Advocacy and Audiences

1 Public Speaking As Advocacy

Learning Objectives

  • Define public speaking
  • Outline public speaking as a form of advocacy
  • Introduction to communication as constitutive, cultural, and contextual
  • Define communication apprehension and note strategies to manage anxiety before speaking

Imagine your favorite public speaker. When Meggie (one of your authors) imagines a memorable speaker, she often thinks of her high school English teacher, Mrs. Permeswaran. You may be skeptical of her choice, but Mrs. Permeswaran captured the students’ attention daily. How? By providing information through stories and examples that felt relatable, reasonable, and relevant. Even with a room of students, Meggie often felt that the English teacher was just talking to her. Students worked hard, too, to listen, using note-taking and subtle nods (or confused eyebrows) to communicate that they cared about what was being said.

Now imagine your favorite public speaker. Who comes to mind? A famous comedian like Jen Kirkman? An ac

Laverne Cox speaking at the Missouri Theatre
Laverne Cox speaking at the Missouri Theatre

tivist like Laverne Cox? Perhaps you picture Barack Obama. What makes them memorable for you? Were they funny? Relatable? Dynamic? Confident? Try to think beyond what they said to how they made you feel. What they said certainly matters, but we are often less inclined to remember the what without a powerful how— how they delivered their message; how their performance implicated us or called us in; how they made us feel or how they asked us to think or act differently.

In this chapter, we provide an introduction to public speaking by exploring what it is and why it’s impactful as a communication process. Specifically, we invite you to consider public speaking as a type of advocacy. When you select information to share with others, you are advocating for the necessity of that information to be heard. You are calling on the audience and calling them in to listen to your perspective. Even the English teacher above was advocating that sentence structure and proper writing were important ideas to integrate. She was a trusted speaker, too, given her credibility.

Before we continue our conversation around advocacy, let’s first start with a brief definition of public speaking.

What’s Public Speaking?

In the opening section of this chapter, we asked that you imagine your favorite public speaker, but what qualifies? How do we know when public speaking is happening? This section will briefly define public speaking to provide some working terminology and background information.

In public speaking, a speaker attempts to move an audience by advocating for a purposeful message—through informing, persuading, or entertaining—in a particular context. In almost all cases, the speaker is the focus of attention for a specific amount of time. There may be some back-and-forth interaction, such as questions and answers with the audience, but the speaker usually holds the responsibility to direct that interaction either during or after the prepared speech has concluded. As the focus, speakers deliver sound arguments in a well-organized manner. Historically, public speaking was a face-to-face process, but public speaking can now be delivered and viewed digitally.

Broken down, public speaking includes these basic components:

  • The sharing of a well-organized, well-supported, message from a designated speaker to an audience;
  • In a context;
  • Generally prepared;
  • With purpose ranging from informative to persuasive to entertaining.

A speaker often feels strongly that the audience would benefit from the message presented. After all, public speaking is purposeful, so giving a speech is the process of providing a group of people with information that is useful and relevant. It may sound like a simple process, but it requires keen delivery – including attention to verbal and nonverbal skills – argument creation, research, and rehearsal to create a captivating experience for your audience. Public speaking is more than a message, it’s an experience.

Brené Brown is one speaker that creates an experience for her audience. You may be familiar with her TedTalk, “The Power of Vulnerability” from 2014 (she’s done some great stuff since then, too). She created a captivating experience with research around vulnerability, told stories that were intriguing, and used humor to draw the audience in —she advocated for ideas that were made meaningful to and for her audience.

We could, conversely, ask you to imagine a less-captivating public speaker. Sadly, we have these in our minds, too. These are often speakers who didn’t deliver information that you were compelled to listen to: they didn’t advocate that the information was of importance to you, to your community, or to other communities. Perhaps they gave you information that you already knew or had been disproven. Put simply: they didn’t create a meaningful experience.

