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Post by sol_drethedon on Sat May 25, 2013 8:48 pm


There  are two astonishing facts about public speaking. First, it easier to speak to fifty people than to five. When you speak to a very small  group of people in an informal setting, each of them expects personal communication from you. You may be giving a report to a committee, but each member wants it to be like a private conversation. You are supposed to have rapport, to know what's on each one's mind, and relate to that. Although this is very difficult, most people do it and feel comfortable with it. You have probably done it lots of times without thinking about it.

On the other hand,when  speaking to a large group(from 20 to 20,000), no such personal expectations exist. People know that they are going to hear a speech, and that you have something important to say. Otherwise you will not be up there in the first place. They know that that they would just die if they had to speak to a group that big, so as long as you don't go blank or throw up, you can't lose it. It is only necessary that the material be clearly presented and that you are heard.

Second, it easier to speak to strangers than to friends. The trouble with friends is that they know you. They know that you can't remember figures.  They know that you have a rash behind your knee. They know that you can't pronounce "thesaurus", and that your son won't bathe. Everything you say is evaluated in light of these facts.

The great advantage of speaking to strangers is that they know none of this. They form a quick first impression, and then he speech stands on it's own. You and it are taken at face value. You are even free to do things that you wouldn't do with close friends -- to be more forceful, more emotional, or more poetic. The audience will think you are like hat all the time. Anyway, you will never see them again, so who cares? Yet, how often have you said, " I can't get up there and talk. I don't know those people"?

A Speech Moves People to Act.

Unless you are simply giving information to people who won't or can't read, the purpose of a speech is to move people to action. This doesn't necessarily mean exhorting them to storm the Bastille, although that has been done successfully. The activity may be something as everyday as buying a raffle ticket or coming to the annual picnic.

In general, the more immediate and concrete the activity, the easier the speech is to prepare and deliver. The Germans have a word"weltverbesserungswahn," which means "world-betterment-craze." Speeches on this subject are often dreadful because no amount of brilliant analysis can compensate for the advocacy of distant, uncertain and murky solutions. So, before you prepare your speech, make a decision about the action that people are to take. Construct the speech using that as the goal. Don't  be vague.It is not enough to say "Go home, tell your neighbors, write your congressman and help in anyway you can." Tell the neighbors what? Ask them to do what? Describe the message to your congressman, and just how many letters are needed, and by when. List three ways that people can help, one of which is always asking them to give money.

Speaking to Create a Mood

One way a speech moves people to action is by creating a mood. The mood may be one of anger and indignation, msking people despise their opponents or holding their enemies in contempt. It may be one that expresses people's confidence in themselves, their organization and it's leadership. There are moods of faith, determination. or perseverance. There is the exhilaration that people feel when they first see their way through to the solution of a difficult problem. The specific content of the speech is secondary to creating the mood. THe very best speakers can take people through a series of moods or emotions.

Creating a mood while speaking is something we do all the time. Try saying to your child, "Stop that at once and go to your room," and watch her mood change. A mood can also be created by playing a violin, but that is much more difficult. Even the lowly treasurer's report creates a mood. The organization is in debt and everyone must help! The raffle was a great success, this is a great organization, and Iam a great treasurer! The organization is out of debt! The actual numbers in the report will back this up. Mention a few in the speech but hand out the rest.

Think of a speech as being like a song. You sing to create a mood, and not  to transmit data.(The one exception to this is the song "Ninety-Nine Bottles Of Beer on the wall.") The written word creates a mood, but a speech is not merely an extension of the written the word. It is not the written word read aloud. It is it's own form of creating and communicating emotion. A speech can be reduced to writing, but it is not the same as writing.

But, you cry, I don't want to create a mood, I just want to announce the annual picnic: "The picnic will be August third in Riverside Park. Admission is five dollars. Bring your own food, charcoal, starter and matches. No alcoholic beverages, unleashed pets or unsupervised children by order the Park Department please. Senior citizen discount is 50%. Thank you."

Well, OK, but remember that with us humans, speaking is always an emotional business. You will create a mood whether you want it or not; it can't be helped. Pay attention to it or the mood will come across as "This picnic is organized a dull and nervous person who will probably forget to bring the park permit, so don't spend a lot on food.

Now if you were to get up, raise a big striped umbrella, open a huge picnic basket, and with each word, place on the table a delicious looking item, this will create a wholly different mood. It wouldn't even matter if you were nervous because people don't notice that when you are waving a ham at them. The purists will argue that this is an example of theater, not speech making. We reject any such distinction. Of course it is true that in the theater it may be considered sufficient if the audience has a good laugh or a good cry, and goes home. But the purpose of the speech is to produce a result, not just a reaction.

