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DIFFERENCES BETWEEN PUBLIC SPEAKING AND CONVERSATION

Updated on November 30, 2011

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Despite their many similarities, public speaking and everyday conversation are not identical. Let's consider an example in which casual conversation expanded gradually into a true--and vital--public speaking situation. here the speaker originally had ho intention of becoming a public speaker and had not trained formally for that role. She was forced to learn by trial and error--in circumatances where the outcome has affected one of the vetal issues of our day.
At one time, Carolyn McCarty's world focused on the town of Mineola, New York When she lived with her husband and son. A housewife and licensed practical nurse, McCarthy was, in her own words, an "average person" and "one of the quietest people you'd ever meet."
The incident that changed her life forever took place on December 7, 1993. On that day, a gunman opened fire with a semiautomatic weapon in a car of the Long island Rail Road packed with commuters on their way home from work in New York City. By the time the shooting stopped, six people were fatally wounded--one of them McCarty's husband, Dennis. Her son Kevin, also on the train, was partially paralyzed for life.
As McCarthy wrestled with fer grief and anger, she swore she would do something to help stop America's plague of gun-related violence. She began talking to friends, family, neighbors--anyone who would listen. But conversations involving a few people would not solve the problem. So McCarthy started working with gun control organizations. In the process, she found herself addressing citizens groups all across Long Island. As people started listening, she had to adapt her conversational abilities to larger audiences and more formal speaking situations. The spontaneous give-and take of conversation evolved into structured public speeches.
When the U.S.Congressman in McCarty's district voted in March 1996 to repeal the federal Ben on assault weapons passed two years earlier, McCarthy took her speech making to a new level. "Determined," as she said, "to make a difference," she announced her candidacy for Congress. Again she had to adapt--this time to a cluster of newspapers and television cameras, as well as to a speaking schedule that in creased from two or three presentations a week to as many as four or five a day.
Her greatest challenge came five months later, when she addressed a national television audience at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. "this is really scary," she said before the speech. "I have got butterflies in my stomach!" Then she added, "but Believed in what I am doing." Fired by that belief, McCarthy spoke movingly about her journey into politics and about the toll that gun violence takes in American society.
Returning home after the convention, McCarthy had to adapt yet again--this time to the speaking demands of a tough political campaign, including television debates with her opponent. Running as a Democratic in a traditionally Republican district, she had to reach people by talking about the issues rather than by appealing to party loyalty. Often addressing several audiences a day, she communicated her ideas so effectively that she was elected to the U.S. Congress by a comfortable margin.
What a long road Carolyn McCarthy has traveled in the past few years. If someone had asked her before December 7 1993, "Do you see yourself as a major public speaker?" she would have laughed at the idea. Yet, today are gives more than 100 speeches a year, not including radio, television, and newspaper interviews. Along the way, she has had to adapt to three major differences between conversation and public speaking.
1. Public speaking is more highly structured. It usually imposes strict time limitations on the speaker. In smut cases, the situation does hot allow listeners to interrupt with questions or commentary. The speaker must accomplish her or his purpose in the speech itself. When preparing the speech, the speaker must anticipate questions that might arise in the minds of listeners and answer them. Consequently, public speaking demands much more detailed planning and preparation than ordinary conversation.

2. Public speaking requires more formal language. Slang, jargon, and bad grammar have little place in public speeches. When Carolyn McCarthy addressed the Democratic National Convention, she did not say, "We have damn well got to stop the creeps who use guns to shoot down innocent people." Despite the growing informality of all aspects of American life, listeners usually react negatively to speakers who do not elevate and polish their ;language when addressing an audience. A speech should be "special."

3. Public speaking requires a different method of delivery. When conversing informally, most people talk quietly, interject stock phrases such as "you know" and "I mean" adopt a casual posture, and use what are called vocalized pauses ("uh","er","um","am"). Effective public speakers, however, adjust their voices to be heard clearly throughout the audience. They assume a more erect posture. They avoid distracting mannerisms and verbal habits.

With study and practice, you will be able to master these differences and expand your conversational skills into speech making. Your speech class will provide the opportunity for this study and practice

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