Principles of Speech Communication

Speech making is perhaps one of the innate abilities of man, irrespective of one’s citizenry, or ethnic affiliations. Yet many people speak without understanding that it is a special ability without which communication between people and groups would not be possible.

Speech communication differs from normal day to day talking in which one speaks sporadically without considering ethics and skills. However, it is similar to every day communication in that they are both driven by the aim to communicate meaningfully.

Speech making is an organized communication aimed at sharing specific message about a given subject to create impact towards solving human problems.

This article provides guidance in the following areas:

Types of speech

Sages/steps in the speech making process and

Structure of a speech

Types of Speech

The onus remains squarely, on every speech maker to identify the type of speech most suitable to his/her purpose. For emphasis, it should be known that the aim of your delivery should be the sole factor dictating the style/type of speech you should choose to use.

Generally, there are, for conveniences, sake, four basic speech types, viz:

• Argumentative speech

• Persuasive speech

• Educative speech and

• Informative speech.

Argumentative Speech Type

Arguments imply elaborate presentation of all perspectives to an object or a subject of discussion, before settling down for the most applicable option. What comes out of an argument as most acceptable may not necessarily be truer, or better than other options, but the process of arguing makes it best, when compared to the others. This is why one choosing this type must bear in mind that it is his/her approach to it, and the ability to convince that determines the success or failure of the entire process.

While this may be closely related to persuasive essay, the dissimilarity lies in using points to convince at all cost.

To argue therefore, the speech maker needs to clearly and exhaustively raise every point of the issue and state facts about it. And this statement of facts is the “why” of the validity or not of your argument.

Persuasive Speech Type

As the name indicates, this type of speech is meant to stimulate a favourable disposition towards the subject of your concern or to appeal to audience to see it your way and act as you desire.

Companies, individuals and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) that depend on project grants are often required to their proposals in brief, before forums of grant agencies. In doing this, they are expected to give brief, straight-to-point run down of what they propose to do to achieve goal, if given grant. This summary must necessarily include a statement of methodology and justification why it has to be your proposal, and not that of another. You must convince that using so and so method, you will be able to achieve set goals within the specified time, without waste of resources and this, you must do without doubt.

A high point worthy of emphasis is that to persuade, a speech maker must JUSTIFY why you are convinced that your method is most suitable to deliver best result. Your entire exercise will be meaningless if it fails to provide justification.

Also, students defending their research projects/thesis/dissertations ought to bear this in mind, as they will at one time or another, need to persuade their tutors I favour of their work.

Educative Speech Type

Although teaching in a class room situation requires more than speech making skills, it would do you well as a professional teacher, haven undergone training in the profession, to add these to your skills. As one who teaches in a school or a religious organization, one makes speeches often, both officially and otherwise.

Advertising agencies as well make use of this type of speech as product display demonstration to teach prospective consumers of a new product a step – by – step approach to using it.

An educative speech provides a comprehensible how-to-do-it guide to given subjects and must be done carefully to avoid confusing consumers/students/audience/congregation.

Informative Speech Type

The aim of this class of speech is to make known. This may come in presentable form in which the speech maker delivers it to audience or may be a press release. Whichever the case, both the writer and giver of speech must choose words carefully in order not to mislead, as the aim is to give accurate, unmistaken information as at press conference, organizational report forums, annual general meetings, state of the affair reviews etc.

Whether as government official, a politician or celebrity wishing to tell subordinated, colleagues or fans and the mass media something, this type of speech serves you best, as it equally serves the technology company wishing to inform its market of its newest innovation.

Security agencies and Public Relations Executives of all manner of corporate entities should be versed in this type of speech, as they will find it useful in the course of their careers.