Preparing Your Speech

Research the Audience
If there is one single key to success, this is it. Before even researching your topic or sitting down to write, you must know who will be listening. Where do they live, and in what kind of houses? What do they do for a living? How old are they? What kinds of families do they have? How much money do they earn? How are they the same as, or different from the majority of the people living in the area, state or nation? How much school have they attended? What is their race or ethnicity? What has their organization done? What issues is it interested in?

Most of you will be speaking to your own organizations in your own community, and will already know all of these things,but perhaps not be conscious of them. Think about them anyway. Ask yourself two sets of questions. First, how am I the same as every one here? What do we all have in common that I can mention in the speech to draw us together? Second, how am I different? Am I the only person who has or hasn't a job, did or didn't go to college, is or isn't rich, does or doesn't speak with an accent? Are their goals and aspirations and lifestyles the same as mine? Am I taking the same risks that they do? When you call on common experience, make sure that it is really common. Once, at a government hearing at a land development project, a Midwest academy trainer attacked a representative of the real estate board saying, "Why should we listen to him, he represents our landlords"? The audience laughed. No else in the room was a renter

For those speaking to groups outside your own  community, gsathering this preliminary information is important for both style and content:

1. Language should be appropriate and geared to the audience' actual vocabulary. Books, songs, or people quoted must be known to the group(The Bible is almost always safe when done respectfully.)

2. Homour must be tailored to the audience. The clever wordplay or double entedre, much prized by urban intellectuals, falls flat elsewhere

3. Even factual information is transmitted differently according to class and region. Some people don't quote statistics to each other; they tell anecdotes that illustrate, in non-quantitative ways, the point being made. Others expect statistics from unimpeachable authorities.

4. The life experience of the audience matters. The annual convention of an industrial trade union will be little moved by speeches on the promise of trade unionism; the delegates have been hearing them for many years. The same speech delivered on a picket line or to a newly organized unit of service workers gets an entirely different reception.

5. The geographic location changes the impact of the speech. Using insurance industry as an example of corporate greed goes over well in West Palm Beach, Florida. It bombs up in Jacksonville, headquarters to many insurance companies.

6. Age changes perspective. An audience of second-generation Cubans has social views from those of the immigrant generation. Even within the same generation, the separation of class position can be critical. The self-interest issues to which a speaker at a private university might appeal are very different from those at a public university.

In summary, the more factual information you have about the audience, the better the speech will be. It also helps to know something of the organizational background of the particular event at which you are speaking. A speaker ought to know  whsat brought this particular audience together. How was the turnout done? Are these the organization's regulars, or did they come off the street in response to a particular crisis? Assume nothing. One of our staff was thev after dinner speaker at a fundraiser for a local community group. The speech was addressed directly to to the members of the organization, but it turned out that few of them were actually in attendance. Tickets priced out of their reach, had been sold instead to area service agencies, which passed them on to their staff. The audience, presumed to be low income neighborhood people, were really professionals and not exactly, "united in our common struggle to save our homes."

Ask about the details of the program. How big is the audience? How long are you expected to speak? What is the rest of the program? It is one thing to be the opening speaker, something else to be on the agenda near the beginning, and a different matter altogether to be the last speaker before dinner. If you are standing between people and their dinner, keep it short. While you're asking, find out who else is on the program and what topics they are covering. Are you the only black speaker or the only woman? Are you one of fiver lawyers? Shape your remarks accordingly.

Ask those who know, and ask yourself, what the audience expects you to say. What do they want to hear or hope to hear? Show that you are in tune with this. "I know that you are expecting a talk on sericulture (the raising of silk worms), and am I going to disappoint you." Or, I know that you want to hear more about sericulture, but allow me to read a poem instead." More to the point , use this information to strengthen your message. " I know that you all expect me to come before you to urge endorsement of the Democratic Candidate, so you will realize how serious it is when I say that this year, wqe should not take a position."

Reasearch Your Topic

"What, more research?   But I heard that if you prepare too much, the speech will go flat."If you don't prepare, you will go flat. The point is that you are going to have condense the topic to bring out two or three essential topics. That means you must know a lot to figure out what  those essential points are. People who know only a little can still fill the speech with facts, but they can't focus it properly. What's worse, they are so afraid of leaving out something important and not knowing it, that they try to cram in everything just to be safe.

