemed disturbing: The air that airlines pump into an airplane cabin isn’t pure oxygen. “It’s mixed with nitrogen, sometimes almost at 50%.” Horrors! Travelers are subjected to adulterated air! It’s awful—until we consider that the natural proportion of nitrogen in the atmosphere is 78%. No problem, after all. The blogger used a true piece of informa- tion but left an erroneous impression.9

percentage a rate or proportion per hundred.

correlation the degree of rela- tive correspondence between two sets of data.

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Examining Your Ethics

Fact 1: In contrast to the 1970s, Americans today consume 25 percent more vegetables and fruits. Fact 2: Potatoes account for 30 percent of the vegetables, usually as chips or fries.  Which one of the following is the best way to present these facts in a speech?

A. Americans today eat 25 percent more vegetables and fruits than they did in the 1970s. Potatoes account for 30 percent of the vegetables.

B. Americans eat 25 percent more vegetables and fruits than they did in the 1970s, but this is not as heartening as it sounds. Some 30 percent of the vegetables are potatoes, usually chips or fries, which of course are heavy in fat.

C. Americans today eat 25 percent more vegetables and fruits than they did in the 1970s.

For the answer, see the last page of this chapter.

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Use statistics sparingly. A long recital of hard-to-digest statistics is hard for the audi- ence to absorb:

Poor: According to the U.S. Census Bureau, based on the population over five years old, 230,947,071 Americans speak English at home, and 60,577,020 speak a different language at home. Of the latter number, 37,579,787 speak Spanish, 2,882,497 speak Chinese, and 1,594,413 speak Tagalog.

Better: According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 79 percent of Americans speak English at home and almost 13 percent speak Spanish. The remaining 8 percent speak other languages.

The statistics in the first version might work in a written essay, but in a speech they

would be hard for the audience to follow. The second version, streamlined and simple, would be easier for the audience to hear and digest.

Round off long numbers. In print, a long number is no problem, but in a speech, it is hard for the listener to absorb. A rounded-off number is easy to say and easy for the audience to grasp.

Poor: In the last presidential election, 129,085,410 Americans voted. Better: In the last presidential election, slightly more than 129 million

Americans voted.

Translate your statistics into vivid, meaningful language. If you have a statistic that would be meaningless to most listeners or difficult for them to visualize, translate it into simple, down-to-earth language. To help her audience understand the dangers of pieces of debris in space, student speaker Melissa Pollard said:

Right at this moment, there are about 2,000 tons of garbage sailing around earth. Most of the items are leftovers from previous space missions—fragments of spacecraft, rocket launchers, and dead satellites. To give you an idea of the danger that is caused by all this junk, consider this: If a fragment less than an inch wide were to hit a spaceship, the impact would be like being struck by a bowling ball that is traveling at 65 miles per hour.

Relate statistics to familiar objects. One way to make statistics dramatic is to relate them to something familiar. In a speech on bats, student speaker Sally Ingle wanted to give the audience an idea of the incredibly small size of one variety of bat. Instead of giving its weight in grams, which would have meant little to most of the audience, she said, “One variety of bat is so tiny that when it is full-grown, it weighs less than a penny.”

English astronomer Fred Hoyle once made the point that outer space isn’t as remote as many people think. Instead of using dry statistics, he created a startling image that everyone could relate to: “It’s only an hour’s drive away if your car could go straight upwards.”10

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Chapter 8 Supporting Your Ideas 143

Sample Speech with Commentary To see how support materials can be used, let’s look at a speech by student speaker Brian Snowden. A commentary alongside the transcript points out the types of support materi- als that are used. (Note: The speaker delivered this speech in a conversational manner, looking at the audience most of the time and glancing occasionally at brief notes. What you see below is the transcript of what he said. In other words, he did not write out the speech and read it aloud—a method that would have been ineffective with his audience.)

No Laughing Matter


[The speaker begins by displaying the photo in Figure 4.]

I like clowns—I always have—so I was surprised when I heard a report on NBC TV news about several hospitals in the United States and Europe that have banned clowns from performing in children’s wards. Their reason? They say that many kids are fright- ened by clowns—some of the kids have even developed a phobia.


Figure 4 To grab attention and set a mood, the speaker displays a photo, a type of support that will be discussed in the chapter on presentation aids. For the benefit of any members of the audience who speak English as a second language, the photo quickly specifies which of several definitions of “clown” is being used. © Corel Stock Photos.


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This news was intriguing to me, so I decided to do some research. I discovered that the hospitals were right: there are many children and even some adults who are afraid of clowns. If the fear is extreme, it is called coulrophobia or clown phobia. Coulrophobia has been in existence for hundreds of years, but it was relatively rare until recent times. Now it is widespread among children throughout the world. What has caused this upsurge? How many people are affected? How are professional clowns coping with the problem? These are the questions I would like to answer today.

The number one reason for the upsurge in coulrophobia is the depiction of evil clowns in movies and TV shows. Most researchers say that the epidemic began in November 1990. That’s when ABC aired Stephen King’s It as a miniseries. I should say, in all fairness, there have been other movies that depict evil clowns, including Killer Klowns from Outer Space, The Nightmare Before Christmas, and Clownhouse. But Stephen King gets most of the blame because his clown, Pennywise, terrified millions of children.

To describe Pennywise, I am going to paraphrase the words of Juliet Bennett-Rylah, who wrote an article in Spry magazine entitled “Stephen King Ruined the Circus.” Pennywise, she says, is a clown with flashing zombie eyes and razor teeth. He is terrifying—white-faced and bald-headed except for two shocks of red hair. His makeup forms angry brows and a huge, red mouth. His voice is the deathbed mumblings of an old man with a throat full of tar. Worst of all, he murders children.

After seeing the show as a child, Bennett-Rylah had night- mares for many weeks, and she had trouble sleeping. The phobia persisted for years. When her best friend gave her a tiny clown doll as a present three years later, she wanted to throw it away, but her father told her it would be rude to throw a gift into the gar- bage. So she buried it in the back yard. Whenever the circus came to town, she would be invited to attend, but she would vigorously shake her head. Whenever a show about a clown came on the TV in the living room, she would leave the room.

To help you understand why clowns are so disturbing to some children, let me give you an analogy. Imagine how you would react if you were traveling in a rural area and you came across a village where all the inhabitants were extraterrestrial aliens with scaly green skin and gigantic eyes. In the minds of some children, clowns are strange, alien creatures.

How widespread is the fear of clowns? Several researchers, including Dr. Penny Curtis of the University of Sheffield in England, have estimated that about 40 percent of children are afraid of clowns. Their fears range from mild to the extreme level, coulro- phobia. What about adults? Some adults still have the coulropho- bia that originated in childhood. Psychology Today magazine says that eight percent of adults suffer from a phobia, and coulrophobia is one of the most common phobias.

Brian Snowden gives a definition of coulrophobia.

A vivid image helps the audience grasp the full horror of the clown.

A narrative, or story, shows how troubling the phobia can be.

An analogy is useful to help listeners comprehend the mind of a child.

Examples of movies are given.

Statistics show the extent of the problem.

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Chapter 8 Supporting Your Ideas 145

Adults with coulrophobia get little sympathy from other adults, and sometimes they are made fun of. On an Internet discussion forum on phobias, a man in California wrote that in his office, his co-workers knew of his intense fear of clowns. One day they put a clown doll in a chair in his office. He was terrified, and he left work for the day. The next day he removed the chair, and replaced it with a new one. By the way, if you understand phobias, you will realize that what the co-workers did is not humorous—it’s cruel. It’s like tossing a snake into the lap of someone who is afraid of snakes.

Is coulrophobia having an impact on the world of clowns? I could not find any data on whether the number of clowns has decreased, but I did find some reports of clowns who are no lon- ger finding any joy in clowning.

For the past 23 years, Jim Jelinske dressed as a clown when- ever he gave anti-bullying presentations in schools in Dubuque, Iowa. He enjoyed being “Jelly the Clown.” He enjoyed putting on full clown makeup and attaching a red nose. But he recently quit being a clown. He still makes his presentations, but he no longer appears as Jelly the Clown. He told a reporter for the Dubuque Telegraph Herald  that “it wasn’t fun anymore” because of the “rising tide of clown fear.” He said that Stephen King’s horror movie caused a “whole different atmosphere for clowns.”

While Jelinske has put away his clown costume, many other clowns are continuing to perform, and some of them make an effort to avoid frightening children. Peggy Williams, a clown with the Barnum & Bailey circus, is quoted in the Washington Post as saying, “A child who is afraid of clowns has been introduced to them out of context too quickly.” She says a clown needs to keep a respectful distance and not let parents force a child into “getting too close too soon.”

Some clowns try to soften their faces and costumes. Beth Byrd, a professional clown, told the Kansas City Star that traditional clown makeup was created in response to the primitive lighting in three- ring circuses in the nineteenth century. The exaggerated features were necessary in order for the clown to be seen. Nowadays that is not necessary. She says she downplays makeup and costume. “My mouth is my real mouth,” she says, “and I paint my own nose. Chil- dren must be able to see that you’re human.”

To summarize what we’ve covered, fear of clowns is no laugh- ing matter, especially if it develops into clown phobia. An epidemic of clown phobia was ignited by movies and TV shows in the 1990s, and the effects are still being felt today.

We can only hope that in the future, instead of seeing horrible clown-monsters created by Stephen King and others, children will encounter happy, friendly clowns who will bring a smile to their faces and joy to their hearts.

A comparison is made to fear of snakes.

The speaker relates a narrative that also shows a contrast between being a clown before the Stephen King movie and being a clown today.

Citing testimony from a professional clown gives credibility to the speaker’s remarks.

More testimony gives a contrast between the nineteenth century and today.

In his closing, Snowden makes a contrast between the present and the future.

A narrative gives a good view of adult phobia.

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Summary Verbal support materials are vital to the success of a speech. They develop, illustrate, and clarify ideas; they make a speech more interesting and meaningful; and they can help prove an assertion.

Some of the more popular types of verbal supports are (1) definition, which helps make sure that your listeners understand key terms as you intend them to be understood; (2) vivid image, which is a word picture that helps listeners visualize concepts; (3) example, which is an instance that illustrates a statement; (4) narrative, which is a story that amplifies your message; (5) comparison, which shows how two or more things are alike; (6) contrast, which shows how two or more things are different; (7) analogy, which explains a concept by likening it to something that seems different;

(8) testimony, which provides input from experts; and (9) sta- tistics, which are numerical ways of conveying information.

Of all these types, the narrative (or story) is the favorite of most audiences. People love to hear stories and are more likely to remember them than most other parts of your speech. As with all support materials, you must make sure that a nar- rative explains, illustrates, or reinforces the message of your speech. Telling a story that is irrelevant to the subject is not appropriate in informative and persuasive speaking.

Statistics such as averages, percentages, and correlations can be useful in a speech, but you must be careful to use them accurately and fairly. Make them as interesting and as mean- ingful as possible.

Resources for Review and Skill Building

Key Terms analogy, 136

average, 140

comparison, 136

contrast, 136

correlation, 141

definition, 133

example, 134

hypothetical narrative, 135

mean, 140

median, 140

mode, 140

narrative, 135

paraphrase, 138

percentage, 141

quote verbatim, 137

statistics, 139

summarize, 138

support materials, 132

testimony, 137

vivid image, 134

1. List five reasons why support materials are important in a speech.

2. Why are informal definitions usually superior to diction- ary definitions in a speech?

3. What must speakers use to make vivid images successful?

4. How many examples are needed to develop a point?

5. What term is used to refer to a story about an imaginary situation?

Review Questions 6. What is the difference between a comparison and a


7. A speaker who likens worrying to rocking in a rocking chair is using which kind of support material? 

8. What is the main advantage of using testimony in a speech?

9. If we say that there is a positive relationship between height and landing a spot on a basketball team, we are using which type of statistics?

10. Why should statistics be used sparingly?

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Chapter 8 Supporting Your Ideas 147

1. At a beach on the Atlantic Ocean, whenever ice cream sales increase, the number of drownings increases. In other words, there is a strong correlation between ice cream sales and drownings. Does the correlation prove that ice cream contributes to drownings? Explain your answer.

2. In a speech on weird stunts, a speaker paraphrased an analogy created by New York Times columnist Janet Maslin: “Texting with your toes is like climbing

Building Critical-Thinking Skills Mt. Everest in house slippers—impressive but not nec- essary.” Why are these words considered an analogy instead of a comparison?

3. In two or three sentences, give an informal definition (not a dictionary definition) of one of these terms:

a. Friendship b. Pizzazz c. Ideal pet

1. In a group, choose several focal points (such as music and food preferences) and analyze how group members compare and contrast with one another. In what way are group members most alike and most unalike?

2. Working in a group, analyze these statistics. Discuss why they can be technically accurate but still misleading.

a. “Last year 37 people were killed by automobile airbags.”

b. “Three out of four doctors surveyed said that mar- garine is healthier for the heart than butter.”

Building Teamwork Skills c. “Studies show that children with longer arms are

better at solving math problems than children with shorter arms.”

d. “College-educated people drink 90 percent of all bottled mineral water sold in the United States, so we can say that a high correlation exists between an advanced educational level and consumption of mineral water.”

e. “The average American parents last year named their daughter Isabella and their son Jacob.”

Answer: B. A speaker should present all of the facts and point out their significance. Answers A and C are accurate

Examining Your Ethics statements, but they fail to give the full picture so therefore are misleading.

1. Sandi Doughton and Danny O'Neil, “Seahawks Fans’ Frenzy Felt by Seismometer,” The Seattle Times,  seattletimes.com (accessed November 4, 2015).

2. Nandini Sundar derived her material from “Basic Facts about Hummingbirds,” Defenders of Wildlife, www. defenders.org, (accessed January 3) 2016; “About Hum- mingbirds,” Hummingbirds.net, www.hummingbirds. net, (accessed January 3) 2016; “Hummingbird Facts,” How to Enjoy Hummingbirds, howtoenjoyhumming- birds.com, (accessed January 3) 2016.

3. “Faulty Spell-Checker Causes Embarrassing Yearbook Typos,” Pocono Record, www.poconorecord.com (accessed November 9, 2015).

4. The dolphin information was derived from Natalie Angier, “A Highly Evolved Propensity for Deceit,” New York Times online, www.nytimes.com (accessed November 9, 2015).

End Notes 5. “Miracle of Parisian Toddler Surviving Seven-Story

Fall,” France Today, www.france-today.com (accessed November 9, 2015).

6. Information was derived from Felicity Barringer, “Demand for Wind Spurs Ranchers to Join Forces,” New York Times online, www.nytimes.com (accessed November 9, 2015).

7. Joshua Quittner, “Cracks in the Net,” Time February 27, 1995. (accessed November 9, 2015).

8. “Night Lights Don’t Lead to Nearsightedness, Study Suggests,” Research News, Ohio State University, researchnews.osu.edu (accessed January 6, 2016).

9. Jordan Ellenberg, “How Not to Be Misled by Data,” Wall Street Journal, www.wsj.com (accessed January 4, 2016).

10. Astronomer Fred Hoyle, “Sayings of the Week” The Observer, September 9, 1979.

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Advantages of Visual Aids

Types of Visual Aids

Presentation Software

Media for Visual Aids

Preparing Visual Aids

Presenting Visual Aids

Communicating in Other Channels

OBJECTIVES After studying this chapter, you should be able to

1. Explain seven advantages of using visual aids in a speech.

2. Describe the types of visual aids. 3. Describe the media for visual aids. 4. Prepare appropriate visual aids. 5. Present visual aids effectively. 6. Communicate in channels other than visual.

I N H E R S E N I O R Y E A R   at Illinois State University, Jillian Jones, a student

nurse and a member of Army ROTC, gave a demonstration to her Army comrades on

how to perform emergency medical procedures. She used a sophisticated dummy to

simulate real-world patient care.

Jones encouraged audience members to practice what she taught them by touching

and “treating” the dummy patient. This technique is a good example of the power of

presentation aids. Imagine how difficult it would have been for Jones to describe and

demonstrate medical procedures without using the dummy. Aids not only help an

audience to understand key points, but they also make a presentation more interest-

ing and exciting.1

Presentation Aids



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Presentation aids can be conveyed in six channels of communication—

vision, hearing, smell, taste, touch, and physical activity. (Jones used

vision, hearing, touch, and physical activity.) We will cover all six channels

in this chapter, but our primary focus will be on visual aids because they

are the most widely used. The typical attitude of audiences is “Don’t just

tell me—show me.”

A dummy patient helps Jillian Jones teach med- ical procedures.

© Lori Ann Cook-Neisler/AP Images

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Advantages of Visual Aids While verbal supports (discussed in the chapter on supporting your ideas) are important for explaining and illustrating your ideas, you also should look for visual support. Let’s examine some reasons for using visual aids.

1. Visual aids can make ideas clear and understandable. Your listeners can quickly grasp how to jump-start a car if you display a drawing that shows where to connect battery cables.

2. Visual aids can make a speech more interesting. In a speech on hospital archi- tecture, an architect showed color slides of beautiful gardens integrated into the design of healing centers and viewable from patients’ windows. The slides added a lively element to a technical subject.

3. Visual aids can help an audience remember facts and details. Research shows that oral information alone is not as effective as oral information coupled with visual aids.2 Imagine that you give the same speech on how to create a spreadsheet on a computer to two different groups. To the first group, you use only words; to the second group, you use words plus visuals. If the audiences are tested a week later, the second group will score far higher in comprehension.3

4. Visual aids can make long, complicated explanations unnecessary. In medical schools, professors use close-up slides and videos to teach surgical procedures. The visuals show exactly where and how to make an incision, sparing the profes- sor from having to give a tedious verbal explanation.

5. Visual aids can help prove a point. If a prosecutor shows the jury a surveillance video in which the defendant is seen robbing a store, the jury can be easily con- vinced of the defendant’s guilt.

6. Visual aids can add to your credibility. Researchers have found that presenters who use good visual aids are rated by listeners as more persuasive and credible than presenters who use no visuals. But a note of warning: If listeners think that visual aids are poor, their confidence in the speaker declines. In other words, if you can’t use a good visual, don’t use any at all.4

7. Visual aids enhance communication with people who speak English as a second language. As more and more audiences include professionals and busi- nesspeople from other countries, international students, immigrants, and others whose command of English is imperfect, visual aids have become a crucial way to overcome language limitations.

Types of Visual Aids In this section, we will look at various types of visual aids. As you select aids for your speeches, be flexible. Linda Larson, former public speaking instructor at Mesa Commu- nity College, advised her students to think of “tools” instead of “visual aids.” In various jobs, not every tool works. For example, not every job needs a hammer. In a particular speech, a PowerPoint slide may be the wrong tool, while a handout may be the perfect tool.

On the Internet, you can find graphs, charts, drawings, photos, and videos on a vast variety of subjects. Keep in mind that copyright restrictions do not apply to these items when used in classroom speeches because you are engaged in noncommercial, educa- tional, one-time use of materials. For many business and professional presentations, however, you need to seek permission.

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Chapter 9 Presentation Aids 151

Graphs Graphs help audiences understand and retain statistical data. The line graph, which is widely used in textbooks, uses a horizontal and a vertical scale to show trends and the relationship between two variables, such as percent and years in Figure 1.

A bar graph consists of horizontal or vertical bars that contrast two or more vari- ables, as in Figure 2. A bar graph can effectively display a great deal of data in a clear, easily comprehended manner.

A pie graph is a circle representing 100 percent that is divided into segments of vari- ous sizes (see Figure 3). A pie graph used in a speech should have no more than 7 or 8 wedges. (If necessary, several small segments can be lumped together into an “all others”

line graph a visual consisting of lines (charted on a grid) that show trends.

bar graph a visual that contrasts two or more sets of data by means of parallel rectangles of varying lengths.

Figure 1 Sample Line Graph In 1970 in the United States, 43 percent of college students were women and 57 percent were men. Today women have surpassed men, and by 2050, it is expected that women will make up 60 percent of all college students, while men fall to 40 percent.




1970 2010 2050 (projected)

60 Women




Men and Women in U.S. Colleges

Figure 2 Sample Bar Graph This bar graph shows that the life span of the average American has increased over the cen- turies and is expected to become even longer in future centuries, accord- ing to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Average Life Span

Colonial America in 1700s 29




America in 1910

America Today

America in 2310 (projected)

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Figure 3 Sample Pie Graph Of the millions of dollars that retail stores lose each year from theft, employees account for 68 percent and shop- lifters account for 32 percent.

Thefts from Stores

Store Employees


Shoplifters 32%

Figure 4 Sample Pictorial Graph When the speaker explains that each image represents 470,000 African elephants, the audience can quickly visualize the drastic pop- ulation drop since 1970, when there were three times as many African elephants as there are today.

© Talvi/Shutterstock

African Elephant Population

1970 Today

category.) If you see a 20-piece pie graph in your research, resist the temptation to use it in a speech. While such a graph is fine in a book because readers can scrutinize it as long as they wish, it would be difficult for audiences to decipher during a presentation.

Of all graphs, a pictorial graph is perhaps the easiest to read, because it visu- ally translates information into a picture that can be grasped instantly. Figure 4 is an example of a pictorial graph.

Charts Charts provide information in a compact, easily digested form. An information chart, also called a list of key ideas, is a convenient way of presenting main points or steps in a process. It can be presented on PowerPoint slides, posters, or transpar- encies. Figure 5 shows a good format for presenting a list. If possible, display only one item at a time so that listeners stay with you and don’t read ahead while you are explaining each point.

pie graph a circle showing a given whole that is divided into compo- nent wedges.

pictorial graph a visual that drama- tizes statistical data by means of pictorial forms.

information chart text material arranged as a series of key points.

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Chapter 9 Presentation Aids 153

Figure 5 Sample Information Chart This information chart (or list of key ideas) shows the audience three main tips for how to dress for a job interview: wear dark colors, dress for- mally, and wear minimal accessories.

What to Wear for a Job Interview

1. Wear Dark Colors

2. Dress Up Rather Than Go Casual

3. Wear a Minimum of Accessories

Figure 6 Sample Table A table is an effective type of information chart. This table shows the most popular names chosen for girls and boys in the United States in a recent five-year period.

Most Popular Baby Names, Last Five Years



















An information chart can sometimes take the form of a table, in which information is presented in rows and columns. Figure 6 shows how easy it can be to understand a table. By making the first column represent rank, the second column represent girls’ names, and the third column represent boys’ names, you can read across the rows to see the five most popular baby names for both boys and girls.

Note of caution: Most instructors dislike a speech that is nothing more than a reci- tation of a lengthy list. For example, a list of 42 lucrative careers is a lazy way of creat- ing a speech because there is no analysis of the data.

Drawings and Photos Drawings are helpful visual aids because they can illustrate points that would be dif- ficult to explain in words or that photographs cannot capture. One kind of drawing that is highly effective is a map. By sketching a map yourself (either by hand or using

table numbers or words arranged system- atically in rows and columns.

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Figure 7 Sample Map This map illustrates that half of all Americans live in just nine states. From highest to lowest population, they are (1) California, (2) Texas, (3) Florida, (4) New York, (5) Illinois, (6) Pennsylvania, (7) Ohio, (8) Georgia, (9) North Carolina.





Half of All Americans Live in 9 States






a computer program), you can include only those features that are pertinent to your speech. If you were speaking about the major rivers of America, for example, you could outline the boundaries of the United States and then draw heavy blue lines for the riv- ers, leaving out extraneous details, such as cities. Figure 7 shows a map of the U.S. that visually reflects the most populated states where half of all Americans live.

Because photographs have a high degree of realism, they are excellent for provid- ing information and proving points. Lawyers, for example, often use photographs of the scene of an accident to argue a case. Photographs can also be used to evoke an emo- tional response from your audience, thus gaining their attention and delivering the full force of your point. Figure 8, for example, shows a dramatic image of people fleeing a hurricane that would benefit a speech to inform your audience on how to prepare for natural disasters or to persuade your audience to donate to a charity that aids victims of natural disasters. In a speech, you should not use a photograph unless it can be enlarged so that everyone can see it clearly.

Video and Animation With video, you can transport your audience to any corner of the world. To give listen- ers a glimpse of the rich spectacle of Mexican weddings, student speaker Victor Treviño showed a video of ritual, music, and dance at the wedding celebration of his sister in Guadalajara.

If you make a video of an interview as part of your research, you may be able to use some excerpts in your speech. Student speaker Adrienne Shields interviewed a bank offi- cial on how crooks steal from ATMs (automated teller machines). In her speech, Shields played brief video segments of the official as he demonstrated the machine’s vulnerabili- ties. The video was much more effective than a verbal description alone would have been.

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Chapter 9 Presentation Aids 155

Many speakers use clips from commercial videos and online sources such as You- Tube. A video clip should be brief, and it should not contain material that might offend any audience member. Avoid choosing a clip that has only a weak connection to your topic. (One student played an amusing YouTube clip on canine misadventures, but it was irrelevant to his topic—spaying and neutering pets.)

Animation—a sequence of drawings (such as diagrams or cartoons)—can be used in a PowerPoint presentation or video to clarify points. In courtroom trials, for example, lawyers often use animated drawings to re-create a car accident and help the jury under- stand what happened.

Audio and video special effects are available in presentation software like Power- Point and Prezi and can sometimes be used effectively. However, be aware that inap- propriate use or too many effects can be distracting for your audience. If your listeners become irritated by frequent screen wipes, zooms, and sounds, they will be less recep- tive to your message.

Objects and Models Three-dimensional objects make good visual aids, provided they are large enough for everyone in the audience to see. You could display such things as a blood-pressure gauge, a hibachi, handmade pottery, mountain-climbing equipment, and musical instruments.

A model is a representation of an object. One speaker used take-apart models of pyramids to discuss how the ancient Egyptians probably built them. Another speaker displayed two made-to-scale plastic models—one of an adult human and the other of an Argentinosaurus (one of the largest known dinosaurs). The human was minuscule in comparison, helping audience members to get a sense of the enormous size of the dinosaur. One advantage of a model is that you can move it around. If you have a model of the human spine, for example, you could manipulate it to demonstrate pressure points and the causes of back pain.

Figure 8 Sample Photograph This image demonstrates the power of photos to convey information and emotion. It shows men in Key West, Florida, hold- ing on to one another as they struggle to escape from a hurricane that killed hundreds of people as it swept through the Caribbean.

© Dave Martin/AP Images

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Because visual aids are so powerful, some speakers let them dominate a speech. The visuals become the real show, with the speaker acting as a mere techni- cian. It is easy for this to happen, especially if you have some dazzling slides or a spectacular video. The punch and glitz of the visuals can make you feel inadequate, and you may think you ought to step aside and let the graphics take command.

This attitude is misguided, as shown by my own experience. I once gave a presentation on photog- raphy techniques in which I used part of a National Geographic video. I assumed that my listeners would prefer a slick, professional video to my own words, so

Tips for Your Career

Never Let Visuals Substitute for a Speech



I let the video take up most of the time. My only contribu- tions were the few comments I made at the end. Later, several listeners recommended that in the future, I should talk more and use less video because the video was less helpful than my remarks. The video was unable to slow down, explain difficult concepts, and sense whether the audience was absorbing key information.

People can see jazzy video productions on TV or online at any hour of the day, but a speech has a dimen- sion that video lacks—a living, breathing human engaged in the stimulating act of direct communication, who can provide immediate feedback in the question-and-answer period.

Yourself and Volunteers Using yourself as a visual aid, you can demonstrate physical activities, such as yoga positions, judo holds, karate chops, stretching exercises, relaxation techniques, ballet steps, and tennis strokes. You can also don native attire, historical costumes, or scuba- diving equipment. For example, one student came to class dressed and made up as a clown to give a speech on her part-time job as a clown for children’s birthday parties. The costume and make-up created interest in the speech and illustrated how she pre- sented herself to children. Because it can be distracting to your audience, do not wear a costume unless it is truly relevant to the key points of your speech.

Volunteers can enhance some speeches. You could use a friend, for example, to illustrate self-defense methods. Your friend could pose as an attacker, and then you as the presenter could demonstrate how you can protect yourself. (For a classroom speech, be sure to get permission from your instructor before using a volunteer.)

Make sure you line up volunteers far in advance of speech day and, if necessary, practice with them to make sure they perform smoothly. Have substitutes lined up in case the scheduled volunteers fail to appear. Give instructions to volunteers in advance so that they know when to stand, when to sit, and so on. You don’t want your volunteers to become a distraction by standing around when they are not needed.

Presentation Software In classroom and career settings, speakers often present their material on a screen, using images, text, videos, animations, and sounds. To see samples of how presenta- tion aids are being used today, go to TED.com or search YouTube for “TED talks,” which are videos of presentations from TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conferences.

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Types of Software To prepare your material, use presentation software, which is available in two different types:

Linear. Programs like PowerPoint and Keynote use slides that follow a straight line— first slide, second slide, and so on.

Non-linear. Programs like Prezi don’t use slides. Instead, they use a broad canvas on which you place your material. You can zoom in and out of one element at a time, and you can pan across the canvas.

Some presenters prefer linear, while others prefer the non-linear approach. You can try them out and decide for yourself. (For classroom speeches, your instructor may require one or the other.)

PowerPoint Slides Microsoft PowerPoint is a presentation program that permits you to create and show slides containing artwork, text information, graphs, charts, animations, and audiovisuals.

Use a PowerPoint slide when you need to illustrate, explain, or enhance a key point in your speech. Make each slide attractive and simple. Choose graphics whenever pos- sible, and use only small amounts of text.

The Basic Steps To get maximum benefit from PowerPoint, take these steps:

1. Create your outline before you even think about using PowerPoint. Your slides should not be your speech. In other words, don’t collect a bunch of photos and then give a speech that just adds narration to the photos. PowerPoint slides should be aids—helpers—for the key ideas that you have already created in your outline.

2. Look at your outline and ask, “Do I need visuals to highlight or explain any of my key points?” Some points will not need visuals, but others may require them so that the audience will understand and remember what you are trying to say.

3. For points that need visual support, decide which type of visual would be most effective. Options include photos, drawings, graphs, charts, lists of key ideas, or other visuals discussed in this chapter.

4. Create your slides. Each slide should be succinct, informative, and appealing. 5. Practice in the room where you will be presenting. Rehearse with all of the

equipment several times so that you don’t fumble during the actual speech. If pos- sible, have a friend give a critique. Check your slides from the back row. If any words or graphics are hard to see, revise them before speech day.

6. Give your speech, making sure that you—not the slides—are the dominant presence in the room. Letting PowerPoint become the “star of the show,” some speakers stand shyly in the shadows, stare at the screen, and narrate what appears on the slides. They are letting technology upstage a live, dynamic human being. You can avoid this mistake by boldly seizing your role as the primary communica- tor. Stand as close as possible to your listeners, and try to stay connected to them. Keep the room partially lit so that the audience can see your face. Focus all of your energy on reaching the listeners. Look at them—not the screen.

linear a sequence that pro- ceeds from beginning to end.

non-linear an overall map that permits zooming in and out.

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The Basic Steps in Action Let’s take another look at the steps we just discussed and use them in a scenario.

Step 1: Create your outline before you

even think about using PowerPoint.

Your speech will be devoted to telling listeners how they can avoid becoming victims of identity theft, a crime in which personal information is stolen and used to defraud the victim. You create your outline with carefully selected main points and support material.

Step 2: Look at your outline and ask, “Do I

need visuals to highlight or explain any of my key


You see three ideas that can use some visual support to help the audience remember them. For our scenario, let’s focus on just one. You plan to warn listeners that they should never carry a Social Security card in their wallet because if the card is stolen, it can be used to buy a car or open a credit- card account at their expense. You decide that a dramatic visual would help drive home the point.

Step 3: For points that need visual support, decide which type of visual would be most


To avoid overloading your slide, you decide to use just nine words (“Never Carry Your Social Security Card in Your Wallet”), emphasizing the words “Never Carry.” Additional words are unneeded because you will supply all the details orally. Though not essential, a photo would brighten the slide and make it more interesting, so you search on the Internet and find a photo of a woman with a wallet.

Step 4: Create your slides. In the PowerPoint program, you create a simple, readable slide with the photo and the key words. The result is Figure 9.

Step 5: Practice in the room where you will be


A week before your speech, you go to the classroom and run through several rehearsals, using all the equipment until you are proficient with it. A friend sits in the back row and gives you a critique. She suggests that one slide needs larger print for visibility. Later, you revise the slide.

Step 6: Give your speech, making sure that you—not the slides—are

the dominant presence in the room.

You stay at center stage throughout your speech, focusing your attention and energy on the audience. Because you have only a few slides, the screen at the front of the room stays blank most of the time. When you display a slide, you continue to look at the audience. After discussing it, you blank the screen (press “B” on a keyboard or “A/V Mute” on a remote control) until you are ready to discuss the next slide.

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Problems and Solutions Imagine sitting in the audience as a speaker displays a text-heavy, boring PowerPoint slide. He reads every word to you. Now imagine one hour of seeing 25 more slides just like the first one, and all of them are read to you. By the end of the presentation, you will be weary and irritated.

This torment is known in the business and professional world as “death by PowerPoint.”  According to Industry Week, “PowerPoint presentations have drugged more people than all the sleeping pills in history.”5

The problem is not the PowerPoint software—it’s the speakers. Why do they inflict so much misery? One reason is that they are self-centered instead of audience- centered.

If you focus primarily on yourself and your own convenience, PowerPoint seems like an easy way to create a speech. All you have to do is dump your infor- mation onto slides and read the material aloud. You don’t even have to look at your audience.

If you are audience-centered, on the other hand, you will ask yourself, “How can I help my listeners understand and remember my key points?” If you decide that Power- Point can help you to reach your goal, you will make sure that your slides are interesting and easy-to-grasp. During the presentation, instead of hiding behind the technology, you will occupy center stage. You will look directly at your listeners and stay connected to them.

Below are six rules to help you avoid inflicting death by PowerPoint.

Figure 9 This slide is a powerful visual to help the audi- ence remember a main point: to avoid identity theft, keep your Social Security card in a safe place at home.

© Boryana Manzurova/ Shutterstock

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Figure 10 An Unnecessary Slide

Rule 1: Don’t assume you need PowerPoint

Problem It is a mistake to think that every presentation should have PowerPoint. Consider an Italian student who has compelling stories to tell about the Mafia, the Italian crime syndicate that murdered her father. If she uses a slide like the one in Figure 10, she undermines the emotional intensity of her speech.

Solution In Figure 11, Rosanna Scopelliti is speaking at a college in Italy, urging students to work for the defeat of the Mafia, which murdered her father, a judge. She uses no PowerPoint. Instead, she paints pictures with words—vivid images more powerful than PowerPoint slides like the one in Figure 10.

Figure 11 Rosanna Scopelliti Delivers Her Speech without a PowerPoint Slide © Maurizio Lagana/ Contributor/Getty Images

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Chapter 9 Presentation Aids 161

Rule 2: Choose images over text (when possible)

Problem Text is sometimes needed on a slide, but not in this case. When instructor Jan Caldwell sees a slide like Figure 12, she thinks, “I feel conflicted. Do you want me to read your slide or listen to you?”6

Solution Display a photo (like Figure 13) while sharing your information orally. Mark Maloney, a member of a Toastmasters club in Midlothian, Virginia, uses mostly photos in his slides. “I try to stick with one word or phrase per slide and let the pictures—and my mouth—do the talking.”7

Using images also demonstrates to listeners that you care enough about them to do the extra work of locating interesting visuals.

Figure 12 Unnecessary Text on a Slide That Would Be Read Word for Word

Figure 13 An Image Complements the Speaker’s Words © Olga Danylenko/Shutterstock

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Rule 3: Use text sparingly

Problem While images are preferable to text, sometimes you may need to use words on the screen. But you make a mistake if you display large blocks of text, which are boring and fatiguing (as shown in Figure 14).

You make a second mistake if you read the text aloud—a common practice that some people consider a form of torture.

Solution In the “solution” slide (Figure 15), text is okay because you want to help listeners remember the key points. Only a small amount of text is needed because you will elabo- rate with spoken words.

What about all the empty space on this slide? Is that bad? No, the space makes the key words stand out—and it makes the slide more inviting to the eye.

Figure 14 A Text-Heavy Slide

Figure 15 An Easy-to-Read Slide with Limited Text

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Chapter 9 Presentation Aids 163

Rule 4: Format text for easy reading

Problem The slide in Figure 16 hinders easy reading because (1) it uses too many different type- faces and colors, (2) it emphasizes with italics and underlining, and (3) it has too many words in all capital letters.

Solution Choose a typeface that is simple and easy to read, and avoid a lot of different col- ors, as shown in Figure 17. To emphasize a word or phrase, use a contrasting color or bold print, but avoid italics and underlining (which may be fine for printed material but impede readability on-screen). Use words in all capital letters only for headings— excessive use is tiring to the eyes and hard to read.

Figure 16 A Slide with Busy Formatting

Figure 17 A Well-Formatted Slide with a Single Font

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Rule 5: Choose templates carefully

Problem The template in Figure 18 is busy and distracting. For a speech on cold-weather ail- ments, the green theme is inappropriate, evoking summer, not winter.

Other mistakes include (1) the dull photo, (2) that there are more words than neces- sary, and (3) that the yellow text is superimposed over a similarly colored background, making the words difficult to read.

Figure 18 A Slide with a Distracting Template © Burke/Triolo Productions/ Getty Images

Figure 19 A Slide with a Simple, Attractive Template © gosphotodesign/Shutterstock

Solution You don’t have to use templates, but if you decide to use one, make sure it has a simple, attractive design, as shown in Figure 19.

Instead of inserting a ho-hum photo, the speaker found an engaging image of a woman enjoying the warmth from a cup of hot tea. This helps to make the point that hot liquid promotes healing and is comforting. The speaker also shortened the text and made it a contrasting color to the lighter background, making it easy to read.

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Rule 6: Avoid visual clutter

Problem Figure 20 has too many small images. Your listeners might fail to follow what you are saying because their eyes are roving over the slide.

Some speakers try to solve the problem by using a “build”—displaying the first element, then adding the second, and so on. Though this is an improvement, you still end up with visual clutter.

Solution Create six slides, one for each image. (Figure 21 shows one of the six.) As a result, each image will be large, and it will be the focus of attention.

Does this approach add to the length of the presentation? No. Showing six simple slides should take no more time than showing one cluttered slide.

Since most information should be provided orally, the speaker could say, “This slide shows a visitor in a wheelchair posing for a photo at the famous FDR memorial in Wash- ington, DC. The FDR statue is a top attraction for persons with mobility impairments who admire Roosevelt for the great deeds he performed while sitting in a wheelchair.”

Figure 20 A Slide with Too Many Images Creates Visual Clutter © Hamilton Gregory

Figure 21 A Slide Focusing on a Single Image © Hamilton Gregory

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Media for Visual Aids The types of visual aids we have discussed in this chapter—charts, graphs, and so on— can be conveyed to the audience through a variety of media.

Multimedia Projectors Multimedia projectors can project a large array of audiovisuals—text slides, photos, draw- ings, animations, video clips, and DVDs—onto a screen. They are usually linked to desk- top or laptop computers, but some units need only a memory card or USB flash drive.

Depending on the brightness of the screen and the strength of the machine’s projec- tion, you may need to dim the lights in a room, especially if you want to convey the full richness of a photo or a video.