What you advocate for and how you deliver your message are crucial to creating a captivating experience for your audience. Tracing public speaking back to its roots will underscore the historical relevance of public speaking as a form of advocacy.

Public Speaking as Advocacy

Public speaking as a form of advocacy can be traced through the history of oral communication. Public speaking, or “rhetoric” as it was originally called, has long been considered a method in Western culture of building community, facilitating self-governance, sharing important ideas, and creating policies. In fact, these are the reasons the ancient Athenian Greeks emphasized that all citizens should be educated in rhetoric: so that they could take part in civil society. Rhetoric was a means to discuss and advocate civically with other citizens and community members.image

Public speaking is still seen as a key form of civic engagement. Being a good civil servant means listening to information that’s relevant to your community/communities and using public outlets—voting, petitioning, or speaking— to participate in democracy. Public speaking becomes a necessary outlet to advocate for issues within and for your community – it’s a way to become civically engaged.

Public speaking can and should remain invested in advocacy, but “advocacy” can sound slightly intimidating.

To clarify, think about advocacy as one or more of the following components:

  • Advocacy is the promotion of an idea, cause, concept, or information
  • Advocacy includes actions toward a specific goal
  • Advocacy finds solutions to current problems

To advocate is to say “this idea matters” and “I invite each of us to think more deeply about this information.” This could happen by discussing an idea that you believe a community needs to hear or by overtly asking audiences to change their mind about a controversial topic. When you make a selection to provide a perspective, you are actively supporting (or advocating for) that perspective. Of all the arguments, topics, or insights in the world, you have selected one – you’ve selected an advocacy.

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You may be wondering, “if advocacy means the promotion of a cause that affects communities, how do I figure out a cause I find worthy to speak about?”

Believe us, you’ve done this before.

When is the last time you advocated for a certain perspective? You may have shared an article online that suggested boycotting a musical artist. Perhaps you backed your sister up in an argument with your parents about curfews. You may be thinking about arguing with a friend to boycott fast food chains or asking an important question through social media. These are forms of advocacy. You become passionate about these topics and they motivate your engagement around these issues.

Public speaking asks that you expand those moments beyond interpersonal or social media exchanges to include a broader audience where you’re the designated speaker.

You might, for example, be asked to represent a student organization on campus. You would be responsible for advocating on behalf of that group – a responsibility that can be exhilarating and meaningful. You care about the organization –its mission, ideas, and people in it—so you want to successfully advocate for the group’s ideas.

When we advocate, we are balancing our own individual interests with the interests or goals of a larger community or group. We can sometimes over-rely on the first half: our own interests, and forget about the latter: the interests of the larger community. Oftentimes, what we advocate for or about can impact others – both directly (like your student organization) and indirectly (like language choices that are used).

Therefore, advocating for ideas through public speaking has personal and social functions. Public speaking as advocacy will guide our approach through this book, and we encourage you to begin considering your areas of advocacy. There is a lot at stake when we advocate, so we must strive to be ethical communicators.

Communicating Ethically

Ethics is the practice of what’s right, virtuous, or good (Tompkins, 2011, p. 3). You could likely list a few key ethics that you personally hold. You may view violence as unethical, for example. Ethics are also understood and defined in our own communities. Colleges view plagiarism—or representing someone else’s work as our own—as unethical and wrong within the university community (we’ll discuss this in later chapters). As public speakers, ethics is central because you are attempting to influence others.

When preparing for a public speech, there are two key communication ethics questions to consider:

First, am I advocating for information and others in ethical ways? Anytime we communicate, including public speaking, the content should be crafted with truthful and honest information. Ethical advocacy might include:

  • Presenting sound and truthful information while providing credit to external sources
  • Avoiding defamatory speech, or a false statement of fact to damage a person’s character
  • Avoiding hate speech or language directed against someone or a community’s nationality, race, gender, ability, sexuality, religion or citizenship. Avoiding demagoguery, or actions that attempt to manipulate by distorting an audience through prejudice and emotion.