Stages in the Speech Making Process

As already stated in the introduction, why you make speech is to communicate towards an end. Thus, your speech can only be seen as a success if the aim is achieved at the end of the day. To achieve an aim, professional speech communication follows a procedure, which is here written as the stages/steps in the speech communication process. They include:

• Research: If you are to speak, it means that there is someone you are to speak to, about something, something of importance to both of you, and at a given time and place. Your first responsibility is to FIND OUT what it is you are going to talk about. Whatever it is, you must study it to know far more than you will need to talk about and in this case, it is necessary to preempt the likely questions your audiences are to ask, and provide answers in the speech you make.

where and when necessary, consult with people such as experts, who have better technical understanding of the subject than you and to these, pose ALL your questions and let their answers be the knowledge with which you confront the exercise, as these answers should be the basis of the speech you present. In doing this, you should avoid stating the obvious. By this I mean elements that can easily be deciphered and understood should not be your primary aim to explain, rather you will do more good to seek out areas that are not likely to be understood at first glance by the lay man and on these, place your emphasis.

If for instance your speech is a political manifesto, it will be more profitable to describe in detail, what you intend to do to solve certain societal problems and your conduct in office, should you be elected, than to dwell on the might of your political party or on the electioneering process – whoever your audience are already know how to vote and how strong your party is but even if they don’t, there are people stationed to teach them those.

If on the other hand your concern is a product/service as a PRE/Advertiser, or an issue intangible as those handled by spiritual leaders and programme facilitators, seek out beforehand, opinions and opposing views about the product/service/issue. Be sure to find out details about the product/service/issue as to how it functions or implications of every standpoint in an issue. It is only this detailed understanding of subject that places you above your audience to be able to grant answers to their every question, including the ones they are not able to ask.

When you have satisfactorily understudied the subject of your presentation, you should as well endeavor to study the people to whom you will be speaking. This may require going the extra mile to study the various groups of people likely to be present at your presentation as well as their depth of understanding of the subject. Also, their depth of understanding of the language of communication is of importance, as this helps your diction for proper understanding.

You may as well, need to take a closer look at the place and time of your presentation. Though this may not be of same relevance as the first two, but is advisable because the place and time of an event contribute to a large extent, to the atmosphere of the event and in effective communication, the atmosphere is as important as the message itself as it colours the meaning of a message. This is why “good morning” at a time may be a greeting and at another time, a disturbance, as “yes” may mean yes at time but mean “no” at other times.

• Speech Writing: A well-researched speech may often end up poorly delivered if it is poorly documented, as many speech makers find the Read Only Strategy (ROS) more convenient than any other method. For a speech to be remarkable, its research, documentation and delivery must be sufficiently mastered.

Whether commissioned to write a speech for someone else to deliver or not, speech writing requires an interplay of excellent writing skills controlled by specific facts gained through research conducted at the initial stage with appropriate and accurate choice of words and illustrations, analogies etcetera.

Here are the basic formats of speech writing: the scripted speech, the semi-scripted speech, the outline speech and the unscripted format.

Scripted Speech: Earlier I mentioned ROS (Read Only Strategy) which is my description for a speech that is pre written and delivered verbatim unfortunately, this leaves no room for improvisation thus, where the speech writer is different from its presenter, the latter may have little or no idea about the technicalities of the subject of discussion, as he/she only read what is on paper. In this case, questions asked pose a great challenge to the presenter and may often be a source of embarrassment. A person delivering speech using ROS, without sufficient rehearsal may get pronunciations wrong and dodge questions at the end of the exercise as politicians do, because they are hardly involved in the creation of their speeches. However, this is the most used type of speech, practiced by political icons and celebrities because of its convenience.

The hugest merit of this is the convenience and the fact that individuals who are extremely shy or incompetent can hide away their weaknesses behind the paper already written for them. Also, the speech presenter may not need to have a deep knowledge of the subject, provided the writer of the speech does a good job. It is of advantage to persons who make many speeches within limited time and have little or no time to rehearse.

Notwithstanding, the problem with ROS is that it leaves the audience bored, as the speech maker is buried in the paper rather than keeping contact with the people to whom the presentation is being made.

The Semi – Scripted Speech Format: a speech is semi – scripted when only the principal lines of thought are written down, leaving the rest to be done on the spot of delivery. The preacher in a religious event may for example, write down a theme and scriptural texts while leaving the connected sentences to the process of delivery.

This method, a combination of ROS and improvisation proves beneficial when the speech writer is the same as the one to delivers. Otherwise, it becomes almost impracticable to deliver a semi – scripted speech prepared by somebody else. Where it is feasible, the writer and presenter must necessarily require massive effort at rehearsals which may not always be forth coming.