Researching and writing a speech are two separate steps. Many people try to combine them, mistakenly thinking that the speech is  merely the written word read out loud. That really does make the speech the flat. If it were a documentary movie, and not a speech, the difference between the steps would be clear at once. First you would assemble the information and start filming.

It doesn't matter whether your topic is " The Sorry State of World Trade or  "The Annual Picnic Announcement"; the research process is essentially the same. How do you research the picnic? Start with the location, Riverside Park. Go over and take a good look at it. Are there bathrooms, drinking fountains, charcoal grills, and ball fields? Are there picnic tables or should people bring blankets? Is there a concession stand to buy soda? What about slides, swings, and a sand box for the little kids? Is there parking or public transportation nearby? Look for beauty as well. Can you see flowers, and how is the view of the river? Take notes, Of course all of this information won't be in the speech, just a few essential facts.

Even if Riverside Park is right in the neighborhood and everyone knows exactly what it's like, go and do the research anyway. It helps just to be able to say "I was over there yesterday. The grass is bright green and covered with beautiful yellow dandelions. The river was a deeper blue than I ever remembered it. We are lucky to have such a great spot for our picnic."

Next, research the  organization's program. Five bucks is a lot to charge for a bring-your-own-food type of picnic, so find out what the money is for. It better be going to fight an important issue campaign, and not to pay the electric bill or your salary. You will need to know enough about the issue so that you can explain it in one or two sentences. If you haven't already researched the audience, do it now. Is this a ball playing crowd? Are there many seniors present for which the discount is important and transportation is likely to be a problem?Are there lots of parents with youg children in the group? Now that all the information is together, you can start to write the speech. Of course, had the topic been "The sorry state of world trade", the research methodology would  be a bit different, but the process is basically the same.

Write the Speech

" Never mind, I will just get up and wing it." Oh yeah? Did you ever sit through a rambling speech, and just when you could stand it no longer, the speaker said, "Now I'll pull all these ideas together"? Then he pulled and pulled, but it never did come together. Weren't you insulted that the speaker took your time and he never bothered to prepare? Whether you actually deliver the speech by reading it, memorizing it, or something in between, is a different matter that we will come to presently. You should have a fully written out second draft.  A few really great orators can come with nothing but three points at the back of the envelope. They know who they are and may ignore this advice.

Every speech has a beginning, a middle and an end. Plan each of them separately following the old advice that you should tell the audience what you are going to tell them, then tell it to them, then remind them of what you just told them. Putting it another way, a speech isn't like a report. A report starts out by stating facts, and then logically works towards a conclusion thst comes, appropriately at the end. If you wait until the end of the speech to get to the point, you are likely to lose the audience.

Start with an outline. Write in the headings "Beginning, Middle, and End," then list the points to be made under each. You can bring it down into smaller parts . For example:

1) Beginning                              Half page

2) Middle                                  Two-Three pages

3) End                                       One page
   c)    Closing                           Half page

A trick is to write the beginning last, after you have heard a chance to see how the speech unfolds. This lets you use the introduction to focus what you are actually going to say, not what you thought you were going to say. Through the miracle of word processing, you can take the closing, and move it to the beginning, and thenn write a new end with more flourish than the old. None of this is logical, or what you are "supposed" to do, but it works.

The beginning or introduction is really a summary of the  whole speech.  It states the problem and the solution, and tells people what they have to do to achieve the solution. The middle of the speech adds more detail. The detail might this  be supplied by making factual arguments, or by telling stories of people's personal experience with the problem. The goal here is to make the problem real to the audience. This is also a good time to go on the attack against either the person who caused the problem or the person who has the key but won't use it. This might be overkill in the speech about the picnic, but since you are going to mention the issue campaign to which the money is going, it could be worked at this point.

As you move into the end of the speech, start building the case for the solution you are going to advocate. No solution to any problem should be considered self-evident. If it was, any one would have hit on it long ago, and you wouldn't be explaining it now. Try to anticipate some of the major objections that will crop up in the minds of the audience  problems and head them off. It is better to acknowledge upfront that there
might be problems about what you are proposing. If you talk to enough people before hand, you can anticipate the questions. "Some of you remember that at last year's picnic, there was certain evidence that dog walkers had been in the area. This year, our super-heroic -volunteer-clean-up-crew will sweep through just before starting time." If you haven't been specific about what needs to be done, now is the time. "Each person in this  room must sell five picnic tickets each week for the next two weeks. That's only one ticket a day. I know you can do it."