Second, am I representing myself in ethical ways? Am I misrepresenting myself? When you ask an individual or a larger audience to listen, you’re asking them to trust not just what you say, but trust who you are. You are establishing credibility—or ethos. Attempts to establish ethical ethos might include:

  • Showing character by, in word and action, demonstrating honesty and integrity.
  • Being prepared.
  • Avoiding misrepresentations of your experience, expertise, or authority.

If we advocate for ideas with reckless disregard for truth, we are communicating in unethical ways. Instead, we can work to become ethical public speakers that communicate information and present ourselves honestly and transparently.

In addition to ethics, there are three additional principles of communication that are central to a deeper understanding of the communication process and, thus, public speaking. We construct public speeches through communication. Below, we’ll outline 3 major considerations about communication that will influence our understanding of ethical public speaking and advocacy: human communication is constitutive, contextual, and cultural.

Communication is Constitutive, Contextual, and Cultural

Communication is the basis of human interaction because we use communication to create shared meaning. We negotiate this meaning through symbols – a word, icon, gesture, picture, object, etc.—that stand in for and represent a thing or experience. “Dog” is a symbol that represents adorable pets. When you see the symbol “dog,” you might picture your own dog, so that symbol has an additional layer of meaning for you. “Dog” also often represents pets as friends (or “humans’ best friend!”), so symbols can refer to literal objects or larger ideals and norms – it’s what makes communication both fascinating and, at times, complex.

Consider the following: your friend comes over to vent about a current relationship. “I am so annoyed!” they claim. “Charlie really needs to work on her communication skills. She never calls me back.”

At first, it may seem that Charlie’s lacking in communication by not returning phone calls. However, communication isn’t secluded to verbal feedback, and it still occurs in our nonverbal symbols, in silence, or in emojis . So, Charlie’s still communicating, just not a meaning that your friend is receiving happily.

As this example begins to demonstrate, communication (and, thus, public speaking) is complex, and below we highlight 3 important components of communication, beginning with communication as constitutive.

Constitutive

When we (your authors) were new public speakers, we often failed to take seriously the opportunity of speaking and communicating with others. We would commonly use words or phrases without investigating their impact on audiences or considering what they represented. That’s because we falsely viewed ourselves as vessels that transmitted information rather than active creators in our own and other’ worldview.

We now know, however, that communication is constitutive, meaning that communication creates meaning and, thus, reality (Nicotera, 2009). Rather than merely transmit pre-determined information, what you say matters and makes up our social world. Think back to the example with your friend and Charlie: Charlie’s communication was affecting your friend and their perception of Charlie. It affected your friend’s world and relationship with Charlie in real ways.

This principle is true of public speaking, too. The message that you create in your speech matters, because it both extends others’ information (like research) and constructs its own meaning. As communicators and public speakers, realizing that you are creating shared meaning may feel like added responsibility. And it is. It means that we are all responsible in thinking deeply about what we decide to speak about and how we decide to represent those ideas.

Power is thus a core consideration of communication because when we communicate, we are influencing others and selecting certain ways to represent our ideas. When you speak, you are elevating certain perspectives, and those often lead to the empowerment or disempowerment of people, places, things or ideas. Communicating is never neutral because meaning is always being negotiated. When you were a child, for example, a guardian may have looked at you angrily, and you knew to behave or there would be consequences. You are being nonverbally influenced and creating shared meaning with that guardian.

Key Takeaway

Communication is never neutral because meaning is always being negotiated.

Recent debates around school and sports’ mascots help demonstrate the role of power in communication. Maine, for example, unanimously banned Indigenous mascots in public schools after tribal communities expressed discomfort in the images (Hauser, 2019). For Indigenous communities, the verbal and visual images were disrespectful representations of their culture – it was communication that created problematic and stereotypical narratives that represented Indigenous cultures is disempowering ways.