Out – Line Speech Format: Highly flexible and creative method that only notes in sequence, key points while leaving connected sentences to the delivery point. The advantage of this lies in the fact that where the atmosphere does not permit certain lines of thought or use of language, the speech maker changes direction. And because it is outlined rather than scripted, prevailing circumstances, at event venue, such as mood, time and language suitability are easily manageable. However, this method is most successful where the speech writer is the speech maker or where the latter has equal in-depth knowledge of subject and shares similar views with the former.

Unscripted Speech Format: This, otherwise referred here as improvisation or impromptu, is a speech format that requires no prior writing at all. Its success solely depends on the speech maker’s ability to improvise, that is, to create instantaneously, a spontaneous response to the situation. This, experience has shown, is the most effective speech style that does not fail to take audience along, as it is a child of circumstance.

Often you are asked to provide a repertoire or vote of thanks without warning. Using this format, you get your data from the prevailing circumstance and must immediately become a millionaire in thinking and in language if your audiences are of the millionaire class or you can be a road side mechanic if those are the people you are to communicate to.

The problem with this is that for beginners, improvisation could be challenging, as it requires tact and a lot of self-confidence.

• Rehearsals: After your documentation, the next stage is rehearsals. This simply means a trying out of yourself, a practice simulating the actual presentation you will be doing.

When doing this, critique your eye contact, facial expressions, gesticulations and general comportment. While practicing in front of your mirror may not be exactly similar to doing it in front of a thousand people, it gives you an idea of your look and performance and allows you to improve on those areas. You may like to present to your friend, spouse or kin to have their inputs.

• Speech Presentation: The essence of all the activities carried out from stage one is to achieve a remarkable presentation, such as would leave a desired impact by achieving the goal pursuant of which the speech was meant to be made. It therefore cannot be over-emphasized that this is the most vital aspect of the entire exercise, as it is the only thing people see and know about. Audiences do not follow you to your closet to see that you have researched your piece well but they will decide whether or not you have done well once you have delivered. For this reason, I like to say that it is better to conduct a poor research, do a poor documentation but superb presentation rather than having it the other way round.

To aid your performance in this regard, a couple of problems have been identified and solutions proffered here:

Overcoming Stage Fright: The incidence of stage fright is one menace too many that ruins otherwise, a remarkable speech. Your ability to manage this is as important as the other elements in the process involved, as your audience are not lenient, but are always looking for loopholes to capitalize on in unmaking your effort.

Ironically, everyone has some level of stage fright. The only difference being that some see the high tensed atmosphere and the rapid beating of their hearts as a positive force that complements their strength of delivery, while others fret at it.

What constitutes stage fright is fear; fear of the many eyes gazing at you, possibly “dissecting” and finding fault in whatever you are telling them, what you wear and the entirety of your being. Surprisingly, all this is more imagined than real, as audience hardly have any doubt until you give them a reason to. When you give the impression that you are in control, they accept that you are and thus, look up to you for answers.

Your appearance and perhaps gesticulations which you may have seen as errors become model to be emulated. This is why you must make your fear work for you.

There are several tricks to achieving this, two of which are suggested below:

Ice-Breaking – this refers to a ploy of ventilating tension rising from high expectation and an aura of formality. Audience expecting or rather, awaiting your presentation are kin and formal. This formality exerts more pressure on you, as you feel intense need and anxiety to deliver. In extreme cases, this raises doubts inn you as to whether you can satisfy them or not so you begin to stammer, jump words on the speech or add nonexistent words to the already prepared piece.

To break-the-ice, you can tell a short, relevant story or begin by doing an out of the way exercise like giving a joke or introducing yourself. This breaks the air of formality and helps both you and your audience relax enough to conveniently and enjoyably face the business of the day. By the time you have made your audience laugh or you have expended your pent-up tension telling a story, you will have made the atmosphere informal enough and gained the rapt attention of the audience.

