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Public Speaking Know How
Public Speaking Know How
‘Beginnings are scary. Endings are sad. It’s the stuff in the middle that counts’. It's one of the better lines to borrow from the movie script, Hope Floats starring Sandra Bullock and Harry Connick, Jr.
Hope Floats is a romantic comedy that begins with a nationally-televised revelation that Bullock's character's husband has been cheatin’ on Bullock with her best friend. As the movie progresses, Bullock recognizes she has trust issues and slowly opens her heart to the handsome Harry Connick, Jr. In the end, everyone's happy and Bullock gets her man. Anyway, this is the idea behind the body of the speech. It’s the stuff in the middle that counts.
The body of the speech is where you ‘lay it all on the line’ for the audience. It contains the blood, sweat and tears and endless effort poured into researching the speech. Unless you're an expert in a particular field, speeches will need credible sources to enhance the speaker’s credibility. Credibility is the audience’s perception on whether or not a speaker is knowledgeable on a particular subject. If you’re giving a speech on nutrition and you’re not a nutritionist, dietician, or in a related-field then you’ll need to support your evidence with a person or organization that is an expert.
Supporting materials can be defined as scientific evidence that serves to support a scientific theory or hypothesis. They are essential to establishing credibility. There are three types of supporting materials used by student speakers and they include examples, statistics, and testimonials.
Examples may be brief, extended, or hypothetical. A brief example is a reference made in passing. For instance, if your speech was about depression, you might mention the famous comedian Robin Williams as a person that had suffered from depression.
An extended example is more extensive. Case in point, Robin Williams may not have openly expressed his unhappiness. Maybe he was good at hiding his sadness and used humor as a disguise. As the speaker, you might discuss small behavioral changes that if recognized early on, may have thwarted his plans to end his life.
A hypothetical example is one that’s created by the speaker. There’s no actual truth to it, just an inference. This type of example is more difficult to cultivate. Examples need to be believable and relatable and sometimes it's tough to do with an imaginary idea.
Another type of supporting material is statistics. Statistics is the gathering, collection and analysis of data for interpretation purposes. Numbers can be very influential if presented properly.
As a public speaker, it's up to you to use data with the best of intentions. There's no room for misrepresentation of the facts. All credibility could be lost if intentions are misguided. It's the speaker's role to interpret the data with integrity.
The third type of supporting material is testimonials. There’s peer testimony and expert testimony. Peer testimony is an eyewitness account of a situation. For instance, if you’re a witness to a car accident, you have firsthand knowledge. Expert testimony is an account given by a person with specific qualifications or special training in a particular field. In malpractice suits, a physician is typically called to the witness stand to give expert testimony in a medical wrongdoing.
After you’ve collected all your data, it’s time to focus on the main points of your speech. The main points are the most important part of the speech. A speakers primary objective is for the audience to retain the information contained within the main points.
In three minute student speeches, there are typically two to five main points. Main points should be briefly discussed in the introduction and conclusion and fully-developed in the body of the speech.
Main points need to be balanced and evenly developed within the body of the speech. If there’s not enough research material to support one or more of your main points, then find more evidence, discard it, or have another main point absorb it. The same holds true for sub-points.
Sub-points are materials that support the main points; they are part of the larger point. Sometimes in your research, a main point may have two or more sub-points that directly relate to the point behind discussed. Again, as a speaker you want to create balance among ideas and provide strong evidence for each point discussed in the speech.
The body of the speech contains transitional statements. Transitions provide a bridge between two paragraphs and help to create a smooth transition from one idea to another. They may either be words, phrases, or sentences that connect one topic or idea to another. Essentially, they let the audience know you’re about to change directions.
In the end, it’s important that the body of the speech is evidence-based and thoroughly developed. It’s the meat and potatoes of your four course meal. If you’re going to keep the audience interested throughout the body of your speech, the speech needs credible evidence. Do your research, make sure and use credible sources, and develop the main points.
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Liz Latta, Editor/WKCTC Instructor with over 15 years teaching experience. Master's Degree in Organizational Communications from Murray State University