Boards Two types of presentation boards are whiteboards (well known for their multicolored, “dry erase” markers) and chalkboards. Either type of board makes a good tool for visual aids if you have complex drawings that require frequent insertions and erasures—for example, if you are diagramming plays for a soccer team.

Boards have some disadvantages. If you put your visual—a graph, say—on a board during your speech, you have to turn your back to the audience; while you’re drawing, their attention drifts away from you, and you may find it hard to regain it. Would it be a good idea to put your graph on the board before the speech begins? No, because the audience would be distracted by it; they would scrutinize it before you are ready to talk about it. (It would do no good to say, “Don’t pay any attention to this until I get to it.” Such a request would make the graph all the more interesting—and therefore distract- ing.) There is one possible solution: cover the part of the board on which you have writ- ten. But this can be awkward. You would have to find something large enough to do the job without being distracting. Another problem is that speakers preceding you might also be planning to use the board, and they might have to erase your visual aid.

Because of the limitations of boards, some instructors forbid their use in a class- room speech, so be sure to find out your instructor’s policy.

Posters You can put many kinds of visual aids—such as graphs, drawings, and charts—on post- ers. Figure 22 shows the effective use of a poster.

In the age of PowerPoint, posters are not outdated—they are widely used. In court- rooms, for example, many attorneys prefer posters to PowerPoint because posters can be placed on easels and kept on display for long periods, enabling jury members to glance at them whenever they need to refresh their memories. In some cases, jurors are allowed to take the posters into the deliberation room. (Normally you shouldn’t keep posters on display after you’ve discussed them, but this situation is an exception to the rule.)

Make sure there is a reliable place to put your posters. If you prop them against a chalkboard or tape them to a wall, they may fall to the floor during the middle of the speech. Using thumbtacks might work if a cork board or some other suitable place for tacking is available. One technique is to pile your posters on a desk and hold them up one at a time, being sure to hold them steady. Another method is to put your poster on an easel (which your school’s audiovisual department may be able to provide). Even with an easel, however, some posters tend to curl and resist standing up straight. To pre- vent this, tape a second poster board or a piece of cardboard to the back of your poster.

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(Tip: An even better solution to the problem of curling is to buy poster stocks that are sturdier than the standard stock sold at drugstores. Office-supply and craft stores have foam boards. Though more expensive than standard poster stock, these materials will not sag or curl.)

Flip Charts A flip chart is a giant writing pad with pages that are glued or wired together at the top. It can be mounted on an easel. When you are through with each page, you can tear it off or flip it over the back of the easel.

You can prepare the visuals on each page in advance, or you can “halfway” prepare them—that is, lightly pencil in your sheets at home; then during the speech, with a heavy marker, trace over the lines. With some flip charts, the paper may be so thin that ink will seep to the next page, so you may need to leave a blank page between each two drawn-on sheets.

Be aware that some instructors disapprove of student speakers writing on a flip chart during a speech, so check with your instructor before using one.

Handouts Despite the availability of high-tech tools, one of the most popular formats used in business and professional presentations is the paper handout. It is easy to explain the enduring popularity of handouts: they are easy to prepare, can be updated quickly at the last moment, and provide a permanent document that listeners can take with them when they leave a presentation.

Though handouts are popular, they are often misused. I have witnessed the following fiasco dozens of times: A presenter distributes stacks of handouts at the beginning of a talk. While he or she discusses each handout, the room is filled with the sound of rustling papers as the listeners race ahead, reading material the presenter has not yet reached and ignoring or only half-listening to what he or she is saying. (Some speakers try to solve this

flip chart a large book consist- ing of blank sheets (hinged at the top) that can be flipped over to present information sequentially.

handout material distributed to an audience as part of a speaker’s presentation.

Figure 22 Effective Use of a Poster In a speech on organ donation, Jessica Melore of Branchburg, NJ, says she would have died if she had not received a heart donation from the young woman pictured in the poster—Shannon Eckert of Mechanicsburg, PA—who lost her life in a car crash.

© Douglas Bovitt/Courier-Postl/ AP Images

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problem by imploring the audience to stay with them and not read ahead, but this is futile; humans are naturally curious, and their eyes cannot resist reading.)

Because listeners study the pages instead of paying attention to the speaker, hand- outs are banned in some public speaking classes. Even if your instructor permits them, they are usually unsuitable during a classroom speech because distributing them eats up time and creates a distraction.

The best use of handouts—especially lengthy, complex documents—is to give them after the question-and-answer period so that listeners can take them for fur-

ther study and review. (For classroom speeches, check with your instructor; he or she may prefer that you wait until the end of the class period; if you give out material at the end of your speech, students might read it instead of listening to

the next speaker.) One exception to the preceding advice is that for informal presentations in career

and community settings, it is permissible to distribute a handout during a presentation if it is short and simple—a one-page document with an easy-to-understand graphic or a small amount of text. In such situations, follow these guidelines: (1) Never distribute a handout until you are ready to talk about it—a premature handout grows stale. (2) Avoid talking about a handout while you are distributing copies. Wait until every listener has a copy before you start your explanation.

Visual Presenters A visual presenter, also known as a document camera or ELMO (the name of a leading manufacturer), is a camera mounted on a stand and pointed at a platform below. What the camera sees is shown on a monitor or projected onto a screen by means of a digital projector. Visual presenters can show two-dimensional items such as photos and diagrams, and they also can show three-dimensional objects such as jewelry. A zoom feature permits very small items, such as a coin, to be enlarged for easy viewing.

Overhead Transparencies Overhead projectors are illuminated boxes that project images from transparencies (clear sheets of acetate) onto a screen on the wall. Transparencies are inexpensive and simple to produce.

To create a transparency, you can write directly on the acetate sheet with color pens (you must use a pen especially designed for overheads) or you can make a master copy on plain white paper and use an office copier or your own printer to make the transpar- ency. Whether you use a copier or a printer, be aware that you need a special kind of acetate that won’t melt inside the machine.

Preparing Visual Aids Here are some guidelines for planning and creating your visual aids.

Choose Visuals That Truly Support Your Speech Before using a visual, ask yourself this question: Will it help clarify or illustrate an important idea in my speech? If the honest answer is no, discard it. Your job is not to dazzle people with pretty colors on a screen or to impress them with your creative art- work. A beautiful drawing of an airplane in flight, for example, would not contribute much to a speech on touring the castles of Europe.

visual presenter a device capable of producing images of both two- and three- dimensional objects.

transparency clear sheets on which visuals are drawn or printed, and then viewed by light shin- ing from an overhead projector.

Giving listeners text- heavy handouts during a speech is a sure way to lose them.

© Loginova Elena/Shutterstock

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Prepare and Practice Far in Advance Practice using your visuals as you rehearse your speech. If you will be using unfamiliar equipment, rehearsals will help prevent fumbling or faltering during your speech.

Don’t create a visual—such as a diagram on a whiteboard—while you are actually giving your speech: few people can write or draw effectively while speaking to an audi- ence. Make them far in advance so that they are not sloppy and unpolished.

Choose the Appropriate Number of Visuals A common mistake is to display a large number of boring slides. For this reason, some speech coaches recommend that you use only three or four slides in a speech. Some supervisors forbid employees from using more than three. Although such rules might improve some speeches, they are too rigid to apply to all. The best rule is this: use a visual whenever it can make a key point more interesting, understandable, and memo- rable. Some speeches (such as a eulogy) may need no visuals at all. Some may need only one, while others may need more than a dozen.

Before speech day, practice in front of classmates or colleagues and ask their advice on which visuals, if any, should be eliminated.

While deciding how many visuals to use, here is an important consideration: When listeners complain about too many visuals, they are usually referring to slides or posters that are densely packed with text. They rarely complain about the number of visuals if all of them are exciting, easy-to-grasp photos and illustrations.

Make Visual Aids Simple and Clear Make each visual aid so simple that your listeners can quickly grasp its meaning— either at a glance or after minimal explanation by you. Avoid complexity. Too much information can confuse or overwhelm the listeners.

Sometimes you might see a wonderful graphic in a book. Will it translate into a wonderful graphic in a speech? Not necessarily. Some visual aids in books are jam- packed with fascinating details; they are suitable in a book because the reader has ample time to analyze them, but they’re too complex for a speech.

In visuals such as graphs, make all labels horizontal. (In a textbook, many labels are vertical because readers of a book can turn the visual sideways, but listeners should not be forced to twist their necks to read vertical lettering.) You do not need to label every part of your visual since you are there to explain the aid.

If you are displaying a multidimensional object, be sure to turn it during your talk so that everyone can see all sides of it.

Aim for Back-Row Comprehension A common mistake is to use graphics that are difficult or impossible for everyone in the audience to see. The solution is to design every visual aid for the back row. If all let- tering and details cannot be seen easily and comfortably by a person in the rear of the room, don’t use the visual. Here are some guidelines:

Make letters, numbers, and graphics much larger than you think necessary. Be on the safe side. I’ve never heard anyone complain about visuals being too large.

Make enlargements. You can magnify a too-small visual by using visual presenters, PowerPoint slides, or posters. Here are some of the easiest options:

∙ If an object is too small for an audience to see in person, take a close-up picture with your digital or smartphone camera and show the photograph on a large

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screen through PowerPoint, or have a print shop, like Staples or FedEx Office, turn it into a poster.

∙ To turn a printed photo or drawing into a PowerPoint slide, you can scan the item to your computer, converting it to a digital file. If you do not have a scan- ner, try visiting the media center on your campus or a print shop in your com- munity. You may also be able to take a picture of the photo or drawing with a digital camera or smartphone to digitize the image, but be sure the quality of the final image is high, with no shadows or glares.

∙ If your digital image is too small, try using an online image editor to enlarge it without losing the quality. (Enter "online image editor" into a search engine to find websites that allow you to change the sizes of images for free.)

Test the visibility of your visuals. Before the day of your speech, go to the room where you will be speaking, display your visual aid in the front of the room, and sit in the back row to determine whether you can see it clearly. (Even better, have a friend sit in the back row to offer feedback.) If your visual cannot be seen with crystal clearness from the back row, discard it and create another (or simply don’t use one).

Use Colors Carefully To enliven visual aids, use color—but use it carefully. Here are two important issues to consider.

The founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, who is red-green color-blind, chose blue and white for Facebook’s icon because he can see those colors clearly.

© rvlsoft/shutterstock

1. Color-blindness is an inherited condition that makes it impossible to see colors the way most people do. Few women are color-blind, but about 8 percent of men have some degree of color-blindness. While there are several varieties of the condition, the most common is red-green, which means a difficulty or inability to distinguish red and green when they are next to each other. If you put red letters on a green background (or green on top of red), a person with red-green color-blindness probably could not read the text. The best advice is to avoid placing red and green close together on a visual aid.8 See Figure 23 for an example of an image that does not show careful color usage.

2. For all people, whether or not they are color-blind, the color combination that is clearest and most readable is dark text on a light-colored background. One of the safest choices is black on light yellow, with red for emphasis. What

about using white text on top of black or dark-blue backgrounds? Although this color scheme is dramatic, it can cause eye fatigue, so it’s best to use it sparingly, perhaps only in headings.

Presenting Visual Aids Here are some tips for using visual aids effectively in your speeches.

Choose the Best Time to Show Visuals Many speakers undermine their speech’s effectiveness by showing visual aids at inap- propriate times. Here are several guidelines.

Don’t display a visual before your speech begins. If visual aids are in plain sight before you start, you deprive your speech of an element of drama and freshness. There are exceptions, of course, as when you must set up items for a demonstration on a table in front of the room.

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Display a visual whenever the audience needs help understanding a point. One speaker gave a talk on rock formations in caves but waited until the end to show photos illustrating his points. During the body of the speech, listeners were mystified and frus- trated: What do these rock formations look like? Though he ultimately showed pictures, his listeners would have experienced a much greater understanding of the subject matter if he had displayed the images as he went along.

If listener comprehension is unharmed, it is acceptable to delay visuals. In some cases, you may want to withhold a visual or a demonstration to build suspense. In a speech on how to use Taekwondo martial arts techniques to break objects, student speaker Lee Wentz stood in front of a cement block as he spoke, waiting until the end to demonstrate the actual breaking of the block with one hand. This built suspense as the audience wondered whether he would succeed, which made his accomplishment even more exciting to the audience.

Never Circulate Visual Aids among the Audience Some people try to solve the problem of a too-small visual aid (such as a piece of jewelry) by passing it around the room, but this is a mistake. People will look at the visual instead of listening to the speaker, and there’s likely to be distraction, perhaps even whispered com- ments, as it is being passed from one person to another. Some speakers walk from listener to listener to give each person a close-up view of the visual aid. This is also a poor technique because the listeners who are not seeing the visual may become bored or distracted, and they may start whispering comments to their friends. Moreover, the listeners who are looking at the aid may ask questions that mean nothing to the audience members who have not seen it yet. In a case like this, the speaker can easily lose the audience’s attention and interest.

One way to solve the problem of a too-small object is to leave it in the front of the room and invite the audience to see it after the speech or at the end of class. This strat- egy is acceptable unless listeners need to see the aid during your speech to understand what you are talking about. In this case, the best solution is to create an enlarged image of the object to display during the speech and then permit listeners to take a look at the real object after the speech.

When they need to show steps in a process, some speakers invite the audience to come to the front of the room and gather around a table. One speaker did this so that everyone could see him making garnishes out of vegetables (he transformed a tomato into a “rose”). If you are considering this approach, here are three guidelines: (1) Use the technique only with small audiences. (2) Make sure no disabled listeners are excluded from participating. (3) Get your instructor’s permission before trying this in a classroom speech.

Figure 23 An Image That Would Be Difficult for Some Color-Blind People to See People with full-color vision see the image in Box 1 as “Free Prize!” printed in red on a green background. But people who have a type of red-green color- blindness don’t see the words—they see a swath of olive color, as in Box 2. (A new special type of prescription glasses enables some color-blind people to see colors normally. If you are color- blind, consider asking your eye doctor for details.)

© Hamilton Gregory

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Remove Physical Barriers Right before a speech, move any objects or furniture that might block the view of some audience members. If you’re using equipment such as a projector, make sure it doesn’t obstruct anyone’s vision. If, despite your best efforts, some audience members will be blocked from seeing your visuals, ask them (before you start your introduction) to shift their chairs or move to a different part of the room.

Make Sure Listeners Get Maximum Benefit from Visuals Don’t rush through your visuals. A common mistake is for speakers to display a visual for a moment and then remove it from view. To these speakers, the visual is simple and obvious (they have seen it so many times, they are tired of it), but they should realize that it is brand-new to the listeners, who need time to study and absorb the contents.

Discuss each visual aid. But, you might say, can’t listeners see and figure it out for themselves? In some cases, that is true; but by discussing each visual as you display it, you guarantee that listeners stay in step with you.

For a complex visual, don’t wave your hand in the general direction of the aid and assume that the audience will know which feature you are referring to. Be precise. Point to the specific part that you are discussing with your finger, a pen, or an extendable pointer. To avoid twisting your body, use the hand nearer the aid.

For speeches that you give on the job or in the com- munity, you may want to ask a friend to assist you. Here are some of the ways in which an assistant can be useful:

1. An assistant can help you set up and operate audiovisual equipment, turn lights off and on, or search for a missing extension cord. Such assis- tance will free you to concentrate on getting your message across to the audience.

2. If you are speaking to strangers, the presence of your friend can give you a psychological boost— you have an “ally” in the room.

3. An assistant may be able to handle any distrac- tions or emergencies that arise. If, for example, a group of people start a loud conversation right outside the room in which you are speaking, the assistant can open the door and whisper a request for silence.

Tips for Your Career

Ask a Friend to Assist You



4. Your assistant can stand or sit in the back of the room while you are speaking and give you advice with hand signals on which the two of you have agreed in advance. For example, you can create unique signals for the following advice:

• “Slow down—you’re talking too fast.”

• “Speak louder—I can barely hear you.”

• “You’re looking at your notes too much.”

• “You’ve reached the time limit—wrap things up and sit down.”

5. An assistant can give you a critique of your speech afterward so that you can learn from any mistakes you have made. Sometimes the assistant can mingle with the audience in the hall after your speech and find out how listeners responded to the presenta- tion so that you can learn about your strengths and weaknesses.

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Chapter 9 Presentation Aids 173

Don’t Let Visuals Distract from Your Message Visuals should never distract your audience from what you are saying. Here are some tips.

Show one visual at a time. If you display five posters, neatly lined up on a chalk tray, your listeners will scrutinize the fourth poster while you are talking about the first. To keep the eyes and minds of your listeners focused on you and your remarks, show a visual, dis- cuss it fully, put it away, and then display your next visual. There is one exception to this rule: if you have a visual aid that can provide a simple, undistracting backdrop or evoke a mood, you may leave it on display during the entire speech. One speaker kept a bouquet of flowers on the front table throughout her speech on gardening; the flowers provided a pleasing complement to her remarks.

Blank the screen. If you have an interval between PowerPoint slides, blank the screen by pressing “B” on your keyboard or “A/V Mute” on the remote control for the projector.

Beware of using animals or children as visuals. Exotic pets and cute kids can easily draw the attention of your listeners away from your ideas, so use them carefully, if at all. One student speaker brought in a ferret to demonstrate what great pets they make. The only trouble was that the ferret acted up during the speech, causing the audience to laugh at its antics rather than listen to the speech. Some instructors disapprove of using animals in speeches, so be sure to get permission before bringing an animal into the classroom.

Don’t Talk to Your Visual Aid Many speakers are so intent on explaining a visual aid that they spend most of their time talking to it instead of to the audience. You should stand next to your aid and face the audience during most of your discussion. Look at the aid only in two situations: (1) When you introduce it, look at it for several seconds—this is long enough to draw the listeners’ attention toward it. (2) Whenever you want to direct the audience’s attention to a particular segment, look at the aid for one or two seconds as you point out the special feature.

Use Progressive Revelation Whenever possible, use progressive revelation—that is, reveal only one part or item at a time until all elements are visible. If, for example, you are discussing three sections of a sculpture, you can keep the entire piece covered at the beginning, and then unveil one section at a time when you are ready to discuss it. Progressive revelation creates sus- pense, making the listeners curious about what comes next, and it prevents them from reading or studying ahead of you. A variation of this technique, called the “build,” is used in PowerPoint to reveal parts of a slide—for example, a pie chart can be shown one piece at a time until all pieces make up the pie. Likewise, bullet points can be displayed one point at a time, only revealing the next one when you are ready to speak about it.

progressive revelation piece-by-piece unveil- ing of a visual.

Examining Your Ethics

In a speech on how violent criminals should be treated, a speaker used PowerPoint to show a grisly photo of a victim who had been hacked and dismembered by a vicious attacker. The speaker wanted to shock his listeners and make them pay attention to a serious problem, but some listeners were repulsed and nauseated. Which of these statements do you support?

A. The speaker should be commended for having the courage to force the audience to look squarely at a real social problem.

B. The speaker should have shown the photo but advised the audience beforehand, “If anyone is squeamish about seeing bloody body parts, close your eyes until I tell you to open them.”

C. The speaker should have made his points with words, omitting a grisly photo that was certain to offend and upset some audience members.

For the answer, see the last page of this chapter.

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Plan for Emergencies With visual aids, there is always a chance of a foul-up, so you should plan carefully how you will handle any problems that might arise. Before you use any electronic media, speak with your instructor or the program chairperson to make arrangements (for dark- ening the room, getting an extension cord, and so on). Always check out the location of your speech in advance. Is there an electrical outlet nearby? If not, can you get an exten- sion cord? Can the room be darkened for PowerPoint slides? Is there a place to put your posters? Is there a whiteboard or a chalkboard?

Be prepared for the unexpected, such as the sudden malfunctioning of a computer or a multimedia projector. Some disasters can be mitigated by planning ahead. For example, you can have paper copies of your PowerPoint slides for quick distribution. If equipment breaks down and cannot be fixed quickly, continue with your speech as best you can. Try to keep your poise and sense of humor.

Communicating in Other Channels While the visual channel of communication is powerful, don’t overlook other channels— hearing, taste, smell, touch, and physical activity—which can be effective avenues for reaching your audience.

Hearing In almost all presentations, the sense of hearing is paramount, since you use your voice to convey words and meaning. In addition, you can supply audio aids. For example, to accom- pany a visual presentation on dolphins, marine biologist Jennifer Novak played an audio clip of the clicks, whistles, and other sounds that dolphins use to communicate with one another.

The Internet has a rich variety of audio sources. For example, National Public Radio (npr.org) provides audio clips and podcasts that you can download to a computer or MP3 device and then play during a presentation. It’s also possible to insert audio clips into PowerPoint presentations. Here is a sampling of NPR downloads: ∙ Music and comments by the Latin jazz drummer Poncho Sanchez

∙ Interviews with ex-smokers who share their secrets for quitting the habit ∙ The lilting sounds of Irish accents in Dublin

Taste and Smell Known as the chemical senses, taste and smell are closely related channels. Floral designer Charlene Worley gave a speech on how flowers provide not only mes- sages of love and consolation but also medicine and food. At the end of her talk, she invited the audience to sniff a bouquet she had created. She also appealed to

the sense of taste by serving crackers on which she had spread jam made from violets.

In culinary demonstrations, smelling a savory dish as it is prepared can stimulate appetite and interest, and tasting it can help the audience decide

whether it is worthwhile. Many business and professional presentations are held in rooms with a side table

that provides beverages and snacks. This courtesy is more than simply satisfying peo- ple’s hunger and thirst. Experienced presenters have discovered that the aroma of fresh coffee and the savor of tasty food can put an audience in a receptive mood and make it easier to inform or persuade. For example, many real estate agents know that the smell of coffee evokes childhood memories of a pleasant home where breakfast is being

A culinary class taught by a Nepalese chef involves seeing, hear- ing, smelling, tasting, touching, and physical activity.

© sam100/Shutterstock

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Chapter 9 Presentation Aids 175

prepared, so they arrange to have a pot of coffee brewing as they enter a house with a client to help make the house seem like a home.

Touch and Physical Activity Wishing to disprove the notion that snakes have slimy skin, herpetologist Jeanne Gold- berg invited listeners to come forward and stroke the nonpoisonous king snake she was holding. Many listeners were surprised to find the skin dry and firm, with a texture like glass beads tightly strung together.

For learning new skills, the sense of touch is often coupled with physical activ- ity. You need touch and muscular movement to apply first aid, draw a map, or perform a card trick. To persuade people to buy a product, some presenters give an audience hands-on experience. For example, one laptop computer sold well because sales representatives put laptops in front of listeners and invited them to try out the keyboard’s pleasing responsiveness. In some situations, presenters provide physical activity by passing out pads and pens and inviting listeners to take notes during the presentation.

Using Multiple Channels How many channels should you use? Some speeches (such as inspirational talks) do not require a variety of channels, but in many situations (such as teaching new material), the more you can use, the greater the likelihood that your listeners will understand and remember the information.9

In some cases, you can appeal to all the major channels in a single presentation. For example, in a culinary class, students can see the process as it is demonstrated, hear the explanations, smell the aromas, taste the delicacies, and use touch and physical activity as they practice making a dish.

Summary Presentation aids—which can involve vision, hearing, smell, taste, touch, and physical activity—enrich and enliven a speech. The most popular type, visual aids, can make your ideas clear and understandable; make your speech more interesting and memorable; help an audience remember facts and details; make long, complicated explanations unnecessary; help prove a point; add to your credibility; and enhance communication with people who speak English as a second language.

The major types of visual aids include graphs, charts, drawings, photos, videos, animations, objects, models, your- self, and volunteers.

Presentation software comes in two varieties—linear (like PowerPoint and Keynote) and non-linear (like Prezi). The most

popular program, PowerPoint, can put listeners to sleep unless a speaker creates engaging slides that have attractive graphics and avoid excessive text and visual clutter.

Visual aids can be conveyed to the audience through vari- ous media: multimedia projectors, boards, posters, flip charts, handouts, visual presenters, and overhead transparencies.

There are six guidelines for preparing visual aids: (1) Choose visual aids that truly support your speech. (2) Pre- pare and practice far in advance. (3) Choose the appropriate number of visuals. (4) Make your aids as simple and clear as possible. (5) Aim for comprehension by everyone, including the people in the back row. (6) Use colors carefully, taking color-blindness into consideration.

Resources for Review and Skill Building

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Although visuals are the most popular form of presen- tation aids, the other channels of communication—hearing, taste, smell, touch, and physical activity—can be quite effec- tive. Whenever possible, use several channels to maximize listener understanding and retention.

There are eight tips for presenting visual aids: (1) Decide on the best time to show visuals. (2) Never circulate a visual aid among the audience. (3) Remove physical barriers so that everyone has an unimpeded view. (4) Make sure listeners get the maximum benefit from each visual. (5) Make sure the aids don’t distract from your message. (6) Don’t talk to your aids. (7) Use progressive revelation. (8) Plan how you would han- dle equipment failure.

Key Terms bar graph, 151

flip chart, 167

handout, 167

information chart, 152

line graph, 151

linear, 157

non-linear, 157

pictorial graph, 152

pie graph, 151

progressive revelation, 173

table, 153

transparency, 168

visual presenter, 168

1. List at least six types of visual aids.

2. Is it legal to use graphics from the Internet in a student speech in the classroom? Explain your answer.

3. What are the worst mistakes that plague PowerPoint slides?

4. List at least five media for presenting visual aids.

5. The text recommends that you “aim for back-row comprehension.” What does this mean, and why is the advice necessary?

6. How can speakers test the visibility of their visuals?

Review Questions 7. For the benefit of people with the most common form

of color-blindness, which colors should never be placed next to or overlaying each other in visual aids?

8. Is it always a mistake for a speaker to wait until the con- clusion of a presentation to show a visual or perform a demonstration? Explain your answer.

9. Why would it be a mistake to circulate a small photo- graph during your speech?

10. What is progressive revelation?

1. “Some pictures may be worth a thousand words, but a picture of a thousand words isn’t worth much,” said the late corporate executive Don Keough. Explain what this means in terms of oral presentations.

2. At one website devoted to communication, public speak- ers are advised to distribute thought-provoking handouts at the beginning of a speech so that “if members of the

Building Critical-Thinking Skills audience get bored during the speech, they will have something interesting to read.” Do you agree with this advice? Defend your position.

3. A traditional, printed photograph is too small for an audience to see clearly. How would you make a photo- graph large enough to display?

1. Working in a group, create a scenario in which a sales representative gives a presentation that involves at least four of the six channels of communication.

Building Teamwork Skills 2. In a group, create an outdoor sign that violates the

guidelines of this chapter. Then create a new sign that corrects all the mistakes.

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Chapter 9 Presentation Aids 177

Answer: C. Visual aids can be used to gain an emotional response from listeners, but it is unfair and insensitive to sub- ject listeners to a visual that is offensive or nauseating. This

Examining Your Ethics could also cause some audience members to stop listening to the message.

1. Jillian Jones, telephone interview, September 14, 2015; Constance Bourg, “Visual Storytelling: Seeing Is Believing,” Brand Stories, www.brandstories.net (accessed November 17, 2015).

2. Linda M. Tapp, “A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words,” American Society of Safety Engineers, onepetro.org (accessed November 17, 2015).

3. Hamilton Gregory, Experiment using two groups of 40 students each.

4. Rune Pettersson, Information Design: An Introduction (Amsterdam, The Netherlands: John Benjamins Publish- ing Company, 2002), pp. 103–104; Stephen Petrina, Advanced Teaching Methods for the Technology Class- room (Hershey, PA: Idea Group, Inc., 2006), pp. 12–13.

5. Lance Secretan, “Spirit at Work—Inspirational Teaching,” Industry Week, December 21, 2004. industryweek.com (accessed November 17, 2015).

End Notes 6. Jan Caldwell, public speaking instructor, Asheville-

Buncombe Technical Community College, e-mail inter- view, January 30, 2012.

7. Mark Maloney, “What Advice Do You Have for Creat- ing Slideshows?” Toastmaster, July 2014, p. 8.

8. Hannah Alvarez, “A Guide to Color, UX, and Con- version Rates,” User Testing, www.usertesting.com (accessed November 12, 2015); “Colour Blindness,” Biology Online, www.biology-online.org (accessed November 12, 2015).

9. E. Michael Smith, MD, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of Oklahoma Health Services Center, e-mail interview, June 3, 2008; Martin Lindstrom, Brand Sense: Sensory Secrets behind the Stuff We Buy (New York: Free Press, 2010), p. 8.

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The Importance of Organization

Creating the Body

Devising Main Points

Organizing Main Points

Selecting Support Materials

Supplying Transitions

Simplifying the Process

OBJECTIVES After studying this chapter, you should be able to

1. Explain the importance of skillfully organizing the body of the speech.

2. Create the body of a speech by using a central idea to develop main points.

3. Identify and use five patterns of organization: chronologi- cal, spatial, cause–effect, problem–solution, and topical.

4. Identify and use four types of transitional devices: bridges, internal summaries, signposts, and spotlights.

5. Simplify the process of organizing speech material.

W H E N I N V I T E D TO C O L L E G E CA M P U S E S ,   Mexican actor Gael Gar-

cía Bernal does not give speeches about his acting career. Instead, he talks about

something he feels passionate about—the plight of refugees from Syria. Bernal is

a Global Ambassador for Oxfam, an international confederation of 17 organizations

working in 94 countries worldwide to find solutions to poverty and injustice. He has

visited refugee camps in the Middle East and has raised funds for medicine, food,

and clothing for displaced Syrians.

In his speeches, he organizes his material in a problem–solution pattern, which

means that he devotes the first half of his talk to the explanation of a problem, and

the second half to outlining the solution to the problem.1

The Body of the Speech



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Using a pattern to organize a speech is a good way to make sure that

your material is clear, logical, and—most importantly—understandable to

the audience. In this chapter, we will discuss some of the most popular

and effective patterns of organization.

Before proceeding, let’s look at where we stand in the speech-preparation

process. In previous chapters, we discussed finding and developing

materials such as statistics, examples, and visual aids. Now our task is

to organize. We must take all our materials—our bricks and mortar—and

put them together to build a solid, coherent structure. This chapter will

focus on organizing the body of a speech, and future chapters will focus

on creating introductions and conclusions and on putting all the parts

together to outline the speech.

Gael García Bernal uses the problem–solution pattern to organize his speeches.

© Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP Images

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The Importance of Organization A well-organized speech has vast advantages over a poorly organized one:

1. A well-organized speech is easier to understand. Wesley J. Smith, a former judge at a small-claims court in Los Angeles, says, “The most effective cases I heard involved people who presented their side of the issue as if they were telling a story. Their cases were organized logically, with a beginning, a middle, and an end. That not only kept my interest but helped me quickly understand the issues.”2

2. A well-organized speech is easier for the audience to remember. In an experi- ment with a list of endangered species, one group of students memorized list A in Figure 1 and another group memorized list B. When tested two weeks later, the students who had learned list A recalled 56 percent of the terms, while the stu- dents who had learned list B recalled 81 percent.3

List A is difficult to remember because the animals are listed in random order. List B is easier to remember because items are grouped in meaningful clusters (mam- mals, birds, reptiles, and fish). In a good speech, you should apply the same prin- ciple: group your ideas in meaningful clusters that are easy to comprehend and recall.

3. A well-organized speech is more likely to be believed. Studies show that if you present a poorly organized speech, your listeners will find you less believ- able at the end than they did at the beginning of the speech.4 If your speech is well-organized, however, you will come across as someone who is in full com- mand of the facts, and therefore believable.

Creating the Body A speech works best if it is divided into three well-developed sections: introduction, body, and conclusion. Does this mean that you should begin by working on the intro- duction? Not necessarily. Many experienced speakers find it easier to prepare the body first and then prepare the introduction. If you stop to think about it, this makes sense: How can you introduce the body until you know its full nature?

Figure 1 A List of Endangered Species Shown in Two Formats Because it is organized in logical clusters, list B is easier to memorize and retain than list A.

List A List B

Indian python Cheetah Great white shark Gorilla Hawksbill turtle Hawaiian crow Gray wolf California condor Common sturgeon Polar bear Whooping crane Giant catfish Shore plover Painted terrapin Cutthroat trout American crocodile


Polar bear Cheetah

Gorilla Gray wolf


California condor Shore plover

Hawaiian crow Whooping crane


American crocodile Hawksbill turtle

Indian python Painted terrapin


Giant catfish Great white shark

Cutthroat trout Common sturgeon

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Chapter 10 The Body of the Speech 181

Let’s look at a good technique for creating the body. Start with your specific purpose, which is the goal of your speech, and your central

idea, which is the key concept that you want to get across to your audience. (If you are unsure about these terms, please review the chapter on selecting topic, purpose, and central idea before proceeding in this chapter.)

Suppose you hear a news report about a charity that has been ripping off donors, and you decide to devote your next speech to charity fraud. After reading articles and conducting interviews, you come up with the following purpose statement:

Specific Purpose: To persuade my audience to be cautious in donating to charity

Next, ask yourself, “What is my essential message? What big idea do I want to leave in the minds of my listeners?” The answer is your central idea. Here is one possibility:

Central Idea: Before donating to a charity, make sure it is legitimate.

This central idea is your speech boiled down to one sentence. It is what you want your listeners to remember if they forget everything else.

The next step is to ask yourself this question: “How can I get my audience to under- stand and accept my central idea?”

The best way to get the central idea across to your audience is to implant in their minds a few main points that are based on the central idea. In our charities example, here are three main points that could be made:

I. Some charities give only a tiny sum to the needy. II. These charities channel most of their money to salaries and gifts for staff members. III. Potential donors should look for warnings posted on the Internet by watchdog

groups that monitor charities.

The first and second main points focus on the problem (charity rip-offs), and the third main point provides a solution (investigation on the Internet).

By themselves the main points are not sufficient. Listeners would want more infor- mation, so you need to develop each main point with support materials such as narra- tives, examples, and statistics. For instance, if your listeners heard the first main point, they would say, “Well, okay, can you give some examples?” Here are a couple of exam- ples you could use:

∙ The New York Times reported that one man set up a charity to help wounded veterans, raising more than $168 million in two years. But he gave only 25 per- cent to help vets.5

∙ The Washington Post reported that four cancer charities were accused by the Federal Trade Commission of bilking donors out of $187 million.6

For the second main point, you could describe the lavish lifestyles of the owners of rip-off charities. For the third main point, you could discuss websites that post lists of fraudulent charities. At the end of your speech, you could give all listeners a handout containing the Web addresses so that they could pursue their own investigations later.

To see an overview of the process we have just discussed, take a look at Figure 2, which shows the key elements of a speech aimed at persuading listeners to eat fish fre- quently. The specific purpose leads to the central idea, which is sustained by two main points. The main points are not likely to be believed by the audience unless they are supported by solid information such as statistics and testimony from experts. For exam- ple, the speaker could cite clinical tests by reliable medical researchers that demonstrate the value of omega-3 acids (found in fish) for the brain and the heart.

main points key assertions made by a speaker to develop his or her central idea.

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Figure 2 Speech preparation should start with a specific purpose and a central idea. Then the central idea is developed by two or three (or occasionally four) main points, which in turn are strengthened by a variety of support materials, such as examples and statistics.

Main Point

Eating fish improves the brain’s ability to concentrate

and remember

Main Point

Eating fish reduces the risk of developing heart disease






Vivid Images




Central Idea

Eating fish at least three times a week is beneficial to both

brain and heart

Specific Purpose

To persuade my audience to eat fish frequently

Devising Main Points “Do I need more than one main point?” some students ask. Yes. If you have only one main point to develop your central idea, you have a weak structure, like a bridge that has only one pillar to hold it up. If you provide only one main point, your listeners have only one reason to believe your central idea. If you give them two or three main points, you multiply your chances of convincing them.

“How many main points should I have?” you may be asking. To answer this and other questions, let’s examine some guidelines for refining main points.

Limit the Number of Main Points A common mistake of public speakers is to cram too many points into a speech. They do this because they are approaching the speech from their own viewpoint and not from the viewpoint of the listeners. If you ask yourself, “How much information can I squeeze into the five minutes allotted?” you are approaching the speech from your own viewpoint. To approach from the audience’s viewpoint, you should ask, “How much information can the audience comfortably pay attention to, understand, and

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Chapter 10 The Body of the Speech 183

remember?” Audiences simply cannot absorb too much new information. You should know this from your own experience; you can probably recall many speakers (including some teachers) who overwhelmed you with a barrage of ideas, facts, and figures. Don’t be reluctant to cut and trim your material.

Exactly how many main points should you have? In a short speech (5 to 10 minutes), you should limit yourself to two or three (or occasionally four) main points. That is as much as an audience can absorb. In a longer speech, you could have as many as five main points, but most experienced speakers cover only two or three, regardless of the length of their speech. 

Restrict Each Main Point to a Single Idea Each main point should focus on just one idea. Consider the following: Poor: I. Some driverless cars can be used to deliver food to disabled

people, and they can talk to pedestrians. Better: I. Some driverless cars can be used to deliver food to disabled

people. II. Some driverless cars can talk to pedestrians.

The first set makes the mistake of covering two issues; the second set splits the material into two distinct points.

Avoid Announcements Rather than simply announcing a topic, each main point should make an assertion, a forthright declaration of the idea that you want to convey. Imagine that you create the following: Poor: I’ll talk about hot-dog headaches.

What about it? What’s your point? You have done nothing but announce your topic.

Better: Sodium nitrites contained in hot dogs cause many people to suffer headaches.

Now you have made a point—a clear assertion of what you are driving at.

Customize Points for Each Audience As you play with ideas in your search for main points, ask yourself, “What main points would work best with this particular audience?” If you tailor your speech to each audience’s needs and desires, you may end up using different main points with different audiences.

Let’s say you plan to give speeches in your community aimed at persuading people to take up nature photography as a hobby. If you talk to a group of college students, you can anticipate that they will raise the objection that photography is too expensive. So you create a main point—“Photography is not out of reach for people with modest incomes”—and devote a good portion of your speech to giving specific examples and prices. If, however, you speak to an audience of wealthy individuals who could easily afford any kind of camera, this point may be unnecessary.

Another potential main point is that nature photography teaches a person to see the world with fresh eyes—to find “splendor in the grass,” the visual glories that abound in nature for those who develop keen perception. This would be a good point to make with an audience of urban dwellers who rarely explore the outdoors. But if your audience is a birdwatchers’ society, this point is probably unnecessary; these people have already trained their eyes to detect nature’s nuances.

Having 3 main points is better than having 10.

© iCreative3D/Shutterstock

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Use Parallel Language Whenever Possible Parallel language means that you use the same grammatical forms throughout a sentence or a paragraph. Read the following sentence aloud: “Joe enjoys hunting, fishing, and to camp.” There is nothing wrong with the sentence grammatically, but it doesn’t sound as pleasant to the ear as this version: “Joe enjoys hunting, fishing, and camping.” Rather than the discord of -ing, -ing, plus to, our ears prefer the rhythm of -ing, -ing, -ing, as in the second sentence.

Suppose that you started with the following:

Specific Purpose: To persuade my audience to swim for exercise Central Idea: Swimming is an ideal exercise because it reduces nervous

tension, is not known to cause injuries, and builds endurance.

Now decide which of the following sets of main points would be more effective: First Set: I. You can work off a lot of nervous tension while swimming.

parallel language equivalent grammati- cal forms to express equivalent ideas.