Meaning is being constituted (or created) when you’re in the audience, too. Because public speaking is an experience in a particular context, audience members also contribute to the meaning being shared. Consider these

Audience members sit
Audience’s play a key role in public speaking events

three scenarios (some of which you may have experienced). While someone is giving a formal speech:

  • 3 front-row audience members are sleeping;
  • 3 front-row audience members are providing positive, nonverbal feedback and taking notes;
  • Someone is vacuuming loudly outside the room during the presentation.

These may sound familiar, and you may even experience these in class! Each scenario, however, does not communicate the same thing and all 3 will affect the public speaking experience – for the speaker and other audience members.

As humans, we are constantly communicating to make meaning with others. Viewing communication as constitutive highlights how these acts create our worldviews, not merely reflect them. In public speaking, then, our advocacies are not just recreating information, but our speeches are active contributors to the world we live in. Our worlds, though, are never universal, and communication is also always contextual.

Information Literacy Pro-Tip: In addition to creating meaning, you will also create original scholarship. You are likely familiar, for example, with citing prominent writers, speakers, or scholars when trying to support an idea in an essay. When you begin giving speeches, you are creating citable information, and your original insights are your own.

Contextual

Like we’ve mentioned, communication is humans trying to make meaning together. As you’ve experienced, though, that meaning is not received or understood the same all of the time. That’s because communication is contextual. It happens in a particular time and place.

Pretend, for example, that you want to break up with your partner. Communicating that desire over text message is a different context then a coffee shop or in a private apartment. As this example demonstrates, context refers to a specific time and place – the literal context. You may decide that a private apartment is more fitting because a coffee shop may lend itself to external noise, changing the vibe, and disrupting your serious talk.

For public speaking, the time and place are similarly key considerations because that context will inform what you say, why, and for how long. Ask yourself,

  • Where will I be speaking? To whom?
  • What is the purpose?
  • When is it taking place?
  • Am I delivering the message through a live or mediated channel?

The literal context can have substantial implications for what and how you’re able to communicate. For a public speaker, the place and space will dictate your movement, your presentation aids, and/or the length of your speech. Chapter 2 will highlight how and why audiences must be considered, too.

In addition to the literal context – the time and place – communication occurs within larger dialogues and contexts – historical and cultural. We’ll discuss communication as cultural below and Chapter two will dive deeper into analyzing your speaking context, but let’s work to understand the larger context here, too.

A communication act – like a speech or interpersonal exchange – occurs in a particular historical context. Have you ever been to a family function where you didn’t know that 2 family members were feuding? Perhaps you loudly commented on their behavior jokingly, making the room silent and awkward. Unfortunately, you weren’t aware of the larger context.

In the U.S., major conversations are occurring at state and federal levels to address climate change. These conversations may be occurring in your communities, too. If you were discussing or speaking about climate change, being aware of these conversations would situate you to enter the larger context. Are you up-to-date on the scientific findings? Is your community susceptible to certain climate change impacts? What about other communities?

As a communicator and public speaker, being attuned and informed about the larger context is paramount, because it will direct you toward an advocacy. What’s relevant? What’s important to consider now? What references or examples are timely?

Communication occurs in a context – the literal time and place and the larger historical conversations. The final component of communication is closely connected with context, and below, we explore communication as cultural.

Cultural

Finally, all communication is cultural.

First, let’s define culture. Culture refers to the collection of language, values, beliefs, knowledge, rituals, and attitudes shared amongst a group (“Culture and Communication,” 2002). Your college campus, for example, may have certain cultural elements (like a school song) that band students together toward similar beliefs and values.

Crowd holding American flags
Flags are an important cultural symbol in the United States

The U.S., more broadly, has certain cultural characteristics – the 4th of July, for example, or valuing free speech. You don’t, however, just belong to one or even two cultures. We are all influenced by multiple cultural norms and values.

