Life Skills Development/Module Three/Unit 4: Public Speaking/Speech Preparation

From WikiEducator
Jump to: navigation, search

Icon objectives.jpg

At the end of this unit learners will:

  • Demonstrate an understanding of the processes involved in public speaking.
  • Practise the skills of preparing public speeches.
  • Analyse criteria for judging public speeches.

Icon reflection.gif


“You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can’t get them across, your brains won’t get you anywhere.”

Lee Iacocca

Share your thoughts on this saying with your best friend and write it in your Portfolio.

The Speech Communication Process

There are seven elements in the Speech Communication Process


Communication begins with a speaker. The success of the process depends on the speaker's personal credibility, knowledge of the subject, preparation of the speech, manner of speaking, sensitivity to the audience and the occasion tone and charisma. Successful speaking however is more than a matter of technical skill. It requires enthusiasm. People will only be interested in what is being said if the speaker is interested in the message and shows this during the presentation.


The message is whatever is being communicated. The goal of public speaking is to have the intended message being the message that is actually communicated. Achieving this depends both on what is said (the verbal message) and on how it is said (the nonverbal message). Getting the verbal message just right requires work. Besides the verbal message sent, is the message sent via the tone of voice, appearance, gestures, facial expression, and eye contact. One of jobs as a speaker is to make sure the nonverbal message does not distract from the verbal message.


The listener is the person who receives the communicated message. Everything a speaker says is filtered through a listener’s frame of reference i.e. the total of his or her knowledge, experience, goals, values, and attitudes. Because a speaker and a listener are different people, they can never have exactly the same frame of reference. And because a listener’s frame of reference can never be exactly the same as a speaker’s, the meaning of a message will never be exactly the same as to a speaker. Since people have different frames of reference a public speaker must take great care to adapt the message to the particular audience being addressed. To be effective the speaker must be audience-centered. Everything must be done in the speech with the audience in mind. One cannot assume that listeners will be interested in what is being said. You must understand their point of view as you prepare the speech, and you must work to get them involved. You will quickly lose your listeners attention if your presentation is either too basic or too sophisticated. You will also lose your audience if you do not relate to their experience, interests, knowledge, and values.


Feedback is important to let you know how your message is being received. There are various ways of assessing feedback. Do your listeners lean forward in their seats, as if paying close attention? Do they applaud in approval? Do they laugh at your jokes? Do they have quizzical looks on their faces? Do they shuffle their feet and gaze at the clock? The message sent by these reactions could be “I am fascinated,” “I am bored,” “I agree with you,” “I don’t agree with you,” or any number of others. As a speaker you need to be alert to these reactions and adjust your message accordingly.


The channel is the means by which the message is communicated. Public speakers may use one or more of several channels, each of which will affect the message received by the audience. Therefore it is important to utilize your medium well.


Interference is anything that impedes the communication of a message. Interference can be internal (comes from within your audience rather than from the outside) or external (from outside the building). As a speaker, you must try to hold your listeners’ attention despite these various kinds of interference.


The situation is the time and place in which speech communication occurs. Conversation always takes place in a certain situation. Public speakers must be alert to the situation. Certain occasions – funerals, religious services, graduation ceremonies- require certain kinds of speeches. Physical setting is also important. It makes a great deal of difference whether a speech is presented indoors or out, in a small classroom or in a gymnasium, to a densely packed crowd or to a handful of scattered souls. When you adjust to the situation of a public speech, you are only doing on a large scale what you do every day in conversation.

Assess Your Speechmaking Situation

Consider the occasion

How long will your talk last? Will you be the keynote speaker or one of many? Has your audience heard you before and what is their impression of you and your organization? Is this talk one of many or a single presentation?

To whom are you speaking?

As you begin your talk, it is imperative that you consider carefully your audience. What do they think about you? If you are representing a profession, agency, or organization, what does your audience think about that group?

Have you spoken to this audience in the past? If so, what did you learn about their needs and expectations? If this is a new group to you, how will you establish your rapport and your credibility? Aforementioned

When are you speaking?

Will you be the first in a long line of speakers? For symposium presentations, this is common. If you are the tenth of twenty speakers, you can imagine the fatigue that your audience might have.

Will you be the keynote speaker? You can expect that your host will introduce you to the audience. The emcee is expected to warm up the audience and to clarify the purpose of the occasion and to help you establish your credibility.

Key Elements of Any Speech of Presentation

If you remember just one thing about public speaking remember this: have a point.