A software “techie” was assigned by his company to give a sales presentation to an audience of potential clients. He was told to “show the audience how our software can help people in their industry.”

He spoke for 30 minutes, and at the end, he was blistered by scornful comments from his listeners. “You have given us examples of how your software can help people at banks,” one listener said. “Don’t you know that we are healthcare professionals and everything you have told us is worthless to us?”

To avoid mistakes like this, it’s a good idea to test the relevance, strength, and accuracy of your speech in advance. Here are four techniques:

• Before a presentation, go over the highlights with some of your future listeners to determine if your content is helpful for this particular audience. If the “techie” had done so, he would have avoided a big blunder.

• Do an “expert check.” Discuss your material with someone who is knowledgeable about your subject, so that he or she can point out any errors or omissions.

• Try out your material on friends or relatives. Victo- ria Vance, a hospital nutritionist who gives talks in her community on diet and nutrition, tests her ideas with her husband and teenage children at the din- ner table. “I tell them, ‘I’m going to give a speech at a high school next week. Here’s what I plan to say.’ Then I casually tell them the main points of my speech. Occasionally one of the kids will break in with something like, ‘But, Mom, are you saying that

Tips for Your Career

Test and Verify Your Material



all fast food is bad for you?’ That tells me the places in the speech where I need to add some more explana- tions or examples.”

• In regard to each main point, think of the typical people who will be in your audience and ask yourself, “How will they react to this?” Then shape your material accordingly. If your imaginary listeners say, “How do you know this is true?” give the name and credentials of the expert from whom you derived your material. If they ask, “What do you mean by that?” give them an explanation. If they say, “Who cares?” show them the importance of your subject.

Do an “expert check” by asking a knowledgeable person if what you are planning to say in your presentation is accurate.

© Pressmaster/Shutterstock

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Chapter 10 The Body of the Speech 185

II. Muscle and bone injuries, common with other sports, are not a problem with swimming.

III. Swimming builds endurance. Second Set: I. Swimming reduces nervous tension. II. Swimming does not typically cause muscle and

bone injuries. III. Swimming builds endurance.

The second set is preferable because it follows a parallel grammatical form throughout (the noun swimming followed by a verb). This consistent arrange- ment may not be practical in every speech, but you should strive for parallelism whenever possible.

Organizing Main Points Main points should be organized in a logical, easy-to-follow pattern. Five of the most popular patterns used by speakers are chronological, spatial, cause– effect, problem–solution, and topical.

Chronological Pattern In the chronological pattern, you arrange your main points in a time sequence—what occurs first, what occurs second, and so on. If, for example, you are describing a pro- cess, you can use the chronological pattern to show the step-by-step progression. For an illustration, see Figure 3.

The chronological pattern is a logical choice for a speech dealing with periods of time in history. If, for example, you were speaking on the history of immigration in the United States, you could divide your subject into centuries, from the seventeenth to the twenty-first.

If you were speaking on the life of a person, you might divide your speech accord- ing to the stages of life, as in the following example:

Specific Purpose: To inform my listeners of the heroism of Harriet Tubman, a leading nineteenth-century abolitionist

Central Idea: Harriet Tubman was a courageous woman who escaped from slavery and then returned to the South to rescue others.

Main Points:

(Childhood) I. Born a slave on a plantation in Maryland, Tubman suffered many whippings while growing up.

(Youth) II. She escaped to freedom by using the Underground Railroad. (Adulthood) III. Wearing various disguises, Tubman smuggled over 300

slaves to safe havens from 1850 to 1860.

chronological pattern an arrangement of information in a time sequence.

Figure 3 Chronological Pattern The process of treating a bee sting is a chrono- logical pattern (or time sequence)—what to do first, second, and third.

How to Treat a Bee Sting

Step 1

Step 2

Step 3

Get the stinger out quickly.

Wash sting area with soap and water.

Apply ice pack for 15 minutes.

Just as parallel lines are pleasing to the eye, par- allel language is pleas- ing to the ear.

© Hamilton Gregory

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Spatial Pattern In the spatial pattern, you organize items according to the way in which they relate to each other in physical space—top to bottom, left to right, north to south, inside to outside, and so on. If you were speaking on the solar system, for example, you could discuss the sun first, then move outward in space to Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, and so on. Here is an example in which the speaker divides a car into space-related sections:

Specific Purpose: To tell my audience how to inspect a used car before deciding whether to buy it

Central Idea: If you examine a used car carefully and critically, you can avoid buying a “lemon.”

Main Points: I. Inspect the condition of the body of the car. II. Inspect the condition of the motor. III. Inspect the condition of the interior.

For an example of the spatial pattern as used from top to bottom, see Figure 4.

Cause–Effect Pattern In some speeches, you are concerned with why something happens or happened—a cause-and-effect relationship. For example, some people refuse to ride in elevators because they have an inordinate fear of closed spaces. Their claustrophobia is the cause and their refusal to ride in elevators is the effect. For an illustration of a cause–effect pattern in a speech, see Figure 5.

Sometimes it is more effective to start with the effects and then analyze the causes, as in this case: Specific Purpose: To explain to my listeners why many people are unable to get

bank loans for a new car or house

spatial pattern an arrangement of information in terms of physical space, such as top to bottom.

cause–effect pattern a scheme that links outcomes (effects) and the reasons for them (causes).

Figure 4 Spatial Pattern For a discussion of the architectural features of the Eiffel Tower, a speaker could use the spatial (physical space) pattern, progressing from top to bottom or from bottom to top.

© WDG Photo/Shutterstock




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Chapter 10 The Body of the Speech 187

Central Idea: If you are denied a loan for a new car or house, it could be because you have been incorrectly branded as a poor credit risk by credit-rating companies.

Main Points:

(Effect) I. Many people are barred from getting loans for a new car or house without ever knowing the reason.

(Cause) II. The credit-rating companies that keep computerized files on 90 percent of Americans frequently make mistakes without the consumer ever knowing.

In this case, putting the effect first is a good strategy because it makes the listeners receptive to the rest of the speech—they are curious to know what caused the situation.

Problem–Solution Pattern A much-used device for persuasive speeches is the problem–solution pattern, which divides a speech into two main sections: a problem and its solution. Here is an example: Specific Purpose: To persuade my audience to support “pet therapy” for lonely

elderly people in nursing homes Central Idea: Contact with a pet can decrease the loneliness and improve the

physical and emotional health of elderly people in nursing homes. Main Points:

(Problem) I. Many elderly people in nursing homes are lonely and depressed—emotional states that harm their physical health.

(Solution) II. Researchers have discovered that contact with a pet improves the elderly person’s physical and emotional health.

This pattern has the advantage of simplicity. You convince the listeners that a particular problem exists, and then you tell them how it can be solved. See Figure 6 for another example.

Topical Pattern In the topical pattern, you divide your central idea into components or categories, using logic and common sense as your guides.

problem–solution pattern an arrangement of material that explores a problem and then offers a solution.

topical pattern a division of a topic into components, types, or reasons.

Figure 5 Cause–Effect Pattern For a speech about insuf- ficient sleep, a speaker could show a cause-and- effect relationship where the cause is not getting enough sleep, and the effects are increased mistakes, irritability, and illness.

Increased mistakes IllnessesIrritability



Not getting enough sleep

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Thus, a speech on the symphonic orchestra could be divided into three sections: string instruments, wind instruments, and percussion instruments. A speech on job interviews could be divided into three types of interviews: personal, video, and com- puter. See Figure 7 for another example.

Here is a portion of an outline that illustrates the topical pattern: Specific Purpose: To inform my audience of the two kinds of sleep that all people

experience Central Idea: The two kinds of sleep that all people experience at alternating

times during the night are NREM (non-rapid-eye-movement) sleep and REM (rapid-eye-movement) sleep.

Main Points: I. NREM (non-rapid-eye-movement) sleep is the period in which a person does very little dreaming.

II. REM (rapid-eye-movement) sleep is the period in which a person usually dreams.

Figure 6 Problem–Solution Pattern A speech on how to feel good mentally and physically could discuss a problem (depression and stress) and offer a solu- tion (exercise).

© Ingram Publishing/Getty Images

Problem Solution

Figure 7 Topical Pattern A speech on typefaces could be divided into three major styles. Serif letters have small embel- lishments, such as lines projecting from the main stroke of a letter, while sans-serif letters have no embellishments. Script letters simulate fancy handwriting.

Serif Sans-Serif Script

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Chapter 10 The Body of the Speech 189

A variation of the topical pattern is some- times called the statement-of-reasons pattern. The speaker subdivides an idea by showing reasons for it, as in the following example: Specific Purpose: To persuade

my listeners that telephone companies should use alternatives to cellular phone towers

Central Idea: Telephone companies should be required to place their cellular antennas on buildings and trees rather than on freestanding towers.

Main Points:

(First reason) I. Cellular phone towers are huge and ugly. (Second reason) II. Cellular telephone antennas work as effectively on church

steeples, tall trees, and high buildings as they do on freestanding towers.

(Third reason) III. Steeples, trees, and buildings are easily available because many churches, landowners, and businesses desire the fees that telephone companies pay for antenna placement.

Note of caution: Some students make the mistake of thinking that the topical pattern is a formless bag into which anything can be dumped. Though you have a great deal of liberty to organize your points in whatever order you choose, you still must apply logic—for example, by arranging your points from least important to most impor- tant, or separating your material into three major subdivisions.

Selecting Support Materials In the preceding sections, we concentrated on main points, but main points by themselves are not enough for the body of a speech. You also need support materials—such as examples, narratives, testimony, and statistics—to develop and amplify your main points. As discussed in the chapter on supporting your ideas, support materials help your audience to understand and remember main points.

To see how support materials can be developed for main points, let’s take a look at an outline of the body of a speech by student speaker Wendy Tru- jillo, who uses the statement-of-reasons pattern to give two reasons why cotton swabs should never be used for cleaning ears.7 The introduction and the conclu- sion for this speech are printed in the chapter on introductions and conclusions.

General Purpose: To persuade Specific Purpose: To persuade my audience to avoid using cotton swabs in

their ears Central Idea: For cleaning ears, cotton swabs are dangerous and


statement-of-reasons pattern a variation of the topi- cal pattern in which a speaker gives reasons for an idea.

Examining Your Ethics

A student speaker wanted to give a chronological speech on the history of homelessness in the United States. However, in her research she found an article that outlined the problem of homelessness followed by proposed solutions. She copied the most important passages of the article verbatim, and she used them as the main points and the supporting material of her speech. All of the below are mistakes that she made, except which one?

A. Changing the pattern of organization early in the process B. Failing to report her findings in her own language C. Failing to look for more than one source

For the answer, see the last page of this chapter.

Are cotton swabs dangerous?

© PeJo/Shutterstock

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I. Cotton swabs can cause injury. A. Cotton swabs send more people to the hospital than razor

blades or shavers. 1. Over 400,000 Americans visit hospital emergency

departments for ear injuries each year. (Centers for Dis- ease Control and Prevention)

2. Most of the injuries are caused by cotton swabs. 3. These injuries can impair hearing.

B. Some ear injuries are severe. 1. New York Giants football player Chase Blackburn nearly

ruptured his eardrum in the locker room while cleaning his ear with a cotton swab.

2. He fell to the floor, bleeding, and lost his hearing for a few weeks.

C. In a few cases, using cotton swabs leads to death. 1. Daniel St. Pierre of Montreal, Canada, died in March, 2007. 2. He suffered complications caused by the accidental pierc-

ing of his eardrum while he was using a cotton swab.

(Transition: Now let’s turn to the second reason for not using swabs on your ears.)

II. Cotton swabs are ineffective. A. Experts say that cleaning your ears with a cotton swab is

like using a broom on a dirt floor. 1. It just moves things around. 2. It doesn’t really get rid of most of the gunk. 3. It pushes the gunk further down the ear canal, where it

can create a problem. B. If you have a lot of earwax or some object lodged in your

ear, a physician is far more effective than a swab. (Ear spe- cialist Dr. Cynthia Steele) 1. A physician has safe techniques, equipment, and liquids. 2. Dr. Steele shows patients the warning label on every box

of cotton swabs: “Do not insert into the ear canal.”

A narrative (or story) helps the audience to visualize the risks involved.

The body has two main points, each giv- ing a reason to avoid swabs.

Trujillo cites statistics from a trustworthy source.


The speaker gives an example to sup- port her point.

An analogy between a swab and a broom helps to show the futility of using swabs to clean ears.

An expert’s testimony bolsters the speaker’s argument.

If possible, distribute your supporting materials evenly. In other words, don’t put all your support under point I and leave nothing to bolster point II. This does not mean, however, that you should mechanically place the same number of supporting points under every main point. You have to consider quality as well as quantity. A single powerful anecdote may be all that is required to illustrate one point, whereas five minor supports may be needed for another point.

When you are trying to decide how many supporting points to place underneath a main point, use this rule of thumb: have enough supporting points to adequately explain or bolster the main point, but not so many that you become tedious and repetitious.

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Chapter 10 The Body of the Speech 191

Supplying Transitions Words, phrases, or sentences that show logical connections between ideas or thoughts are called transitions. They help the listeners stay with you as you move from one part of your speech to the next. To get an idea of how transitions work, take a look at two paragraphs, the first of which has no transitions:

Poor: Olive oil is used extensively in Mediterranean cooking. It never became popular in Latin America. Olive trees can grow in Mexico and coastal regions of South America. The colonial rulers in Spain did not want anyone competing against Spain’s farmers. They banned the production of olive oil in Latin America. The oil had to be imported. It was very expensive.

Now let’s add transitions (shown in bold print):

Better: Olive oil is used extensively in Mediterranean cooking. However, it never became popular in Latin America. Olive trees can grow in Mexico and coastal regions of South America, but the colonial rulers in Spain did not want anyone competing against Spain’s farmers, so they banned the production of olive oil in Latin America. The oil had to be imported and therefore was very expensive.

The transitions make the second paragraph superior because they illustrate the con- nection from one point to the next.

In a speech, transitions clarify the relationship between your ideas, thereby making them easy to comprehend. They serve as signals to help the listeners follow your train of thought. Here is a sampling of the many transitional words or phrases in the English language:

∙ To signal addition: and, also, furthermore, moreover, in addition ∙ To signal time: soon, then, later, afterward, meanwhile ∙ To signal contrast: however, but, yet, nevertheless, instead, meanwhile, although ∙ To signal examples: for example, to illustrate, for instance ∙ To signal conclusions: in summary, therefore, consequently, as a result ∙ To signal concession: although it is true that, of course, granted

In public speaking, special types of transitions can be employed to help your lis- tener follow your remarks. Let us look at four of them: bridges, internal summaries, signposts, and spotlights.

Bridges In crossing a bridge, a person goes from one piece of land to another. In giving a speech, the speaker can build bridges to tell the listeners of the terrain they are leaving behind and the terrain they are about to enter.

Imagine that you had the following as your first main point in a speech on work- place violence: I. Violence in the workplace has increased in recent years.

You give examples and statistics to back up this point, and now you are ready for your second main point:

II. Workplace violence can be reduced if managers and employees are trained in con- flict resolution.

transition an expression that links ideas and shows the relationship between them.

bridge a transitional device that links what went before with the next part of a speech.

In a speech, a bridge takes listeners smoothly from one idea to another.

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How can you go from point I to point II? You could simply finish with point I and begin point II, but that would be too abrupt. It would fail to give the listeners time to change mental gears. A smoother way is to refer back to the first main point at the same time you are pointing forward to the second:

Although workplace violence has increased dramatically, the situation is not hopeless. There is a way to reduce the number of incidents—a way that has proven successful in many companies throughout the world.

This is a successful bridge because it smoothly and gracefully takes your listeners from point I to point II. It also has the virtue of stimulating their curiosity about the next part of the speech.

Internal Summaries At the end of a baseball game, announcers always give a summary of the game. But dur- ing the game itself, they occasionally give a summary of what has taken place up to the present moment (“We’re in the middle of the fifth inning; Detroit is leading Milwaukee 4 to 3 on a grand-slam homer by . . .”). Though this summary is designed primarily for the viewers who have tuned in late, it is also appreciated by the fans who have been watching the entire game because it gives them a feeling of security and confidence—a sense of knowing the “main facts.” You can achieve the same effect in a speech. During the body of a speech, when you finish an important section, you may want to spend a few moments summarizing your ideas so that they are clear and understandable. This device, called an internal summary, is especially helpful if you have been discussing ideas that are complicated or abstract. An internal summary can be combined with a bridge to make an excellent transition, as follows:

[Internal summary] By now I hope I’ve convinced you that all animal bites should be reported to a doctor or health official immediately because of the possibility of rabies. [bridge] While you’re waiting for an ambulance or for an examination by a doctor, there is one other important thing you should do.

Signposts Just as signposts on a road tell motorists their location, signposts in a speech tell listeners where they are or where they are headed. If you give a speech on how to treat a cold, you could say, “Here are three things you should do the next time you catch a cold.” Then the audience would find it easy to follow your points if you said, “First, you should . . . Sec- ond, you should . . . Third, you should . . .” Using these signposts is much more effective than linking your points by saying, “Also . . .” or “Another point is . . .”

Spotlights Spotlights are transitional devices that alert the listeners that something important will soon appear. Here are some examples:

∙ Now we come to the most important thing I have to tell you. ∙ What I’m going to explain now will help you understand the rest of the speech. ∙ If you take with you only one idea from this speech . . .

Spotlights can build anticipation: “And now I come to an idea that can mean extra money in your pocket . . .”; “If you want to feel healthier and happier, listen to the advice of Dr. Julia Brunswick . . .”

internal summary a concise review of material covered during the body of a speech.

signpost an explicit statement of the place that a speaker has reached.

spotlight a device that alerts listeners to important points.

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Chapter 10 The Body of the Speech 193

When you choose transitional devices, remember that your listeners are totally unfamiliar with your speech, so try to put yourself in their shoes at each juncture. Ask yourself, “How can I lead the listener from one point to another in a way that is logical and smooth?”

Simplifying the Process Organizing bits and pieces of material into a coherent, logical speech can be a difficult task, but it can be simplified if you use the following method:

1. Survey all your material. Bring together and examine your personal observa- tions, interview notes, research notes, and visual aids.

2. Choose an organizational method. Three options are recommended: ∙ Computers. Most word processing programs permit split screens, so that you

can have notes in one window and an outline in another, making it easy to look over your notes and transform them into items for your outline.

∙ Sticky notes. This method uses file folders of different colors, with a different-colored folder for each major part of the speech. Sticky notes are placed inside the folders so they can be seen in order at a glance when the folder is opened.

∙ Cards. This method is similar to the sticky notes, except that index cards are used. The cards can be kept together by a rubber band or stored in a file folder.

All three options give you flexibility. You can easily move items around, add extra material, and delete unimportant points. Items can be spread out in full view—sticky notes in file folders, computer entries on a screen, and cards on a tabletop. This pro- cedure lets you see the “big picture”—the overall architecture of your speech.

3. Limit each note to just one idea. To make the method work effectively, you must use a separate sticky note, index card, or computer entry for each point. This will make it easy to move items around.

4. Experiment with different sequences. Try several ways of arranging your material until you find a good sequence, a smooth flow that will be easy for the audience to follow. Business trainers Laurie Schloff and Marcia Yudkin use the card system, but their advice can be applied to sticky notes and com- puter screens as well:

Sit in a comfortable chair and shuffle those ideas, asking yourself ques- tions like, “What if I start with this, and move on to this, then this . . . ?” You’re looking for a smooth, natural flow from each point to the next. Some sort of sequence will eventually emerge from this exercise. Don’t get perturbed if you end up with extra cards that refuse to fit in; any leftover material might be perfect for the question-and-answer period after your speech, or for another presentation.8

5. Transfer your material to a formal outline. Once you have your information arranged, it’s a good idea to transfer it to a formal outline as a way to gain control over it and to test its strength and continuity. Your instructor may have a required format for the outline. If not, I suggest you use the format shown in the chapter on outlining the speech.

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Resources for Review and Skill Building

Summary A well-organized speech is more understandable, credible, and memorable than a poorly organized one.

The body of the speech should be organized with two or three (occasionally four) main points that develop the cen- tral idea of the speech. There are four guidelines for main points: (1) Restrict each main point to a single idea. (2) Avoid announcements. (3) Customize points for each audience. (4) Use parallel language whenever possible.

Arrange the main points in a logical pattern, such as chronological, in which main points are placed in a time sequence; spatial, in which items are arranged in terms of physical space; cause–effect, in which causes and effects

are juxtaposed; problem–solution, in which a problem is explained and a solution is offered; or topical, in which a cen- tral idea is divided into components.

Next, select support materials to back up the main points, and then supply transitions to help the listeners stay with you as you move from one part of your speech to the next. Com- mon types of transitions are bridges, internal summaries, signposts, and spotlights.

To simplify the task of organizing material, use one of these three options: sticky notes, computers, or index cards. Put one item on each slip, computer entry, or card so that you can easily add, delete, and rearrange your material.

Key Terms bridge, 191

cause–effect pattern, 186

chronological pattern, 185

internal summary, 192

main points, 181

parallel language, 184

problem–solution pattern, 187

signpost, 192

spatial pattern, 186

spotlight, 192

statement-of-reasons pattern, 189

topical pattern, 187

transition, 191

1. How many main points should you have in a speech?

2. How many ideas should be represented in each main point?

3. What is meant by the advice to “customize points for each audience”?

4. Which pattern of organization would be best suited for a speech on the solar system?

5. Which pattern of organization would be ideal for a speech on food contamination and how the problem can be corrected?

Review Questions 6. Which pattern of organization would be best suited for

a speech on the three major reasons why businesses declare bankruptcy?

7. Why are transitions important in a speech?

8. In terms of speech organization, what is an internal summary?

9. Describe the transitional device called bridge.

10. Describe the transitional device called spotlight.

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Chapter 10 The Body of the Speech 195

1. Working in a group, examine the following scrambled statements and decide which is the central idea and which are the main points. (One item below is a central idea and the other two are main points to develop the central idea.) Discuss what kinds of support materials would be needed under each main point.

a. Many U.S. companies that have instituted the 30-hour workweek report higher job satisfaction and performance with no loss of profits.

b. A 6-hour day/30-hour workweek should be the standard for full-time employees in the United States.

c. All Western European countries have fewer work- ing hours than the United States.

Building Teamwork Skills 2. In a group, discuss which organizational pattern would

be most effective for each of the following speech topics.

a. Why most fatal car accidents occur b. Three types of working dogs c. How to gift wrap a present d. Stalking—and what can be done to stop it e. A giant redwood tree

1. Which organizational pattern is used in the following outline?

Specific Purpose: To inform my listeners how to soundproof a room

Central Idea: A room can be insulated so that sounds do not penetrate.

Main Points:

(Top) I. The ceiling can be covered by acoustic tile and a tapestry to block sounds from above.

(Middle) II. The walls can be covered with ceiling-to-floor tapestries (and heavy, lined drapes for windows) to block noise from outside.

(Bottom) III. The floor can be covered with acoustic padding and wall-to- wall carpet to block sounds from below.

2. Which organizational pattern is used in the following outline?

Specific Purpose: To tell my listeners how to revive a person who is in danger of drowning

Building Critical-Thinking Skills Central Idea: To revive a person who is in danger

of drowning, you should follow three simple procedures.

Main Points:

(First) I. Lay the victim on his or her back and tilt the head back so that the chin juts upward.

(Second) II. Give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation until the victim breathes regularly again.

(Third) III. Place the victim on his or her stomach with the head facing sideways.

3. Most public speaking experts recommend that you use complete sentences to create your central idea and main points. Why do you think this advice is given?

4. Which pattern would a speaker probably choose for a speech on how society’s obsession with thinness has led to unhealthy weight-loss methods and eating disorders?

5. In a speech, transitions must be more prominent than they are in a book. Why?

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Answer: A. It is okay to change the pattern of organiza- tion while you are still creating your speech. B is unethical because failing to report findings in your own words is a form of plagiarism; and C is a bad strategy.

Examining Your Ethics

1. Gael García Bernal, telephone interview, January 9, 2015.

2. Wesley J. Smith, attorney, Los Angeles, e-mail inter- view, September 10, 2007.

3. Hamilton Gregory, Experiment that replicates numerous psychologists’ studies that reach the same conclusion.

4. Miriam J. Metzger, Andrew J. Flanagin, Keren Eyal, Daisy R. Lemus, and Robert M. McCann (all of Univer- sity of California, Santa Barbara), “Credibility for the 21st Century: Integrating Perspectives on Source, Mes- sage, and Media Credibility in the Contemporary Media Environment,” Communication Yearbook 27 (Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc., 2003), p. 302.

5. “An Intolerable Fraud” [Editorial], New York Times, www.nytimes.com (accessed November 25, 2015).

6. Ariana Eunjung Cha, “Cancer Charities Scam,” The Washington Post, www.washingtonpost.com (accessed January 7, 2016).

End Notes 7. Sources: Jane E. Brody, “Health ‘Facts’ You Only

Thought You Knew,” New York Times, www.nytimes. com (accessed November 25, 2015); John Wendle, “The Things We Put in Our Ears May or May Not Hurt Us,” Columbia News Service, jscms.jrn.columbia.edu (accessed November 25, 2015); Laura Lee, 100 Most Dangerous Things in Everyday Life and What You Can Do about Them (Sydney: Murdoch Books, 2004), p. 50; “Giants Linebacker Injures His Ear,” New York Times, www.nytimes.com (accessed November 25, 2015); “February Farewells,” “The Lugubrious Log,” http:// deathtodeath.blogspot.com (accessed November 25, 2015).

8. Laurie Schloff and Marcia Yudkin, Smart Speaking (Boston: Podium Publishing, 2011), p. 111.

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Sample Introduction and Conclusion

OBJECTIVES After studying this chapter, you should be able to

1. Formulate effective attention material for the introduc- tions of your speeches.

2. Formulate effective orienting material for the introduc- tions of your speeches.

3. Create effective conclusions for your speeches.

COURTROOM BATTLES ARE L IKE DRAMAS,  with three distinct parts:

• Beginning (opening statement) • Middle (examination of evidence) • End (closing argument)

While all three parts are important, most attorneys say that their opening and closing

statements to the jury usually determine whether they win or lose a case.1 “When you

first talk to the jury, you’ve got to make a favorable impression and win their empathy

immediately,” says Michelle Roberts, a defense attorney in Washington, DC. Later,

near the end of the trial, “your closing argument must be powerful and persuasive.”2

In speeches outside the courtroom, the stakes are rarely so high: no one will be

forced to go to prison or pay a million dollars in damages if the introduction and

the conclusion are weak. Nevertheless, these two parts have great importance.

Introductions and Conclusions



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Attorney Erlinda Ocampo Johnson argues a case in a courtroom in Santa Fe, New Mexico. For most attorneys, their opening and closing remarks to a jury often determine whether they win or lose a case.

© Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal/AP Images

If you don’t have a lively introduction, you can lose your audience. “Peo-

ple have remote controls in their heads today,” says business executive

Myrna Marofsky. “If you don’t catch their interest, they just click you off.”3

And a conclusion that is weak or clumsy can mar the effectiveness of

what otherwise might have been a good speech.

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Introductions The introduction to your speech has two main goals: first, to capture and hold your audi- ence’s attention and interest, and second, to prepare your audience intellectually and psychologically for the body of the speech. Let’s examine each goal in greater detail.

Gain Attention and Interest If you were sitting in an audience, would you want to listen to a speech that begins with “I’d like to talk to you today about household appliances”?

The subject sounds dull. You might say to yourself, “Who cares?” and let your attention drift to something else.

Now imagine that you were sitting in the audience when student speaker Giancarlo Bruno began a speech with these words:

Did you know that clothes dryers cause 15,000 home fires in the United States every year? Often a fire results from the buildup of lint that blocks the flow of air. You can avoid the problem by cleaning the lint trap every time you use your dryer.4

Hearing this information at the beginning of a speech on appliances as fire hazards, you would have a hard time turning your attention away. Bruno’s technique was to use alarming statistics as an attention-grabber.

An attention-grabber is needed because of an unfortunate fact: audiences don’t automatically give every speaker their full, respectful attention. As you begin a speech, you may find that some listeners are engaged in whispered conversations with their neighbors or they are looking at you but their minds are far away, floating in a daydream or enmeshed in a personal problem. So your task is clear: grab their attention when you start talking.

But grabbing their attention is not enough. Your introduction must also make listeners want to hear the rest of your speech. Some speakers grab attention by telling a joke, but a joke does not create interest in the rest of the speech. Bruno’s provoca- tive opener made the typical listener want to learn more about protecting a home from fire.

“Grabbers,” or attention material, should always be the first part of your introduc- tion. Let’s examine some of the more common varieties. Sometimes two or more types of attention material can be combined for a more compelling introduction.

Relate a Story Telling a story is one of the most effective ways to begin a speech because people love to listen to narrative accounts. Student speaker Tisha Clements began a speech with this story:

A few years ago, my husband and I were sitting at a concert. About 45 minutes into the concert, I noticed my husband sweating profusely and he couldn’t sit still. We decided to go to the Emergency Room to get him checked out. While sitting in the waiting room, he said he was hurting all over and his heart felt as if it were going to jump out of his chest. When he finally was examined by the doctors and nurses, they couldn’t find anything, but they ran several tests. A few days later, the doctor called and diagnosed him with anxiety disorder.

Clements spent the rest of her speech explaining the causes and treatments for anxi- ety attacks. As Clements demonstrates, a story should always provide an easy and natu- ral entry into the rest of the speech.

attention material the part of the intro- duction designed to capture audience interest.

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Chapter 11 Introductions and Conclusions 201

As an alternative to a true story, you can use a hypothetical illustration, as dem- onstrated by a student speaker who created a fictional account:

Imagine that tomorrow you become a victim of identity theft. A criminal steals your Social Security number, your bank account and credit card numbers, and all of your personal information, such as your full name, date of birth, names of par- ents, schools attended, medical records, and so on. The criminal withdraws all the money you have in your bank accounts and runs up big debts on your credit card. Then he goes one step further. He commits crimes while using your name. Now you are faced with the enormous challenge of clearing your name and cor- recting erroneous information. This will drain you of money, time, and energy. And it will make you angry, scared, and depressed.

In the rest of the speech, the student explained how members of the audience could take steps to protect themselves from identity theft.

Ask a Question Asking a question can be an effective way to intrigue your listeners and encourage them to think about your subject matter as you discuss it. There are two kinds of questions that you can use as attention material: the rhetorical question and the overt-response question.

With a rhetorical question, you don’t want or expect the listeners to answer overtly by raising their hands or responding out loud. Instead, you want to trigger their curios- ity by challenging them to think about your topic. For example, you could open your speech with the following question:

With powerful radio signals being beamed into outer space at this very moment, is there any realistic chance that we human beings will establish radio contact with other civilizations in the universe during our lifetime?

Not only does such a question catch the attention of the listeners, but it also makes them want to hear more. It entices them into listening to your speech for the answer to the question.

With an overt-response question, you want the audience to reply by raising their hands or answering out loud. For example, student speaker Meredith Bollinger began a speech by asking the following question:

There is only one Olympic sport in which men and women compete against each other head to head in direct confrontation. Which sport am I talking about?

One listener guessed water polo—wrong. Another guessed softball—wrong. Another guessed synchronized swimming—wrong. Finally, Bollinger gave the correct answer: equestrian (horseback) competition. See Figure 1 for another example of an overt-response question.

Here are some pitfalls to avoid when asking questions.

Avoid questions that can fizzle. One student began a speech by asking, “How many of you are familiar with Snapchat?” Everyone raised a hand, so the speaker looked fool- ish as he continued, “Today I’d like to inform you about what Snapchat is.” Before you choose a question, imagine the answers you might get from the audience. Could they cause embarrassment or awkwardness?

When you ask questions, don’t drag out the suspense. If listeners are forced to guess and guess until the right answer is found, they may become exasperated, wishing that the speaker would get to the point.

hypothetical illustration an imaginary scenario that illuminates a point.

rhetorical question a question asked solely to stimulate interest and not to elicit a reply.

overt-response question a question asked to elicit a direct, immedi- ate reply.

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Never ask embarrassing or personal questions. Avoid such questions as “How many of you have ever tried cocaine?” or “How many of you use an underarm deodorant every day?” An audience would rightfully resent such questions as intrusions into their private lives.

Never divide your audience into opposing camps by asking “loaded” questions. An example of a loaded question is “How many of you are smart enough to realize that capital punishment is an absolute necessity in a society based on law and order?” By phrasing your question in this way, you insult those who disagree with you.

When asking overt-response questions, don’t expect universal participation. With some overt-response questions, you can try to get every member of the audience to participate, but this can be very risky, especially if you poll the audience in this way: “How many of you favor the death penalty? Raise your hands. Okay . . . Now, how many of you are opposed to the death penalty? Okay, thanks . . . How many of you are undecided or unsure?” What if 3 people raised their hands for the first question, 5 for the second question, 10 for the third—but the remaining 67 people never raised their hands? When this happens, and it often does, it is a major embarrassment for the speaker. Sometimes audiences are in a passive or even grumpy mood; this is especially true with “captive” audiences—that is, audiences that are required (at work or at school) to listen to a speech. In such a case, refrain from asking questions that require the par- ticipation of the entire audience.

Make sure the audience understands whether you are asking a rhetorical question or an overt-response question. If you ask, “How long will Americans continue to toler- ate shoddy products?” the audience knows you are not expecting someone to answer “Five years.” It is clearly a rhetorical question. But suppose you ask a question like this: “How many of you have ever gone swimming in the ocean?” The listeners may be confused about whether you want them to raise their hands. Make it clear. If you want a show of hands, say so at the beginning: “I’d like to see a show of hands, please. How many of you have ever gone swimming in the ocean?” Alerting them in advance not only helps them know what you want but also makes them pay special attention to the question, since they know that you are expecting them to respond.

Figure 1 The overt-response ques- tion on this PowerPoint slide grabbed the audi- ence’s attention before the speaker revealed that the world’s most visited country is France, accord- ing to the U.N. World Tourism Organization.

© Hamilton Gregory

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Chapter 11 Introductions and Conclusions 203

Make a Provocative Statement An opening remark that shocks, surprises, or intrigues your listeners can certainly grab attention. (Just make sure the statement is not one that would offend or alienate the audience.) Student speaker Vanessa Sullivan began a speech on human cloning with this statement:

I have seen a human clone with my own eyes. And so have you.

Then she explained:

Richard Lewontin, professor of biology at Harvard University, says that about 30 human genetic clones appear every day in the United States. You and I know them as identical twins. Dr. Lewontin says that “identical twins are genetically more identical than a cloned organism is to its donor.”5

Sullivan went on to argue that despite important ethical problems, cloning is not as far from human experience as many people think.

Cite a Quotation A quotation can provide a lively beginning for a speech. In a speech on showing respect, student speaker Blake Painter began with this opening statement:

The American poet Maya Angelou once said, “If you have only one smile in you, give it to the people you love. Don’t be surly at home, then go out in the street and start grinning ‘Good morning’ at total strangers.”

Quotations usually work best when they are short. Don’t use a quotation that is so long that the listeners lose track of where the quotation ends and your remarks begin. The best way to indicate that you have finished quoting is to pause at the end of the quo- tation. The pause acts as an oral punctuation device, signaling the end of one thought and the beginning of another.

Arouse Curiosity An effective attention-getter is one that piques the curiosity of the audience. Brenda Johnson, a chef, began a speech with the following statement:

I am addicted to a drug. I have been addicted to it for many years now. I feel like I need it to make it through the day. If I don’t get this drug, my head aches. I’m nervous, irritable, and I begin to tremble. It’s true—I am addicted.

Having aroused the curiosity of her listeners, Johnson continued:

I am addicted to caffeine. Most people don’t realize that caffeine is a drug—and that it is very addictive. It is present not only in coffee and tea and soft drinks but also in many legal drugs such as weight-control pills and pain relievers.

Johnson spent the rest of the speech giving details about caffeine and how listeners could reduce their intake.

Provide a Visual Aid or Demonstration Any of the visual aids we discussed in the chapter on presentation aids could be used to introduce a speech, but you must be sure that while the aids get the audience’s attention, they also are relevant to the main points of your speech. One student showed slides of sunbathers on a beach to begin a talk on sharks. Though there was a logical link (some- times sunbathers who go into the water must worry about sharks), the connection was

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too weak to justify using these particular slides. In a case like this, it would be better to show a slide of a ferocious shark while describing a shark attack.

A demonstration can make an effective opener. Working with a friend, one student gave a demonstration of how to fight off an attacker, and then talked about martial arts. If you want to give a demonstration, get permis- sion from your instructor beforehand. One note of caution: Never do anything that might upset the listeners. For example, for a speech on spiders, pulling tarantulas out of a box and letting them walk about would upset some people and put them out of a receptive mood.

Give an Incentive to Listen At the beginning of a speech, many listeners have an attitude that can be summed up in these two questions: “What’s in it for me?”

and “Why should I pay attention to this speech?” Such people need to be given an incentive to listen to the entire speech. So, whenever possible, state explic-

itly why the listeners will benefit by hearing you out. It is not enough to simply say, “My speech is very important.” You must show them how your topic relates to their personal lives and their own best interests. If, for example, you were giving a talk on cardiopulmonary resuscitation

(CPR), you could say, “All of you may someday have a friend or loved one collapse from a heart attack right in front of your eyes. If you know CPR, you might be able to save that person’s life.” Now each person in the audi- ence sees clearly that your speech is important to his or her personal life.

Orient the Audience Once you have won the interest of your listeners by means of the attention material, you should go into the second part of your introduction, the orienting material, which gives an orientation—a clear sense of what your speech is about, and any other infor- mation that the audience may need in order to understand and absorb your ideas. The orienting material is a road map that makes it easy for the listeners to stay with you on the journey of your speech and not get lost and confused.

The orienting material does more than prepare the listeners intellectually for your speech; it also prepares them psychologically. It reassures them that you are well-prepared, purposeful, and considerate of their needs and interests. It shows them you are someone they can trust.

The three most common ways to orient the audience are to (1) give background information, (2) establish your credibility, and (3) preview the body of the speech. They are listed in this order because number 3 is usually delivered last, as a prelude to the body.

Do you need all three options in every speech? For classroom speeches, follow your instructor’s guidelines. For some career speeches, you may not need the first two. The best advice is to use an option if it will promote audience understanding and acceptance.

orienting material the part of the intro- duction that gives listeners the informa- tion they need to fully understand and believe the rest of the speech.

Examining Your Ethics

Bert is preparing a classroom speech about an urban street artist who is famous for his graffiti. To grab the audience’s attention, he is thinking about using a shocking opener—a desecrated cross, which Bert thinks is a perfect example of the artist’s innovative technique. Should Bert show the image?

A. No, he should choose an image that would be unlikely to offend the audience.

B. He should show the image without explanation and allow audience members to form their own opinions about the artist’s work.

C. He should show the image, but warn listeners that it might be offensive to some people, and ask them to try to stay open- minded and focus on the artist’s technique instead of the subject matter.

For the answer, see the last page of this chapter.

If you tell listeners you will explain how to avoid food poisoning, they have an incentive to listen carefully.