Communication is cultural because cultures rely on symbols – the bedrock of communication – to determine the norms, expectations, and values within the group. This means two things:

  • First, culture is created through the communication process. In other words, we use communication to negotiate (and create) our cultural values;
  • Second, communication reflects the cultural values and norms of the people communicating. We can often glean what cultural values are present by looking at someone’s communication.

When we communicate, we are relying on the cultural norms that we’ve been taught and, by using those symbols, advocating for those ideals.

When you are advocating for an idea and communicating why that idea matters, it’s important not to assume that your cultural perspective or location is the best or only perspective (it’s contextual, remember?!). Instead, you must be reflexive about what norms you are advocating for and how you may be representing topics or ideas from or about other cultures. Reflexivity means to critically consider how our values, assumptions, actions, and communication affect others. From a communication perspective, reflexivity acknowledges that your intentions are secondary to the impact that your verbal and nonverbal behavior has on others and on the cultural realities that you create.

Think back to Maine’s legislation that prohibits public schools from using Indigenous mascots. In the U.S., free speech is an important cultural value, so many people argue that free speech should protect these mascots and images. For Indigenous communities, however, these images don’t accurately represent their cultural ideas and negatively stereotype. Because communication does more than just reflect reality (but creates it, ahem: is constitutive), there is power in the information that’s portrayed to others. In this case, we should reflexively ask: Are the images representing our or other cultures ethically? Are we communicating in a way that disempowers others?

These questions are important because communication affects our perceptions of other cultures and cultural norms. We not only learn our own cultural values through communication, we also learn about other cultures through communication, in positive and negative ways. If you grew up in a household of University of Kansas Jayhawks, you may have heard stories about the Missouri Tigers, because the two schools have a history of feuding. This likely impacted your perception of Missouri as an institution and even students who attend their campus.

This may seem like a silly example, but it demonstrates how communication is the bedrock of cultural meaning – both our own and others.

Communication, as a process of creating shared meaning, is constituted (creating the worlds in which we live), contextual (occurs in a time and place), and cultural (shared rituals, norms, values). These three characteristics are true of all communication – interpersonal, organizational, intercultural, and digital, to name a few.

As public speakers, these components guide our decisions on what information to advocate for and to whom. They ask us to consider, what’s at stake in the perspective that I’m introducing? How will it influence my audience and my community? How am I entering a relevant conversation? What world views am I supporting and creating?

Public speaking is a privilege – not everyone, every day is given an audience of people willing to listen to their ideas. So it’s important, it matters, and it’s meaningful.

So far, we’ve discussed public speaking as a form of advocacy and identified some core communication principles to keep in mind. There is one additional (albeit unwelcome) component that defines many speakers’ experience with public speaking: apprehension. In the final major section of this chapter, we walk through communication apprehension.

Communication Apprehension

Admittedly, thinking about advocacy or advocating for ideas can sound intimidating. Even experienced professors can feel anxiety before teaching. To advocate or present information to an audience – some more willing to listen actively than others – is a big responsibility. Understandably, this can lead speakers to experiencing apprehension while preparing and delivering a presentation. In this section, we explore public speaking apprehension while providing some useful tips to manage anxiety.

Public speaking apprehension is fear associated with giving a public speech. This could occur prior to or during a presentation. It’s common to hear that public speaking is a fear, but why are so many people fearful to speak in public?

The first is fear of failure. This fear can result from several sources: real or perceived bad experiences involving public speaking in the past, lack of preparation, lack of knowledge about public speaking, not knowing the context, and uncertainty about one’s task as a public speaker (such as being thrown into a situation at the last minute).

The second fear is fear of rejection of one’s self or one’s ideas. This one is more serious in some respects. You may feel rejection because of fear of failure, or you may feel that the audience will reject your ideas, or worse, you as a person.