  • Have an introduction, body, and conclusion. Follow the age-old advice, "Tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you told them." Most people find writing the body first is most helpful, then either the introduction or the conclusion.
  • Define the task: Your goal. Decide on the parameters of your speech. What is your aim? What do you want to inform the audience about? What do you want to convince the audience about? What do you want to entertain the audience about?
  • Avoid any apologetic statement at opening of speech – even if you were only asked to speak at the last minute – don’t mention this. Begin with aplomb! Use a dramatic and relevant quotation. Use a heart-rending experience. Sing a line or two from an appropriate calypso/ Quote relevant lines from a poem.
  • Prepare. You cannot "over prepare". The better you know the material the more confident you will be when presenting and the more flowing the speech will sound.
  • Language a) Work with words. Find the words that say exactly what you want to convey b) to gain an understanding of the function and uses of spoke word c) Avoid common mistakes in word use. Use Standard English grammar at all times, except when you are using a quotation in Trinidad or Tobago dialect for special emphasis. d) Let elegance be the guide and focus on vocabulary and the effectiveness of word choices.
  • Vary the pace. Vary the pace at which you deliver the speech. Slow down, and then speed up. This will keep the listener's attention. Be careful not to talk too slowly or too quickly. Use your voice well.
  • Have good eye contact. If you have been taught to look over the heads of those you are speaking to so you don’t feel nervous, forget it. Good eye contact means making a connection with your audience by looking them straight in the eyes. If the audience is small enough, try to make it a point to make eye contact with everyone.
  • Use note cards not notepads. Notepads are bulky, noisy, and most of all, distracting. Use note cards for speeches. Never be afraid to use notes—even the best speakers rely on notes to ensure they communicate the points efficiently and effectively.
  • Anticipate questions. Take the time to think about any question a listener may ask and formulate a positive answer that supports your presentation. It is OK to say you do not know the answer and tell the person you will get back to them if needed. The "I don't know" or "I can't say" answers are most effective when followed by "but I'll tell you what I do know..."
  • Try to keep your speech under 20 minutes (if you are not given a specific time). Several studies have shown that 20 minutes is about the maximum amount of time listeners can stay attentive, after that, the attention levels begin to drop. Speaking is more stimulating than listening so although you may be excited to talk for longer, the chances are your listeners are ready for a break.
  • Have a strong introduction and a strong conclusion. The introduction should be used to gain the attention of the listeners and persuade them to listen to your entire presentation. You are essentially selling them on why they should listen. Be sure you address their needs and not yours. The conclusion should consist of a powerful statement, quotation, anecdote, or other attention grabber. Never end a speech with, "that's all".
  • Have a second conclusion prepared. After a speech or a presentation usually comes a question and answer period. Once the questions stop coming, it is best to end on a strong note. This is a great time to get your "last word" in.
  • Act on every opportunity you can to speak. Anxiety of speaking is best subsided by experience.
  • Support each main idea or issue with evidence - examples, illustrations, personal experiences, statistics, from your research and experience. Creative use of the material will build your presentation. Show information seeking strategies and tell where the information was found. Show relevance of information, of all your research by remembering to refer to the topic as you conclude each major point.
Poor little boy .... he has a bad case of stage fright.

Don’t Expect Perfection

It may also help you to know that there is no such thing as a perfect speech. At some point in every presentation, every speaker says or does something- no matter how minor-that does not come across exactly as he or she had planned. As you work on your speeches, make sure you prepare thoroughly and do all you can to get your message across to your listeners. But don’t panic about being perfect or about what will happen if you make a mistake. Once you free your mind of these burdens, you will find it much easier to approach your speeches with confidence and even with enthusiasm.

Icon activity.jpg

An excellent way to improve your writing skills is to practice writing poetry or verses that require emphasis and feeling. Choose one of your favourite experiences and write a verse outling the experience make sure you emphasize your feelings. Practice reading the verse aloud. As you read, use you voice to make it come alive. Vary your volume, rate, and pitch. Find the appropriate places for pauses. Underline the key words or phrases you think should be stressed. Modulate your tone of voice: use inflections for emphasis and meaning.

Icon reflection.gif


Remember that presentation that you found very boring. Think of the speaker, the audience, the time and place and list some possible things you would change to make the presentation most appealing.

Icon activity.jpg

You are asked to make a presentation to a group of 9 year old students what possible information would you need to gather first before preparing the presentation.