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Understanding Reasons for a Public Speaking Event

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  • 0:02 The Speaking Event
  • 1:35 Selecting Your Topic
  • 2:10 Your Background
  • 3:36 The Occasion
  • 5:20 The Audience
  • 5:47 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Cathryn Jackson

Cat has taught a variety of subjects, including communications, mathematics, and technology. Cat has a master's degree in education and is currently working on her Ph.D.

In this lesson, you'll learn how to prepare for a speaking event. Learn how to tailor your speech to be appropriate for the event based on your background, the occasion and the audience.

The Speaking Event

You've been asked to say a few words at a local event. When speaking to a friend that is part of organizing the event, you realize that it is a fundraiser for a medical condition you can't even pronounce. You've prepared a few jokes that might now be seen as inappropriate for the occasion. You also find out that the event organizer wants you to persuade the audience to donate to the charity. What do you do?

When preparing a speech, one of the most important elements of preparation is your understanding of the speaking event. You may be required to give a speech in a class for a grade or you are asked to speak at an event, like a wedding. Sometimes, you will have a choice in the topic of your speech, whereas other times you will be given the topic. In this lesson, you will learn how to understand the speaking event and how to prepare for it.

The speaking event is the circumstances in which you deliver your speech. This can include the purpose of your speech, such as to persuade, inform or to entertain. You are usually either required to speak or asked to speak for an event.

For example, you may be required to speak in front of employees at your workplace regarding a change in company policies. In this case, you do not have a choice in your topic; you have to talk about the policy changes. You also know the purpose of your speech: to inform the other employees of the changes. Maybe you are asked to speak a few words at a summer camp with the purpose of motivating and encouraging the campers. In this case, you are able to select your topic.

Selecting Your Topic

When you have the advantage of selecting your topic, it can seem like a daunting task. There are a vast number of topics out there. How do you know which one is appropriate?

To begin with, you may want to ask yourself the following questions: 'Why am I here, and what impact can I have on my audience?' Ultimately, regardless of whether you are asked to speak or are required to speak, you want to leave a lasting impression on your audience. Your choice will be influenced by three factors:

  • Your background
  • The occasion
  • The audience

Your Background

First, let's talk about your background. If you pick a topic area that you can't relate to, the audience will sense it, and they will have a hard time relating to your topic as well. If you don't have control over your topic, then find an area of the topic that you can relate to.

For example, if you are asked to persuade your audience to donate to a charity for a medical condition that you are unfamiliar with, you may want to research the medical condition and see if there is anything in your background that would help you relate to the people that suffer from that particular condition. Maybe you have a friend or a relative that suffers from a similar condition. Maybe you suffer from a similar condition.

Another example: let's say you are asked to debate a new policy that the athletics department recently implemented, but you know nothing about athletics or their policies. How can you relate to this topic? You can research the organizations that you are a part of and see how the different policies impacted you and your organization. Then relate those experiences to what the athletes and coaches may be experiencing due to their policy changes.

Use the experiences you have in life to relate to the topic. If you feel like you are at a loss with relating to the topic, try interviewing someone that knows more about the topic. Use their experiences to bring realism and emotion to your speech.

The Occasion

The occasion of your speech is very important when selecting and narrowing your topic. It will also give you an understanding of how long your speech should be and the tone of your speech.

Obviously, if you are speaking at a somber occasion, you may want to stay away from joking or having a dismissive tone. If you are speaking at a camp, you probably don't want to make your topic sound like a college lecture.

Researching the occasion will give you great insight to selecting the overall topic and tone of the speech. Be sure to discuss the occasion with people that are familiar with it and the hosts of the event.

Don't make assumptions! Not every wedding speech needs to be a stand-up comedy routine and not every business presentation should be dry. Just because you think you understand the occasion, doesn't mean you should put off doing research.

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