Pen Cap Trick: Another way of managing stage fright is by directing the tension to your finger tips rather than to your head and mouth. This is possible by keeping your fingers actively engaged, as the natural course of function of the human system directs pressure/energy to a part of the body that is engaged in an activity. Therefore, if your attention lies only with your eyes and vocal cord, they will have to find a way of expending all the energy directed at them and in the process, mistakes could be made.

Splitting this pressure from your upper region to another section helps to keep balance in the overall management of tension and helps you coordinate and concentrate better in the efficacious delivery of your speech. The trick is to keep an object in your hand which your fingers will be compressing while you do the talking.

Because this activity is more physical than the intellectual role of speaking, more tension/pressure in exerted and expended here, leaving your heart with less thuds per time, and your concentration devoid of excessive anxiety.

However, it is advised that you pick an object that would not attract more attention than the speech. Something small enough to be completely hidden in your pals, and that does not make noise would do. Many people use paper clip, which they bend and straighten many times, while they speak. I had used pen cap made of plastic.

Looking, not Seeing: When presenting a speech or any creative work before an audience, many beginners find that they get lost if they focus on keeping eye contact with specific members of audience. The fact that your audience are taken along more when you keep eye contact with them is not to say that you must pay attention to the expressions on the faces as this will, more often than not, distract you. You can look in the direction of your audience generally without seeing of focusing on any one in particular. That way, everyone thinks you are looking at the next person and you end up achieving satisfactory presentation at the conclusion.

Diction: This had been touched earlier, but cannot be exhausted. The language of presentation should be chosen in line with the characteristics of the audience. Generally, a verbose speech is unnecessarily lengthy and full of jaw breaking language that make everyone clap for you not for the meaning and sense derived from your presentation, but for the amusement. The bottom line is to communicate, not to impress.

Structure of a Good Speech

A good speech, like every good piece of writing, is not just poured out at audience, but is meaningfully communicated only when it meets a prescribed, conventional specification. Every speech, good or bad has the following components, which either makes or mars it, depending on the writer/presenter’s ability to weave the various components into one beautiful piece or failure to do so, which leaves the work deformed like a physically challenged man.

• An introduction: this being the first line of your presentation, it is the most important as it sets the tone and mood for the rest of the presentation. If therefore, your introduction is good, it captivates audiences’ attention and stirs up interest: sends questions, expectations and anxieties running in the minds of the audience. So also does a poor introduction kill their appetite, so that rather than get anxious to get the rest of the gist from you, they get anxious to dispose of your time wasting presence. Speech makers of reasonable experience will tell you that the most embarrassing moment of their careers was when an audience just stared at them indifferently, while they made frantic efforts to get their attention. Often, they’d ignore you and fill in the gap by telling stories and holding pockets of briefs underground.

To avoid such pitfalls, your introduction must stir interest and be interesting enough for one man to tell another to keep quiet let him hear you well, as each speech must be worth the time spent to receive it. Otherwise, they would just switch off psycho-mentally, while leaving you to make the noise.

To achieve this, you can ask a rhetoric question, use an anecdote (a short analogical story) or a catchy quote but which must be relevant and which would make your presentation easier to achieve.

• Linkage: while some may argue rightly that the body of a speech and this section are indistinct, there is a need here to split them for the purpose of proper better understanding. A linkage is a sentence or two that connect the introduction with the details’ section (body) of the presentation.

• The Body of Details: Haven captivated the interest of your audience in the introduction and properly linked it using appropriate word, the emphasis now rests on providing all the details that are the main thrust of the presentation. All the points you may have gathered in the research will now be knit together beautifully and well explained to answer the questions your audience are likely to be asking. Your points must be well explained and objectively convincing enough that at the end, your audience will be left in no doubt (even if their own opinion differ), but rather have clear understanding of your impressions.

• The Conclusion: the last line of a good presentation should leave a lasting impression on people’s minds. Often, a relevant quote or rhetoric does the magic but the speech writer or (and) the presenter should understand that the relevance of the devices to subject or occasion as well as your accuracy of expressions is what leaves indelible marks on the minds of audiences. The conclusion should be food for thought, something people should remember long after they may have forgotten everything else, including the speech maker.

Basic Principles by Dreg En Ay