The closing section of the speech quickly summarizes the steps the organization has to take to make the solution happen. Then it moves on to its real purpose, which is the charge to the audience that closes the speech.It goes along the lines of "We have never failed our community before,and we know that we each do our part, we will win." Or "Our allies in labor have always stood by us. Now is the time to walk with them." Or "This picnic can break all records and all you have to do is be there."

Ending the speech can be a combination of words and gestures. Sometimes words alone do not quite convey that the speech is now over.You have had speakers go through three endings and not be able to figure out how to stop. Use gestures. Step back. Take your notes off the podium. Make a  dramatic gesture with both arms. Simply sit down. You can stand up in a moment to acknowledge applause. Many speakers end by saying, "Thank you". This fine for closing all but the most emotional or dramatic speeches. In any event, don't overstay your welcome. You will be appreciated as much for being brief as for the content of what you said.

Each speaker has a personal speaking rate and you should know exactly how long it takes to say the equivalent of one double-spaced type written page. Time yourself until you know this precisely. Then you will always know how long a speech will run.

Use the outline to write the first draft. Plan on writing at least two drafts. The first is just to get the information down and sort out the order of your points. It is like making the initial sketch for a painting. In the second sketch you begin adding the color, or in this case the colorful language. Your mind must first be relieved of worrying about the content before you can focus on mood and style. Those who use computers will be tempted to simply edit the first draft. Don't. Start a new file and begin to type in the speech all over again, copying from the first draft. With each sentence ask, how do I say this better? Should I say it all? Should it go some place else? Does it need an example? Rewrite as you go. Too many facts and too much detail are the most common problems.

A uotes as in a good book of quotations is useful for speech writing. Use quotes as in a sermon. Start with the quotation, explain what it has to do with the subject, then come back to the quotation several times to emphasize points. Get it right. Remember the mess that vice president Quayle made when he addressed the United Negro College Fund? Trying to quote their motto, "A mind is a terrible thing to waste," he said"what a waste it is to lose one's mind or - or not to have a mind-how true that is."

A prize winning painter said that he starts by squinting at the scene to be painted. This breaks down the details such that only the boldest colors and shapes stand out. Mentally squint at your first draft. Let the boldest colors and shapes stand out in your mind. Then find the words to express them. Another term for this is "style".


Images and Pictures

Abraham Lincoln once said of an opposing lawyer, " He can compress the most words into the fewest ideas." In public speaking, of course, the goal is to do the opposite. It is to use the fewest words to present your ideas.A speech is a picture painted with words so that the picture tells the story. The words don't tell the story, they create the picture. The words are like the brush. The brush makes the painting and the painting tells the story. You can use a very small brush and put in many brush strokes(words) in order to fill the picture with a lot of fine detail, or you can use a broader brush with fewer strokes to give the impression of your subject with fewer words. The imagination of the listener will then fill in the details,which makes the details more vivid and the listener more involved. This happens when you read a book and build pictures of the characters in your imagination. Often, when the book is later made into a movie, you are dissappointed with the characters as  they appear on the screen. The ones in your imagination were more real and vivid.

If you were using a very fine brush, you might as well say,

"Between 1980 to 1985, the number of poor people in this town rose from 10,153 to 11,239. That's an increase of 10.7% During the same years, 1980 to 1985, the number of the homeless rose from 50 to 638, an increase of 963.3%. Of those, only an estimated 349 are in charitable facilities, the rest are on the streets."

If you were painting with a broader brush to create a picture and a mood, you could say,

"When i left here to start college, I saw just one homeless person sleeping on the bench at the train station. Coming back four years later, every bench was filled, the washroom was filled, even the news stand had become a refuge for someone. In that short time, homelessness had increased by nearly 1000%"

Of course this is much less precise, but that is just the point. The exact statistics don't really matter, they are undoubtedly wrong anyway. The years don't matter either, a rise of 850% between 1979 and 1984 would be no different. Drop the numbers and paint a picture of the human magnitude of the problem (But have the numbers on a card in your pocket, because someone will ask during the question period. The picture should be an interpretation of the information you have, not a coverup for what you don't know. People who do that eventually get caught.)