© Boltenkoff/Shutterstock

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Chapter 11 Introductions and Conclusions 205

Give Background Information Part of your orienting material can be devoted to giving background information— definitions, explanations, and so on—to help your listeners understand your speech. In a speech on the Boston-to-Washington megalopolis, Vandana Shastri used her orienting material to define the term:

A megalopolis is a region made up of several cities and their suburbs, which sprawl into each other. The biggest megalopolis in the United States is a densely populated, 500-mile-long corridor that starts in Boston and goes southward through Connecticut, New York City, northern New Jersey, Philadelphia, Wilm- ington (Delaware), Baltimore, and then ends in the Washington, DC, suburbs of northern Virginia.

Sometimes it helps the audience if you explain the boundaries of your speech. For example, assume that you are giving a speech on the notion that criminals should make restitution to their victims. If you are not careful, many people in your audience will reject your argument immediately by saying to themselves, “Restitution, baloney! How can a murderer make restitution to his victim?” So in your orienting material, you head off such objections by saying, “In this speech, I will talk about criminals making restitution to their victims, but I’m only talking about nonviolent criminals such as swindlers, embezzlers, and bad-check writers. I’m not talking about rapists and murderers.” By showing the boundar- ies of your subject, you increase the chances that the audience will listen with open minds.

Establish Your Credibility No one expects you to be the world’s authority on your subject, but you can increase your audience’s chances of accepting your ideas if you establish your credibility—that

Many speakers at business and professional meetings start off by saying something like this: “I’m glad to have a chance to speak to you today.” They are giving an icebreaker—a polite little prologue to “break the ice” before getting into their speech.

In outline form, here is how an introduction with an icebreaker would look:

I. Icebreaker II. Attention Material III. Orienting Material

When you give speeches in the community, an ice- breaker is helpful because it eases your nervous tension and lets the audience get accustomed to your voice. You don’t need an icebreaker for classroom speeches because your audience has already settled down and is ready to listen. (Besides, most instructors would disapprove of using one.)

Tips for Your Career

Use an “Icebreaker” to Start Off a Community Speech



“Hello. How are you?” as an icebreaker sounds too breezy, and it leaves a question as to whether the speaker wants the audience to roar a response like “Fine, thank you!” It is much better to say, “I appreciate the opportunity to speak to you tonight.” This icebreaker doesn’t confuse the audience, and you can continue with your introduction easily from there.

In addition to expressing appreciation for the invita- tion to speak, you can include a thank-you to the person who introduced you or a reference to the occasion (for example, “I’m delighted to take part in the celebration of Martin Luther King’s birthday”).

A note of caution: An icebreaker should be very brief—just a sentence or two. If you are too slow getting into the attention material of your introduction, you may cause some listeners to tune you out.

credibility audience perception of a speaker as believ- able, trustworthy, and competent.

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is, give some credentials or reasons why you are qualified to speak on the sub- ject. When student speaker Randy Stepp talked about how to escape a burning building, he enhanced his credibility by mentioning that he was a volunteer firefighter in a rural community and had fought many fires.

Some people shy away from giving their credentials or background because they think that doing so would make them seem boastful and arro- gant. This concern is unfounded if you provide facts about yourself in a modest, tactful manner. In other words, if you are speaking on air pollu- tion, say something like “I’m a chemist and I’ve analyzed in my lab the content of the air that we breathe in this community” instead of “I’m a professional chemist, so I know more about air pollution than anybody else in this room.”

For information that does not come from your personal experience, you could cite your sources in the orienting material. For example, one speaker

said, “The information I am giving you today comes from a book by Eric Klinenberg entitled Climate Change and the Future of Cities.”

Note: Mentioning your sources in the orienting material is just one of two options for citing sources. You can also reveal the sources throughout your speech as you give information from them. Before choosing an option, find out your instructor’s preference.

In some speeches, you should tell the audience your connection to the topic—why you are speaking on that particular subject. For example, you could say, “I am speaking on defective automobile tires because my sister was seriously hurt in an accident that was caused by faulty tires.”

Confess any conflict of interest or bias. You might say, for example, “I urge you to use Consumer Reports for product evaluations because I think it’s the most trustworthy source. However, I should tell you that I get paid for being one of their advisors.”

Preview the Body of the Speech Have you ever had trouble listening to a speech or lecture because the information seemed jumbled and disconnected and you couldn’t grasp the significance of what was being said? An important way to avoid this problem is for the speaker to give the listen- ers a preview of the body of the speech. A preview is like a map that gives you the lay of the land as you travel. Arrows placed on top of the map can help you stay on course and not get lost. Your instructor may have specific requirements for what you must put in your preview. Unless he or she advises you otherwise, I recommend that you include your central idea or your main points or both.

1. State the central idea. Your audience can listen intelligently to your speech if you stress your central idea in the orienting material. For example, you could say, “Acid rain is killing all the trees on our highest peaks in the East. To prove this, I will provide evidence from leading scientists.” Occasionally, in special situations, it is best to withhold divulging your central idea until late in the speech. (See the chapter on persuasive strategies for more on this technique.)

In a speech on losing weight, Mary E. McNair, a nurse, stated her central idea in this way:

Fad and crash diets can actually backfire, causing a person in the long run to gain more weight than was originally lost.

preview a preliminary look at the highlights of a speech.

In a speech on taking good photos, reveal- ing your experience as a semi-pro photog- rapher enhances your credibility.

© Borysevych.com/Shutterstock

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Chapter 11 Introductions and Conclusions 207

This helped the audience listen with “the right set of ears.” They knew to pay attention to what she had to say about the counterproductive effects of fad and crash diets. 2. State the main points. In most speeches, listeners appreciate being

given a brief preview of your main points. For example, Barbara LeBlanc outlined her main points for her speech on alternative energy:

I believe that passive-solar heating should be used in every home for two reasons: First, it’s easy to adapt your house to passive solar. Sec- ond, the energy from passive solar is absolutely free. Let me explain what I’m talking about.

By stating the main points, LeBlanc not only helped the audience listen intelligently but also gave them an incentive to listen by mentioning the pos- sibility of saving money.

Giving a preview by stating the central idea and the main points reassures the listeners that you are not going to ramble. In other words, you give the audience a message that says, loud and clear, “I’m well- prepared. I know exactly what I’m going to say. I’m not going to waste your time.”

Guidelines for Introductions Here are some points to keep in mind for introductions.

1. Don’t prepare your introduction first. When you prepare a speech, what usually works best is to complete the body of the speech and then work on your introduction. Once you have developed your main points, you are in a stronger position to decide how to introduce them.

2. Make your introduction simple and easy to follow, but avoid making it too brief. Your audience needs time to get into the groove of your speech. If the intro- duction is too short, it may go by too fast for the listeners to absorb. That is why effective joke tellers stretch out their introduction to give the listeners time to get “into” the joke. If the idea of stretching out an introduction sounds wrong to you, it is probably

because you have been taught in English classes to write concisely. While it is an error in a writing class to stretch out essays, it is a virtue to do so with a speech’s introduction that might otherwise be too abrupt for an audience.

A note of caution: Don’t let this tip cause you to go to the opposite extreme—being tedious and long-winded. Be brief, but not too brief. If you are unsure about whether you have achieved a happy medium, deliver your speech to relatives or friends and then ask them if they thought your introduction was too long or too short. 3. Make sure that your introduction has a direct and obvious tie-in with the

body of the speech. A common mistake is for speakers to give an introduction that has a weak or dubious link with the rest of the speech. This kind of introduc- tion can be annoying and confusing to the listeners.

4. Never apologize. You weaken your speech and hurt your credibility if you say things like “I didn’t have much time to prepare” or “This may be too technical for you” or “I’m sorry I didn’t draw a diagram.”

Like a map on a smart- phone, a preview in a speech gives a panoramic view of the subject and provides directions to the goal.

© blinkblink/Shutterstock

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Conclusions When movies are made, the producers spend a lot of time and energy on getting a “per- fect” ending because they know that if the ending is unsatisfying, the viewers will tend to downgrade the film as a whole. As with the movies, the ending of a speech can either add to or subtract from the audience’s opinion of the entire speech. So it is worthwhile to spend a lot of time working on your conclusion.

In your conclusion, you should do three important things: (1) signal the end of the speech to satisfy the audience’s psychological need for a sense of completion, (2) sum- marize the key ideas of the speech, and (3) reinforce the central idea with a clincher. Let us discuss these points in greater detail.

Signal the End Imagine that you are listening to your favorite song on your smartphone and letting your mind float freely with the music. Then suddenly, before the song is finished, the battery goes out. You missed only the last 10 seconds of the song, but you feel annoyed. Why? Because most people need to experience a sense of completion.

In listening to a speech, we have the same need for a sense of finality. We don’t like an abrupt halt—we like to hear a conclusion that is psychologically satisfying.

To give listeners a satisfying finale, provide signals that the end is approaching. These signals can be verbal or nonverbal or both.

Verbal signals. You can openly announce that you are coming to your conclusion by saying, “So, in conclusion, I’d like to say . . . ,” “Let me end by saying . . . ,” or “Let me remind you of the three major points I’ve explained today.”

Nonverbal signals. Two nonverbal cues are subtle but important: (1) say your con- clusion with a tone of dramatic finality and (2) subtly intensify your facial expression and gestures. These cues should come naturally to you, since you have seen numerous speakers use them in your lifetime. If you feel unsure of yourself, practice your conclu- sion in front of a mirror or, better yet, in front of a friend (who can give you feedback). You can also record your rehearsal on your smartphone or video camera and play it back to check whether you have the appropriate tone of finality in your voice.

Summarize Key Ideas Because listening is often a difficult mental task, some people in the audience might get drowsy or inattentive toward the end of your speech. But when you signal that you are about to finish, listeners usually perk up. If they know they can rest soon, they are bet- ter able to stay alert for a few more minutes. Like runners near the finish line, they can bring forth an extra burst of energy.

This mental alertness of your listeners gives you a good opportunity to drive home your message one more time. One of the best ways to do this is to summarize your key ideas. There is a formula for giving a speech that has been around for over 100 years. Some- times it is attributed to a spellbinding country preacher, sometimes to a savvy Irish politi- cian. The true originator will probably never be known, but the formula is worth heeding:

Tell ’em what you’re going to tell ’em. Tell ’em. Then tell ’em what you told ’em.

The first sentence refers to the introduction, the second to the body, and the third to a summary in the conclusion. The summary gives you a chance to restate the central idea or the main points or both.

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Chapter 11 Introductions and Conclusions 209

If you are like a lot of people, you may say, “Why do I need to repeat my message? Isn’t this overkill?” No, research shows that restating your main points increases the likelihood that the listeners will remember them.6

A summary should be brief, as in this recap of the body of a speech about avoiding food poisoning: 

So remember the most important ways to avoid food poisoning at a restaurant: Always order the most popular items on the menu because they sell quickly and aren’t sitting around in the fridge for days. If you are served an under- cooked meat or egg product, send it back for further cooking and always ask for a new plate.

Listeners don’t mind hearing this kind of information again; it helps them retain it.

Reinforce the Central Idea with a Clincher In addition to providing a summary, close your speech with a clincher that reinforces the central idea—a finale that drives home the main theme of your entire speech.

Use a clincher that is memorable, that leaves a lasting impression with the listener. You can find clinchers by using some of the techniques mentioned earlier in this chapter for the introduction (such as a rhetorical question or a visual aid), or by using some of the following techniques.

Cite a Quotation A good quotation can dramatize and reinforce a speaker’s central idea. After urging her audience always to buckle their seat belts, one speaker closed her speech with the following: 

I would like to close with a quotation from Laura Valdez, an emergency medicine technician in California, who said, “I have driven my ambulance to hundreds of traffic accidents. I have found many people already dead, but I have yet to unbuckle the seat belt of a dead person.”

Richard Kern closed his speech on why citizens should fight social ills rather than succumb to despair with a quotation:

Let me leave you with the words of Eleanor Roosevelt: “It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.”

Eye contact is important at the end of your speech, so if you use a quotation, prac- tice it so that you can say it while looking at the audience, with only occasional glances at your notes.

Issue an Appeal or a Challenge In a persuasive speech, you can end by making an appeal or issuing a challenge to the audience. If you are trying to persuade the listeners to donate blood, you can end by saying the following:

Next week the bloodmobile will be on campus. I call upon each of you to spend a few minutes donating your blood so that others may live.

One speaker tried to convince her audience to make out a will, and in her conclu- sion she issued a challenge:

The simple task of writing a will can protect your family and give you peace of mind. It is a sad fact that three out of four Americans will die without a will. Are you going to be one of them? I hope not. Why don’t you write your will before you go to bed tonight?

clincher a final statement in a speech that drives home the key concept of the speech.

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Give an Illustration An illustration is a popular way to reinforce the central idea of a speech. In a speech urging classmates to avoid Internet gambling, one student speaker concluded with a true story:

In his entire life, college senior Mark Scott had never gambled until one night, when he got an e-mail that said, “Congratulations, Mark. You won $100.” Scott was intrigued, and he clicked on the gambling site and began playing blackjack. After an hour, $175 of his money was gone. Three months later, he had run up a $9,000 gambling debt on his credit card.

Refer to the Introduction Using the conclusion to hearken back to something said in the introduction is an effec- tive way to wrap up your speech.

In a speech on pet therapy, student speaker Jake Harland used the photo in Figure 2 in his introduction and again in his conclusion. He began by saying, “This puppy was one of 15 homeless dogs brought into George Mason University Law School to see if students would like to play with them to relieve stress during final exams. At the end of my speech, I’ll tell you what happened to this puppy.” During the body of the speech, he explained that the law school wanted to show students that playing with a pet was a better way to reduce stress and depression than overeating or drinking. At the end of the speech, Harland showed the photo again and said, “The student in this

Figure 2 Stress Relief

© Linda Davidson/The Washington Post/Contributor/ Getty Images

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Chapter 11 Introductions and Conclusions 211

picture, Julie Dewberry, and her classmates ended up keeping all 15 dogs for a week, and later—after exams—they reported that the dogs had helped them to relax and take breaks from studying. By the way, all of the dogs were adopted, some by students.”

Guidelines for Conclusions There are four pitfalls to avoid in conclusions.

1. Don’t drag out the ending. Some speakers fail to prepare a conclusion in advance. When they reach what should be the end of their remarks, they cannot think of a graceful way to wrap things up, so they keep on talking. Other speakers signal the end of their speech (by saying something like “So, in closing, let me say . . .” ), but then they drone on and on. This gives false hope to the listeners. When they see that the speaker is not keeping the promise, they feel deceived and become restless.

2. Don’t end weakly. If you close with a statement such as “I guess that’s about all I’ve got to say,” and your voice is nonchalant and unenthusiastic, you encourage your listeners to downgrade your entire speech. End with confidence.

3. Don’t end apologetically. There is no need to say, “That just about does it. I’m sorry I didn’t have more time to prepare . . . ,” or “That’s it, folks. I guess I should have looked up more facts on . . .” Apologies make you look incompetent. Besides, some people may not have noticed anything wrong with your speech or your delivery; you may have done better than you realized, so why apologize?

4. Never bring in new main points. It is okay to use fresh material in your conclu- sion; in fact, it is a good idea to do so, as long as the material does not constitute a new main point. Let’s say you have given your audience three well-explained techniques for losing weight. It would be a mistake to end by saying, “Oh, yes, and another technique is . . .” This would drag out your speech. On the other hand, it would be acceptable to end with a brief comment about the 10 pounds you lost because you used the techniques discussed in the body of the speech.

Sample Introduction and Conclusion In the chapter on the body of the speech, we looked at the body of a speech on cotton swabs. Now let’s see how Wendy Trujillo developed an introduction and a conclusion for her speech.



General Purpose: To persuade

Specific Purpose: To persuade my audience to avoid using cot- ton swabs in their ears

Central Idea: For cleaning ears, cotton swabs are dangerous and ineffective.

Danger in the Bathroom


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I. Attention Material A. Which item in a typical bathroom sends more people to the

hospital emergency department than any other? 1. Is it razor blades . . . scissors . . . hair dryers? 2. No, none of these.

B. The correct answer is cotton swabs, which many people use to clean their ears.

II. Orienting Material A. Today I would like to show you why you should never put

cotton swabs into your ear. B. Reason number one: They are dangerous. C. Reason number two: They are ineffective.

[The body of the speech, which appears in the chapter on the body of the speech, uses the statement-of-reasons pattern.]


I. Summary A. We have discussed two reasons why you should never use

cotton swabs for cleaning your ears. B. First, you risk injury. C. Second, you are using a device that is worthless for truly

cleaning ears.

II. Clincher A. Dr. George Alexiades of the New York Eye and Ear Infir-

mary has treated hundreds of people who punctured their eardrums with cotton swabs.

B. He has some good advice: “Never put anything in your ear smaller than your elbow.”

Trujillo gives a brief summary of the key information of the speech.

The speaker closes with a humorous quotation that underscores her central idea.

To give listeners a clear road map of her speech, the speaker states her central idea and main points.

Trujillo opens with a question that is designed to capture the listeners’ atten- tion and interest.

Resources for Review and Skill Building

Summary Much of the success of a speech depends on how well the speaker handles the introduction and the conclusion. The introduction consists of two parts: attention material, which gains listeners’ attention and interest, and orienting material, which gives the audience the information they need to listen intelligently to the rest of the speech.

For attention material, you can use one or more of the fol- lowing techniques: tell a story, ask a question, make a provocative

statement, cite a quotation, arouse curiosity, provide a visual aid or demonstration, and provide the audience with an incentive to listen.

For orienting material, you have three options: give background information, such as definitions; establish your credibility on your topic; and preview the body of the speech (by stating the central idea, the main points, or both).

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Chapter 11 Introductions and Conclusions 213

illustration, a reference to the introduction, or any of the tech- niques mentioned for attention material (such as a rhetorical question).

Avoid conclusions that are weak, apologetic, or drawn- out. While fresh material may be used, never bring in new main points.

The introduction should have a direct and obvious tie-in with the body of the speech. Avoid apologies and a too-brief introduction.

The conclusion of your speech should signal the end, summarize your key ideas, and reinforce the central idea with a clincher. A clincher may be an appeal or a challenge, an

Key Terms attention material, 200

clincher, 209

credibility, 205

hypothetical illustration, 201

orienting material, 204

overt-response question, 201

preview, 206

rhetorical question, 201

1. Why is it necessary to have attention material at the beginning of a speech?

2. What is a rhetorical question?

3. What is an overt-response question?

4. How can you give listeners an incentive to listen to a speech?

5. What is the purpose of the orienting material in the speech introduction?

Review Questions 6. What is credibility?

7. In what way does a preview of main points reassure the audience?

8. Why is it a mistake to end a speech abruptly?

9. Why should you restate your main points in the conclusion?

10. What is a clincher?

1. What advice would you give a speaker who says in the introduction, “This speech may be too technical for you”?

2. Create a rhetorical question concerning the destruction of the Central American rain forest.

3. If you are uncertain how much background information is needed by the audience, what is the best way to find out?

Building Critical-Thinking Skills 4. Although introductions and conclusions are both impor-

tant, describe a situation where the introduction is more important than the conclusion. Then describe a situation where the conclusion is more important.

1. In a group, brainstorm possible attention-getters to introduce speeches on

a. world famine b. burglar alarm systems c. vacationing in Italy d. overcoming fatigue e. finding an honest car repair shop

2. Working in a group, discuss how listeners react when they hear speakers make these apologies:

Building Teamwork Skills a. “I didn’t have much time to prepare.” b. “I’m not much of a speaker.” c. “I know this is a boring topic.” d. “I had wanted to show you some PowerPoint

slides.” e. “That last speech is a tough act to follow.” f. “I hate public speaking.” g. “I’m really nervous.”

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Answer: A. While grabbing attention is a good technique, the speaker should choose a different image—one that does not shock and disrespect any listener. Showing a desecrated cross would put some listeners out of a receptive frame of mind.

Examining Your Ethics

1. “Opening Statements, Burdens of Proof,” National Para- legal College, nationalparalegal.edu (accessed December 3, 2015); Matthew J. Smith, Esq., “Preparing Your Clos- ing Argument,” Smith, Rolfes & Skavdahl Company, www.smithrolfes.com (accessed December 3, 2015).

2. Michelle Roberts, Washington, DC, attorney, telephone interview, May 19, 2000.

3. Myrna Marofsky, president, ProGroup, e-mail interview, September 22, 2008.

End Notes 4. The student’s material was derived from “Safety Tips

from Portland Fire & Rescue’s Prevention Division,” www.portlandoregon.gov (accessed October 8, 2015).

5. Sullivan derived her material from R. C. Lewontin, “The Confusion over Cloning,” New York Review of Books online, www.nybooks.com (accessed December 7, 2015).

6. Ingemar Svantesson, Learning Maps and Memory Skills, 3rd ed. (London: Kogan Page, 2004), p. 90.

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Guidelines for Outlining

Parts of the Outline

Sample Outline with Commentary

Speaking Notes

Controlling Your Material

Sample Speech as Presented

OBJECTIVES After studying this chapter, you should be able to

1. Understand the importance of developing an outline for a speech.

2. Create a coherent outline for a speech. 3. Create effective speaking notes based on your outline.

I M AG I N E H I R I N G A B U I L D E R   to construct a two-story house like the one

pictured here. When you move in, you discover that he forgot to create a staircase

between the first floor and the second floor.

Such a blunder might be hard to imagine, but it actually happened in 1926 in Palm

Beach, Florida. A homebuilder named Addison Mizner forgot to include a staircase

in a home built for George S. Rasmussen. Mizner tried to rectify his mistake by plac-

ing stairs on the outside of the house, but this forced the Rasmussen family to put on

raincoats when they needed to go upstairs or downstairs on rainy days.1

Mizner never would have made such a mistake had he created and adhered to a

detailed architectural blueprint showing the exact placement and dimensions of all

components of the house.

Outlining the Speech



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If you build a two-story house like this, how can you avoid Addi- son Mizner’s mistake of failing to include a staircase?

© karamysh/Shutterstock

In public speaking, the equivalent of a blueprint is an outline, which can be

used to make sure that all parts are included and that they fit together har-

moniously. Many speakers say that an outline helps them to organize their

thoughts into a logical sequence and to see which points are irrelevant,

improperly placed, or poorly developed. It prevents them from rambling.2

Outlining is the culmination of the process we began describing many

chapters ago—the process of gaining control of our subject matter. Up to

this point, we have talked about formulating objectives and then organiz-

ing them in the body, introduction, and conclusion of your speech. Now

we will discuss how to put all these elements together in outline form.

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Guidelines for Outlining Instead of using an outline, why not just write out the entire speech? For one thing, a word- for-word script would create a sea of material that might overwhelm you. Even worse, you might be tempted to read the script, a method that could put the audience to sleep.

An outline is better than a script because it shows the basic structure of your ideas in a streamlined form. It also helps you to see the relationship between ideas.

In essence, outlining is a commonsense way of arranging information in a logical pattern. The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Crime Index, for example, can be broken down into two broad categories:

FBI Crime Index

I. Violent crimes II. Property crimes

We could then break down each category into specific types of crimes:

I. Violent crimes A. Murder B. Rape C. Robbery D. Aggravated assault

II. Property crimes A. Burglary B. Larceny-theft C. Motor vehicle theft D. Arson If we wanted to, we could divide items A, B, C, and D into subcategories. For

example, we could break murder down into categories of weapons used, with one cat- egory for guns, one for knives, and so on.

Because some students have trouble understanding how an outline fits into the overall process of speechmaking, I created Figure 1. This flowchart shows your next three steps: First, create an outline; second, use the outline to prepare speaking notes; and third, use the speaking notes to deliver the speech. The first two steps will be cov- ered in this chapter; the third step, delivering the speech, will be discussed in the chapter on delivering the speech. (For classroom speeches, your instructor may have different guidelines. You should, of course, follow his or her rules.)

Choose an Outline Format The two most popular formats for outlines are the topic outline and the complete- sentence outline. Find out if your instructor prefers or requires one or the other. Some instructors and professional speakers recommend using both methods—the topic for- mat in the early stages of preparation (when you are struggling to impose order on your material) and the complete-sentence format in the later stages (when you are refining and polishing your ideas).

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Chapter 12 Outlining the Speech 219

Figure 1 The outline-to-speech process has three steps.

© Maria Gritsai/Alamy; © vipman/Shutterstock; © Petr Vaclavek/Shutterstock

Step 1 Create an Outline

This is a slice from a student's outline. An outline is the basic structure of a speaker’s ideas in streamlined form. It is not a word-for-word script. A detailed outline (like this one) is used only for preparation. It is not taken to the lectern.

Step 2 Prepare Speaking Notes

The speaker prepares brief notes—derived from his outline—to be used in practicing and delivering the speech. These notes contain only a few key words—just enough to jog his memory. By using brief notes instead of his outline, he avoids the mistake of reading a speech.

Step 3 Deliver the Speech

When he delivers the speech, the speaker talks in a natural, conversational manner, glancing at his note cards occasionally to remind himself of his next point.


Speaker’s notes

Speaker’s actual words

I. Wrong dog A. Never - whim B. Research C. Get to know

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Topic Outline In a topic outline, you express your ideas in key words or phrases. The advantage of this format is that it is quicker and easier to prepare than a complete-sentence outline. The FBI Crime Index outline shown earlier in this chapter is a topic outline. For another example, see the topic outline in Figure 2.

Complete-Sentence Outline In the complete-sentence outline, all your main points and subpoints are expressed in complete sentences (see Figure 2). Unless your instructor tells you otherwise, I recom- mend that you use complete sentences for your final outline. Here is why: (1) Writing complete sentences forces you to clarify and sharpen your thinking. You are able to go beyond fuzzy, generalized notions and create whole, fully developed ideas. (2) If another person (such as an instructor) helps you with your outline, complete sentences will be easier for him or her to understand than mere phrases, thus enabling that person to give you the best possible critique.

All the sample outlines in this book, including the one featured later in this chapter, use the complete-sentence format.

Note of caution: The complete-sentence outline is not your speech written out exactly as you will present it. Rather, it is a representation of your key ideas; the actual speech should elaborate on these ideas. This means that your actual speech will contain many more words than the outline. See Figure 1 for an example.

topic outline a systematic arrange- ment of ideas, using words and phrases for headings and subheadings.

complete-sentence outline a systematic arrange- ment of ideas, using complete sentences for headings and subheadings.

Figure 2 Some speakers use both forms of outlines: the topic outline for early drafts, the complete- sentence outline for refinements.

Pre-employment Screening

I. Presenting self

A. Job interview

B. Résumé

II. Testing

A. Skills tests

B. Physical exams

C. Drug tests

Topic Outline

Pre-employment Screening


Complete-Sentence Outline




Testing is used by employers to eliminate unqualified or high-risk applicants.




Presenting yourself to a potential employer gives you a chance to highlight your qualifications for a job.

A job interview can show your enthusiasm and commitment.

A résumé summarizes your experience, education, and skills.

Skills tests determine if you have the aptitudes and abilities needed for the job.

Physical exams determine whether your health will allow you to fulfill the duties of the job.

Drug tests screen for illegal substances such as cocaine and marijuana.

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Chapter 12 Outlining the Speech 221

Use Standard Subdivisions In the standard system of subdividing, you mark your main points with roman numerals (I, II, III, etc.); indent the next level of supporting materials underneath and mark with capital letters (A, B, C, etc.); then go to arabic numerals (1, 2, 3); then to lowercase let- ters (a, b, c); and if you need to go further, use parentheses with numbers and letters. Here is the standard format:

I. Major division II. Major division

A. First-level subdivision B. First-level subdivision

1. Second-level subdivision 2. Second-level subdivision a. Third-level subdivision b. Third-level subdivision (1) Fourth-level subdivision (2) Fourth-level subdivision

C. First-level subdivision

Notice that each time you subdivide a point, you indent. For most speeches, you will not need to use as many subdivisions as illustrated here.

Avoid Single Subdivisions Each heading should have at least two subdivisions or none at all. In other words, for every heading marked “A,” there should be at least a “B.” For every “1” there should be a “2.” The reason is obvious: how can you divide something and end up with only one part? If you divide an orange, you must end up with at least two pieces. If you end up with only one, you have not really divided the orange. One problem that arises is how to show on an outline a single example for a particular point. Below is the wrong way to handle the problem:

A. Many counterfeiters are turning to items other than paper money. 1. Counterfeit credit cards now outnumber counterfeit bills.

B. . . . This is wrong because item “A” cannot logically be divided into just one piece.

There are two ways to correct the problem. One way is simply to eliminate the single item and combine it with the sentence above it:

A. Many counterfeiters are turning to items other than paper money: counterfeit credit cards now outnumber counterfeit bills.

B. . . . Another way to handle the problem is not to number the item but simply to identify

it in the outline as “example”: A. Many counterfeiters are turning to items other than paper money. Example:

Counterfeit credit cards now outnumber counterfeit bills. B. . . .

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We have discussed why you should never exceed your time limit, but what should you do when no time limit is set? The best advice is this: Be brief. Keep it short.

How brief should you be?

• For a short presentation, aim for 5 to 7 minutes—a popular length, especially when several presenters are scheduled to speak.

• For longer speeches, aim for 18 minutes. By rule, 18 minutes is the limit for world-famous TED talks, spon- sored by TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conferences. Chris Anderson, the current curator of TED talks, says that 18 minutes is “a natural human attention span. . . . You can listen to something serious

Tips for Your Career

When No Time Limit Is Set, Speak Briefly



that long without getting bored or exhausted.” For many years, some ministers have stated that to be effective, a sermon should last no longer than 18 minutes.

Whenever you are in doubt about length, remember that it is better to err on the side of brevity. If, when you fin- ish a speech, the listeners are still hungering for more wis- dom from you, no harm is done. They will probably invite you to come back and speak again. But if you speak so long that they become bored, weary, and sleepy, they will resent you for wasting their time.

Source: Charlie Rose, “TED Talks,” CBS News, www.cbsnews.com (accessed December 11, 2015).

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Parts of the Outline The parts of the outline discussed below are keyed to the sample outline presented in the next section. Your instructor may have requirements for your outline that deviate somewhat from the description in these pages. (See Figure 3 for a schematic overview of a typical outline.) 1. Title. Your outline should have a title, but you do not actually say it in your

speech. In other words, don’t begin your speech by saying, “How to Lose Weight Permanently” or “The title of my speech is ‘How to Lose Weight Permanently.’” If you should not say the title, why have one? For classroom speeches, your instruc-

tor may want you to write one simply to give you experience in devising titles. For some out-of-class speeches, a title may be requested so that your speech can be publicized in advance. A catchy title might entice people to come to hear you.

Your title should be brief and descriptive; that is, it should give a clear idea of what your speech is about. For example, “The Increase in Cheerleader Injuries” is a short and helpful preview of the speech topic. If you want an attractive, catchy title, you can use a colorful phrase coupled with a descriptive subtitle—“Nothing to Cheer About: The Increase in Cheerleader Injuries.” Here are some other examples: ∙ Czech It Out! Why You Should Visit Prague ∙ Are You Being Ripped Off? How to Find an Honest Mechanic ∙ Ouch! What to Do When a Bee Stings You 2. Purposes and central idea. Having your general purpose, specific purpose, and

central idea listed on your outline will help you bring into sharp focus the main points and supporting materials.

3. Introduction and conclusion. The introduction and the conclusion are so vitally important in a speech that they deserve special attention and care. Both sections should have their own numbering sequence in the outline, independent of the body of the speech.

Intriguing titles draw attention to movies— and to speeches.

© Stephen Marques/ Shutterstock

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Figure 3 This is an overview of a typical outline. Although this outline shows three main points, a speech may have two or occa- sionally four.

General Purpose: Specific Purpose: Central Idea:





I. A. B. C.


II. A. B. C.


III. A. B. C.


I. II.





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Chapter 12 Outlining the Speech 223

4. Body. In the body of the outline, each main point should be identified by roman numerals. The body has its own numbering sequence, independent of the intro- duction and conclusion. In other words, the first main point of the body is given roman numeral I.

5. Transitions. The transitional devices we discussed in the chapter on the body of the speech should be inserted in the outline at appropriate places. They are labeled and placed in parentheses, but they are not included in the numbering system of the outline. While transitional devices should be placed wherever they are needed to help the

listener, make sure you have them in at least three crucial places: (1) between the intro- duction and the body of the speech, (2) between the main points, and (3) between the body of the speech and the conclusion.

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Examining Your Ethics

An organization of cancer survivors advertised an upcoming speech by an oncologist. The title of the speech was “A Cure for Cancer.” Unsurprisingly, the title drew a big crowd for the doctor’s presentation. But if listeners were hoping for an announcement of a cure, they were disappointed because the doctor discussed research possibilities that might someday prove to be effective in fighting cancer. What would have been a more ethical title for the speech?

A. How to Beat Cancer B. Exciting New Developments in Cancer Treatment C. Looking to the Future: Possible Cancer Cures

For the answer, see the last page of this chapter.

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6. Bibliography. At the end of the outline, place a list of the sources—such as books, magazines, and interviews—that you used in preparing the speech. Give standard bibliographical data in alphabetical order. Check with your instructor to see if he or she wants you to use a special format, or if he or she desires the bibli- ography to be on a separate page. Otherwise, see Table 1 in the chapter on locat- ing information for guidelines. The bibliography is useful not only as a list of sources for your instructor but also as a

record if you ever give the speech again and need to return to your sources to refresh your memory or to find additional information. 7. Visual aids. If you plan to use visual aids, give a brief description of them. This

will enable the instructor to advise you on whether the visual aids are effective.

You strengthen your credibility with your listeners if you tell them where you got your information, but it would be boring if you read aloud your bibliography. How, then, can you cite sources without bogging down the speech?

Here are the most popular options:

1. Reveal the key data about your sources as you proceed through the body of your speech. You could preface new points by saying something like “According to an article in the latest issue of Scientific American . . .” or “Writing in The American Journal of Nursing, Doctor Marie Alba says . . . .”

Tips for Your Career

Decide How You Will Reveal Your Sources



2. Cite all of your sources in the orienting material of the introduction. For example, one speaker said, “The information I am giving you today comes from an article by Margaret Zackowitz entitled ‘Royal City of the Maya’ in National Geographic magazine, and from the website of the Mexico Tourism Board.”

3. List sources on a handout. The handout should be provided at the end of the speech so that listeners will not be distracted while you are speaking. This is a good option when you think that some listeners will want to do follow-up readings and investigations.

Sample Outline with Commentary Below is an outline for a speech called “Not as Healthy as They Sound” by Jeffrey Omura. A transcript of the speech is printed at the end of this chapter.

Although the following outline uses the complete-sentence format, your instructor may prefer that you create a topic outline (discussed earlier in this chapter). To create a topic out- line, use the same system as here except write words or phrases instead of full sentences.

The speaker’s outline uses the topical pattern, dividing the subject into two types of foods.

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Chapter 12 Outlining the Speech 225


Not as Healthy as They Sound

Purposes and central idea should appear at the top of the outline to help the speaker stay on target.


General Purpose: To inform

Specific Purpose: To inform my audience of some foods that are not as healthy as they sound

Central Idea: Some healthy-sounding foods are not as high in nutritional value as you might think.


I. Attention Material A. At a coffee shop, you try to choose between a chocolate donut

with sprinkles and a corn muffin. (Show photo.) [See Figure 4.] B. You decide on the corn muffin because it’s healthier, but is it? C. The donut has 270 calories, while the corn muffin has 510.

(Consumer Reports) 1. You need 2,000 calories per day, so the corn muffin pro-

vides about one-quarter of your daily needs. 2. Also the corn muffin has a great deal more fat than the

donut. D. Over 12 people who were interviewed said the corn muffin

was healthier.

II. Orienting Material A. Let’s look at some other foods that are not as healthy as

they sound. B. My goal is not to dictate a diet, but simply to inform you of

some interesting facts.

(Transition: Let’s start with vegetables.)

The introduction has its own label and numbering sequence.

The speaker grabs attention by describ- ing an interesting choice.

A preview lets listeners know what the speech will cover.

Transitions are placed in parentheses and are not part of the numbering system.


Figure 4 A corn muffin has far more calories than a chocolate donut.

© Bryan Solomon/Shutterstock; © Anton Prado Photo/ Shutterstock

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I. Vegetables can be nutritious, but often they are loaded with extra fat and calories.

A. A salad with tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, and other veggies can be okay if you add a modest amount of low-fat dressing. 1. But some people choose a salad at a fast-food res-

taurant because they think it’s healthier than a burger. (Show slide.) [See Figure 5.]

2. One fast-food chain sells a Spicy Chicken Caesar Salad with 750 calories, while its quarter-pound hamburger has 470 calories. (KGET-TV of Bakersfield, California)

3. A salad becomes high in calories and fat if it’s topped with cheese, bacon, croutons, spicy chicken strips, and a large quantity of high-fat dressing.

B. Potato chips are high in fat, so veggie chips sound healthier. 1. Veggie chips are not more nutritious than potato chips,

says Patricia Chuey of Vancouver, Canada, a nutritionist and author of Simply Great Food.

2. They are high in fat and calories. 3. They have almost none of the nutritional value of real

vegetables. C. A veggie sandwich sounds healthy, but beware.

1. It’s not all that healthy if you order the Veggie Supreme sub at one fast-food chain.

2. The Veggie Supreme was rated as the Worst “Healthy” Sandwich in America. (Eat This, Not That!)

3. It has 1,106 calories and 56 grams of fat, surpassing the calories and fat in two Big Macs from McDonald’s.

4. The sub is a foot long, contains three different kinds of cheese, and is covered in oil.

5. Of course you can avoid the extra fat and calories if you ask the restaurant to skip the cheese and oil.

Under each main point, subpoints are marked with capital letters.

Roman numerals are used for main points.

Sub-subpoints are marked with arabic numerals (1, 2, 3).

Each level of subordination is shown by indention.

Figure 5 At a fast-food restaurant, a salad can have more calo- ries than a hamburger.

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Chapter 12 Outlining the Speech 227

(Transition: Let’s look at our second category of foods.)

II. Nuts, fruits, and dairy products can be nutritious, but some- times they have surprisingly high amounts of fat and calories. A. Granola bars would seem to be a super-healthy food.

(Show photo.) [See Figure 6.] 1. They contain nuts, dried fruits, and whole oats. 2. They can be very healthy if you make your own granola

bars at home. 3. But commercial granola bars have lots of sugar and syrup. 4. “They’re basically cookies masquerading around as

health food,” says Jayne Hurley, a senior nutritionist with the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

B. Yogurt-covered raisins sound like a healthy combination. 1. By themselves, raisins and yogurt are good foods, says

Rosie Schwartz, a dietitian in Toronto, Canada. 2. But commercial yogurt-covered raisins are deceptive. 3. The “yogurt” coating is not real yogurt, but a high-calorie

combination of sugar, oil, and some dried milk. 4. One cup of yogurt-covered raisins has 750 calories,

more calories than in two slices of homemade chocolate cake with chocolate frosting.

C. Combining two healthy foods—yogurt and fruit—sounds healthy. 1. Yogurt is a nutritious food, and fruit contains essential

vitamins and minerals. 2. So wouldn’t it be healthy to buy a container of yogurt

that has fruit on the bottom? 3. But Schwartz says it’s not real fruit on the bottom. a. It’s actually fruit jam loaded with sugar. b. One serving can contain as many as 28 grams of sugar. c. That’s more sugar than in a cup of vanilla ice cream.

