As an evolving art, public speaking has changed from the classical era to today's information age in six key areas: who may speak, what makes a speaker credible, where speakers find information, what ethical challenges speakers face, how speakers deliver their speeches, and the audience's expectations. Tracing public speaking across the centuries illustrates how public speaking has evolved from a time when only well-educated men could speak, and only to a live audience, to an era in which nearly all members of society have the opportunity to speak and can choose among multiple delivery options.
In the public speaking class you're taking now, you'll acquire many transferable skills. Learning how to successfully present a speech increases self-confidence, improves listening skills, teaches audience adaptation and credibility strategies, expands your ability to locate and evaluate information, and provides techniques for better organizing and presenting your ideas.
Your public speaking class won't be the first time you give a speech--nor will it be the last. Many instructors across a wide variety of disciplines require student participation in discussions, debates, and presentations. Oral communication skills are essential to doing well in the workplace. Engaging in public talk at the community level keeps you informed and more connected with others. Speaking at social events contributes to important societal and cultural rituals.
Although new communication technologies have transformed how people communicate, four core ideas provide the foundation for public speaking in any age. First, public speaking requires audience-centered communication in which speakers focus on listeners' needs, knowledge, and interests. Second, public speakers must choose excellent supporting materials that fit the audience, topic, and occasion. Third, public speaking incorporates five arts, or divisions: invention, arrangement, style, memory, and delivery. These categories provide guidance in learning about public speaking and developing a speech. Fourth, public speaking encourages narrative thinking, allowing communicators to use their imaginations, recognize patterns, structure past events, and identify their relationships with each other and with the world.
Models of human communication have evolved from the transmission model that views communication as one-way, to more sophisticated models that incorporate today's complex communication environment. Public speaking has eight elements: speaker, message, channel, audience, noise, feedback, context, and environment. The speaker is the person who has the primary responsibility for presenting information. The speaker's message includes both verbal and nonverbal communication. Public speaking typically involves multiple channels of communication, such as integrating presentation media while speaking in person. The intended recipients of the speaker's message are the audience. Noise can interfere with the audience's ability to understand the message. The audience provides feedback in the form of nonverbal responses, questions and comments, and other communication with the speaker. The context for public speaking includes the physical setting and the occasion.
Key issues for today's public speaker center on ethics, cultural awareness, and using presentation software. Increased access to information puts greater ethical responsibilities on speakers to carefully research their speeches and scrupulously document their sources. Speakers must remain especially vigilant against plagiarism. Speaking today also requires applying critical thinking skills to reflect on and evaluate information. In addition, because they have so many opportunities to learn about others' perspectives, speakers must speak with cultural sensitivity. Finally, although presentation software provides an important mechanism for developing visually rich presentations, poor use of digital slides detracts from the speaker's message.
The speechmaking process involves six basic stages. First, determine your speech's topic and purpose. Second, analyze your audience so you can adapt your speech to them. Third, thoroughly research your topic. Fourth, organize your ideas in a way that fits your topic, purpose, and audience. Fifth, rehearse your speech aloud, preferably in front of an audience. Sixth, manage your voice and body, presentation media, audience, and time when you present your speech.
Even in today's information- and technology-driven age, excellent public speaking skills remain central to excelling personally and professionally, and for participating in a democratic society. Your public speaking class provides an important opportunity to learn the fundamentals of speaking in public. So get ready to speak up and make your voice heard.
|American Rhetoric: Online Speech Bank |
|The site includes an index of |
over 5,000 speeches you can
browse by speaker or category.
|Digital Divide.org |
|Is the digital divide shrinking? |
DigitalDivide.org provides nine truths
and seven misconceptions about the digital divide.
|Pew Internet & |
|Find out the latest trends on how |
Americans use the internet and other new media.
|Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy |
|Learn more about the individuals |
who shaped the foundations of
public speaking, such as
|The History Place: Great Speeches Collection |
|A compilation of written texts |
of speeches from the 1200s to today
that allows you to consider
how speechmaking has changed over time.