Scholars at the University of Wisconsin-Stout (“Public Speaking Anxiety,” 2015) explain that fear in public speaking can also result from one of several misperceptions:

  • “all or nothing” thinking—a mindset that if your speech falls short of “perfection” (an unrealistic standard), then you are a failure as a public speaker;
  • overgeneralization—believing that a single event (such as failing at a task) is a universal or “always” event; and
  • fortune telling—the tendency to anticipate that things will turn out badly, no matter how much practice or rehearsal is done.

One common belief that undergirds our fear is that we often hold ourselves to “expert-level” standards. We learn that audience members look for proof of our credibility, and new public speakers may wonder, “why am I credible?” or “why should someone listen to me?” At the beginning of this chapter, we asked that you imagine your favorite public speaker, and they may have years of experience speaking in public. While it’s important to view these speakers as informal mentors, it can also incite some anxiety. “Am I supposed to speak like them?” you may be wondering.

Likewise, many new college students operate under the false belief that intelligence and skill are “fixed.” In their minds, a person is either smart or skilled in something, or they are not. Some students apply this false belief to math and science subjects, saying things like “I’m just no good at math and I never will be,” or even worse, “I guess I am just not smart enough to be in college.” As you can tell, these beliefs can sabotage someone’s college career. Unfortunately, the same kind of false beliefs are applied to public speaking, and people conclude that because public speaking is hard, they are just not “natural” at it and have no inborn skill. They give up on improving and avoid public speaking at all costs. The classroom is a cool space to begin building some foundational knowledge around public speaking. Remember that you are building a critical thinking portfolio, so have patience with yourself and trust the educational process.

Finally, we often experience students believing the incongruent ideas that public speaking (as a class) should be an “easy A” and that they’d rather die than give a speech. Instead, remember that good public speaking takes time and energy because it is difficult. Public speaking asks you to engage and advocate on behalf of yourselves and others who may not be able to access spaces to advocate for themselves.

Public speaking is also embodied: it requires the activation of and communication through your entire body. Unlike writing an essay or posting a picture online, public speaking requires that your entire body deliver a message, and that can feel odd for many of us. Consequently, learning public speaking means you must train your body to be comfortable and move in predictable and effective ways. This all happens in front of other people: scary! This is difficult work, so of course it’s viewed as fear-inducing for some.

Addressing Public Speaking Anxiety

We wish that we had a “Felix can fix it!” (from Wreck-It Ralph) mentality toward public speaking apprehension. If you have experienced some anxiety around speaking, you know that it can be merely aggravating or completely overwhelming. In this section, we provide some guidance and strategies to address public speaking apprehension.

Mental Preparation

Mental preparation is an important part of public speaking. To mentally prepare, you want to put your focus where it belongs, on the audience and the message. Mindfulness and full attention to the task are vital to successful public speaking. If you are concerned about a big exam or something personal going on in your life, your mind will be divided and add to your stress.

The main questions to ask yourself are “Why am I so anxiety-ridden about giving a presentation?” and “What is the worst that can happen?” For example, you probably won’t know most of your classmates at the beginning of the course, adding to your anxiety. By midterm, you should be developing relationships with them and be able to find friendly faces in the audience. However, very often we make situations far worse in our minds than they actually are, and we can lose perspective.

Physical Preparation

The first step in physical preparation is adequate sleep and rest. You might be thinking, “Impossible! I’m in college.” However, research shows the extreme effects a lifestyle of limited sleep can have, far beyond yawning or dozing off in class (Mitru, Millrood, & Mateika, 2002). As far as public speaking is concerned, your energy level and ability to be alert and aware during the speech will be affected by lack of sleep.

Secondly, eat! Food is fuel, so making sure that you have a nutritious meal is a plus.

A third suggestion is to select what you’ll wear before the day you speak. Have your outfit picked out and ready to go, eliminating something to worry your mind the day-of.