(Transition: Let’s review.)

Audiences like to know the source of information—in this case, an expert.

Complete sentences are used to make sure all material is clear and well-developed.

Even though complete sentences are used, this outline is not a script to be read aloud. It is just a skeleton of key points. In the speech itself, the speaker expands on the points, using additional words in a conversational-style delivery.

The final transition prepares the audi- ence for the conclusion.

Transitions are needed between main points.


Figure 6 Commercial granola bars are far different from homemade ones.

© Igor Dutina/Shutterstock

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I. Summary A. Some foods are not as healthy as they sound. B. They include corn muffins, some fast-food salads, veg-

gie chips, the Veggie Supreme sub, granola bars, yogurt- covered raisins, and yogurt with fruit on the bottom.

II. Clincher A. Rather than dictate, I have just given information. B. I’ll bet all of you will remember that you don’t save calories

by choosing a corn muffin over a chocolate donut.


Chuey, Patricia, nutritionist, Vancouver, Canada. Message to Jeffrey Omura. 14 July 2011. E-mail.

“Food Fight.” Consumer Reports March 2008: 7. Print. Hurley, Jayne, nutritionist. “Granola Bars.” Center for Science in the

Public Interest Online, 21 Feb. 2011. Web. 14 July 2011. “New Law Requires Big Restaurant Chains to Provide Nutritional

Facts.” KGET-TV, Bakersfield, California, 2010. Web. 14 July 2011. Schwartz, Rosie, dietitian, Toronto, Canada. Message to Jeffrey

Omura. 13 July 2011. E-mail. Zinczenko, David. Eat This, Not That! New York: Rodale, 2012. Print.


Two PowerPoint slides comparing calories. One photo of granola bars.

The conclusion has its own label and numbering system.

A graceful ending is achieved by refer- ring to the dramatic question asked at the beginning of the speech.

The speaker summarizes the main points.

The bibliography lists all sources used to prepare the speech.

Sources are listed alphabetically.

The MLA format shown here is explained in the chapter on locating information, along with another format, APA.

Visual aids should be listed so that the instructor can give guidance.

Speaking Notes After you have devised an outline, what do you do with it? Do you use it to practice your speech? No. Do you take it with you to the lectern to assist you in the delivery of your speech? No. You use the outline only for organizing your ideas. When it comes to practicing and then delivering the speech, you should use brief speaking notes that are based on the outline.

Speaking from brief notes is a good technique because it enables you to look at your audience most of the time, occasionally glancing down to pick up your next point. It encourages you to speak naturally and conversationally.

How about using no notes at all? Would that be even better? No, without notes, you might forget important points, and you might fail to present your ideas in a logical, easy-to-follow sequence.

Notes bolster your sense of security. Even if you are in full command of the content of your speech, you feel more confident and self-assured knowing that you have notes as a safety net to rescue you if your mind goes blank and you fail to recall your next point.

Some people have the idea that using notes is a sign of mental weakness or a lack of self-confidence, but this belief is unfounded. Most good speakers use them without losing the respect of an audience. After all, your notes represent a kind of compliment

speaking notes brief reminders of the points a speaker plans to cover during a speech.

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Chapter 12 Outlining the Speech 229

to your listeners. They show that you care enough about the occasion to spend time get- ting your best thoughts together in a coherent form. The kind of speaker that audiences do look down on is the windbag who stands up without notes and rambles on and on without tying things together.

Guidelines for Preparing Notes As you read these guidelines, you may want to refer to the sample speaking notes in Figure 7.

∙ Make indentations in your speaking notes that correspond to those in your out- line. This will reinforce the structure of the speech in your mind. Some speakers use checkboxes and dashes to signal points; others use the same numbering sys- tem that they used in their outline.

∙ Use only one side of a sheet of paper or note card because you might forget to turn the paper or card over.

∙ Write down only the minimum number of words or phrases necessary to trig- ger your memory. If you have too many words written down, you may overlook some key ideas, or you may spend too much time looking at the notes instead of at the audience. Exceptions to this rule are long quotations or statistics that you need to write out in full for the sake of accuracy.

Figure 7 Here are samples of note cards for the speech about foods that sound healthy. Only the first two cards are shown.

Cues remind the speaker to look at the audience and speak slowly during the introduction.

For reminders, red ink is e�ective.

Each card is numbered so that if the speaker accidentally drops or scrambles the cards, they can be put back into order very easily.

Only a few key words are used to jog the speaker's memory.



Consumer Reports – Donut, 270 – Muffin, 510 -2,000 calories



Donut? Corn muffin?


Muffin healthier?


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∙ Write words in large letters that are neat and legible so that you have no trouble seeing them when you glance down during a speech.

∙ Include cues for effective delivery, such as “SHOW SLIDE” and “PAUSE” (see the sample notes in Figure 7). Write them in a bright color so that they stand out. Some speakers find it helpful to use a variety of coded colors on their notes—for example, black for main points, green for support materials, blue for transitions, and red for delivery cues.

∙ For speaking, use the same set of notes you used while rehearsing so that you will be thoroughly familiar with the location of items on your prompts. I once practiced with a set of notes on which I penciled in so many editing marks that I made a fresh set of notes right before I delivered the speech. This turned out to be a mistake because the notes were so new that some of the key words failed to trigger my memory quickly, causing me to falter at several points. I should have stayed with the original notes. Even though they were filled with arrows and insertions and deletions, I knew them intimately; I had a strong mental picture of where each point was located. The new notes, in contrast, had not yet “burned” their image in my brain.

∙ Don’t put your notes on the lectern in advance of your speech. A custodian might think they are trash and toss them out, or a previous speaker might acci- dentally scoop them up and walk off with them.

Options for Notes Your instructor may require you to use one particular kind of note system, but if you have a choice, consider using one of these four popular methods.

Option 1: Use Note Cards Your speaking notes can be put on note cards, as shown in Figure 7.

Note cards (especially the 3″ × 5″ size) are compact and rather inconspicuous, and they are easy to hold (especially if there is no lectern on which to place notes). The small size of the card forces you to write just a few key words rather than long sentences that you might be tempted to read aloud verbatim. If you use cards, be sure to number each one in case you drop or scramble them and need to reassemble them quickly.

Option 2: Use a Full Sheet of Paper If you use a full sheet of paper, you can have the notes for your entire speech spread out in front of you. There are, however, several disadvantages: (1) Because a whole sheet of paper is a large writing surface, many speakers succumb to the temptation to put down copious notes. This hurts them in speechmaking because they end up spending too much time looking at their notes and too little time making eye contact with the audience. (2) A full sheet of paper can cause a speaker’s eyes to glide over key points because the “map” is so large. (3) If a sheet is brought to the room rolled up, it can curl up on the lectern, much to the speaker’s dismay. (4) If a sheet is handheld because no lectern is available, it tends to shake and rustle, distracting listeners.

If you have access to a lectern, you can use several 8.5″ × 11″ sheets in a clever way: put notes only on the top one-third of a sheet, leaving the bottom two-thirds blank. This will help your eye contact because you can glance at your notes without having to bow your head to see notes at the bottom of the page.

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Chapter 12 Outlining the Speech 231

A final tip: To avoid the distraction of turning a page over when you have finished with it, simply slide it to the other side of the lectern.

Option 3: Use Visual Aids as Prompts A popular technique is to use your visual aids (such as Pow- erPoint slides or posters) as the equivalent of note cards. The visuals jog your memory on what to say next, and they give you the freedom to walk around the room instead of staying behind a lectern.

If you use this strategy, avoid using a visual aid that is pri- marily a cue for yourself and has no value for the audience. In other words, design a visual aid for audience enlightenment, not for speaker convenience. Take a look at the notes in Figure 7. They are fine on note cards, but if they were displayed on a slide, they would be cryptic to the audience.

Option 4: Use Electronic Devices If your instructor approves, you can put your notes on a smartphone or tablet. Just make sure that you limit yourself to brief notes, not a full text.

These options do not have to be used exclusively. They can be combined. For example, you could use note cards for part of a speech and visuals as prompts for another part.

Controlling Your Material While preparing your outline, don’t let your material become like an octopus whose tentacles ensnare you and tie you up. You must control your material, rather than letting your material control you. Here are four things you can do to make sure that you stay in control. 1. Revise your outline and speaking notes whenever they need alterations. Some

students mistakenly view an outline as a device that plants their feet in concrete; once they have written an outline, they think that they are stuck with it—even if they want to make changes. An outline should be treated as a flexible aid that can be altered as you see fit.

2. Test your outline. One of the reasons for creating an outline is to test your mate- rial to see if it is well-organized, logical, and sufficient. Here are some questions that you should ask yourself as you analyze your outline (in your career, you can ask colleagues to critique your outline, using the same questions):

∙ Does the introduction provoke interest and give sufficient orienting material? ∙ Do I preview the central idea and/or main points? ∙ Do the main points explain or prove my central idea? ∙ Are the main points organized logically? ∙ Is there enough support material for each main point? Is there too much? ∙ Do I have smooth transitions between introduction and body, between main

points, and between body and conclusion? ∙ Have I eliminated extraneous material that doesn’t truly relate to my

central idea?

Using one full sheet of paper for his notes, Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte gives a speech to a high school in Chicago.

© Barry Brecheisen/AP Images

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∙ Does my conclusion summarize the main points and reinforce the central idea? ∙ Is my conclusion strong and effective?

3. Revise for continuity. Often an outline looks good on paper, but when you make your speaking notes and start practicing, you find that some parts are disharmoni- ous, clumsy, or illogical. A speech needs a graceful flow, carrying the audience smoothly from one point to another. If your speech lacks this smooth flow, alter the outline and speaking notes until you achieve a continuity with which you are comfortable. (If you practice in front of friends, ask them to point out parts that are awkward or confusing.)

4. Make deletions if you are in danger of exceeding your time limit. After you make your speaking notes, practice delivering your speech while timing yourself. If the speech exceeds the time limit (set by your instructor or by the people who invited you to speak), go back to your outline and speaking notes and trim them. Deleting material can be painful, especially if you have worked hard to get a par- ticular example or statistic. But it must be done, even if you exceed the limit by only several minutes.

Sample Speech as Presented Earlier we examined the outline and sample notes for Jeffrey Omura’s speech about foods that are not as healthy as they seem at first glance. A transcript of the speech as it was delivered is printed below. Notice that the wording of the actual speech is not identical to that of the outline. The reason is that Omura delivers the speech extempora- neously, guided by brief speaking notes.

Not as Healthy as They Sound You go into a coffee shop, and you decide to buy a pastry to go with your coffee. [Speaker shows the slide in Figure 4.] At first you’re attracted to the choco- late donut with sprinkles, but then you decide to go with the corn muffin because you figure it must be a lot healthier. But is it?

According to Consumer Reports magazine, the donut has 270 calories, while the corn muffin has almost twice as many—510. The average person needs about 2,000 calories per day, so the corn muffin gives you almost one-quarter of your daily allotment. The corn muffin also has a lot more fat than the donut.

I asked over a dozen people which they thought was healthier. Everyone said the corn muffin. It does

sound healthy, doesn’t it? Today I’d like to show you some other foods that aren’t as healthy as you might think. By the way, I’m not trying to tell you what you should eat. I just want to inform you about some surprising facts. Let’s start with vegetables, which by themselves are very nutritious, but they’re often served in ways that add a lot of extra fat and calories. Consider a salad with vegetables like tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers. It can be healthy if you put a single serving of low-fat dressing on it. But the problem is, some people go into a fast-food restaurant and they order the salad because they think it’s going to be healthier than the burger. [Speaker shows the slide in Figure 5.]

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Chapter 12 Outlining the Speech 233

A TV station in Bakersfield, California, KGET—they report that one fast-food chain sells a Spicy Chicken Caesar Salad with 750 calories, compared to the quarter-pound hamburger, which has 470 calories. What some people don’t know is that a salad can become high in calories and fat if you add extra things like cheese, bacon, croutons, spicy chicken strips, and a large quantity of high-fat dressing.

You may have heard about potato chips being loaded with fat and contributing to the increased rate of obesity. So let’s say you’re in a grocery store and you see a bag of veggie chips. What could be unhealthy about that? Didn’t your mother always say, Eat your veggies? Well, let’s check with Patricia Chuey of Van- couver, Canada. She’s a nutritionist and author of Simply Great Food. She says veggie chips are no more nutri- tious than potato chips. They’re loaded with fat and they’re high in calories. And they contain almost none of the nutritional value of real vegetables.

Well, how about a veggie sandwich? It can be healthy if you make it at home. But it’s not as healthy if you get the Veggie Supreme sub at one national fast- food chain. A best-selling book Eat This, Not That! rated the Veggie Supreme as the Worst “Healthy” Sandwich in America. It has 1,106 calories and 56 grams of fat—more calories and more fat than you’d get in two Big Macs. The problem is, the foot-long sub comes with three different kinds of cheese, and it’s covered in oil. By the way, in a case like this, you can avoid the extra fat and calories if you just ask the restaurant to skip the cheese and oil.

Now let’s turn to nuts, fruits, and dairy products. As with vegetables, they can be very nutritious, but some- times they, too, have unexpected high amounts of fat and calories.

Consider granola bars. [Speaker shows the slide in Figure 6.] They sound so wholesome and nutritious. They include nuts, dried fruits, and whole oats. Nutri- tion experts say that if you make your own granola

bars, they can make a good healthy snack. But Jayne Hurley, a senior nutritionist with the Center for Sci- ence in the Public Interest, says that commercial granola bars you see in stores are loaded with sugar and syrup. She says, quote, “They’re basically cookies masquerading around as health food.”

Next we come to yogurt-covered raisins. What could be unhealthy about that combination? Rosie Schwartz, a dietitian in Toronto, Canada—she says that raisins by themselves are fine, and yogurt by itself is fine. But she says commercial yogurt-covered raisins—they’re not what you think. The so-called yogurt coating is different from the yogurt you buy in the dairy section of your store. The coating is mostly sugar, oil, and some dried milk—and it’s loaded with calories. One cup of yogurt-covered raisins has 750 calories—that’s more calories than you’ll find in two typical slices of homemade chocolate cake with chocolate frosting.

What would happen if you mixed two healthy foods together—like yogurt and fruit? Yogurt is a nutritious, calcium-rich snack. Fruit contains essential vitamins and minerals. So how about buying contain- ers of yogurt that has fruit on the bottom? Sounds even better than the ordinary yogurt, doesn’t it? But Schwartz says it’s not real fruit on the bottom. It’s fruit jam loaded with sugar. One serving can contain as many as 28 grams of sugar. That’s more sugar than you’ll find in a cup of vanilla ice cream.

Let’s summarize. I’ve tried to show you that many foods are not as nutritious as you might think—corn muf- fins, some fast-food salads, veggie chips, the Veggie Supreme sub, granola bars, yogurt-covered raisins, and yogurt with fruit-on-the-bottom.

As I said in the beginning, I’m not trying to tell you what you should eat. But at least now you know you’re not saving calories if you go with the corn muffin instead of the chocolate donut.

For three additional complete outlines and transcripts of speeches, see the samples at the end of the chapters on speaking to inform, speaking to persuade, and persuasive strategies.

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Resources for Review and Skill Building

Summary An outline is as important to a speechmaker as a blueprint is to a builder: the outline provides a detailed plan to help the speaker organize thoughts into a logical sequence and to make sure nothing important is left out.

Two popular types are the topic outline, which uses words and phrases for headings, and the complete-sentence outline, which uses entirely written-out headings. Some speakers use both forms: the topic outline for early drafts and the complete-sentence outline for refinements.

The parts of the outline include title, general purpose, specific purpose, central idea, introduction, body, conclusion, transitions, bibliography, and visual aids.

After you complete your outline, prepare speaking notes based on it. You have four options: note cards, a full sheet of paper, speaking notes displayed as a visual aid, or an elec- tronic device. Whichever you choose, avoid writing too many words because when you use notes in a speech, you want to be able to glance down quickly and retrieve just enough words to jog your memory.

Through all these stages, control your material by revising your outline and speaking notes whenever they need alterations. Test the strength of your outline, and revise for continuity—a smooth, logical flow from one part to another. Finally, make deletions if you are in danger of exceeding your time limit.

Key Terms complete-sentence outline, 220 speaking notes, 228 topic outline, 220

1. Why is an outline recommended for all speeches?

2. What is a topic outline?

3. What are the advantages of using complete sentences in an outline?

4. Why should each subdivision of an outline have at least two parts?

5. What are the parts of an outline?

6. Why should you have a title for your outline if it should not be spoken in the speech? 

Review Questions 7. What are the advantages of using cards for speaking


8. What are the disadvantages of using a full sheet of paper for speaking notes?

9. What are the advantages of using visual aids as speaking prompts?

10. You are advised to “revise for continuity” while practic- ing your speech. What does this mean?

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Chapter 12 Outlining the Speech 235

1. Sort out the following items and place them into a coher- ent topic outline. In addition to a title, the scrambled list includes three main points, with three subpoints under each: Museums, Visa, Clothes, Activities, Passport, Beaches, Studying Abroad, Airplane tickets, Computer, Travel documents, Restaurants, Photographs, Packing

2. For an outline on different foods, which major headings would you create?

3. If you practice in front of friends, why is it better to say, “Tell me the parts that need improvement,” instead of “Tell me if you like this”?

4. Transform the topic outline in the next column into a complete-sentence outline. Create a central idea for the outline.

Building Critical-Thinking Skills Research

I. Library

A. Printed material B. Electronic databases C. Audiovisuals II. Personal

A. Experiences B. Interviews C. Surveys

1. Working in a group, create a central idea and a topic outline for one of the following topics. Put each item on a separate index card or piece of paper so that the group can experiment with different sequences. Your outline should have at least three main points, each of which should have at least three subpoints.

a. natural disasters b. fast food c. leisure-time activities d. good health

Building Teamwork Skills 2. In a group, create a complete-sentence outline on how

to study effectively. Include a central idea, at least three main points, and at least four subpoints under each main point.

Answer: C. This title makes it clear that the treatments are not available now but may be possible in the future. Choice A is unethical because it makes it seem like the oncologist will

Examining Your Ethics give a step-by-step method of curing cancer. And B makes it sound like the speech will explain new treatments that will be available soon.

1. Bill Bryson, At Home: A Short History of Private Life (New York: Doubleday, 2010), p. 234.

End Notes 2. Hans Friedrich Ebel, Claus Bliefert, and William E.

Russey, The Art of Scientific Writing (New York: Wiley, 2004), pp. 88–89.

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The Power of Words

Finding the Right Words

Using Appropriate Words

Using Words Accurately

Achieving Clarity

Using Vivid Language

Using Rhetorical Devices

Oral versus Written Language

OBJECTIVES After studying this chapter, you should be able to

1. Explain the importance of choosing words that are appropriate for the audience and the occasion.

2. Use words that are clear, accurate, and vivid. 3. Describe the significant differences between oral and

written language.

A K N U C K L E B A L L   is a rare pitch in baseball, and it is feared and detested by

hitters. Because of the complicated way the ball is gripped and hurled, it bobs and

weaves, dancing about as it crosses home plate. Former American League umpire

Ron Luciano explains why a knuckleball is so rare: “Pitchers can’t control it, hitters

can’t hit it, catchers can’t catch it, coaches can’t coach it, and most pitchers can’t

learn it. It’s the perfect pitch.”1

R. A. Dickey is one of the few pitchers in modern times to master the art of throw-

ing a knuckleball effectively. In recent years, while playing for the New York Mets and

the Toronto Blue Jays, he has been one of the most successful pitchers in the major

leagues. Trying to hit a knuckleball, he says, “is like trying to hit a butterfly in a typhoon.”2

Wording the Speech



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Pitcher R. A. Dickey describes his famous knuckleball to students at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee.

© Mark Humphrey/AP Images

This image of a butterfly in a typhoon is an artful use of words, an exam-

ple of the vivid language Dickey uses in his speeches and interviews. In

this chapter, we will look at how you, too, can use the power of language

to enhance and illustrate your message.

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This little word has the power to boost sales significantly.

© Hamilton Gregory

The Power of Words If you witnessed a car crash, could you appear in court and give an accurate report of what you saw? Before you answer, consider this:

Courtroom lawyers have discovered that they can influence eyewitness testimony simply by choosing certain words when they ask questions. To demonstrate how this technique works, psychologist Elizabeth Loftus showed a group of people a video depict- ing a two-car accident. After the video, some of the viewers were asked, “About how fast were the cars going when they smashed into each other?” Other viewers were asked the same question except that the word smashed was replaced by the word hit. Viewers who were asked the smashed question, in contrast to the hit viewers, gave a much higher estimate of speed, and a week later, they were more likely to state that there was broken glass at the accident scene, even though no broken glass was shown in the videotape. Why? Because “smash” suggests higher speed and greater destruction than “hit.” Thus, a single word can distort our memory of what we have seen with our own eyes.3

The power of words is used by advertisers and retailers, as these research items show:

∙ Advertising agencies have learned that sales of a product can be increased if ads contain any of these words: new, quick, easy, improved, now, suddenly, amaz- ing, and introducing.4

∙ Until a few decades ago, the toothfish was considered a “trash” fish—unfit for family meals. But when Lee Lantz, an American fish merchant, renamed it “Chilean sea bass” despite it actually being a type of cod that is rarely found off the coast of Chile, it became hugely popular and one of the most expensive items in restaurants.5

Can mere words have such power? Yes, but we shouldn’t call words “mere.” As writer C. J. Ducasse says, “To speak of ‘mere words’ is much like speaking of ‘mere dynamite.’”6 The comparison is apt. If dynamite is used responsibly, it can clear a rockslide on a highway; if used irresponsi- bly, it can maim and kill. In public speaking, if powerful “dynamite” words are used responsibly, they can keep listeners awake and interested, but if used irresponsibly, they can deceive audiences, distort facts, and dynamite

the truth. Ethical speakers use words responsibly—not as clever devices of deception, but as vivid portraits of truth.

Finding the Right Words The difference between the right word and the almost right word, Mark Twain once observed, is the difference between lightning . . . and the lightning bug. The truth of Twain’s remark can be seen in the following historical vignette: One of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s most famous speeches was his address to Congress asking for a declaration of war against Japan in the aftermath of the Japanese attack on the American fleet at Pearl Harbor. As written by an assistant, the speech began this way:

December 7, 1941: A date which will live in world history.

Before speaking, Roosevelt crossed out the words world history and substituted the word infamy. Here is what he ended up saying:

December 7, 1941: A date which will live in infamy.

This has become one of the most famous sentences in American history, along with such memorable statements as “Give me liberty or give me death!” And yet, if

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Chapter 13 Wording the Speech 239

Roosevelt had used the original sentence, it never would have become celebrated. Why? Because infamy—a pungent word tinged with evil and anger—was the right description for the occasion; world history—dull and unemotional—was merely “almost right.” Lightning . . . and the lightning bug.

In choosing words for your speeches, your goal should not be to select the most beautiful or the most sophisticated but to use the right words for the right audience. As you analyze your audience before a speech, ask yourself, “How can I best express my ideas so that the audience will understand and accept them?” A word that may be ideal for one audience may be unsuitable for another.

While considering your audience, you also should use words that are suitable for the occasion. If you speak at a fund-raiser, your words should be uplifting and encour- aging; at a funeral, solemn and respectful; at a political rally, rousing and emotional.

Using Appropriate Words Never make political, religious, racial, ethnic, or gender references that might alienate anyone in your audience. Ask yourself, “Is there any chance at all that what I’m plan- ning to say will offend someone in the audience?” If you have any doubt whether a word is appropriate, don’t use it.

Use Gender-Neutral Terms In using occupational terms, stay away from language that reflects gender-biased stereotypes, such as “male nurse” instead of nurse, and “female soldier” instead of soldier. See Table 1 for some other examples.

Avoid Gender-Biased Pronoun Usage For centuries the masculine pronouns he, his, and him were used in the English language to designate an individual when gender was immaterial. In a sentence such as “Every driver should buckle his seat belt before he starts the engine,” the pronouns his and he were understood to refer to drivers in general, both male and female. Today, however, such phrasing is undesirable because it excludes women.

To avoid offending anyone in your audience, you can handle this pronoun issue in one of three ways.

1. Use masculine and feminine pronouns in tandem. In other words, use he or she (or she or he) when referring to an indefinite person.

gender-biased stereotype generalization that assigns roles or char- acteristics to people on the basis of gender.

Table 1 Gender-Neutral Alternatives

Original Preferred Form

workman worker

stewardess flight attendant

fireman firefighter

policeman police officer

mailman mail carrier

man-made artificial

cleaning lady housekeeper

foreman supervisor

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2. Use plural pronouns. Say simply, “All drivers should buckle their seat belts before they start the engine.” This alternative has the advantage of being simple, while offending no one.

3. Use the pronoun “you.” For example, “Whenever you get behind the wheel, you should buckle your seat belt before starting your engine.” For speeches, this is almost always the best of the alternatives—it’s simple and direct.

Using Words Accurately To use words accurately, you need to be sensitive to two types of meanings—denota- tions and connotations—and you need to use correct grammar.

Use Precise Denotations The denotation of a word is the thing or idea to which it refers—in other words, its dic- tionary definition. For example, the denotation of chair is a piece of furniture on which one person may sit.

Try to use denotations precisely, bearing in mind the following cautions.

Be aware that some words have more than one denotation (in the minds of the public). The word inflammable, for example, is defined in dictionaries as “capa- ble of burning quickly,” but because of the prefix “in” (which usually means “non”) many people think that it means “not flammable.” To be on the safe side, avoid using inflammable and instead use these words: flammable and non-flammable.

denotation the thing or idea to which a word refers.

Some presenters use profane, obscene, or explicit language because (they say) it adds spice to their pre- sentation. But to many listeners, a speaker who uses crude language comes across as insensitive, unprofes- sional, and uneducated. Some listeners feel offended and insulted.

Some salty-language speakers defend them- selves by saying that “most people don’t mind.” While it may be true that most people aren’t upset, why offend anyone in your audience?

Advertising executive Ron Hoff tells of a business presentation in which the speaker was trying to sell his company’s services to a public utility firm. The speaker liberally sprinkled his talk with four-letter words, plus some five-letter varieties not often heard in public.

There were 17 people in the audience, includ- ing one man “whose body actually convulsed a little every time he heard one of those words,” says Hoff. “I

Tips for Your Career

Omit Crude Language



watched him carefully. It was like somebody grazed him every few minutes with an electric prod. His body lan- guage attempted to cover these jolts he was receiving (he’d cross his legs, cover his face, slouch in his chair— nothing worked). He physically recoiled from the lan- guage he was hearing.”

That man, it turned out, was the highest-ranking rep- resentative of the firm, so it came as no surprise when the firm declined to buy the services of the speaker’s company.

Hoff later asked the speaker why he had used so much crude language.

“Oh, they love it,” he said. “They talk just like that all the time.”

“Yeah,” Hoff said to himself. “All of them except one.”

Source: Ron Hoff, “I Can See You Naked”: A Fearless Guide to Making Great Presentations, rev. ed. (Kansas City, MO: Andrews and McMeel, 1992), pp. 224–225.

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Chapter 13 Wording the Speech 241

Take care with words that have different denotations to different people. What does “middle age” mean? Some people who are 30 say that it starts at 40, and some who are 40 say that it starts at 50. If middle age is an important concept in a speech, define the age span you mean by the term.

Avoid fancy words unless you are certain of their denotations. Don’t be like the speaker at a business convention who referred to a colleague as “infamous.” He believed he was giving a compliment because he thought the word meant super-famous, but actu- ally it means “having a bad reputation.”

Control Connotations The connotation of a word is the emotional meaning that is associated with it. The words slender, thin, and skinny are synonyms; they have the same denotation, but the connotations are different: slender has a positive connotation, thin is neutral, and skinny has negative overtones.

As a listener and as a speaker, you should be aware of how connotations express the atti- tude of the person using the words. Let’s say that some filmmakers produce a documentary on a Senator Dolores Perez. If they want to show that they are objective about the senator, they can describe her with a word that has a neutral connotation—legislator. If they want to con- vey approval, they can choose a term that has positive connotations—national leader. If they want to express disapproval, they can use a word that has negative connotations—politician. If they describe one of her campaign events, they could call it a gathering (neutral), a rally (positive), or a mob (negative). When she travels to Central America, the trip (neutral) could be called a fact-finding mission (positive) or a junket (negative).

Connotations can make a difference in persuasive campaigns. For years, envi- ronmentalists tried to save swamps from being filled in and built on; they were often unsuccessful until they began to use the synonym wetlands. Swamp evokes the image of a worthless quagmire filled with creepy, crawly creatures, while wetland suggests a watery wilderness of exotic birds and plants.

In exploring connotations, you don’t have to rely solely on your own judgment. Check a print thesaurus or a website like Thesaurus.com to explore synonyms and get a feel for how positive, negative, or neutral they are. Typing a word followed by synonyms into a search engine will also generate a brief list of synonyms. You can also use search engines to hunt for examples of how words and phrases are used by people throughout the English- speaking world. For example, if you want to explore the connota- tions of the word maverick, you can use it as a keyword and then scan articles for indications of how the word is currently used.

Use Correct Grammar If you are like most people, you grew up speaking the way your family and friends did. But if that way of speaking is not considered standard English, it can hurt you in your career. Some business and professional people find “improper” English as offensive as body odor or food stains on the front of a shirt.

∙ In North Carolina, a corporation executive said, “I just can’t stand to be around peo- ple who use bad English. I would never hire a person who said things like ‘I done it.’”

∙ In California, a man was passed over for a promotion (even though he was better qualified than the person who got the position) simply because he had the habit of saying “he don’t” instead of “he doesn’t.”

connotation the emotional over- tones of a word that go beyond a diction- ary definition.

What are some con- notations of the word “lighthouse”?

© Lorraine Kourafas/ Shutterstock

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∙ In Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Caren Berg, a senior vice president in a market- ing and crisis-communications company, told colleagues at a staff meeting, “There’s new people you should meet.” Her boss Don Silver broke in with this admonition: “I cringe every time I hear people misuse ‘is’ for ‘are’.”7

Are these people judging others unfairly? Of course, but many people associate poor grammar with a lack of education and even low intelligence. They will seldom come right out and tell you that your grammar is incorrect. A boss, for example, may feel awkward about telling an employee his or her grammar is unacceptable; it is as embarrassing as telling friends that they have bad breath. So the employee is never told the real reason why he or she is being denied a promotion. Speaking at Dillard Univer- sity, columnist William Raspberry told students, “Good English, well spoken and well written, will open more doors for you than a college degree. . . . Bad English, poorly spoken and poorly written, will slam doors that you don’t even know exist.”8

In a speech, grammatical errors are distracting, especially if they occur on a Power- Point slide. “One of the surest ways to lose credibility with your audience,” says attor- ney John Zimmer, “is to pepper your PowerPoint slides with spelling and grammatical mistakes.”9

From my observations, the mistakes in Table 2 seem to be the ones that are most likely to cause some people to downgrade you. If you commit any of these errors, I urge you to correct your usage, at least in professional settings.

Incorrect Correct

He don’t He doesn’t

You was You were

I done it. I did it.

Between you and I Between you and me

I had went. I had gone.

She’s already went. She’s already gone.

I been thinking. I’ve been thinking.

I’ve already took algebra. I’ve already taken algebra.

hisself himself

theirself themselves

We seen it. We saw it.

Her and me went. She and I went.

I come to see you yesterday. I came to see you yesterday.

She ain’t here. She isn’t here.

She don’t love me no more. She doesn’t love me anymore.

He be late. He is late.

I had wrote it. I had written it.

Give me them apples. Give me those apples.

Table 2 Common Grammar Mistakes

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Chapter 13 Wording the Speech 243

Achieving Clarity To be clear in the words you use, you must first be clear in your thinking. Think about a word before you use it. Ask yourself, will it be clear to someone who is new to my subject? In this section, we will examine how you can achieve clarity by using words that are simple, concrete, and precise.

Use Simple Words A speechwriter for President Franklin D. Roosevelt once wrote, “We are endeavoring to construct a more inclusive society.” President Roosevelt changed the wording to, “We’re going to make a country in which no one is left out.”10 Roosevelt knew that although big words are sometimes needed to convey a precise meaning, a good com- municator will choose simple words whenever possible.

But what if you want to convey a complex idea? Don’t you need complex language— big words and weighty phrases? No. If you examine great works of literature, you will see that profound thoughts can be expressed easily and beautifully by simple words. Some of the greatest pieces of literature in the English language—the King James Bible and Shakespeare’s works—use simple words to convey big ideas. For example, in Ham- let’s famous soliloquy (“To be or not to be . . .”) 205 of the 261 words are of one sylla- ble. Citing an American literary classic, Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address (“With malice toward none . . .”), William Zinsser writes, “Of the 701 words in [the address], 505 are words of one syllable and 122 are words of two syllables.”11

Big words are often used by pretentious speakers, who want to impress the audi- ence with their intelligence, while simple words are preferred by audience-centered speakers, who want to make sure their ideas are clear. Here is an example of the con- trasting styles:

Pretentious speaker: From time immemorial, human beings have used their tongues to apply salivary secretions to heal a contusion, and medical researchers have ascertained that the procedure may indeed be efficacious.

Audience-centered speaker: Licking a wound—a technique used by humans for centuries—may actually promote healing, according to medical researchers.

Use Concrete Words Concrete words name or describe things that the listeners can see, smell, hear, taste, and touch—for example, balloon, flower, gunshot, pizza, and desk. They differ from abstract words, which refer to intangible ideas, qualities, or classes of things—for example, democracy, mercy, and science. While a certain amount of abstract language is necessary in a speech, you should try to keep it to a minimum. Whenever possible, choose concrete language because it is more specific and vivid, and therefore more likely to be remembered by your audience. Concrete words help you create the mental images that you want to convey to your listeners. See Table 3 for some examples.

Use Precise Words The most commonly quoted authority in America is “they,” as in the following sentences: They say that too much salt is bad for you. They say that loud sound is not dangerous, as long as you don’t feel any pain in

your ears.

concrete words words that name per- sons and things that we can know by our five senses.

abstract words words that name qualities, concepts, relationships, acts, conditions, and ideas.

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Abstract Concrete

She is wealthy. She makes $600,000 a year, has a winter home in San Diego and a summer home in Switzerland, and owns four sports cars.

It was a stormy day. The sky was gray and gloomy, and the cold, moist wind stung my face.

Rattlesnakes are scary. Its beady eyes staring at you without ever blinking, a rattlesnake can slither through the brush without making a sound—until it suddenly coils and makes its terrible buzzing rattle.

Table 3 Abstract to Concrete Language

Instead of a vague “they,” provide a precise source. For the first sentence, find reliable sources: “Researchers at Johns Hopkins University have found that too much salt in one’s diet can cause . . . .” For the second sentence, if you try to find who “they” are, you may discover, as did one student speaker, that loud sound can cause permanent damage to one’s hearing even if the noise is at a level that is not painful. The mysterious “they” can be wrong.

Two kinds of words—doublespeak and misused jargon—rob a speech of precision. Let us examine each.

Beware of Doublespeak When some federal and state legislators raise taxes, they don’t refer to their action as “raising taxes.” To do so might anger taxpayers. Instead they say they voted for “rev- enue enhancement.”

“Revenue enhancement” is an example of doublespeak, language that is deliber- ately misleading, evasive, meaningless, or inflated. Two of the most popular types of doublespeak are euphemisms and inflated language.

Euphemisms. These are pleasant, mild, or inoffensive terms that are used to avoid expressing a harsh or unpleasant reality. If a public official talks about regulated organic nutrients and says that the stuff exceeds the odor threshold, would you know that he is talking about sewage sludge and admitting that it stinks?12

Euphemisms are not always undesirable. Sometimes we use euphemisms to soften blunt reality as a way of showing respect for others. For example, imagine that you have a friend who chose to end the life of a very sick and suffering pet dog. If you say, “I’m sorry you decided to have the vet kill your dog,” your friend might be hurt by your unsparing language. But if you use a euphemism and say, “I’m sorry your dog had to be put to sleep,” you are showing kindness and a concern for your friend’s feelings. And there is no deception—your friend knows exactly what you mean.13

However, when a euphemism is used to deceive, it becomes doublespeak. Here are some examples:

∙ The Internal Revenue Service reported that in one recent year its overloaded phone system had 8.8 million “courtesy disconnects.” This doesn’t sound so bad until you learn that the euphemism refers to the fact that the IRS hung up on taxpayers calling for help 8.8 million times.14

∙ Businesses don’t like to say that they have fired employees or laid them off. When one company laid off thousands of employees, it noted that it had taken action to reach its “synergy-related headcount adjustment goal.”15

doublespeak language that is designed to confuse or to be misunderstood.

euphemism a mild, indirect, or vague word used in place of one that is harsh, blunt, or offensive.

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Chapter 13 Wording the Speech 245

While some euphemisms can be deci- phered, others are confusing. If a physician spoke of a negative patient care outcome, would you know that the term means death?16

Euphemisms can be harmful. Some food companies don’t want to list sugar on a product’s list of ingredients, so they use the term “evaporated cane juice.” Don Bar- rett, a lawyer in Mississippi, says that such deception is not a harmless crime: “To dia- betics and some other people, sugar is just as deadly as poison.”17

The best advice is this: Use euphemisms if tact and kindness require them; avoid them if they serve to deceive or confuse.

Inflated language. This kind of double- speak is designed to make the ordinary seem extraordinary. The following examples show uses of inflated language:

∙ A used car is advertised as a pre-owned car or pre-enjoyed automobile. ∙ A seafood restaurant calls its servers seafood specialists. ∙ A magazine refers to elderly people as the chronologically gifted. ∙ A national pizza delivery chain announces that its drivers will henceforth be

known as delivery ambassadors.

Some inflated language seems harmless. If garbage collectors prefer to be called sanitation engineers, I may wince at the misuse of language, but I cannot criticize too strenuously. If they believe that the term dignifies their valuable but unglamorous work, why should I object to it? But the problem is that inflated language is spreading rapidly into all areas of life, causing misunderstanding and confusion. If you saw an advertise- ment for a grief therapist, wouldn’t you envision a counselor for a mourning individual whose loved one has just died? If so, you’d be wrong, because grief therapist is an inflated term for an undertaker. How are we to know that an excavation technician is a ditch digger? That an architect of time is a watchmaker? That a traffic expediter is a shipping clerk? That a customer engineer is a salesperson? That a corrosion control specialist is the person who sends your car through a car wash?

One of my students once worked in a pet store as a cashier, but she was required to wear a badge that identified her as “Pet Counselor”—an inflated title that she resented. She told me, “It misled customers into thinking I was qualified to advise them on how to take care of their pets. All day long they would ask me questions that I couldn’t answer. It was humiliating.”

An inflated term may begin in kindness, but it often ends in confusion. Avoid it unless you know that it is clearly understood and preferred by your audience.

Don’t Misuse Jargon If a physician refers to a heart attack as an “acute myocardial infarction,” she is using jargon, the specialized language of a group or a profession. Jargon is acceptable if all your listeners share your specialty. But if some listeners are outside your field, either avoid specialized terms or define them.

jargon the technical lan- guage of a group or profession.

Examining Your Ethics

A United Airlines pilot spilled coffee all over his plane’s communications equipment, causing navigation problems and forcing him to make an emergency landing in Toronto. An airline spokesperson referred to the incident as “a communications incident.” Which of the following would have been the most ethical explanation by the airline?