Abraham Lincoln hiself was a master at painting pictures with words. In the opening of a speech that he thought the world would "little note nor long remember" and that doubtlessly would not be gender-specific if made in modern times, Lincoln said,

" Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation, concieved in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal"

This was one sentence of thirty words, and yet it flashed to the audience four broadly painted, mood setting pictures:

1. "Four score and seven", simply saying 87 years ago would have been more direct, but Lincoln's audience read the Bible more than most do nowadays. They knew that each person's allotted time on earth is "three score years and ten" Four score and seven, then, starts to paint a picture of the previous generation, and seperates it from the present one. The worlds lead directly into "our fathers"- not the founding fathers, not some remote group of people, but the actual parents and grand parents of that very audience. The image Lincoln was conveying was that the audience and the nation were brought forth by the same parents.

2. "Concieved in liberty." The phrase takes first prize for the grandest picture painted with the fewest words. The words themselves taken literally, don't actually make sense. Only the picture they paint makes sense.

3. "Dedicated to the proposition," paints another picture, one with blurred ages. This picturew helped Lincoln to solve a political problem in the speech. He was heading  toward painting the Civil War as a war for equality and wanted to link that idea with the heritage of 1776. The problem was that while the Declaration of Independence had said that "all men are created equal." The Constitution had not. Equality was not of the founding principles of the Republic, and every one knew it better then than we do today. The word "proposition" can be read as meaning a proposal, not yet a reality or an undertaking, not yet an accomplished fact.Thus, in only four words, Lincoln resolved (and fudged) the ambiguity of the founding of America, which includes forces both for and against universal freedom. Again, the words taken literally, don't quite  make sense.  A nation can be dedicated to a principle, but exactly how is it dedicated to a proposition? As a picture, however, it makes perfect sense.

Lincoln might have tried to explain, using a finer brush and more words, that if Madison had been more of this, and Hamilton less of that, and the northern states gone more this way, while southerners went some other way, it all might have been as we wish it had been. But that would not have been painting pictures and creating a mood, it would have been writing a report.

4. By saying, in effect, all people are created equal, Lincoln again accomplished a fine picture. The declaration had held thst common people and kings were equals; slaves were now to be included in that equation. It was only ten months since the Emancipation Proclamation had gone into effect. Before that time the war was justified as being fought to preserve the Republic. Now, new dimensions of freedom and equality were officially added. This entire conception was boldly sketched into the speech with only 5 words.

The entire address is worthy of study. It's like watching a slide show. Image after image flashes by. They are created by words, but are more than words. The desired action,  of course was that the audience rededicate itself to winning the war. Toward that conclusion, the speech moved with the cadence of a march, 'we can not decicate, we cannot consecrate-we cannot hallow- of the people by the people for the people.' It carries the audience up past the endless rows of graves  which surround them,  and on the most lofty aim of the war; the new birth of freedom. So pronounced is the rythm of the speech that the closing lines were actually set to music and sung as march in the stirring " Ballad of Americans" recorded both  by Paul Robeson and Odetta


It is customary to begin speeches, other than those dedicating cemeteries, with a joke. Follow this tradition, as long as the joke has something to do with the topic, is non-offensive, isn't about making a speech, and you can tell a joke well. Telling the opening joke is a little like bribing the audience to like you, but that's Ok.

Humor has a number of functions in the speech. Most important, it really does make people like you. Speeches in which you take an unpopular position are best cloaked in humor. Getting a group to laugh with you at itself is a good way of giving criticism. Laughter keeps the audience alert. Jokes are the one part of the speech that no one wants to miss. If they know that jokes are coming, they will listen for them and catch more of what you are saying. Humorb quickly changes the mood which makes it a good transition from one part of the speech to the  next. It also relieves tension. If you are a speaker good enough to create tension, you should also break it occasionally. Laughing wakes people up causing them to breath deeply and rapidly, thus getting a shot of oxygen to the brain. ( In smoke filled rooms it just gets smoke to the brain, swo be careful.),That's why a joke at the start of the speech is not enough. Work humor right into the text. Here are a few things that are funny:

1. An unusual invective.When aimed at an oponent this can be funny. " I have alwaysv considered him to be the short end of nothing havedb down to the end." Playing with your opponent's name is funny. " Here comes let-them-eat-cake Drake." Or, Doctor Jones, I don't think he ever went to medical school. His mother just named him Doctor to make him rich. (But be careful not to come off as mean by making fun of everyone but yourself.)

2. An Allusion to the Forbidden. References that come close to forbidden subjects are funny. I saw Limburger cheese once. I didn't know whether to eat it or step in  it."

3. Word games. Word games are funny if people get it. We stopped at a little village called Hadem on the Hill." But not funny if they don't

4. Being less formal in speech or manner than previous speakers, or than the occasion seems to demand, is funny.( But there is a thin line between funny and silly.)


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