A final suggestion for physical preparation is to utilize some stretching or relaxation techniques that will loosen your limbs or throat. Essentially, your emotions want you to run away but the social system says you must stay, so all that energy for running must go somewhere. The energy might go to your legs, hands, stomach, sweat glands, or skin, with undesirable physical consequences. Tightening and stretching your hands, arms, legs, and throat for a few seconds before speaking can help release some of the tension. Your instructor may be able to help you with these exercises, or you can find some online.

Contextual Preparation

The more you can know about the venue where you will be speaking, the better. For this class, of course, it will be your classroom, but for other situations where you might experience “communication apprehension,” you should check out the space beforehand or get as much information as possible. For example, if you were required to give a short talk for a job interview, you would want to know what the room will be like, if there is equipment for projection, how large the audience will be, and the seating arrangements. If possible, you will want to practice your presentation in a room that is similar to the actual space where you will deliver it.

The best advice for contextual preparation is to be on time, even early. If you have to rush in at the last minute, as so many students do, you will not be mindful, focused, or calm for the speech.

Speech Preparation

Please, please, please, rehearse. You do not want the first time that you say the words to be when you are in front of your audience. Practicing is the only way that you will feel confident, fluent, and in control of the words you speak. Practicing (and timing yourself) repeatedly is also the only way that you will be assured that your speech meets the requirements of the context (length, for example).

Your practicing should be out loud, standing up, with shoes on, with someone to listen, if possible (other than your dog or cat), and with your visual aids. If you can record yourself and watch it, that is even better. If you do record yourself, make sure you record yourself from the feet up—or at least the hips up—so you can see your body language. The need for oral practice will be emphasized over and over in this book and probably by your instructor. As you progress as a speaker, you will always need to practice but perhaps not to the extent you do as a novice speaker.

As hard as it is to believe, YOU NEVER LOOK AS NERVOUS AS YOU FEEL.

You may feel that your anxiety is at level seventeen on a scale of one to ten, but the audience does not perceive it the same way. They may perceive it at a three or four or even less. That’s not to say they won’t see any signs of your anxiety and that you don’t want to learn to control it, only that what you are feeling inside is not as visible as you might think. This principle relates back to focus. If you know you don’t look as nervous as you feel, you can focus and be mindful of the message and audience rather than your own emotions.

Providing Support in the Audience: As an audience member: there are ways to provide supportive feedback to speakers who may be anxious. You can use positive nonverbals to encourage them as they speak, ask thoughtful questions at the conclusion of the presentation, or listen attentively. We’ll learn more about listening in Chapter 2.

Conclusion

In summary, public speaking includes a speaker and a message that is delivered to an audience in a particular context. You will practice and participate in all 3 components: you will be the speaker, create a message, and audience the presentation of others. During your preparation, you will consider the context to make appropriate choices when crafting your content.

This may not surprise you, but you will likely be an audience member and listener to a public speech more often than you are the speaker. Being in the audience can be an incredibly rewarding experience, but it requires some work, too, and it begins with listening.

It’s a great privilege to be given space as a speaker to communicate to a broader audience, and not everyone is commonly given that space. When you are asked to speak, it’s important to take seriously the responsibility of presenting information that will influence others.

What’s to Come: A Book Overview

The remainder of part 1 includes chapter 2, and we’ll look at audiences from three perspectives: how do we consider the audience we’re talking to? How do we consider audiences we might be talking about? How do we act as audience members?

Part 2 is about arguments: how to select them, how to research them, how to craft and organize arguments. In each chapter, we’ll work to build on a working vocabulary around well-researched and reasoned arguments.

In Part 3, we discuss delivery – what we’ll call the aesthetic experience. In these chapters, we explore the experience of public speaking and ways that speakers can use verbal, nonverbal communication, and presentational aids to enhance and captivate the audience. We conclude part 3 by working through best practices in rehearsal.

Finally, Part 4 introduces the approaches to public speaking – informative, persuasive, online, ceremonial, and group.

When finished, we hope that you’ll have critical thinking takeaways to build your public speaking portfolio.