A. “One of our pilots spilled coffee on equipment, causing navigation problems and forcing an emergency landing in Toronto.”

B. “One of our pilots experienced issues with the airplane communications system and chose to make an emergency landing in Toronto.”

C. “Because of an accident with onboard liquids, one of our pilots was forced to make an emergency landing in Toronto.”

For the answer, see the last page of this chapter.

inflated language words designed to puff up the importance of the person or thing being described.

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Some speakers use jargon unconsciously. Because they use certain words at work every day, they fail to realize that people outside their field may be unaware of the words’ meanings. In a speech to a general audience, a mortgage broker talked about his involvement with “strippers.” His listeners were startled and confused—they didn’t know that “stripper” is finance jargon for someone who has stripped all the equity out of a home and spent the cash.18

Be careful with sports terms. After bicycle champion Lance Armstrong per- formed effectively during a day in the Tour de France competition, he told report- ers, “There was no chain on the bike.” Huh? It turns out that he didn’t mean what he seemed to say. Unknown to most people outside cycling, the expression is used by

riders to describe what it feels like when everything seems easy.19

Jargon is especially baffling to listeners who speak English as a second language. When you are speaking to these listeners, omit jargon or—if it is necessary to use a specialized term—explain it in con- crete terms.

Using Vivid Language “The best speaker,” according to an Egyptian proverb, “is one who can turn the ear into an eye.” How can one perform such magic? By using vivid language, such as imagery, metaphors, and similes.

Imagery You can bring an abstract idea to life by using imagery—precise, descriptive words that create

images. For example, E. Gordon Gee, president of West Virginia University, delivered the following remark in a speech at Vanderbilt University:

Our culture needs to discover this: that being angry all the time can dry out a person’s heart. It can damage you, like stabbing yourself through the stomach to hurt someone standing behind you. The Buddha said, “If you knew what your anger was doing to you, you would shun it like the worst of poisons.” Sustained animosity dries out and warps the soul. Please do not entertain it, because it gives no happiness.20

Gee’s imagery of stabbing, poison, and dried hearts is powerful and memorable. You can use imagery in your speeches by choosing details that paint a picture. For

example, student speaker Juliann Martin describes her son:

Josh is a ball of energy. In everything he does, he has only one speed—high speed. He is very mobile, but he doesn’t have the brains to put on the brakes. He would run right out into the street if you didn’t watch him. His favorite word is “No!” But, to complicate matters, “no” sometimes means “yes.” He is very rigid. He wants to wear the same clothes every day and eat the same foods. Every night he wants the same story. Is Josh a mental case? No, he is a normal little boy who happens to be going through “the terrible twos.”

By giving specific details, Martin paints a good portrait of what children can be like at the age of two and vividly describes what “the terrible twos” are all about.

imagery words that evoke mental pictures or images.

Kaitlin Taylor, a member of the U.S. Air Force Band, talks to high school band students in Henderson, Kentucky, about her life as a pro- fessional musician. In a situation like this, a speaker who is skilled in her field must avoid using jargon (such as polyphony and scherzo) that the audience would not understand (unless she explains her term).

© Darrin Phegley/AP Images

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Metaphors and Similes Two devices that are especially effective for creating mental pictures are metaphors and similes. A metaphor is a figure of speech in which a word or a phrase that ordinarily describes one thing is used to describe another to suggest a resemblance. For example, “Enemy submarines were sharks that prowled the sea for prey.” Comparing submarines and sharks creates a metaphor that is vivid and powerful. A metaphor is a shortcut that lets us pack a great deal of meaning into just one word (or a few words).

A simile is the same as a metaphor, except that the comparison between two things is made with the word “like” or “as.” For example, American novelist Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings wrote, “The water made a sound like kittens lapping.”

Here are some other examples of the effective use of metaphors and similes: ∙ Marriage is a cozy, calm harbor where you are protected from the storms of the

outside world. (Pamela Smith, student speaker) ∙ The snow covered up all the brown humps and furrows of the field, like white

frosting on a chocolate cake. (Joshua Burns, student speaker) ∙ Manic-depressives are like passengers on an emotional roller-coaster that goes

up, up, up to a high of exhilaration and then down, down, down to a low of despair—without ever stopping to let them off. (Sarah Gentry, student speaker)

Beware of using a mixed metaphor, which occurs when a speaker combines two metaphors that don’t logically go together. For example, if you say, “He stepped up to the plate and grabbed the bull by the horns,” you are switching jarringly from a baseball image to a rodeo image.

During a football game, a TV commentator said, “Once again, the Achilles’ heel of the Philadelphia Eagles’ defense has reared its ugly head.” This mixed metaphor fails to give listeners a clear image and results in confusion.

One of the most famous examples of a mixed metaphor in the English language was uttered in the Irish Parliament by Boyle Roche in 1790: “Mr. Speaker, I smell a rat. I see him floating in the air. But mark me, sir, I will nip him in the bud.”21

Avoid clichés, which are trite, worn-out words or phrases. Here are some examples: better late than never, last but not least, raining cats and dogs, at the crack of dawn, and throw caution to the wind. To eliminate clichés, try to find fresh, lively alternatives. Instead of saying, “His tie stuck out like a sore thumb,” say something like “His tie was as out-of-place as a clown at a funeral.”

Using Rhetorical Devices Rhetorical devices are artful arrangements of words to make one’s remarks more inter- esting and memorable. Four of the most popular devices are alliteration, antithesis, par- allel structure, and repetition.

Alliteration Alliteration is the use of successive words that begin with the same consonant sound. We must love alliteration because our culture is filled with examples—in popular expressions (baby boomers), advertising slogans (“so soft and silky”), product names (Coca-Cola), TV shows (Mad Men), computer games (Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards), sports events (Final Four), and names (Peter Pan).

metaphor a comparison implying similarity between two things.

simile a comparison, using like or as, of otherwise dissimilar things.

mixed metaphor incongruously com- bined metaphors.

cliché an overused word or phrase.

alliteration repetition of the begin- ning sounds of words.

What is the meaning of the metaphor “paint yourself into a corner”?

© Comstock Images/ Jupiterimages RF

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Used sparingly, alliterative phrases can add sparkle to a speech. For example you might say, “We need to help the hungry and homeless survivors of the tornado.” But excessive use of alliteration can make you look silly: “I detest the puny political pyg- mies who pontificate piously about pure piffle.”

Antithesis An antithesis is a rhetorical device in which sharply contrasting ideas are juxtaposed in a balanced structure, as in “He has cold hands, but a warm heart.” The balance and the contrast emphasize the ideas and make the sentence memorable.

The device has been used in great historical speeches, including President John F. Kennedy’s famous words, “Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.” It also can be used in your speeches, with phrasing such as the following:

∙ “We want action, but they give us words.” ∙ “They call it a home—I call it a pigsty.” ∙ “They don’t care about people, but they do care about possessions.”

Parallel Structure and Repetition You can make your language memorable by taking advantage of rhythmic patterns. One such pattern is parallel structure—the repetition of a grammatical structure. Words, phrases, or clauses are arranged in parallel form, as in these examples:

We want a government . . . of the people, by the people, for the people.

We need parents who will . . . praise honest efforts, punish bad behavior, and ignore inconsequential acts.

antithesis balanced juxtaposi- tion of two contrasting ideas.

parallel structure equivalent gram- matical forms used to express ideas of equal importance.

Have you ever used a polysyndeton in a speech? A polysyndeton is the repetition, in quick succes-

sion, of several conjunctions (such as and, or, nor, but) that are unnecessary but give a dramatic rhythm to a spoken sentence. For example, an operations manager might assure her colleagues, “We will be even more effi- cient this year. That’s because compared to other compa- nies, we have better employees and faster software and a stronger infrastructure, and the largest warehouse in the business.” You can say the sentence without all those conjunctions, but you would lose a great deal of power.

A polysyndeton is just one of dozens of rhetorical devices. Search for “rhetorical devices” online to find

Tips for Your Career

Explore Rhetorical Devices



lists of devices and their meanings. You can also search for specific rhetorical devices on YouTube to explore clips taken from speeches, sermons, movies, songs, and so on.

Most of the devices were originally identified and labeled by teachers of rhetoric in ancient Greece and Rome. They have esoteric names such as epanalep- sis (the repetition of a word or phrase at the end of a statement that was originally said at the beginning the statement), but don’t be put off. If you familiarize yourself with rhetorical devices and listen to audio examples, you will realize that the techniques are easy to use and can enrich your own speeches.

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Chapter 13 Wording the Speech 249

Another effective rhythmic technique is repetition of words and phrases, as in the remark “This proposal is crazy, crazy, crazy.”

When repetition and parallel structure are combined, the result can give empha- sis to ideas while being pleasant to the ear. For example, student speaker Mei Zhang repeated a group of words in three successive sentences that all had the same parallel structure:

Who are the real heroes in society today? The famous and the powerful? Maybe so, but we must not forget the parents who work long hours in unglamorous jobs to help their kids succeed. We must not forget the kind souls who give loving care to the sick and dying. We must not forget the unselfish individuals who donate money to ease hunger and eradicate disease in countries they will never see.

Oral versus Written Language One of the biggest mistakes some speakers make is to treat oral language in a speech as having the same requirements as written language. While the two forms of communi- cation are similar, oral language requires more elaboration and repetition than written language. In an essay, you can write something like this:

As an environmental prophet, Susan Jameson is a canary, not a cuckoo.

That succinct sentence is excellent in an essay. The reader can study it at leisure if the meaning does not pop up immediately. But in a speech, a listener needs elaboration, such as this:

As an environmental prophet, Susan Jameson is a canary, not a cuckoo. We can trust her to be reliable. She’s like the canaries that coal miners used to take into mines to detect poisonous gases. If the canaries died, the miners knew they needed to rush to safety. Like a canary, Jameson can reliably tell us when the environment is in danger. She is not a cuckoo—a bird that sings false warnings.

In addition to expanding material, a speaker must often use pauses and give vocal emphasis to certain words. For example, consider this concise sentence by author James Thurber: “Do not look back in anger, or forward in fear, but around in awareness.” This sentence is perfectly written, but in oral communication, it is too compact to be easily retained. When I use it in a speech, I expand and dramatize it, giving emphasis to three key words: “As James Thurber advises: [pause] Do not look back in anger [pause] . . . Do not look forward in fear [pause] . . . Instead, look around in awareness.” The pauses let the words sink in.

In oral communication, you need to repeat key ideas. You can use the exact same words, but if possible, change the wording—not only for the sake of variety, but also to increase your chances of reaching different segments of your audience. One set of words might work well for some listeners, while another set might be needed for other listeners. Dr. Rachel Marsella, an obstetrician, uses this technique when giving lectures to expectant parents going through Lamaze childbirth training:

I try to use some medical language to reassure the better educated men and women that I’m a health professional and to show that I’m not talking down to them. But I have to keep in mind the less-well-educated people, too; so right after I use medical language, I’ll say, “In other words . . .” For example, I might say, “About half of all mothers experience post-partum depression. In other words, they feel sad and blue and ‘down in the dumps’ after the child is born.”

Dr. Marsella’s technique permits her to repeat an idea, but with a fresh set of words.

repetition repeating words or phrases for emotional effect.

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Summary Because language has great power, the words that you use in a speech should be chosen with care and sensitivity. Always use language that is appropriate for your particular audience and occasion, avoiding words that might be over the heads of the listeners or that might be offensive.

To use words accurately, you must be sensitive to both denotation, which is a word’s dictionary definition, and con- notation, which is the emotional significance of the word.

Be careful to use correct grammar. In business and pro- fessional life today, “bad” English causes many listeners to lower their estimate of a speaker’s intelligence and credibility.

You can achieve clarity in your language by choosing words that are simple, concrete, and precise. Beware of two types of doublespeak: euphemisms, which try to sugarcoat the

unpleasant taste of reality, and inflated language, which exag- gerates the importance of a person or a thing. Avoid using jargon, the specialized language of a group or a profession, unless all listeners are certain to know the meanings of the words used. If you must use jargon with an audience outside the industry, do so sparingly and be sure to define the terms.

You can make your language colorful and memorable by using imagery, metaphors, and similes, as well as rhetorical devices such as alliteration, antithesis, parallel structure, and repetition.

Oral language and written language are similar in many ways, but they should be treated differently in a speech. Oral language requires more elaboration than written language, and it needs repetition of key ideas.

Resources for Review and Skill Building

Key Terms abstract words, 243

alliteration, 247

antithesis, 248

cliché, 247

concrete words, 243

connotation, 241

denotation, 240

doublespeak, 244

euphemism, 244

gender-biased stereotype, 239

imagery, 246

inflated language, 245

jargon, 245

metaphor, 247

mixed metaphor, 247

parallel structure, 248

repetition, 249

simile, 247

1. Why did Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. use different words with different audiences?

2. What is the difference between the denotation and the connotation of a word?

3. Why is incorrect grammar a handicap for a speaker? 4. What is the difference between concrete language and

abstract language? Give an example of each. 5. What is the difference between euphemism and inflated

language? Give an example of each. 6. Change the following metaphor to a simile: “Her life

was a whirlwind of meetings, deadlines, and last minute decisions.”

Review Questions 7. Change the following simile by poet Robert Burns to a

metaphor: “My love is like a red, red rose.”

8. What is the term for the error the following sentence commits? “Learning is a spark in a person’s mind that must be watered constantly.”

9. Which rhetorical device is used in the following sen- tence? “Louise languished in the land of lilies and lilacs.”

10. In what way should oral language be treated differently from written language?

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Chapter 13 Wording the Speech 251

1. Some sports teams are named after birds—in football, Philadelphia Eagles, Atlanta Falcons, Seattle Seahawks, and Phoenix Cardinals; in baseball, Toronto Blue Jays, St. Louis Cardinals, and Baltimore Orioles. Why are teams named after these birds, and yet no teams are named after vultures, crows, or pigeons?

2. A book on automobile repair was once advertised under the headline “How to Repair Cars.” When the advertis- ing agency changed the headline to “How to Fix Cars,”

Building Critical-Thinking Skills sales jumped by 20 percent. Why do you think sales increased?

3. In New York, a publishing company was embarrassed when a receptionist, responding to a request to speak to an executive, said, “He don’t work here no more.” Why do you think the company was embarrassed?

4. In referring to poor people, a government official once spoke of “fiscal underachievers.” What kind of language is this term, and why do you think he chose it?

1. In restaurants, diners are more likely to select a dish if the menu describes it in appetizing terms, such as “topped with zesty garlic butter.” In a group, create a list of at least 10 items for a menu. Pretending that you are managers of a restaurant, make the descriptions as tempting as possible.

2. A newspaper poll asked people to cite what they consid- ered the most beautiful words in the English language.

Building Teamwork Skills Among the words mentioned were lullaby, violet, and Chattanooga. Working in a group, create a list of at least 10 words that group members think are especially beau- tiful. Discuss why the words are considered beautiful— is it the sounds of the words or the images the words evoke? If time permits, have group members who speak or have studied other languages contribute beautiful words from those languages.

Answer: A. This is a straightforward, honest statement. The other two responses use euphemisms that are designed to mis- lead the public about what really happened.

Examining Your Ethics

1. Jeff Freier, “The Top 5: Knuckleball Quotes,” SB NATION NEW YORK, newyork.sbnation.com (accessed December 9, 2015).

2. “R.A. Dickey on ‘Winding Up’ as A Knuckleballer,” NPR News, nprnews.org (accessed December 9, 2015).

3. Charles T. Blair-Broeker and Randal M. Ernst, Thinking about Psychology (New York: Macmillan Higher Edu- cation, 2012), p. 418.

4. Anthony Pratkanis and Elliot Aronson, Age of Propa- ganda: The Everyday Use and Abuse of Persuasion (New York: Macmillan, 2001), p. 33.

5. Alex Mayyasi, “The Invention of the Chilean Sea Bass,” Priceonomics, priceonomics.com (accessed January 15, 2016).

End Notes 6. C. J. Ducasse Quotes, Goodreads, www.goodreads.com

(accessed December 12, 2015).

7. Sue Shellenbarger, “This Embarrasses You and I,”  Wall Street Journal, www.wsj.com/articles (accessed December 14, 2015).

8. William Raspberry, quoted by Fred A. Strine, “We Shouldn’t Settle for Substandard English,” The Seattle Times, community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/ archive (accessed December 14, 2015).

9. John Zimmer, “Grammar: Some Good Advice,” Man- ner of Speaking, mannerofspeaking.org/2010/05/01/ grammar-some-good-advice (accessed January 8, 2015).

10. Edward T. Thompson, “How to Write Clearly,” reprint of advertisement by International Paper Company, undated.

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16. Henry Beard and Christopher Cerf, Spinglish: The Definitive Dictionary of Deliberately Deceptive Language (New York: Blue Rider Press/Penguin Random house, 2015), Kindle edition (no page numbers).

17. Stephanie Strom, “Lawyers From Suits Against Big Tobacco Target Food Makers,” New York Times, www. nytimes.com (accessed December 17, 2015).

18. Janet Turpin, financial analyst, Chicago, personal inter- view, July 18, 2008.

19. Samuel Abt, “Armstrong’s Lead Unchanged after the Pyrenees,” New York Times, www.nytimes.com (accessed December 15, 2015).

20. E. Gordon Gee, quoted in “Commencement 2005,” Chronicle of Higher Education, July 1, 2005, p. B2.

21. “Sir Boyle Roche,” Bartleby.com, www.bartleby. com/344/338.html (accessed January 21, 2016).

11. William Zinsser,  On Writing Well, 30th anniversary edition (New York: Harper Perennial, 2012), Kindle edi- tion (no page numbers).

12. Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber, Trust Us, We’re Experts! (New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, 2001), p. 292.

13. Peter Cashwell, Along Those Lines: The Boundaries That Create Our World (Philadelphia: Paul Dry Books, 2014), p. 199.

14. Lisa Rein, “The IRS Hung Up on Taxpayers 8.8 Million Times This Year,” The Washington Post, www. washingtonpost.com (accessed December 15, 2015).

15. Colin McNairn, In a Manner of Speaking: Phrases, Expressions, and Proverbs and How We Use and Misuse Them (New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2015), Kindle edition (no page numbers).

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The Key to Good Delivery

Methods of Speaking


Nonverbal Communication

The Question-and-Answer Period


Speaking in Front of a Camera

OBJECTIVES After studying this chapter, you should be able to

1. Explain the four methods of delivery. 2. Practice and deliver an extemporaneous speech. 3. Use effective vocal techniques in a speech. 4. Demonstrate effective nonverbal communication in a


5. Conduct a question-and-answer period in a manner that encourages audience participation.

6. Utilize production methods in practicing a speech. 7. Use effective techniques when speaking in front of a


H E R S P E E C H D I D N OT B E G I N W E L L .   Actor and comedian Mindy

Kaling was giving an acceptance speech after being honored by Girls, Inc. for “show-

ing all girls and women that they can be smart, funny, and valued for their unique

voices.” As she began her remarks, Kaling fumbled and faltered, but she soon settled

down, found her bearings, and spoke with confidence. Her speech was a success.1

What was happening to Kaling? She says that she often experiences stage fright

at the beginning of a presentation, but she focuses on reaching her audience. This

helps her to get her butterflies under control, and she is able to speak smoothly and


Delivering the Speech



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Mindy Kaling speaks at the Girls, Inc. Celebra- tion Luncheon in Los Angeles.

© Mike Windle/Getty Images

Kaling’s experience underscores two truths about delivering a speech:

1. Most speakers who have a rough start usually calm down and do fine.

2. Don’t assume that your delivery must be perfect. You put enormous—and unnecessary—pressure on yourself if you aim for perfection. No one is perfect—not even a much-admired celebrity like Mindy Kaling.

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The Key to Good Delivery The preceding story about Mindy Kaling exemplifies an important point: The key to good delivery is a strong desire to communicate with the audience. Though Kaling started out shaky, she had a burning desire to communicate with the audience, and before long she was effortlessly using good delivery techniques.

I have seen this phenomenon many times: speakers who care deeply about convey- ing their ideas to the audience almost always do an adequate job with their delivery— even if they lack professional polish and training. R. T. Kingman, a General Motors executive, says that if you know what you want to say and if you want everybody in the room to understand your message, “all the other things like looking people in the eye and using good gestures will just come naturally.”3

I am emphasizing the speaker’s desire to communicate so that you can put the ideas of this chapter into proper perspective. The dozens of tips about delivery in the pages that follow are important, and you should study them carefully. But bear in mind that a strong desire to communicate with your audience gives you the power to deliver a speech with energy and effectiveness.

Methods of Speaking Four basic speaking methods are used by public speakers today: memorization, manu- script, impromptu, and extemporaneous.

Memorization Some speakers memorize an entire speech and then deliver it without a script or notes. Memorizing is a bad idea for most speakers, however, because of the following liabilities:

∙ You are forced to spend an enormous amount of time committing the speech to memory.

Could anyone doubt that actor Hilary Duff has a strong desire to communicate with her audience of schoolchil- dren in Atlanta, Geor- gia? Her body language reveals her enthusiasm. She has positioned herself close to the kids and at their eye level. Her face shows anima- tion and a connection with her listeners.

© Rick Diamond/Getty Images

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Chapter 14 Delivering the Speech 257

∙ At some point in your speech, you might suddenly forget what comes next. This could cause you to panic. Once derailed, you might be unable to get back on track.

∙ Even if you remembered your entire speech, you would be speaking from your memory, not from your heart. This could cause you to sound remote and lifeless—more like a robot than a human being.

Memorizing does have one advantage: it lets you figure out your exact wording ahead of time. But this gain in precision fails to outweigh the disadvantages. I don’t recommend this method.

Manuscript Some speakers put their entire speech word for word on a manuscript, which they read aloud to the audience. In most cases, this is a poor method. Although a few people can read a text effectively, most speakers lack spontaneity and enthusiasm. They fail to look at the audience, do not speak with adequate expression, and often read too quickly.

There are some occasions, however, when reading a manuscript is appropriate. Here are two examples:

∙ In a highly emotional situation (such as delivering a eulogy at a funeral), having a script can give you stability and reassurance that you won’t break down or ramble.

∙ Many government hearings and scientific conferences prefer manuscript delivery because each speaker’s complete text is printed in a document or posted online.

If you use a manuscript, follow these guidelines: 

∙ For ease of reading, print the document in large letters and leave generous spac- ing between lines.

∙ Print only on the top one-third of the page so that you don’t have to bob your head. ∙ Use a yellow highlighter to mark key words and phrases. ∙ Underline words that need to be spoken with extra emphasis.

manuscript method delivery of a speech by reading a script.

Undesirable in most cases, reading a manu- script is only appro- priate in emotional situations or when the speech must be published.

© racorn/Shutterstock

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∙ Insert slanting lines to indicate pauses. ∙ Practice reading the document many times until you are thoroughly familiar

with it.

If you are well-rehearsed, you should be able to look at your audience frequently and make gestures. Because you are using a method that is often monotonous, try to inject vigor and variety into your voice. Above all else, don’t race through the manuscript.

Impromptu Speaking impromptu means speaking on the spur of the moment—with no opportunity for extensive preparation. For example, without warning you are asked to give a talk to your fellow employees about your recent conference in Detroit. Or during a meeting, you are asked to explain a new procedure in your department.

Because you have to respond immediately, impromptu speaking can be stressful. Just remind yourself that your listeners realize you are speaking off-the-cuff—they are not expecting a polished masterpiece. Here are some guidelines for impromptu success:

Decide your conclusion first. Knowing how you will finish can prevent a long, drawn- out ending or a weak comment like “Well, I guess that’s it.”

Organize your speech. You can use an organizational pattern from earlier chapters— for example, the problem-solution pattern—or you might consider one of the ready- made patterns shown in Table 1. These patterns are used by experienced speakers to quickly structure impromptu speeches.

Let’s explore one of the methods by imagining that you work for an accounting firm that has a standard 9-to-5 schedule, and you want to recommend staggered hours. At a staff meeting, you are asked to make your case. Having only a few moments to prepare, you decide to use the PREP template (Table 1). Here is a streamlined version of your remarks: Position—“I believe that all employees will be happier and more productive if

they are permitted to work from 11 A.M. to 7 P.M. for one day a week.” Reason—“With our present 9-to-5 system, many important services are unavail-

able to us.” Example—“For example, we have no chance to renew a driver’s license because

the state license office is open only on weekdays from 9 A.M. to 5 P.M.” Position—“Giving us one 11-to-7 day per week will improve morale because we

will be able to meet both professional and personal responsibilities.”

Don’t rush. Speak at a steady, calm rate. When beginning, and at various intervals, pause for a few seconds to collect your thoughts.

Whenever possible, link your remarks to those of other speakers. When you take a statement made by a previous speaker and build upon it, you connect with your audi- ence and hold their attention.

Don’t feign knowledge. If you are asked to comment on the spot on a matter about which you know nothing, simply say, “I don’t know.” Don’t try to “wing it.” Some speakers think that admitting ignorance will hurt their credibility, but the opposite is often true: if you fail to admit your ignorance and try to hide it behind a smokescreen of verbal ramblings, you can look insincere and foolish. In some situations you can say, “I don’t know the answer to that, but I’ll look into it and get back to you as soon as I can.”

impromptu method speaking with little or no preparation.

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Chapter 14 Delivering the Speech 259

Be brief. Some impromptu speakers talk too long, repeating the same ideas or dwell- ing on irrelevant matters. They usually do so because they are afraid they are omitting something important or because they lack a graceful way of closing the speech. Ram- bling on and on is certain to weaken a speech.

Try to foresee situations where you are likely to be called upon to speak impromptu. Plan what you will say. For example, driving back from a workshop, rehearse in your mind what you will say if the boss asks you to make a little presentation to your col- leagues about what you learned.

Extemporaneous The extemporaneous method is the most popular style of speaking in the United States today. (Some people use the word extemporaneous as a synonym for impromptu, but most public speaking instructors make the distinction used in this book.) Your goal is to sound as if you are speaking spontaneously, but instead of giving the clumsy, faltering speech that many off-the-cuff speakers give, you present a beautifully organized, well- developed speech that you have spent many hours preparing and practicing.

In extemporaneous speaking, you speak from notes, but these notes are not a word-for-word script. Instead, they contain only your basic ideas, expressed in a few key words. When you speak, therefore, you make up the exact words as you go along. You glance at your notes occasionally to remind yourself of your next point, but most of the time you look at the listeners, speaking to them in a natural, conversational tone of voice.

This conversational tone is valued in a speech because it is the easiest kind for an audience to listen to, understand, and remember. When you speak conversationally, you are speaking directly, warmly, sincerely. Your manner is as close as possible to the way you talk to your best friends: your voice is full of life and color; your words are fresh and vital.

extemporaneous method delivery of a speech from notes, following extensive preparation and rehearsal.

Table 1 Patterns for Impromptu Speeches


• Point (State your point of view—that is, your key idea or objective.)

• Support (Give examples, stories, or other support material to explain or prove the point.)

• Conclusion (End with a restatement of the point and/or an appeal to action.)

PREP Method

• Position (State your position on the topic.)

• Reason (State your reason for taking the position.)

• Example (Give an example that helps to illuminate or explain your reasoning.)

• Position (Summarize and repeat your position.)


• Point (State your key point.)

• Past (Discuss what happened in the past.)

• Present (Talk about what is occurring today.)

• Future (Predict what will or could happen in the future.)

• Point (Drive home your key point.)

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Speaking extemporaneously permits flexibility because you can easily make adjustments to meet the needs of an audience. If, for example, you see that some listen- ers don’t understand a point, you can restate your message in different words. If you are the last speaker of the evening at a banquet and you sense that your audience is about to go to sleep because of the long-winded speakers who preceded you, you can shorten your speech by cutting out minor points.

Despite its advantages, the extemporaneous method can be flawed if used incor- rectly. Here are some common scenarios:

∙ In a three-point speech, Speaker A looks at his notes, states the first point, and then elaborates on it at great length. He loses track of time—until he finally notices a clock and gallops through the remaining points, confusing the audience.

∙ Speaker B has notes with key points, but she talks on and on about all the points. This causes her to go 20 minutes over her time limit, much to the annoy- ance of her listeners.

∙ Speaker C works from carefully crafted notes, but because he has not practiced the speech, his delivery is hesitant and ragged.

To avoid such mistakes, you must spend a lot of time preparing an outline and notes, and then rehearsing your speech, using a clock to make sure you are not ad- libbing too much.

Voice Some people think that to be an excellent speaker, you must have a golden voice, rich and resonant, that enthralls listeners. This is not true. Some of the greatest orators in history had imperfect voices. Abraham Lincoln’s voice was described by his contempo- raries as shrill and unpleasant4 while Winston Churchill stuttered and had a slight lisp.5 It is nice to have a rich, resonant voice, but other characteristics of the human voice are more important—volume, clarity, and expressiveness. Let’s examine all three.

Volume The larger the room, the louder you have to speak. You can tell if your volume is loud enough by observing the people in the back. Are they leaning forward with quizzical expressions as they strain to hear your words? Then obviously you need to speak louder. You may have to raise your voice to overcome noises, such as the chatter of people in a hallway or the clatter of dishes during a banquet.

Speaking loudly enough for all to hear does not mean shouting. It means projecting your voice a bit beyond its normal range. If you have never spoken to a large group or if your instructor tells you that you have problems with projecting your voice, practice with a friend. Find an empty classroom, have your friend sit in the back row, and prac- tice speaking with extra force—not shouting—so that your friend can hear you easily.

If you will be using a microphone, go to the meeting site early and spend a few minutes testing it. Adjust it to your height. If someone readjusts it during the ceremo- nies, spend a few moments getting it just right for you. Your audience will not mind the slight delay. Position it so that you can forget that it is there. This frees you to speak naturally, without having to bend over or lean forward.

When you speak into a microphone, your voice will sound better if your mouth is 6 to 12 inches away. And remember this: You don’t need to raise your voice. A micro- phone makes it possible to speak to 25,000 people with a whisper.

A microphone is a powerful device, but contrary to what some people think, it will not make a boring voice more interesting.

© wavebreakmedia/ Shutterstock

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Chapter 14 Delivering the Speech 261

Clarity Spoken English is sometimes radically different from written English, as this news item demonstrates:

One group of English-speaking Japanese who moved to the United States as employees of Toyota had to enroll in a special course to learn that “Jeat yet?” means “Did you eat yet?” and that “Cannahepya?” means “Can I help you?”6

Other mystifying phrases for newcomers include “Wassamatta wi’you?” (“What’s the matter with you?”), “Waddayathink?” (“What do you think?”), “Watchadoin?” (“What are you doing?”), and “Dunno” (“I don’t know”).

For many speakers of English, articulation—the production of speech sounds by our vocal organs—is lazy and weak, especially in daily conversations. We slur sounds, drop syllables, and mumble words. While poor articulation may not hurt us in conversa- tion as long as our friends understand what we are saying, it can hinder communication in a speech, especially if English is a second language for some of our listeners. We need to enunciate our words crisply and precisely to make sure that everything we say is intelligible.

If you tend to slur words, you can improve your speech by reading poems or essays aloud for 15 minutes a day for three weeks. Say the words with exaggerated emphasis, and move your mouth and tongue vigorously. Enunciate consonants firmly and make vowel sounds last longer than normal. In real situations, you should not exaggerate in this way, but the practice will help you avoid the pitfalls of slurring and mumbling.

While poor articulation stems from sloppy habits, poor pronunciation is a mat- ter of not knowing the correct way to say a word. Examine the common pronunciation mistakes listed in Table 2.

Be careful using words that you have picked up from books but have never heard pronounced. One student had read about the Sioux Indians but had never heard the tribal name pronounced—he called them the sigh-ox, rather than the correct pronuncia- tion sue. Another common slip is to confuse words that sound alike. For example, one student said that a man and woman contemplating marriage should make sure they are compatible before they say their vowels. (One listener couldn’t resist asking, at the end of the speech, whether consonants were also important for marriage.) You can avoid such mistakes by practicing a speech in front of friends or colleagues and asking them to flag errors.

Expressiveness A dynamic speaker has a voice that is warm and expressive, producing a rich variety of sounds. Let’s examine five basic elements of expressiveness: pitch and intonation, loud- ness and softness, rate of speaking, pauses, and conversational quality. 

Pitch and Intonation The highness or lowness of your voice is called pitch. The ups and downs of pitch— called intonation patterns—give our language its distinctive melody. Consider the fol- lowing sentence: “I believe in love.” Say it in a variety of ways—with sincerity, with sarcasm, with humor, with puzzlement. Each time you say it, you are using a different intonation pattern.

In conversation, almost everyone uses a variety of intonation patterns and empha- sizes particular words, but in public speaking, some speakers fail to use any variety at

articulation the act of producing vocal sounds.

pronunciation correct way of speak- ing a word.

pitch the highness or low- ness of a sound.

intonation the use of chang- ing pitch to convey meaning.

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all. Instead, they speak in monotone—a dull, flat drone that will put many listeners to sleep. Even worse, they run the risk of appearing insincere. They may say something dramatic like “This crime is a terrible tragedy for America,” but say it in such a flat way that the audience thinks they don’t really mean it.

An absence of intonation also means that some words fail to receive the emphasis they deserve. For example, take a sentence like this: “Mr. Smith made $600,000 last year, while Mr. Jones made $6,000.” A speaker who talks in a monotone will say the two figures as if there were no difference between $600,000 and $6,000. But to help listeners hear the disparity, the speaker should let his or her voice place heavy emphasis on the $600,000.

Word Incorrect Pronunciation Correct Pronunciation

across uh-crost uh-cross

athlete ath-uh-lete ath-lete

burglar burg-you-lur burg-lur

chef tchef shef

chic chick sheek

drowned drown-did drownd

electoral e-lec-tor-ee-al e-lec-tor-al

environment en-vire-uh-ment en-vi-run-ment

et cetera ek-setera et-setera

evening eve-uh-ning eve-ning

grievous greev-ee-us greev-us

height hithe hite

hundred hun-derd hun-dred

library li-berry li-brar-ee

mischievous miss-chee-vee-us miss-chuh-vus

nuclear nu-cu-lar nu-cle-ar

perspiration press-pi-ray-shun per-spi-ray-shun

picture pitch-er pick-shur

pretty pur-tee prit-ee

professor pur-fess-ur pruh-fess-ur

quiet quite kwy-et

realtor reel-uh-tor re-ul-tor

recognize reck-uh-nize rec-og-nize

relevant rev-uh-lant rel-uh-vant

strength strenth streng-th

Table 2 Common Pronunciation Mistakes

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Chapter 14 Delivering the Speech 263

Loudness and Softness Besides using the proper volume so that everyone in the audience can hear you speak, you can raise or lower your voice for dramatic effect or to emphasize a point. Try saying the following out loud:

(Soft:) “Should we give in to the kidnappers’ demands? (Switch to loud:) NEVER!”

Did you notice that raising your voice for the last word conveys that you truly mean what you say? Now try another selection out loud:

(Start softly and make your voice grow louder as you near the end of this sen- tence:) “Edwin Arlington Robinson’s character, Richard Cory, had everything that a man could want—good looks, lots of money, popularity.” (Now make your voice switch to soft:) “But he went home one night and put a bullet through his head.”

Changing from loud to soft helps the listeners feel the tragic discrepancy between Richard Cory’s outward appearance and his inner reality.

Rate of Speaking How quickly or slowly should you speak? It all depends on the situation. If you are describing a thrilling high-speed police chase, a rapid rate is appropriate, but if you are explaining a technical, hard-to-understand concept, a slow pace is preferred.

One of the biggest mistakes inexperienced speakers make is speaking too quickly. It is especially important that you speak at a deliberate rate during your introduction. Have you ever noticed how TV dramas start? They don’t divulge important details of the story until you are three or four minutes into the show. One obvious reason for this is to have mercy on late-arriving viewers, but the main reason is to give you a chance to “tune in” to the story and meet the characters. If too much action takes place in the first minute, you are unable to absorb the story. Likewise, when you are a speaker, you need to give your audience a chance to “tune in” to you, to get accustomed to your voice and subject matter. If you race through your introduction, they may become lost and confused.

Speaking at a deliberate, unhurried pace helps you come across as someone who is confident and in control, as someone who cares about whether the listeners understand.

Pauses When you read printed material, you have punctuation marks to help you make sense out of your reading. In a speech, there are no punctuation marks, so listeners must rely on your oral cues to guide them. One of these cues is the pause, which lets your listeners know when you have finished one thought and are ready to go to the next. Audiences appreciate a pause; it gives them time to digest what you have said.

A pause before an important idea or the climax of a story can be effective in creat- ing suspense. For example, student speaker Stephanie Johnson told of an adventure she had while camping:

It was late at night when I finally crawled into my sleeping bag. The fire had died down, but the moon cast a faint, spooky light on our campsite. I must have been asleep a couple of hours when I suddenly woke up. Something was brushing up against my sleeping bag. My heart started pounding like crazy. I peeked out of the slit I had left for air. Do you know what I saw? [pause]

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By pausing at this point, Johnson had the audience on the edge of their chairs. What was it? A bear? A human intruder? After a few moments of dramatic tension, she ended the suspense: 

By the light of the moon, I could see a dark little animal with a distinctive white stripe. [pause] It was a skunk.

A pause also can be used to emphasize an important statement. It is a way of say- ing, “Let this sink in.” Notice how one speaker used pauses in a discussion of oratorical techniques:

Mark Twain said it best: “The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as [pause] a rightly timed pause.”7

In some speeches, you may find yourself pausing not because you want to but because you have forgotten what you were planning to say next and you need to glance at your notes. Or you may pause while searching your mind for the right word. Such a pause seems like an eternity, so you are tempted to use verbal fillers such as “uh,” “er,” or “um.” Instead, remain silent, and don’t worry that your silence is a “mistake.” A few such pauses can show the audience that you are a conscientious speaker who is concerned about using the most precise words possible.

Conversational Quality Some inexperienced speakers give their speeches in a dull, plodding voice. Yet five minutes afterward, chatting with their friends in the hall, they speak with animation and warmth.

They need to bring that same conversational quality into their speeches. How can this be done? How can a person sound as lively and as “real” when talking to 30 people as when chatting with a friend? Here are two suggestions.

1. Treat your audience not as a blur of faces but as a collection of individuals. Here’s a mental ploy you can use: At the beginning of a speech, look at one or two individuals in different parts of the room and act as if you are talking to them per- sonally. You should avoid staring, of course, but looking at each face briefly will help you develop a conversational attitude. As the speech goes on, add other faces to your “conversation.”

2. Be yourself—but somewhat intensified. To speak to an audience with the same natural, conversational tone you use with your friends, you must speak with greater energy and forcefulness. I am not talking now about projecting your voice so that the people can hear you but, rather, about intensifying the emotional tones and the vibrancy of your voice.

Being yourself in front of a large group of strangers does not come naturally to everyone. It doesn’t always come naturally even if you personally know your listeners, such as classmates or colleagues. There are two ways to be a more intensified version of yourself when delivering a speech.

1. Let your natural enthusiasm show. If you have chosen a topic wisely, you are speaking about something you care about and want to communicate. When you stand in front of your audience, don’t hold yourself back; let your voice convey all the enthusiasm that you feel inside. Many speakers are afraid they will look or sound ridiculous if they get involved with their subject. “I’ll come on too strong,” they say. But the truth is that your audience will appreciate your energy and zest.

verbal fillers vocalized pauses in which a speaker inserts sounds such as “uh.”

