Public speaking is much more than just “standing up and saying a few words.” Any audience has certain expectations that they hope will be met by the speaker, no matter the occasion. They want you to be clear, interesting and tell them something they don’t already know. There are 4 basic types of speeches that you can use to accomplish these goals.
The purpose of any speech is to persuade, inform, inspire or entertain. Sometimes speeches will contain more than one of these elements. All speeches, no matter the type, must have an opening, body and conclusion. It must be clear to your audience what you intend to say. If they can’t tell where you are headed after a minute or two of your speech they will tune out.
Let’s look at the four basic speech types more closely:
Speech to persuade: Every day we are constantly exposed to attempts to persuade us to do one thing and not do another. TV commercials, political ads, salespeople, spouses and relatives, bosses and coworkers all try to convince us to follow their particular proposal. Because of this, audiences tend to be a little reserved about your attempts to persuade them. People have become wary.
Your primary purpose in a persuasive speech is to influence the thinking or behavior of your audience. In order for your audience to be willing to listen to you they have to like you, respect you and trust you. They must be able to identify with you in some way and you have to give them a reason why they should listen to what you have to say.
Speech to inform: This is probably the most common type of speech you will give and the most common that you hear others give. Your purpose is to teach your audience something new or to expand their existing knowledge. It may mean exposing them to a topic or idea they know nothing about, showing them how to use a piece of equipment, or helping them learn a new skill. You might be explaining a new managerial system at work. Informative speeches cover many areas. Remember to use some humor in these speeches and try to keep it light. Informative speeches can be boring to the listener if care is not taken by the speaker. Think back to a teacher or professor you had who was dull. Don’t do that to your audience!
Speech to inspire: The purpose of an inspirational speech is to ask your audience to improve in one of several ways, personally, emotionally, professionally, or spiritually. The inspirational speaker relies more on emotional appeal than logical appeal. You are attempting to connect with the individual listener’s feelings. You explain why and how the situation is changing or why their current emotions, fears or goals may be inadequate or counterproductive. Inspirational speakers motivate the audience and challenge them to do more at a higher level and specify the benefits they can expect if they do so.
Speech to entertain: Conventions, dinners and seminars often include entertaining speakers in their agenda. Everyone likes to laugh and that’s an entertainer’s job. Ideally the entertaining speaker will also present a serious point in a low-key humorous way. You don’t have to be naturally funny to give an entertaining speech.Your job is to provide an interesting diversion. Entertaining speakers normally do this by telling stories. Know who your audience is and match your stories to that group. A young audience will not be interested in what you have to say if you are talking about events and people from before they were born.
You need to be a showman when you are doing an entertaining speech. If it’s supposed to be humorous then your attitude must be fun and lighthearted. Your primary goal is to make sure that the audience has a great time.
Warning: Make sure you know the details about the audience before you agree to give an entertaining speech. These are often after-dinner speeches and people have been drinking for an hour or so. If you don’t have significant speaking experience and a very tough hide this can be a harrowing experience. I know! Even many professional speakers refuse engagements where the audience has been drinking.
Public speaking is a skill and as with any skill you will only get better with practice. Volunteer to speak at work or church or school. Organizers are always grateful when someone volunteers. The more you speak, the better you will become and the more you will enjoy it.
For more information on these topics check out Toastmasters International. Joining Toastmasters is a wonderful way to practice and polish your skills, and it’s fun!