Approaching the Speaking Situation: Audience, Occasion, Purpose
Structuring The Speech
Argument: Claims, Reasons, and Evidence
Oral Discourse and Extemporaneous Delivery
Communication, both spoken and written, is always addressed to an audience, a set of listeners or readers you are intending to convey information to or have some effect upon. Public speaking differs from written communication in that the audience is present, gathered for some occasion. That occasion has norms and expectations that a speaker must recognize. Finally, a public speaker has some purpose, something they are trying to accomplish or set in motion. Good public speaking always accounts for these three components.
Audience. Speakers communicate differently to different audiences. To take a simple example, people tell their grandmothers about their new “significant other” in a different way than they tell their best friend. Similarly, people speak about trees differently with their high school biology teacher than they do with their younger siblings; and speakers often need to make arguments about public policy differently to Republicans than to Democrats. Two main questions guide audience adaptation in a speaking situation: Who are they? What qualities about them are relevant?
Who are they? Distinguishing general from specific audiences is useful. A general audience is everyone who will hear the speech or read the paper. A specific audience, on the other hand, is that subset of the general audience who the speaker particularly wants to reach, or to reach in a different way than the rest of the group. In an audience with varying degrees of knowledge on a subject, for instance, a speaker might want to pitch their comments primarily to non-experts (while at the same time not saying anything that a specialist would find objectionable). In the classroom, students may be speaking to the entire group but making a special effort to address the professor's expectations.
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