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Chapter 14 Delivering the Speech 265

How to Handle Tearful Situations When one of my students, Sarah Mowery, was show- ing me her outline for a speech on drowsy driving, she told me that she planned to eliminate a photo and story about a close friend who had died after falling asleep at the wheel.

“But why?” I asked. “That would be the most powerful part of your speech.”

“I’m afraid I’d break down and cry,” she replied. I convinced her to keep the photo and story

in the speech, and I told her a technique that I have used successfully when I deliver a eulogy at a funeral: As part of your preparation, accept the fact that you might be overcome with emo- tion. Have a handkerchief or tissue in your pocket or even in your hand. Tell yourself that tears are appropriate and that the audience will be sympa- thetic. Just making these preparations may be all that is necessary—I have never had to actually use my handkerchief.

In Mowery’s situation (a classroom speech), the audience would not be expecting deep emotion, so I recommended that she hold a tissue in her hand and say, “Now I am going to tell you a sad story. I hope I can tell it without crying, but if I do cry, I am sure you will understand.” Mowery followed this advice, and she ended up not crying at all.

But if she had cried, so what? The death of a close friend is a good reason to cry. Don’t be afraid

to show emotions. Listeners are very understanding, and some of them may join you in shedding tears.

One note of caution: Don’t let tears cause you to end your speech prematurely. Pause, pull yourself together, and continue.

At a news conference on medical issues, Mike Hop- kins of Covington, Georgia, wipes his face as he cries while talking about losing two of his children because of complications from seizures. Do you think that anyone in the room thought less of Hopkins because he cried?

© David Goldman/AP Images

Think back to the speakers you have heard. Didn’t you respond best to those who were alive and enthusiastic?

2. Practice loosening up. Some novice speakers sound and look stiff simply because they have not had practice loosening up. Here is something you can try: Find a private location and practice a speech you are working on, recite poetry, read from a magazine, or simply ad-lib. Whatever words you use, say them dra- matically. Ham it up. Be theatrical. Act as if you are running for president and you are trying to persuade an audience of 10,000 people to vote for you. Or pretend you are giving a poetry reading to 500 of your most enthusiastic fans. You will not speak so dramatically to a real audience, of course, but the practice in “letting go” will help you break out of your normal reserve. It will help you learn to be your- self, to convey your natural enthusiasm.

Nonverbal Communication Nonverbal communication consists of the messages that you send without words— what you convey with your eyes, facial expression, posture, body movement, and the characteristics of your voice (as discussed in the preceding section).

nonverbal communication transmission of mes- sages without words.

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To be credible to your audience, your nonverbal communication must be syn- chronized with your words. If you say, “I’m very happy to be here,” but your eyes are cast downward and your face is glum, your audience will think that you are not being honest. Whenever there is a discrepancy between “body language” and words, listeners will believe the nonverbal signals instead of the verbal message.8

To get your nonverbal signals synchronized with your words, show enthusi- asm (with your eyes, facial expression, posture, and tone of voice) as you speak. However, you may be asking, “What if I don’t really feel happy and confident? I can’t lie with my body, can I?” This is a good question because there are times when you don’t want to speak or don’t feel like standing up in front of a group. At times like these, what should you do?

Pretend. Yes, pretend to be confident in yourself and in your ideas. Pre- tend to be glad to appear before your audience. Pretend to be enthusiastic. But, you may ask, isn’t this phony? Isn’t this forcing the body to tell a lie? Yes, but we often must simulate cheerfulness and animation when we’re not feeling up to it: a crucial job interview, a conference with the boss, an important date with someone we love. By acting as if we are confident, poised, and enthusi-

astic, we often find that after a few minutes, the pretense gives way to reality. We truly become confident, poised, and enthusiastic.

Consider the comedians and talk-show hosts who appear night after night on TV. Do you think they are always “up”? No. Like you and me, they have their bad days. Neverthe- less, they force themselves to perform and pretend to be enthusiastic. After about 60 sec- onds, most of them report, the pretense gives way to reality and they truly are enthusiastic.

(A word of advice: If this transformation fails to happen to you—if you don’t feel enthusiastic after a few minutes—you should continue to pretend.)

How can you make your body “lie” for you? By knowing and using the signals that the body sends out to show confidence and energy. The follow- ing discussion of the major nonverbal aspects of public speaking will help you become aware of these signals.

Personal Appearance Your audience will size up your personal appearance and start forming opin- ions about you even before you open your mouth to begin your speech. You should be clean, well-groomed, and attractively dressed.

Janet Stone and Jane Bachner, who conduct workshops for women execu- tives, have some good advice for both men and women:

As a general rule of thumb, find out what the audience will be wearing and then wear something yourself that is just a trifle dressier than their clothes. The idea is to establish yourself as “The Speaker,” to set yourself slightly apart from the crowd.9

Dressing up carefully is a compliment to the audience, sending the non- verbal message “You are important to me—so important that I dressed up a bit to show my respect for you.”

Don’t wear anything that distracts or diminishes communication. Baseball caps tend to hinder eye contact, and they suggest disrespect to some listeners. A T-shirt with a ribald or controversial slogan printed on the front may direct attention away from the speech itself, and it may offend some members of the audience.

Some students have trouble accepting the idea of dressing up. Isn’t it true, they say, that people should be judged by their character and not by their clothes? That would be ideal,

This nonverbal signal is used throughout the world. What does it mean?

© FogStock/Alamy

At a U.S. Senate commit- tee hearing, actor Ben Affleck shows that (1) dressing up is a sign of respect for your audience and (2) eye contact helps to show your sincerity.

© Bariskan Unal/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

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Chapter 14 Delivering the Speech 267

but in the real world, you are judged by what you wear. Clothing is viewed as a form of self- expression, so your audience will evaluate your attire as a shortcut to evaluating you. 

Eye Contact Look at your audience 95 percent of the time. Good eye contact is important for several reasons: (1) It creates an important bond of communication and rapport between you and your listeners. (2) It shows your sincerity. We distrust people who won’t look at us openly and candidly. (3) It enables you to get audience feedback. For example, did a number of listeners look puzzled when you made your last statement? Then you obvi- ously confused them, and you need to explain your point in a different way.

The biggest spoiler of good eye contact is looking at your notes too much—a mis- take that is usually made for these two reasons: (1) You are unprepared. This can be corrected by rehearsing your speech so many times that you need only glance at your notes to remind yourself of what comes next. (2) You are nervous. Some speakers are well-prepared and don’t really need to look at their notes very often, but they are so nervous that they scrutinize their notes to gain security and avoid the audience. One way to correct this is to put reminders on your notes in giant red letters—LOOK AT AUDIENCE—to nudge you out of this habit.

Another killer of eye contact is handouts. As discussed in the chapter on presenta- tion aids, you should never distribute a handout during a speech unless it is simple and short. If you give listeners an eight-page packet during your speech, they will stare at that and you will lose eye communication.

Eye contact is more than glancing at the audience from time to time. It is more than mechanically moving your head from side to side like an oscillating fan. For a large audience, the best technique is to have a “conversation” with three or four people in different parts of the room (so that you seem to be giving your attention to the entire audience). For a small audience, look at every listener. 

Facial Expressions Let your face express whatever emotion is appropriate during your speech. One student told me he was planning to speak on how to perform under pressure; his primary example was the thrilling moment in high school when he kicked the winning field goal in the final seconds of a championship football game. As he talked to me, his face was suffused with excitement. But when he got up in front of the class and told the same story, his face was blank. Gone was the joy; gone was the exhilaration. Without expression, he weakened the impact of the story.

The best facial expression—if it is appropriate—is a smile. Smiling can reduce your stress and lift the mood of both you and the audience, says Diane Windingland, a member of Toastmasters International and a presentation coach. “The contagious nature of a smile encourages listeners to smile back at you.”10

Posture Good posture conveys confidence. Stand up straight, with your weight equally distrib- uted on your feet so that you appear stable and assured. Avoid two common pitfalls— slouching and drooping at one extreme, and being rigid and tense at the other extreme. Your goal should be relaxed alertness—in other words, be relaxed but not too relaxed.

Morgan Mitchell, a stu- dent at Victoria University in Australia, smiles as she discusses her appear- ance as a track star in the Australian Common- wealth Games. A smile is one of the most power- ful types of nonverbal communication.

© Robert Prezioso/Stringer/ Getty Images

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If you are speaking at a lectern, here are some things not to do: Don’t lean on it. Don’t slouch to one side of it. Don’t prop your feet on its base. Don’t rock back and forth with it.

Some speakers like to sit on the edge of a desk to deliver a speech. This posture is fine for one-hour classroom lectures because the speaker gets a chance to relax, and his or her body language conveys openness and informality. But for short speeches, espe- cially the kind you are expected to deliver in a public speaking class, stand up. This will help to make you alert and enthusiastic.

Movement You don’t have to stand in one place throughout your speech. Movement gives your body a chance to dissipate nervous energy. It also can be used to recapture your listen- ers’ attention if they are getting bored or tired; an animated speaker is easier to follow than an unanimated speaker who stays frozen in one spot.

You can use movement to emphasize a transition from one point to the next. For example, walk a few steps to the left of the lectern as you say, “Now that we have exam- ined the problem, let’s discuss the solution.” You can move toward your listeners when you plead for an immediate response (for example, “Please donate to help find a cure for cystic fibrosis”).

Make sure that all movements are purposeful and confident—not random and nervous. If you pace like a tiger in a cage, your audience will be distracted and even annoyed. Don’t sway back and forth; don’t rock on your heels. In short, make your movements add to your speech, rather than subtract from it.

Using Notes For classroom speeches, your instructor will tell you whether you may use notes. For speeches in your career, the note system that was explained in the chapter on outlining the speech is highly recommended.

Experienced speakers disagree about whether a lectern should be used for career and community speeches. Some say that a lectern gives the speaker dignity and is a convenient stand for notes, especially on formal occasions such as an awards ceremony or a funeral. Others object that a lectern creates a physical barrier. “I don’t want anything coming between me and my audience,” a politician told me.

Here is a technique that is popular: using the lec- tern as “home base,” walk a few paces to the left or right of it each time you make a point. In other words, glance at the notes on the lectern to remind yourself of the point you want to make, move away from the

Tips for Your Career

Decide Whether and How to Use a Lectern



lectern a few paces, make the point, then walk back to the lec- tern to pick up your next point.

With some audiences, you can arrange for a remote or mobile microphone so that you can ignore the lectern or have it removed.

For a large audience, if the lectern is unmovable and has a stationary micro- phone, you have no choice but to stand behind it. If you are short, you can stand on a box or riser so that your upper body is visible to your audience.

© doomu/Shutterstock

posture the position of your body as you sit or stand.

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Most professional speakers use cards or sheets of paper, and they have different ways of using them. Speakers who use a lectern place their notes in a stack on the lectern and consult one at a time, or they spread notes out so that several are visible at a time. Speakers who don’t use a lectern prefer to hold their notes in one hand while gesturing with the other.

Whatever system you use, remember the earlier warning: use notes sparingly. Look at your audience 95 percent of the time.

Gestures Making gestures with your hands and arms can add power to your words and cause you to look animated and engaged. Except in a few cases (discussed in this section), gestures should be natural and unplanned. They should occur spontaneously and be in harmony with what you are saying.

At all times, have at least one hand free to make gestures. To keep one hand avail- able, abide by these rules: (1) Don’t grip the lectern with your hands. (2) Don’t clutch your notes with both hands. (3) Don’t stuff both hands into your pockets.

If you use a lectern, don’t let it hide your gestures. Some speakers rest their hands on the lectern and make tiny, flickering gestures that can be sensed but not seen by the audience. This makes the speaker look tentative and unsure.

When you make gestures, use all of your arm, advises British speech consultant Cristina Stuart:

Don’t tuck in your elbows to your waist or make jerky, half-hearted, meaningless gestures. I remember a tall woman in one of my courses who, through shyness, stood hunched up, making tiny movements with her hands. We advised her to stand tall, make eye contact, and use her arms to express her enthusiasm. The result was startling—she became regal and was very impressive. Without even opening her mouth, she looked like a self-confident, interesting speaker.11

Some speeches call for lots of gestures; some call for few or none. If you were describ- ing your battle to catch a huge fish, you would find your hands and arms constantly in motion; if you were giving a funeral eulogy, you might not make any gestures at all.

While most gestures should occur naturally, there are a few occasions when it is appropriate to plan and rehearse them. If you have three major points to make, you can practice holding up the correct number of fingers. If you are discussing two contrasting ideas, you can hold up one hand when you say, “On the one hand . . .” and then hold up your other when you say, “On the other hand . . .”

The larger the audience, the more sweeping your gestures should be. Evangelists and political leaders who use broad, expansive arm movements when addressing multitudes in giant stadiums are doing so for a good rea- son: they are able to establish a bond with people who are hundreds of yards away. Small gestures would be lost in the vastness of the arena.

Some students worry too much about gestures. If you are the kind of person who simply does not gesture a great deal, don’t be dismayed. Just be sure to keep at least one hand free so that if a gesture wells up, you will be able to make it naturally and forcefully.

One final note about your hands is to make sure they do nothing to distract the audi- ence. Don’t let them jingle keys, riffle note cards, fiddle with jewelry, adjust clothes, smooth your hair, rub your chin, or scratch any part of your body.

Fashion designer Zac Posen uses gestures effectively as he speaks at the Variety Power of Women conference in New York City.

© Jemal Countess/Getty Images

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In classroom speeches, you should have an attentive, courteous audience, but at some point in your career, you may encounter an audience that contains listen- ers who chat among themselves while you are trying to speak, distracting other listeners.

Professional speakers stress that you should not ignore disturbances. Confront these listeners, but do so in a calm, friendly, good-humored manner.

One technique is to simply stop your speech and look directly at the rude listeners (try to look friendly and not irritated). This is often all it takes to get peo- ple to stop talking. Sometimes people sitting near the offenders will pick up on your cue and help you out by turning and saying, “shh.”

In some cases, you might try asking, “Is there anything I can clarify or explain?” It could turn out that some of the listeners are confused about some- thing you have said and they are discussing the mat- ter among themselves. When you make your inquiry, you may unearth issues that the whole audience would appreciate your elaborating on. 

If you are speaking and your cell phone rings (because you forgot to silence it), don’t make a fuss about it. Just pull it out, turn it off, and keep going. The less said, the better.

Tips for Your Career

Deal with Distractions in a Direct but Good-Humored Manner



Sometimes a speech is disrupted by the incessant crying of a baby. You should ask the parents to take the child out of the room—at least until he or she stops cry- ing. You can explain that the distraction caused by the baby might prevent some listeners from receiving your message.

Some speeches are marred by listeners with elec- tronic devices. For advice on how to handle these situ- ations, see Tip 3, “Confront Electronic Rudeness,” in the chapter on listening.

What would you do if a crying baby disrupted your presentation?

© Halfpoint/Shutterstock

Beginning and Ending First impressions are important, especially in a speech, where “you have only one chance to make a first impression,” as one IBM executive told me. You make this first impression as you walk to the front and as you say your first few words.

When you rise from your seat, avoid sighing or groaning. Walk forward with an air of confidence. Avoid the mistake of rushing forward and starting to speak even before you get to the front. Listeners need time to get settled for your speech, clear their minds of other things, and tune in to you.

When you face your audience, pause for a few seconds. Don’t say a word—just stand in silence. Some inexperienced speakers are terrified by this silence; they think it makes them look too frozen with fear to speak. If you have this concern, relax. A brief period of silence is an effective technique that all good speakers use. It is a punctuation device, separating what went before from what is to come—your speech. It creates drama, giving the audience a sense of anticipation. In some cases, you may need to wait longer than a few seconds. If you are speaking at a community meeting, for example, and people are arriving late, it is best to wait until the noise created by the latecomers has settled down. Or if many members of the audience are chatting with one another, simply stand and wait until you have their attention.

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During these opening moments of silence, you have a chance to make sure your notes are in order and to review once again what you will say in your introduction. The next step is very important. Before you say a word, give your audience a friendly, confident look (if possible and appropriate, smile), and then say your first few sentences. You should have practiced your introduction thoroughly so that you can say it without looking down at your notes. It is important to establish eye contact at this point. By looking at the listeners directly, your body language is saying, “I’m talking to you—I’m not up here just going through the motions of making a speech. I want to communicate. I want to reach out to you.”

While first impressions are vital, final impressions are also important. Your con- clusion should be well-rehearsed (though not memorized) so that you can say it without looking at your notes. At the end of your speech, pause a few moments, look at your audience, and say, “I wonder what questions you have” or “I’ll be happy to answer your questions now.” Avoid gathering up your papers and leaning toward your seat—this sends a nonverbal message: “Please don’t ask me any questions.”

The Question-and-Answer Period The question-and-answer period enables listeners to get clarification and fur- ther information about your topic. In classroom speeches, it usually involves only a small percentage of the total time spent in front of the audience, but in some career presentations—such as selling a product—it is the longest and most important part.

Many listeners are so accustomed to listener–speaker interaction that they will inter- rupt during a speech to ask questions. In some technical presentations or classroom lec- tures, such interruptions may be appropriate and acceptable, but in other speeches, they are a nuisance. The continuity of the speaker’s remarks is broken because listeners are prematurely asking questions that will be answered later in the speech. If you feel that your speech would be marred by interruptions, you should announce in the orienting material of your introduction, “I know many of you will have questions. I’d like to ask you to hold them until I finish my presentation, and then I’ll be happy to try to answer them.”

Don’t feel defeated if you are not asked any questions. It could mean that you have covered everything so well that the listeners truly have nothing to ask.

An audience mem- ber asks a question at the International Music Summit in Hol- lywood. Q & A sessions are considered an essential part of most presentations.

© Dan Steinberg/Invision/AP Images

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Here are some guidelines for preparing for a question-and-answer period.


∙ Find out ahead of time if the person planning the program will want or permit a question-and-answer period, and if so, how much time will be allotted.

∙ Plan for the question-and-answer period by jotting down all the questions that might come from the audience and decide how you would answer them. Also discuss your speech with a few friends or associates and ask them to prepare a list of possible questions.

Fielding Questions

∙ Give the audience time to ask their questions. Some speakers impatiently wait 3 seconds, and then dash back to their seats. They don’t really give the audience a fair chance. When you ask for questions, pause for as long as 10 seconds. If you get the feeling that no questions at all will be asked, you can say, “Thank you,” and then sit down. But if you sense that the audience is simply shy, you can break the ice by saying, “One question that I am often asked is . . .” In some community and career contexts, you may want to involve listeners by ask- ing them a question (for example, “What do you think of my proposal?”).

∙ While a person is asking a question, look directly at him or her, but as you give your answer, look at the entire audience.

∙ In a large room, when a question is asked, repeat it for the benefit of listeners who may not have been able to hear it. Repeating it also gives you time to frame your answer. If a question is unclear to you, ask the listener to clarify it.

∙ Be consistent in how you respond. If you reward some questions with “That’s a good question” or “I’m glad you asked that,” the listeners who receive no praise may feel as if their questions have been judged inferior. Reward all questions—or none.

∙ If you don’t know the answer to a question, say so. Your listeners will not think less of you. They will think less of you if you try to fake expertise. In some cases, you can ask the audience for help: “I don’t know the answer; can anyone help us out?”

Handling Problems

∙ If a listener points out an inaccuracy or an omission in your material, don’t be defensive. If the listener’s point seems to have merit, say so. You can say some- thing like “You may be right—that statistic could be outdated. I’ll have to check it. Thanks.” Such an approach is not only honest—it gains respect from listeners.

∙ Don’t let any listener hog the question-and-answer period. If a person persists in asking one question after another or launches into a long monologue, it is your responsibility to intervene. You can say something like “Let’s give others a chance to ask questions; if we have time later, I’ll get back to you” or “Why don’t you and I talk about this in greater detail after the meeting?”

∙ Decline to answer questions that are not appropriate for a discussion in front of the entire audience—for example, questions that are too personal or that require a long, technical explanation that would bore most of the listeners. You can politely explain your reasons by saying something like “That’s a little too personal—I’d rather not go into that” or “I’m afraid it would take up too much time to go into the details right now.” In some cases, you might tell the ques- tioner to see you afterward for a one-on-one discussion.

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Chapter 14 Delivering the Speech 273

Ending the Session

∙ Don’t let the question-and-answer period drag on. If you have been allotted an hour, say, for both your speech and the Q & A period, end the session promptly at the end of an hour—even if some listeners still have questions. If you sense that some listeners would like to con- tinue the session, you can say, “I’m stopping now because I promised I would take up only one hour of your time. However, if any of you would like to stay afterwards, you can move to the seats here at the front and we’ll continue our discussion.”

∙ At the end of the Q & A session, provide a conclusion—not the conclusion you have already given in your speech, but a brief wrap-up—to give a sense of closure and provide one last look at your message. For example, you might say, “Thank you for letting me talk to you today about the need to get a flu shot every year. With flu season approaching, I hope each of you will get a flu shot as soon as possible.”

Practice After you have written your outline and made notes based on it, you should spend a great deal of time rehearsing your speech. Practice, practice, practice—it’s a crucial step that some inexperienced speakers leave out. Practice makes you look and sound fluent, smooth, and spontaneous. Practice bolsters your confidence, giving you a sense of mastery and competence.

Here are some tips:

∙ Start early. If you wait until the night before your speech, you will not have enough time to develop and polish your delivery.

∙ Practice going through your entire speech at least four times. Spread your prac- tice sessions over several days. Having time intervals between sessions will cause you to make greater progress.

∙ “Practice ideas, not words” is a popular saying in Toastmasters clubs. In other words, learn your speech point by point, not word for word. Remember that your goal in extemporaneous speaking is not to memorize or read a speech. Every time you say your speech (whether in practice or in delivery to an audience), the word- ing should be a bit different. The ideas will be the same, but not the exact words.

∙ Time yourself. If your speech exceeds the time limit set by your instructor or by the group that invited you, go back to your outline and notes and trim them down.

∙ During most of your practice sessions, go all the way through the speech. Don’t stop if you hit a problem; you can work it out later. Going all the way through helps you see whether your ideas fit together snugly, and whether your transi- tions from point to point are smooth.

Examining Your Ethics

Suppose you are giving a speech on a controversial topic at a community meeting. Is it acceptable for you to invite a few friends to pose as community members and ask easy questions during the question-and-answer period?

A. Yes, having allies will bolster your confidence, and the audience will know that your ideas have support.

B. No, it is unethical to try to influence an audience by using deceptive techniques.

For the answer, see the last page of this chapter.

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∙ Some speakers find it helpful to practice in front of a mirror or to record their rehearsals and watch or listen to them afterward. Whether or not you use one of these techniques, you should practice at least once in front of a live audience of friends or relatives who can give you a candid appraisal. Don’t say, “Tell me how I do on this,” because your evaluators will probably say, “Good job—I liked the speech,” to avoid hurting your feelings. Instead give them a specific assignment: “Please note at least three positive things and at least three things that need improvement.” Now your listeners have an assignment that they know will not hurt your feelings, and you are likely to get some helpful feedback.

∙ Some speakers find it helpful to make a trial run in the room in which they will deliver the speech. This is an especially good idea if you have visual aids and equipment, as you should test those in advance.

∙ In addition to practicing the entire speech, devote special practice time to your beginning and your ending—two parts that should be smooth and effective.

∙ Be sure that you don’t put too many words on your notes. Have just the bare minimum necessary to jog your memory. Practice from the actual notes that you will use in the speech. Don’t make a clean set right before the speech; the old, marked-up notes are more reliable because you’re familiar with them from your practice sessions.

Speaking in Front of a Camera Chances are good that you will appear on video many times in the future, and sometimes you may have to create your own video using a video camera, tablet, or smartphone. The videos might be distributed on DVDs or USB flash drives, or they might be made avail- able online via social media like Facebook or Twitter; websites like YouTube, Vimeo, or DropBox; and other outlets like your course’s McGraw-Hill Education Connect site.12

Here are some possible scenarios:

∙ For a college class, you are required to record a video of yourself giving a presentation.

∙ In a job interview, you are videotaped so that a committee can later review and compare all applicants.

∙ You create a video résumé to give prospective employers your credentials and a sense of how you present yourself.

∙ At work, you participate in a videoconference, a live televised meeting that enables people in different locations to talk to one another on-screen.

∙ You appear in videos produced by your organization to train employees or dis- seminate information.

∙ You are interviewed by a local television station for your comments about a community issue.

General Strategies For video presentations, consider the following guidelines.

Dress conservatively. The colors that show up best on video are the medium hues— pink, green, tan, and gray. Avoid extremely bright colors, such as red, and extremely dark colors, such as black. Because it reflects other colors, white is a poor choice. Make sure your clothes do not blend in too much with the color of the wall. Stay away from

Time yourself in prac- tice. If you are in danger of exceeding the time limit, trim your speech.

© Gunnar Pippel/Shutterstock

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Chapter 14 Delivering the Speech 275

busy patterns such as checks and plaids as they can be visually distracting. Also stay away from stripes of any kind because vertical stripes can sometimes “dance” on cam- era and horizontal stripes tend to shorten the torso of the person on camera. Do not wear clothes with logos, pictures, or other distracting features. Avoid sparkling or noisy jewelry. If you notice your face looks shiny on camera, both men and women can use face powder to cut down on shininess and glare.

Whether you stand or sit, maintain a relaxed, confident posture. As discussed earlier in the chapter, a rigid posture suggests nervousness and anxiety, while being overly casual suggests boredom and lack of interest. Be comfortable, yet alert, so that you project an image of confidence.

Find out whether a program involves direct address or discussion. In direct-address mode, you look straight into the camera and speak directly to the viewers, while in discus- sion mode, you talk to an interviewer or have a conversation with others while the camera looks on. Sometimes a program will feature both types, as when a TV reporter looks straight into the camera to report the news and then turns to look at a person being interviewed.

1. For direct-address mode, look at the camera. If you fail to look straight at the lens, you come across to viewers as evasive, untrustworthy, or unprepared. As the only exception to this rule, you may glance down at notes occasionally and briefly. In some cases you may want to look at cue cards or a teleprompter placed next to the camera’s lens so that you give the impression that you are looking directly into the camera.

2. For discussion mode, never look at the camera. Discussion mode creates the illu- sion that the viewer is eavesdropping on a conversation. To avoid destroying this illusion, you must never look into the camera. Give your full attention to the inter- viewer or other participants.

Never assume that the eye of the camera is no longer on you. During group discussions, some people assume that because another person on the show is talking, the camera is no longer focused on them. They take the opportunity to scratch themselves or look around at the studio or grin at someone off camera. Meanwhile, the camera is mercilessly televising this rudeness and inattentiveness, the camera operator having broadened the focus to include all participants. To avoid not only making a fool of yourself but also distracting viewers from the content of the program, always assume that you are being recorded.

Always keep your “real” audience in mind. If you are being interviewed about your company’s new product, your real audience is not the interviewer but the people who will be watching the program. So aim your remarks at your true viewers. What are their needs and interests? How can you entice them into buying the product?

Scale down movements and gestures. The kind of vigorous movement and power- ful gestures that are so effective in a speech to an auditorium of 500 people will make you look like a buffoon if repeated in front of a video camera. Any gestures you make should be small and low-key. Avoid sudden, swift movements such as crossing your legs rapidly; this can have a jarring effect on the viewers. If you must make such move- ments, do so very slowly.

Strategies When You Are in Charge Although many of your video appearances may be produced by professional videographers, you may have occasions when you are obliged to set up and record a video presentation in your home or office. The following tips will help you to have a successful recording.

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Carefully choose where you will record. Make sure there are no distracting elements in your shot. Should that “Call of Duty” poster on the wall be taken down? Generally a blank wall is the best background. Be sure to secure all pets and small children in another room so that they do not get in the shot or make noises. It is a good idea to let those in your home or office know when you will be recording so that they can be respectful and quiet during that time period.

Pay attention to the lighting. Avoid both harsh and dim lighting. If possible, use a basic three-point lighting system (as shown in Figure 1). The camera should be directly in front of the object or person being videotaped. The key light, which is the main light source, should be placed next to the camera and aimed at the person or object. A fill light should be placed next to the camera (on the side opposite the key light). The fill light is used to fill in the shadows created by the key light. It is usually positioned a little lower than the key light and is not as bright. A back light, which will add more subtle highlights and provide a three-dimensional look, should be placed behind the object or person and off to the side. Don’t assume that you have to use professional studio equipment to achieve balanced lighting. You can use table lamps, ceiling lights, flashlights, candles, and of course natural sunlight from a window. Use trial and error when positioning your lighting before you record your entire video.

Consider the angle of the camera. If you are using a laptop, don’t tilt the screen so far back that viewers can see your ceiling. This is disorienting for viewers, and it is often not the most flattering angle. You should look straight at the camera and position yourself so that you are framed in the video like a portrait, showing your head and upper body—not a close-up of your face.

Test your sound before recording. Make sure you speak at a level that is appropriate— not too loud, not too soft. Enunciate clearly. Practice what you will say before you record the first time.

Figure 1 Standard Three-Point Lighting This is the most popular system used by videog- raphers. Instead of studio lights, you can use table lamps, ceiling lights, flashlights, candles, and window light.

Source: Theonlysilentbob/ Wikimedia

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Chapter 14 Delivering the Speech 277

Be sure that the camera is stable. If you are filming yourself, your best options are to use either a laptop on a solid surface or a tripod stand for a video camera. Tripod stands are also available for smartphones and tablets. Do not record yourself by holding your computer, tablet, or smartphone at arm’s length because your arm will waver. If some- one is recording you without a tripod stand, have the recorder rest his or her elbows on a solid surface so that the video is not shaky.

If a tablet or smart- phone is hand-held, the person making the recording should rest his or her elbows on a solid surface so that the video is stable.

© Denys Prykhodov/ Shutterstock; © StockLite/ Shutterstock

Resources for Review and Skill Building

Summary The key to good delivery is a strong desire to communicate with the audience. Speakers who concentrate on getting their ideas across to their listeners usually find themselves using good delivery techniques.

There are four methods of delivering a speech: memo- rization, manuscript, impromptu, and extemporaneous. Of the four, extemporaneous is the most popular, and usually the most effective, because the speaker delivers a well-prepared, well-rehearsed speech in a lively, conversational manner.

When delivering a speech, your voice should be loud enough for everyone to hear, your words should be spoken clearly so that they are easily understood, and your voice should be expressive so that you sound interesting and lively.

Nonverbal communication is the message you give with your body by means of personal appearance, eye contact, facial expres- sions, posture, movement, and gestures. All these elements should convey confidence and a positive regard for the audience. Eye contact is of special importance. You should look at your listeners during 95 percent of your speech to maintain a bond of communi- cation and rapport with them and to monitor their feedback.

The question-and-answer period enables listeners to get clarification and further information. Anticipate what ques- tions may be asked, and prepare your answers accordingly. Try not to be defensive if you are challenged by a listener, and be prepared to say “I don’t know” if you don’t have an answer—in other words, don’t try to fake expertise.

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Key Terms articulation, 261 extemporaneous method, 259 impromptu method, 258 intonation, 261

manuscript method, 257 nonverbal communication, 265 pitch, 261 posture, 267

pronunciation, 261 verbal fillers, 264

1. What are the disadvantages of impromptu, manuscript, and memorized speeches?

2. What tone is essential for the success of an extempora- neous speech?

3. Why is it a serious mistake to speak too rapidly at the beginning of a speech?

4. If there is a discrepancy between your words and your nonverbal behavior, which will the audience believe?

5. What are the characteristics of good eye contact?

Review Questions 6. What should speakers avoid doing with their hands to

make sure that they are free for gesturing? 7. How should you handle a listener who casts doubt on

some of your facts and figures? 8. How many times should a speaker practice going

through the entire speech? 9. Why should a speech be learned and practiced point by

point, instead of word for word? 10. What are the best and worst colors for clothes worn in a


Practice is a vital part in the success of your speech. You should practice the entire speech over and over again, at least once in front of a live audience, until you can deliver it with power and confidence.

When you speak in front of a camera, dress conserva- tively in medium hues that show up best on video—pink, green, tan, and gray—and avoid clothes with distracting

logos; stand or sit in a relaxed, confident posture; look at the camera only when the format requires; always assume you’re being recorded; keep your audience in mind; and scale down movement and gestures. When you create your own video, choose your location carefully; use three-point lighting; test your camera angles and sound before recording; and make sure the camera is steady.

1. “If a man takes off his sunglasses, I can hear him bet- ter,” says writer Hugh Prather. Explain the meaning of this statement in terms of public speaking.

2. Tennis coaches observe a phenomenon called “analysis equals paralysis.” Players become so fixated on hold- ing the racket correctly and swinging properly that they miss the ball. What lessons could public speakers draw from this phenomenon?

3. A newspaper reporter once wrote that an executive “read from a speech with the passion of an assistant principal

Building Critical-Thinking Skills announcing the week’s school lunch menu.” Describe how you think the speaker sounded.

4. While most instructors recommend against memorizing an entire speech, some recommend that you memorize short statements, such as a wedding toast or the last sentence of a speech. Do you think this is good advice? Defend your answer.

5. What nonverbal message is given by a person who goes to a funeral dressed in a T-shirt and jeans?

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Chapter 14 Delivering the Speech 279

1. In a group, create a list of six attributes of good delivery that are of utmost importance to group members when they are in an audience. Rank the attributes in order of importance. Then discuss why the top two attributes are more important than the others.

2. To practice impromptu speaking, members of a group should take turns playing the role of candidate in a job

Building Teamwork Skills interview, while the rest of the group act as interview- ers. Make the interview as realistic as possible, with serious questions and answers. After each candidate is interviewed, the group should give a brief critique of his or her verbal and nonverbal responses.

Answer: B. An ethical speaker never uses deceit. Further- more, if listeners learn about the ploy, the speaker’s credibility is seriously damaged.

Examining Your Ethics

1. “Watch: Girls Inc. Celebration Luncheon Highlights,” Girls Inc., www.girlsinc.org/supportus/watch-girls-inc- celebration-luncheon-highlights.html (accessed Decem- ber 3, 2015).

2. “Mindy Kaling,” A.V. Club, www.avclub.com/article/ mindy-kaling-65188. (accessed December 3, 2015); Tele- phone interview with a spokesperson for Creative Artists Agency, which represents Kaling, December 4, 2015.

3. S. S. Gupta, Managerial Skills: Explorations in Practi- cal Knowledge (New Delhi: Global India Publications, 2008), p. 105.

4. Brian Lamb and Susan Swain, Abraham Lincoln: Great American Historians on Our Sixteenth President (New York: PublicAffairs, 2008), p. 52; Jackie Hogan, Lincoln, Inc.: Selling the Sixteenth President in Con- temporary America (Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2011), p. 120.

5. Joseph S. Meisel, Public Speech and the Culture of Pub- lic Life in the Age of Gladstone (New York: Columbia University Press, 2012), p. 51.

6. “Intercultural Business Communication,” Refby, http:// ref.by/refs/29/4887/1.html (accessed January 4, 2016).

End Notes 7. Mark Twain, Mark Twain at Your Fingertips: A Book

of Quotations, Ed. Caroline Thomas Harnsberger (New York: Dover Publications, 2009), p. 520.

8. Debi LaPlante and Nalini Ambady, “Saying It Like It Isn’t: Mixed Messages from Men and Women in the Workplace,” Journal of Applied Social Psychology 32 (2002), pp. 2435–2457; Robert D. Ramsey, How to Say the Right Thing Every Time: Communicating Well with Students, Staff, Parents, and the Public, 2nd edi- tion (Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press, 2008), p. 214.

9. Janet Stone and Jane Bachner, Speaking Up (New York: Carroll and Graf, 1994), p. 62.

10. Diane Windingland, member of National Speakers Association, telephone interview, January 5, 2016.

11. Cristina Stuart, How to Be an Effective Speaker (Lincol- nwood, IL: NTC Business Books, 1990), p. 67. reprint published as an ebook by Good Books for You, digital- contenters.com, 2015, no page numbers.

12. Information in this section was obtained by instructors Stephanie O’Brien, Jan Caldwell, and Melody Hays (see Preface).

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Goals of Informative Speaking

Types of Informative Speeches

Guidelines for Informative Speaking

Sample Informative Speech

OBJECTIVES After studying this chapter, you should be able to

1. Prepare an informative speech. 2. Identify four types of informative speeches. 3. Explain how to make information interesting. 4. Explain how to help listeners understand and remember

key information.

C H I L D R E N CA N D R OW N ,  says Olympic swimming champion Cullen Jones,

if their swimming instructors do not teach the proper techniques for breathing and

staying afloat. In the photo, Jones points to his nose as he teaches breathing skills to

students in Houston, Texas.

When Jones teaches swimming, he demonstrates a procedure and then has each

student try it out. When he is satisfied that the student is performing correctly, he

asks him or her to practice. “Practice is the most important part,” he says, “because it

causes you to swim the right way without thinking.”1

Jones’s approach is one of many techniques that you can use when you engage in

informative speaking, a rewarding form of human communication. On topics such as

“why some people become addicted to chocolate,” you can enlighten your audience.

On topics such as “how to improve photos with image-enhancing software,” you can

enrich the lives of your listeners. On topics such as “how to shut out distractions

when you drive,” you can even save lives.

Speaking to Inform



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Olympic champion Cullen Jones feels strongly that every child should learn how to swim.

© Sharon Steinmann/AP Images

In this chapter, we will look at four types of informative speeches and

then discuss guidelines to help you create informative speeches that are

clear, interesting, and memorable.

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Goals of Informative Speaking When you give an informative speech, your task is to be a teacher—not a persuader, or an advocate, or a salesperson. Think of yourself as a reporter who gives facts, instead of a debater who makes arguments or a pundit who offers opinions. You have three major objectives:

1. Convey fresh information. Provide as much new material as possible. 2. Make your material interesting. Use supports such as examples, stories, and

visual aids. 3. Help listeners remember important points. Make your ideas clear and easily

grasped. Repeat—in a graceful manner—key information.

Types of Informative Speeches Informative speeches can be categorized in many ways, but in this chapter we will concen- trate on four of the most popular types: definition, description, process, and explanation.

Definition Speech Do you know what the term “bokeh” means? Unless you are a serious photographer, you probably don’t. It is a Japanese word that is defined as “the effect created when the camera lens renders out-of-focus points of light.”2

If you are still unsure of exactly what the term means, here are some elaborations: ∙ Figure 1 illustrates bokeh. The bamboo stalk is in focus, while the colorful

autumn leaves behind it are blurred in a pleasant way that makes the overall pic- ture more interesting and beautiful than if everything were in focus.

∙ A literal translation from Japanese is blur, but bokeh is more than just sim- ple blurring of a photo. It is a soft, out-of-focus rendition of one part of an

Figure 1 This photo illustrates what is meant by the Japanese term “bokeh.”

© Hamilton Gregory

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Chapter 15 Speaking to Inform 283

image—often the background. The result is aesthetically pleasing and height- ens the attractiveness of the in-focus elements of a picture. A photographer can achieve bokeh by using certain lenses at optimal camera settings, and an advanced user of image-manipulation software like Photoshop can apply bokeh to a digital image and achieve the same result. Both the photographer and Pho- toshopper must use their tools carefully to avoid excessive or ugly bokeh.

These explanations and photograph constitute an extended definition, one that is richer and more meaningful than a dictionary explanation. That is what a definition speech is all about—giving an extended definition of a concept so that the listeners get a full, richly detailed picture of its meaning. While a dictionary definition would settle lightly on the listeners’ brains and probably vanish overnight, an extended definition is likely to stick firmly. Here are some sample specific purpose statements for definition speeches:

∙ To define for my audience “financial bubbles” in the world’s economy ∙ To define for my listeners “Internet trolls” ∙ To define for my audience a “Pyrrhic victory” in business and politics

Any of the support materials that we discussed in the chapter on supporting your ideas (such as narratives, examples, vivid images, and statistics) can be applied to defin- ing a topic. One student gave a speech on “phantom vibration syndrome,” in which he defined the term by giving his own personal experience, as well as statistics and testi- mony from an expert:

∙ “I keep my cellphone on ‘vibrate.’ Many times during the day, I will be walk- ing somewhere or driving in my car and I feel my phone vibrating. But when I check it, there is nothing—no text message, no phone call.”

∙ Dr. Robert Rosenberger, a researcher at Georgia Tech, says the same thing hap- pens to 9 out of 10 cell phone users—a phenomenon he calls “phantom vibration syndrome.” He says it is surprisingly common for cell phone users to have “a vague tingling feeling which they think is their mobile phone indicating it has received a text message or call while on silent.”3

∙ Dr. Rosenberger says the feeling is a “hallucination” that is caused by anxiety. It is “a result of always being ‘on-edge’ to answer emails and text messages.”4

Sometimes the best way to define a topic is to compare or contrast it with a similar item. If you were trying to define what constitutes child abuse, for example, it would be helpful to contrast abuse with firm but loving discipline.

Description Speech A description speech paints a vivid picture of a person, a place, an object, or an event. As with all speeches, a description speech should make a point—and not be merely a list of facts or observations. Here are some specific purpose statements for description speeches:

∙ To describe to my listeners the Gulf Stream in the Atlantic Ocean ∙ To describe for my audience the “marijuana mansions” that drug

dealers use in suburbs ∙ To describe to my audience the highlights of the life of civil rights

leader Rosa Parks

extended definition a rich, full elaboration of the meaning of a term.

definition speech an oral presentation that gives an extended definition of a concept.

Definition Speech topic: Gambling addiction.

© slpix/Shutterstock

Description Speech topic: Outdoor art

© Hamilton Gregory

description speech an oral presentation that describes a person, place, object, or event.

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If you were describing an object or a place, you might want to use the spatial pattern of organization. Here is an example of the spatial pattern as used in an outline describing New Zealand. The speaker travels from south to north.

Specific Purpose: To describe to my listeners the geographical variety of New Zealand

Central Idea: The two-island nation of New Zealand has more scenic variety than any other country on earth.

Main Points: I. The South Island—colder because it is closer to the South Pole—reminds visitors of Norway.

A. The Southern Alps, with snowcapped peaks over 10,000 feet, extend the entire length of the island.

B. Fjords, streams, and lakes are unspoiled and breathtak- ingly beautiful.

II. The North Island is like a compact version of the best of Europe, Asia, and the Pacific Islands.

A. The cities suggest the elegance of Italy. B. The mountains and vineyards remind one of France. C. Active volcanoes look like those found in the

Philippines. D. In the northernmost parts, the beaches and lush, tropical

forests seem like Hawaii.

Describing a person, living or dead, can make a fascinating speech. You might want to use the chronological pattern to discuss the major events of a person’s life in the order in which they occurred. Or you might prefer to use the topical pattern, emphasiz- ing several major features of a person’s life or career. The following is an example of the topical pattern as used in an outline describing the career of the United Farm Workers co-founder Dolores Huerta.

Specific Purpose: To describe to my audience the life and accomplishments of Dolores Huerta

Central Idea: Dolores Huerta is one of the most influential labor leaders in United States history.

Main Points: I. As co-founder of the United Farm Workers union, Huerta struggled to improve working conditions for migrant farmworkers.

II. She organized boycotts of grapes in the United States as a nonviolent tactic to revolutionize the agricultural industry.

III. Though Huerta practiced nonviolence, she endured much suffering.

A. She was arrested more than 20 times. B. In 1988, she was nearly killed by baton-swinging

police officers who smashed two ribs and ruptured her spleen.

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Chapter 15 Speaking to Inform 285

process speech an oral presentation that analyzes how to do something or how something works.

Examining Your Ethics

Which of these topics would be appropriate for an informative speech?

A. How to drive defensively so that you can avoid a traffic accident.

B. How to call in sick when you just need a day off. C. How to create fictitious credentials for your résumé that are

certain to impress employers.

For the answer, see the last page of this chapter.

Process Speech topic: How pearls are formed

© Africa Studio/Shutterstock

Process Speech A process speech covers the steps or stages by which something is done or made. There are two kinds of process speeches. In the first kind, you show the listeners how to perform a process so that they can actually use the skills later. (This is sometimes called a demonstration speech.) Here are some examples of specific purpose statements for this kind of speech:

∙ To demonstrate to my audience how to perform daily exercises to avoid and relieve back pain

∙ To show my listeners how to make low-fat pumpkin bread ∙ To teach my audience how to transform wine glasses into beautiful candle lamps

In the second kind of process speech, you provide information on “how something is done” or “how something works.” Your goal is to tell about a process—not so that listeners can perform it themselves, but so that they can understand it. For example, let’s say that you outline the steps by which counterfeiters print bogus money. You are showing these steps to satisfy the listeners’ intellectual curiosity and to teach them how to spot a counterfeit bill, not so that they can perform the job themselves. Here are some samples of specific purpose statements for this kind of speech:

∙ To inform my audience of the process used to train horses to race in the Kentucky Derby

∙ To outline for my listeners the steps that astronomers take to find new stars in the universe

∙ To inform my audience of the process used by crime investigators to find and test DNA evidence

Here are some guidelines for preparing a process speech.

Use visual aids. In some speeches, you can use a live demonstration. For instance, if you wanted to show how to treat a burn, you could use a volunteer and demonstrate the correct steps. In other speeches, PowerPoint slides and videos are effective. For example, a student speaker explained how to change a flat tire, using a video (with the sound off) to illustrate the steps in the process.

Involve the audience in physical activity whenever possible. If you involve the audi- ence in a physical activity, you capitalize on more than just the listeners’ sense of hear- ing and seeing; you also bring in touch and movement. For an example, see Figure 2.

There is an ancient Chinese proverb that says

∙ I hear and I forget. ∙ I see and I remember. ∙ I do and I understand.

The wisdom of this saying has been confirmed by psychologists, who have found that of the three main channels for learning new information, the auditory is weakest,

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the visual is stronger, and physical action is strongest of all. The best approach is to bring all three together. For example, if you were telling how to do stretching exercises, you could discuss the techniques (auditory) as you give a demonstration (visual); then you could have each listener stand and perform the exercises (physical action). Some audience involvement can be accomplished while the listeners remain in their chairs; for example, if you are presenting on sign language, you can have the listeners practice the hand signals as you teach them.

Notes of caution: (1) Get your instructor’s approval before you include physical activity in a speech. (2) Don’t use an activity if it is likely to cause listeners to get so involved that they ignore you. (3) Don’t ask listeners to do something that would be embarrassing or awkward for some of them.

Proceed slowly. Always bear in mind that much of what you say may be new to the listeners. If you are giving instruction about how to make leather belts, for example, you may be describing activities that are so easy for you that you could perform them blindfolded, but they may be completely for- eign to some members of the audience. That’s why you should talk slowly and repeat key ideas if necessary. Give listeners ample time to absorb your points and form mental images.

Give warning of difficult steps. When you are ready to discuss especially difficult steps, use transitions to give the listeners a warning. For example, you might say, “The next step is a little tricky,” or “This next step is the

hardest one of all.” This alerts the listeners that they need to pay extra special attention. Student speaker Junfeng Guan presented a process speech on how to make flavored

whipped cream. Using the chronological pattern, he explained the basic steps. Here is the outline for the body of the speech, with each main point devoted to a different step in the process:

Figure 2 Aboriginal Australian Ron Murray (left) gives classes on how to throw a boo- merang so that it returns to the thrower’s hand. He lets each student practice until the technique is perfected.

© William West/AFP/Getty Images

In a process speech, one student provided simple steps for how to make whipped cream.

© piotrek73/Shutterstock

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Chapter 15 Speaking to Inform 287

Specific Purpose: To demonstrate to my listeners how to make flavored whipped cream

Central Idea: Making flavored whipped cream is simple if you follow three easy steps.

Main Points:

(1st Step) I. Prepare ingredients and equipment to make two cups of whipped cream.

A. Have 1 cup of heavy whipping cream and 2 tablespoons of confectioners sugar.

B. Set out your flavors. 1. For chocolate, have a tablespoon of cocoa powder. 2. For vanilla, have a teaspoon of vanilla extract. 3. For a lemony taste, have a tablespoon of lemon zest. 4. For almond, have a teaspoon of almond extract. C. Use a large bowl and a large whisk. D. Keep things cold. 1. Refrigerate the cream. 2. Put the bowl and the whisk in the freezer 10 minutes

before you begin. (2nd Step) II. Whip the cream with the whisk. A. Start as soon as the cream comes out of the fridge. B. Whip the cream briskly in a circular direction. C. When the cream starts to thicken, add your flavoring and

two tablespoons of confectioners sugar. (3rd Step) III. Toward the end, use precautions. A. Limit the process to about 5 minutes to avoid creating butter. B. If the mixture becomes lumpy, add a splash of cream and

whisk it a few times until smooth.

If you look closely, you will see that Guan’s outline really has more than three steps. There are a lot of minor steps underneath the three major steps. Did he make a mistake in not listing all these steps as main points? No, treating all steps as equal might have caused the audience to feel overwhelmed by technical details. By dividing his speech into three major sections, he makes the material more manageable—easier to grasp and remember.

Explanation Speech An explanation speech (sometimes called an oral report or a lecture) involves explain- ing a concept or a situation to the audience. For this type of speech, you often must conduct in-depth research, using books, articles, and interviews, rather than relying on your own experiences.

Here are examples of specific purpose statements for explanation speeches:

∙ To explain to the audience why works of art are highly prized as financial investments

explanation speech an oral presentation that explains a con- cept or situation.

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∙ To inform my listeners of the reasons for the near extinction of mountain gorillas

∙ To explain to the audience the pros and cons of the Electoral College

For organizing an explanation speech, you can use any of the popular patterns (topical, chronological, spatial, etc.). One arrangement that is especially effective is the statement-of-reasons pattern, which lists reasons for a situation or an event. Student speaker Melissa Greenbaum uses this pattern in a speech on stolen cars. Here is the essence of her outline: Specific Purpose: To inform my listeners of the reasons why old cars are stolen

more frequently than new cars Central Idea: The most frequently stolen cars in North America are Toyotas

and Hondas that are about 10 years old. Main Points:

(1st Reason) I. Stealing an old car is more profitable than stealing a new car because of the high demand for old-car parts.

(2nd Reason) II. New cars are harder to break into because of sophisticated security devices.

(3rd Reason) III. Old-car owners are less careful about locking up their vehicles.

In her speech, Greenbaum developed each reason with examples and statistics. Another pattern is the fallacy–fact pattern, which also can be called myth–

reality. In this pattern, the speaker cites popular fallacies and then presents facts that refute them. Student speaker Bob Metzger used this pattern to refute three popular misconceptions about nutrition: Specific Purpose: To give my audience accurate information to overcome three

common misconceptions about nutrition Central Idea: Eggs, spicy foods, and frozen vegetables do not deserve their

bad nutritional reputation. Main Points:

(Fallacy) I. “Eggs are bad for you” is a fallacy. (Facts) A. Eggs get a “bad rap” because they are high in choles-

terol, but what’s important is the level of cholesterol in the blood, not in the food.

B. Saturated fat is what causes high cholesterol levels in the blood.

C. Eggs are low in saturated fat, so they do not make a significant contribution to high cholesterol levels in the blood.

(Fallacy) II. “ Spicy food is bad for the stomach” is a fallacy. (Facts) A. Medical studies of healthy persons who eat spice-rich

Mexican and Indian foods found no damage or irrita- tion in the protective lining of the stomach.

Explanation Speech topic: Why most male birds are more colorful than females

© Daniel Dempster Photography/Alamy RF

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B. In a medical experiment in India, the stomach ulcers of patients who were fed spicy foods healed at the same rate as those of patients who were fed a bland diet.

(Fallacy) III. “ Frozen vegetables are not as nutritious as fresh” is a (Facts) fallacy. A. Quick freezing preserves all nutrients. B. In fact, if fresh vegetables have been sitting in the pro-

duce aisle too long, frozen vegetables are better.

Guidelines for Informative Speaking In informative speaking, strive to make your message clear, interesting, and memorable. You can achieve these goals by applying the principles that we have covered so far in this book, as well as the following guidelines.

Relate the Speech to the Listeners’ Self-Interest Many listeners approach a speech with an attitude of “Why should I care? Why should I pay attention? What’s in it for me?” The best motivator in a speech, therefore, is some- thing that has an impact on their lives.

Let’s say you are planning to give a process speech showing listeners how to clean their computers. How do you think your listeners will react when they discover what your topic is?

“B-o-r-ing!” they will probably say to themselves. “Why should I pay attention to this stuff?”

Your best strategy, therefore, is to appeal to their self-interest:

Imagine you sit at your computer all weekend working on a big research paper. You are almost through when suddenly your computer fails. Not only does it fail, but it deletes your entire report. To make matters worse, the technician who repairs your computer charges you $250.

This could happen to you if you don’t clean and maintain your computer. Today I’d like to show you some easy steps you can take to safeguard your computer files and avoid repair bills.

Now your listeners see that your information can have an impact on their own lives. They should perk up and listen carefully.

Make Information Interesting The most important element in an effective speech, say many seasoned speech-makers, is relevant, interesting information.5

Many speeches are boring because the speakers deal primarily with generalities, which tend to be dull and vague. To make a speech lively, use generalities sparingly; and each time a generality is offered, follow it with lots of specifics, such as examples and anecdotes.

Student speaker Malaika Terry gave an informative speech on desserts in restau- rants, and she began by showing the PowerPoint slide in Figure 3. Then she said, “One of the most exciting things about dining out in a fine restaurant is enjoying a creative and tasty dessert. Imagine my surprise, then, when I recently learned that many restau- rants don’t want you to order dessert.”

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Terry followed her generality with lots of specifics, including personal experiences and testimony from experts:

∙ “I have noticed that almost no servers ask me if I want a dessert, even though I would probably order one if I were given a tempting offer,” said Terry. “Now I know why.”

∙ “Desserts just aren’t very profitable for most restaurants. Tyler Cowen, an eco- nomics professor at George Mason University, says, ‘It’s hard to make money on desserts in the restaurant business today.’”6

∙ “Writer Laura Northrup says that because profit margins on desserts are very slim, most restaurants would prefer that you leave without dessert so that new customers can take the space. If you do decide to stick around, ‘a restaurant would rather see you order sodas or mixed drinks instead of sharing a slice of cheese- cake.’ Drinks like coffee and soda are the most profitable things on the menu.”7

Terry’s speech was interesting because she chose good examples and quotations. She also used a valuable strategy: before she delivered her speech, she tested her con- tent with friends and relatives, asking them to tell her which items were interesting and which were boring. (For more on testing your material, see Tip 1 in the chapter on the body of the speech.)

Figure 3 A Japanese chef pres- ents a fruit dessert.

© Iakobchuk ViacheslavI/ Shutterstock

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Avoid Information Overload Give details, but not too many. You don’t want to bore your audience with a tedious overload. “The secret of being tiresome,” the French philosopher Voltaire said, “is in telling everything.” Edit your material. Instead of giving all 14 examples that you have compiled for a point, cite just 2 or 3.

When my students moan about all the wonderful material they must leave out, I offer a simple solution: put it on a handout or a USB flash drive that listeners can pick up after the speech and take with them.

Tailor Information for Each Audience A common mistake is to assume that your listeners possess the same knowledge that you possess. Consider these news items: ∙ You may know that the Earth revolves around the sun, but one in four adult

Americans thinks that the sun revolves around the Earth, according to a study by the National Science Foundation.8

∙ In a survey of 1,416 adults by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the Uni- versity of Pennsylvania, only 36 percent could name all three branches of the U.S. government, and 35 percent couldn’t even name one branch.9

Your boss asks you to conduct a three-hour workshop, scheduled for a Friday afternoon, to explain important procedures to a group of new employees. What do you do? Do you spend the entire three hours talking? No, not unless you want to put the group to sleep.

Provide a variety of activities to keep your audience awake and attentive during long presentations. Here are some suggested activities.

1. Invite audience participation. At various intervals, or even throughout the entire presentation, encour- age listeners to ask questions or make comments. By letting them take an active role, instead of sitting passively for three hours, you invigorate them and prevent them from daydreaming.

2. Use visual aids whenever possible. Visuals provide variety and sparkle, and they can clarify and reinforce key points.

3. Give coffee breaks or stretch breaks at regular intervals. A good rule of thumb for marathon sessions is to give a 15-minute break after every 45-minute period, even if the audience does not seem tired. In other words, don’t wait until fatigue sets in. If you wait until the audience is drifting off, you might lose

Tips for Your Career

For Long Presentations, Plan a Variety of Activities



their interest for the rest of the day. When you give a break, always announce the time for reassembly. When that time arrives, politely but firmly remind any stragglers that it is time to return to their seats. If you don’t remind them, you will find that a 15-minute cof- fee break can stretch to 30 minutes.

4. Call on people at random. If your presentation is in the form of a lecture, you can use the teachers’ tech- nique of calling on people at random to answer ques- tions. This causes every listener to perk up because he or she is thinking, I’d better pay attention because my name might be called next, and I don’t want to be caught daydreaming. Call the person’s name after you ask the question. (If you call the name before the question, everyone in the audience except the desig- nated person might breathe a sigh of relief and fail to pay close attention to the question.)

5. Encourage listeners to take notes. Some speakers pass out complimentary pens and pads at the begin- ning of their presentations in the hope that the listen- ers will use them to write down key points. There is, of course, a side benefit: taking notes helps the listeners to stay alert and listen intelligently.

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Find out in advance what your audience knows and doesn’t know on your topic, and then adapt your information accordingly. Whenever necessary, define words, explain concepts, and give background information.

What should you do when your audience is mixed—that is, some know certain concepts already and some don’t? How can you give explanations in a way that does not insult the intelligence of the listeners who already know the material? In some cases, you can give information in a casual, unobtrusive way. For example, let’s say you are planning in your speech to cite a quotation by Adolf Hitler. Most college students know who Hitler was, but some may not. To inform the latter without insulting the intelli- gence of the former, you can say something like this: “In the 1920s, long before Adolf Hitler rose to power in Germany and long before he launched the German nation into World War II, he made the following prophetic statement . . .” An indirect approach like this permits you to sneak in a lot of background information.

In other cases, you may need to be straightforward in giving definitions or explana- tions. For example, if you need to define recession for a speech on economic cycles, do so directly and clearly. Knowledgeable listeners will not be offended by a quick definition as long as most of your speech supplies them with new material; in fact, they probably will welcome a chance to confirm the accuracy of their own understanding of the term.

Use the Familiar to Explain the Unfamiliar Ozone is an air pollutant, often known as smog, that harms the health of millions of people. How can it hurt you? When you inhale ozone, says the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, it reacts chemically with your body’s internal tissues. Prolonged exposure causes the equivalent of sunburn to your lungs.10

The chemical complexities of pollutants in our lungs are unfamiliar to most people, but we are all familiar with what sunburn is.

When you want to explain or describe something that is unfamiliar to your audi- ence, relate it to something that is familiar. Use comparisons, contrasts, and analogies. If, for example, you point out that divers in Acapulco, Mexico, astound tourists by div- ing into water from rocks 118 feet high, that statistic does not have much impact unless you point out that a 118-foot plunge is equal to a dive from the roof of an 11-story building.

Similarly, to give listeners a mental picture of what the inside of a tornado is like, student speaker Dale Higgins said, “A tornado’s funnel is like the vortex you see when you let water go down a drain.” Since everyone has seen the swirling action of water going down a drain, the comparison helped the audience visualize a tornado’s vortex.

Help Listeners Remember Key Information To make sure that your audience retains important details, use the following techniques.

Repetition. Present key ideas and words several times.

Presentation aids. Use the sensory channels discussed in the chapter on presentation aids—visual, hearing, taste, smell, touch, and physical activity.

Memory aids. Provide listeners with shortcuts to remembering. Here are some samples:

∙ In financial news reports, you often hear the terms “bull market” and “bear mar- ket.” The former term means that stock values are trending upward; the latter

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means that values are trending downward. To help listeners distinguish between the two, you could tell them that “bull market” signifies an upward move- ment and ask them to visualize a bull’s horns, which point upward. You can also show a visual like the photograph of a bull in Figure 4 to help solidify the association.

∙ In the United States, the color blue is often associated with one major politi- cal party and red with the other (red states vs. blue states). But which color goes with which party? The Republican party is red, so just remember that Republican starts with an “R,” the same letter that starts red. That leaves blue for the Democratic party. (By the way, a purple state is one that is a combination of red and blue, sometimes voting Republican, sometimes vot- ing Democratic.)

∙ Acronyms are handy. For years students have recalled the names of the Great Lakes by using the word HOMES, each letter of which stands for a lake: Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior. If you are speaking on how to treat inju- ries such as ankle sprains, you can help listeners remember the four steps of first aid by providing the acronym RICE, which stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation.

Sample Informative Speech Maria Romano delivered a speech on why gold is highly prized. Below is the outline, followed by a transcript of the actual speech. The speaker uses the statement-of-reasons pattern, giving three reasons why people love to possess gold.

Figure 4 This famous statue of a bull in New York City’s financial district holds a key to remembering the meaning of the term “bull market.”

© Hamilton Gregory

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General Purpose: To inform

Specific Purpose: To explain to my audience why gold is highly prized

Central Idea: Gold is valuable because it is scarce, culturally appealing, and safe as an investment.


I. Attention Material A. People have been obsessed with gold for 6,000 years.

1. Exploration and warfare have resulted. 2. Conquistadores destroyed civilizations to steal their gold.

B. People today are seeking gold as an investment. (Show photo.) [See Figure 5.] 1. The market value recently reached $1,700 per ounce. 2. This caused “gold fever.” (CBS, NPR)

II. Orienting Material A. Why is gold valued so highly? B. My research uncovered 3 reasons for gold fever.

1. It is scarce. 2. It has symbolic and cultural appeal. 3. It is a safe investment.

(Transition: Let’s begin with the first reason.)

Gold Fever


This speech covers a topic that is timely and interesting.

Historical information and a photo are used to make the audience want to hear the rest of the speech.

A preview shows the audience the ter- rain that the speaker will cover in the body of the speech.

Figure 5 Many investors are buy- ing gold bars and coins.

© Lisa S./Shutterstock

The Outline with Commentary

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I. Gold has always been scarce. A. Very little gold exists.

1. Only 161,000 tons have been mined in history. (National Geographic)

2. That’s only enough to fill 2 Olympic pools. (Show photo.) [See Figure 6.]

3. Some experts say 3 pools. B. Scarcity is a major impetus for finding gold.

1. If gold were plentiful, people would still love it. 2. But the price and hunger for gold would not be so high.

(Transition: Let’s examine the second reason.)

II. Gold has symbolic and cultural appeal throughout the world. A. It has symbolized power and royalty for thousands of years.

(Peter Bernstein, The Power of Gold) 1. Pharaohs, kings, and queens wore gold crowns. 2. (Show photo.) [See Figure 7.] A princess in Ghana wears

lots of gold. B. Gold symbolizes excellence and perfection.

1. Gold surpasses silver and bronze as a prize. 2. In the Olympics, gold is the ultimate honor.

(Transition: Let’s turn to the third reason.)

III. Gold is considered a safe investment. A. India, which has 25 percent of the world’s sales in gold

every year, believes strongly in gold as an investment. (Christopher Corti, World Gold Council)

A photo of an Olympic pool helps listen- ers visualize the scarcity.

Each main point gives a reason for gold’s popularity.

Citing an expert adds to the speaker’s credibility.

Figure 6 Experts say all the gold in the world could fit into two— maybe three—Olympic-size pools.

© Andresr/Shutterstock

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1. Most gold in India is related to weddings. (Show photo.) [See Figure 8.]

2. Brides receive gold throughout the process, from engagement to wedding night.

3. Gold is prized because it’s like an insurance policy if the family ever gets into a financial crisis.

B. Gold will never burn up or wear out. 1. It’s a chemical element, so it can’t be broken down into

something else. (Dr. Elizabeth Raum, The Story Behind Gold)

2. It will never tarnish or rust. 3. It will remain bright and shiny even if you bury it under-

ground or underwater. C. In my research, most investment experts say a small

amount of gold (10 percent) is okay in your portfolio, but don’t put all of your money into gold. 1. The price of gold goes up and down, and in a crisis, you

don’t want to be caught in a down moment. 2. You will make more money with a diversified portfolio

over 10 years than if you put all your money into gold. (Transition: Let’s summarize.)

The speaker provides technical informa- tion in a way that is not too difficult for the audience to understand.

Listeners appreciate hearing a tip that they can apply to their own lives.

Figure 7 A princess in Ghana is adorned with gold.

© Corel Stock Photos

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I. Summary A. Gold is highly prized because there’s not much of it in the

world. B. It has enormous symbolic and cultural value. C. It is considered a safe haven during financial crises.

II. Clincher A. In The Power of Gold, Peter Bernstein says gold has magi-

cal power, but one big question remains. B. Do we possess gold—or does gold possess us?


Bernstein, Peter. The Power of Gold: The History of an Obsession. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2004. Print.

Burton, Jonathan. “Gold Is a Bet, Not an Investment.” The Week 26 Nov. 2010: 50. Print.

Corti, Christopher, and Richard Holliday. Gold: Science and Applica- tions. Boca Raton, Florida: Taylor & Francis Group, 2010. Print.

Larmer, Brook. “The Price of Gold.” National Geographic Jan. 2009: 36–61. Print.

Raum, Elizabeth. The Story Behind Gold. Chicago: Heinemann Library, 2008. Print.

The key reasons are given one more time to help the audience remember them.

The speaker ends with a provocative question.

High-quality sources are used.

Figure 8 Gold is very important for brides in India.

© Corel Stock Photos

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Gold Fever For the past 6,000 years, men and women throughout the world have been obsessed with a beautiful, shiny metal called gold. The search for gold has led to world exploration as well as warfare. For example, the Span- ish conquista dores destroyed the civilizations of the Aztecs and the Incas in order to steal their gold.

Today gold continues to be the most exciting of all the precious metals that come from the earth, and many people are trying to accumulate gold as an investment. [Speaker shows photo in Figure 5.] When the market value of gold recently hit seventeen hundred dollars per ounce, there was a huge rush of investors looking to buy gold coins and gold bars. News media such as CBS and NPR called it “gold fever.”

Why do we humans prize gold so highly? To answer this question, I did some research, and I dis- covered that there are three reasons why gold is trea- sured: First, it is scarce. Second, it has tremendous symbolic and cultural appeal. And third, it is consid- ered a safe investment during hard economic times.

Let’s examine the first reason. Gold is scarce, and it always has been. There’s just not that much gold in the world. National Geographic magazine says that in all of history, only 161,000 tons of gold have been extracted from the earth. [Speaker shows photo in Figure  6.] That’s barely enough to fill up two Olympic-size swim- ming pools. Some experts say that a more accurate estimate would be three pools. Whether it’s two or three, that’s not much gold when you consider that gold mines have been in operation in mines all over the world for over 6,000 years.

You can see why scarcity is a big factor in the hunger for gold. If there were a lot of gold, people

would still like it, but the price wouldn’t be as high. And people would not be obsessed with finding it and hoarding it.

Now let’s look at the second reason for gold’s popularity. It has enormous symbolic and cultural value in all parts of the world. Peter Bernstein, the author of the book The Power of Gold, says that for thousands of years, gold has been a symbol of power and roy- alty. Pharaohs, kings and queens—they have all worn gold crowns. [Speaker shows photo in Figure 7.] This photo shows a princess from the West African nation of Ghana, who is adorned with lots of gold.

Gold is a symbol of excellence and perfection. In all kinds of competition, gold is offered as the ultimate prize, surpassing silver and bronze. For example, all Olympic athletes—in all events—want to win the high- est honor of all, which, of course, is a gold medal.

Now let’s examine the third reason why gold is so valuable. It is widely thought of as a safe haven for a person’s wealth during tough economic times. This belief is strongest held in India, which is the world’s largest consumer of gold. India accounts for 25 per- cent of global demand, according to Christopher Corti, who is an expert with the World Gold Council.

Almost all of the gold in India is used for events related to weddings. [Speaker shows photo in Figure 8.] A bride receives presents of gold at dif- ferent stages, beginning with her engagement and ending with her wedding night. There is a reason why the bride receives a great deal of gold. If her family has a financial crisis someday, she can sell the gold to enable her loved ones to survive. It’s kind of like an insurance policy.

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Photo of gold coins and gold bar Photo of Olympic pool Photo of princess in Ghana Photo of bride in India

PowerPoint slides help to illustrate and enliven the speech.

The Speech as Delivered Here is a transcript of the speech as delivered by Maria Romano.

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Gold is very stable—it won’t burn up or wear out. In her book The Story Behind Gold, Dr. Elizabeth Raum says that gold is a chemical element, meaning that it cannot be broken down into anything else. It cannot tarnish or rust. It’ll always be bright and shiny. You can bury gold underground or underwater and it remains unchanged.

I looked in financial magazines like Forbes, and I found about 20 recent articles on gold as an invest- ment. The vast majority of investment experts say it would be okay to have a small amount of your wealth tied up in gold—say, 10 percent. But they recommend against putting all of your money into gold—for two reasons.

First, the price of gold goes up and down—if you ever need cash in a hurry, you don’t want to be

caught at a moment when the market is low. Sec- ondly, if you put your money into a diversified portfo- lio of stocks and mutual funds, you’re almost certain to make a lot more money over a 10-year period than you would make by having all of your money invested in gold.

Let’s sum up what we’ve covered. Gold is valu- able because it’s scarce, it has great symbolic and cultural importance, and it’s widely viewed as a hedge against hard times.

I would like to conclude with the paraphrasing of an observation made by Peter Bernstein in The Power of Gold. He says that gold has always had a magical power in the world, but one big question remains: Do we possess gold—or does gold pos- sess us?

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Summary The goals of informative speaking are to convey fresh infor- mation, make material interesting, and help listeners remem- ber key points. Four types of informative speeches were discussed in this chapter:

∙ Definition speeches give an extended definition of a concept so that listeners get a full, richly detailed picture of its meaning.

∙ Description speeches paint a vivid picture of a person, a place, an object, or an event.

∙ Process speeches explain the steps or stages by which something is done or made.

∙ Explanation speeches involve explaining a concept or a situation to the audience.

In developing an informative speech, keep these guide- lines in mind: (1) Relate the speech to the listeners’ self- interest, if at all possible. Show them explicitly the connection between your material and their personal lives. (2) Make the information interesting by going beyond generalities to give lots of specifics, such as examples and anecdotes. (3) Avoid information overload. (4) Tailor information for each audi- ence. (5) Use the familiar to explain the unfamiliar. (6) Help listeners remember key information.

Resources for Review and Skill Building

Key Terms definition speech, 283

description speech, 283

explanation speech, 287

extended definition, 283

process speech, 285

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1. What is an extended definition? Why is it preferable in a speech to a dictionary definition?

2. Which two organizational patterns would be most appropriate for a speech on the life and achievements of astronaut Sally Ride?

3. What are the two kinds of process speeches? 4. In a process speech, at what point should you give lis-

teners a warning? 5. Which organizational pattern would be most appropriate for

a speech aimed at dispelling misconceptions about wolves? 6. Why is it important to relate a speech, if possible, to the

listeners’ self-interest?

Review Questions 7. Why is the issue of generalities versus specifics an

important matter in informative speaking?

8. What should you do if some members of an audience know the meaning of a term but others do not?

9. A speaker says, “The lungs of a heavy smoker look like charred meat.” What principle of informative speaking is the speaker using?

10. “Rhythm Helps Your Two Hips Move.” By recalling this sentence and noting the first letter of each word, you can know the correct spelling for the word rhythm. This is an example of what kind of device?

1. A bad résumé can prevent an applicant from getting a job. If you conducted a three-hour workshop on how to create effective résumés, what techniques would you use to keep your audience awake and engaged?

2. A handout from a dog-obedience class reads, “Training a well-behaved dog takes time and practice. The more repetitions you do on a regular basis, the quicker your dog will understand. However, do not bore him. Keep

Building Critical-Thinking Skills your training sessions fun and interesting.” Do you think this advice would apply to training humans? Justify your answer.

3. For a speech on hurricanes, how could you make the topic interesting for your listeners?

4. It is important to avoid overdosing on the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, K, and E. Create a memory aid to help an audience remember them.

1. If improperly developed, the topics below can be boring. In a group, brainstorm ways that each topic could be made interesting.

a. Teaching methods b. Citizenship c. Transportation

2. The text advises that you relate a topic to listeners’ self- interest. In a group, brainstorm how the following topics

Building Teamwork Skills can be presented in a way that would satisfy a listener’s attitude of “What’s in it for me?”

a. Social Security b. Destruction of rainforests c. Secret video surveillance of employees d. Solar energy e. Homeless people

Answer: A. This is a positive topic and a service to the audi- ence. Topics B and C are unethical. A speaker should not give advice on how to cheat or defraud.

Examining Your Ethics

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1. Cullen Jones, Olympic Gold Medalist, telephone inter- view, November 10, 2010.

2. “Using Field Blur in Photoshop,” Planet Photoshop, planetphotoshop.com (accessed January 21, 2016).

3. Colin Fernandez, “Nine in Ten Feel Phantom Phone Vibrations,” Daily Mail, www.dailymail.co.uk (accessed January 12, 2015).

4. “Do You Have Phantom Vibration Syndrome?” Brit- ish Broadcasting Corporation, www.bbc.com (accessed January 14, 2016).

5. “Public Speaking—Essential Tips and Advice,” Self Help Education Arena, selfhelpeducationarena. com (accessed January 22, 2016).

6. Roberto A. Ferdman, “Why Many Restaurants Don’t Actually Want You to Order Dessert,” Washington

End Notes Post, www.washingtonpost.com (accessed January 13, 2016).

7. Laura Northrop, “Dessert Is Good for Your Taste Buds, Bad for Restaurants’ Profit Margins,” Consumerist, consumerist.com (accessed January 13, 2016).

8. Samantha Grossman, “1 in 4 Americans Apparently Unaware the Earth Orbits the Sun,” Time, time.com (accessed January 13, 2016).

9. “Americans Know Surprisingly Little about Their Government, Survey Finds,” Annenberg Public Policy Center, www.annenbergpublicpolicycenter.org (accessed January 13, 2016).

10. “Ground-level Ozone: Health Effects,” U.S. Environmen- tal Protection Agency, www3.epa.gov/ozonepollution/ health.html (accessed January 13, 2016).

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Goals of Persuasive Speaking

Types of Persuasive Speeches

Patterns of Organization

Sample Persuasive Speech

After the Persuasive Speech

OBJECTIVES After studying this chapter, you should be able to

1. Prepare a persuasive speech. 2. Identify two major types of persuasive speeches. 3. Identify four patterns for organizing a persuasive speech. 4. Understand what to do after the speech.

A N G E L I N A S UJATA ,   a college student in Columbia, South Carolina, suf-

fered severe, permanent injuries when the car she was driving rear-ended a car that

had stopped abruptly in front of her. She says the crash caused her car’s airbag to

explode, sending sharp, metal fragments into her chest.1

After undergoing two surgeries, she sued Japan’s Takata Corporation, the maker of

the airbag. When she discovered that Takata airbags had caused five deaths and

more than 100 injuries, she joined a campaign aimed at forcing the company to recall

its defective airbags, and she went to Washington to try to persuade federal regula-

tors and members of Congress to put pressure on Takata.

Finally, after three years of refusing to acknowledge that its airbags were defective,

Takata capitulated, admitted error, and agreed to recall airbags in 34 million vehicles.2

The success of Sujata and her fellow campaigners demonstrates the power of per-

suasion. In a persuasive speech, you act as an advocate, a person who argues on

behalf of an idea or a cause.

Speaking to Persuade



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At first glance, persuasive speeches look like informative speeches, but

that’s because a persuasive speech must contain background informa-

tion before it can make its case. The basic difference is that an informa-

tive speech is aimed at reporting, while a persuasive speech is aimed at

winning audience assent.

To illustrate the two types of speeches, let’s take the topic of solar-powered

cars. For an informative speech, you would just give the facts—how the

car works, how much the battery pack costs, and so on. For a persuasive

speech, you would give some of the same facts, but you also would try

to convince listeners that a solar-powered car is superior to a gasoline-

powered vehicle and to persuade them to buy and drive a solar car.

In this chapter, we will examine types of persuasive speeches and how

you can organize them. In the next chapter, we will look at persuasive


Angelina Sujata, flanked by several members of Congress, speaks out as part of a campaign to persuade lawmakers and regulators to pres- sure the Takata Corpo- ration to recall defective air bags in 34 million vehicles.

© Pablo Martinez Monsivais/ AP Images

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Examining Your Ethics

Wendy, a software developer for an accounting firm, gives speeches to high school students to persuade them to enroll in a certain four-year private college. She is a graduate of the college, and the college pays her to give her presentations. Which of the following would be most appropriate for her talks?

A. She makes no mention of being a graduate or being paid to speak.

B. She mentions being a graduate, but omits the fact that she is being paid to speak.

C. She mentions that she is a graduate and is being paid to speak.

For the answer, see the last page of this chapter.

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Goals of Persuasive Speaking Persuasion is the process of influenc- ing, changing, or reinforcing what people think, believe, or do. There are three key goals in persuasive speaking:

1. Win over your listeners. In some cases, your objective may be to con- vince your audience to adopt your view. For example, one student tried to convince her listeners that the moon will become a tourist destina- tion within 50 years. In other cases, you may want to spur the audience to take action. For example, in a speech

speech of refutation an oral counterargu- ment against a con- cept or proposition put forth by others.

on contaminated food, a student asked his listeners to call federal lawmakers to urge them to increase the number of inspections of imported food.

2. Know your subject thoroughly. You will have little chance of persuading lis- teners if you are not perceived as knowledgeable and competent with regard to your topic. Develop as much expertise as possible by doing careful, extensive research.

3. Maintain a high standard of ethical behavior. Avoid any degree of manipula- tion and deceit. Use supports (such as examples and visual aids) that are accurate and truthful, and don’t exaggerate or use half-truths. Be forthright in revealing to the audience your true goals and motives, and disclose any financial involvement you have in your subject matter (for example, let listeners know that you own stock in the company whose products you are recommending).

Types of Persuasive Speeches Persuasive speeches can be categorized according to two objectives: (1) to influence thinking and (2) to motivate action. Sometimes these categories overlap; for example, you often have to influence thinking before you can motivate action.

Speech to Influence