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Public Speaking Tips and Ideas

Updated on July 7, 2013

What is Public Speaking?

Let us first define speech itself: a vocalized form of human communication is called a Speech. Typically a speech is consisted of around 10,000 words so to have a rich vocabulary is very vital for a speaker (or for the one who has the responsibility to write the contents of a speech). Each spoken word carries a huge weight when it comes to leaving impact on audience.

A public speaking is a process in which a speaker delivers his/her speech/message/words to an audience (a group of people/listeners). Different from speaking unintentionally in front of public a Public Speech is an intentional and deliberate way to entertain, inform, or influence the listeners. In other way, a public speaking is a kind of face-to-face speaking between individuals (speakers) and audience (listeners) for communication purpose.

Effective public speaking can be developed by joining a club such as Rostrum, Toastmasters International, Association of Speakers Clubs (ASC) or POWERtalk International in which members are assigned exercises to improve their speaking skills. Members learn by observation and practice, and hone their skills by listening to constructive suggestions followed by new public speaking exercises.

Effective leadership almost always requires the skill of good public speaking, and this can often make up for a lack of other skills. The ends to which this skill can be used vary greatly - Adolf Hitler and Martin Luther King, Jr. were both able to use oratory to have a significant impact on society - but in very different directions.

The fear of public speaking is called glossophobia (or, informally, "stage fright"). It is believed to be the single most common phobia - affecting as much as 75% of the population. Fear of oration is ranked even above that of death.

There are many types of public speech. Some of the most prominent are:

  1. Informative Speech
  2. Persuasive Speech
  3. Argumentative speech
  4. Policy Speech

Informative speech

The main purpose behind an informative speech is to deliver vital information about a given topic. The speaker is responsible to do a thorough research about the topic and present that information to the audience in an effective way. Some topics may be dry and this is up to the speaker how he / she makes that interesting with his / her words and body language.

Take it in this way, as the name implies, an informative speech is full of information, facts, information based on one's own personal experiences. This might involve the facts and information about a person, an animal or any object of interest. It might also be center around some process, a "How to" speech for example "How to make a website" or it can be "The truth behind Bermuda Triangle". Another type of informative speech might be focused on a particular event e.g. "A visit to ancient Egyptian Pyramids".

There are certain techniques that make your Informative Speech more effective. Following are the ingredients of a good Informative Speech:

  • Have a thorough study of the subject so you are able to answer any question raised by audience (if this is the case).
  • Establish your credibility by showing full command (knowledge-wise) over the subject.
  • Make a list of potential key points to revolve your speech around those key points (key points should be related to the subject, obviously).
  • Make your speech interesting to make the audience totally involved.

Your Informative Speech should be made of the following parts:

  1. Opener
  2. Introduction
  3. Knowledge
  4. Confirmation
  5. Conclusion

Like any other public speech, Opener should be an Ice-Breaker followed by an effective introduction to the subjects. Knowledge is the backbone of an informative speech that is spreaded all over the speech. Confirmation means that you should repeat all the key points and summarize the content of your speech in the end.
Last but not the least: Try to end with a memorable punch line or a positive statement.

Following are some topics that you may consider for your informative speech. These topics can be used as they are, or you might have to make them more precise to suit the situation (available time, class requirements, etc.).

  1. How nuclear power works
  2. The biography of your favorite actor
  3. How to make pizza
  4. The history of comic books
  5. How to change your car's oil
  6. The story of how your school was founded
  7. How to pick a bottle of wine
  8. The history of your hometown
  9. How to swing a golfclub
  10. Trends in the stock market
  11. How to drive a stick-shift
  12. History of a favorite product brand
  13. How to shoot a basketball
  14. Description of life in another country
  15. How to weave a basket
  16. The three branches of U.S. government
  17. How to read a map
  18. How roads are built
  19. The Seven Wonders of the World
  20. Disneyland

Looking for more topics? Click here for hundreds of informative speech ideas.

A Sample Informative Speech: "The Causes of Homelessness"

Persuasive speech

As the name implies, a persuasive speech is that in which a speaker tries to convince the audience about something, or persuade to do something. If the audience have a strong opinion about the subject, it's not that easy to convince them to change their opinion. This is why many people find it very difficult to write and deliver a persuasive speech. A speaker is required to present solid arguments in an effective way to make a persuasive speech successful.

Following are the ingredients of a successful Persuasive Speech:

  • Your credibility as a speaker and passion for the subject is the key for writing a persuasive speech.
  • Establish your credibility early through showing your knowledge and your experience about a particular subject so the audience believes you and can convinced by what you are saying.
  • Deliver your message with enthusiasm and try to involve the audience emotionally in what you are saying.

When it comes to the outline of a persuasive speech, like any other speech a persuasive speech has 3 basic parts:

  1. Introduction
  2. Speech body
  3. Conclusion

Introduction should be an enthusiastic while the speech body requires to be full of arguments.

Here is a list of persuasive speech topics that you can consider for writing a persuasive speech:

  1. General education classes
  2. United Nations
  3. Coke vs. Pepsi
  4. Eating fast-food
  5. Voting
  6. Organ donation
  7. Blood donation
  8. Stem-cell research
  9. Educational costs
  10. Lowering the drinking age
  11. Immigration
  12. Legalizing gambling
  13. Legalizing marijuana
  14. Legalizing prostitution
  15. Smoking in public

Looking for more topics? For a list of over 100 more persuasive speech topics see this site.

A Sample Persuasive Speech: Why Eat Breakfast Every Day?

Argumentative Speech

An argument speech is basically a form / variation of a persuasive speech.

Through personal opinion, judgment or idea the speaker delivers his/her speech on a controversial issue. The objective of an argumentative speech is to change the opinion of audience about a particular controversial issue, problem, value or dispute in the speaker's favor. Ideas/topics of an argumentative speech are controversial and often refer to current political, business, social, religious issues, disputes, policies and values.

Having said that, to make an argumentative speech is one the most difficult tasks. Speaker or writer of an argumentative speech needs to have a total grip on the subject that is under consideration. Convincing power with credibility is the key for a successful argumentative speech.

Here some tips for that might be of help in writing an argumentative speech:

  • Pick an arguable topic. Trying to argue that earth is flat and sky is red is NOT a way to go, as these are not just opinions but facts. Try to pick a topic that is current and relevant. Your own interest in a particular topic is important as your passion will fuel your speech.
  • Carefully select your position about a fact. It's very much possible that a certain fact has some merits as well as some demerits. This is up to your own interest to pick the side either merits OR demerits. Better if you can turn the merits into demerits.
  • Make a research about the topic even if you think you are very much comfortable with it. Having an up to date knowledge of evidences and statistical analysis about the subject can literally improve your confidence.
  • Remember, all arguments, evidences, facts, etc, will have no value if nobody is listening to you. So make a start with attention-grabbing line, quote, stat or anything interesting enough to appeal the audience attention.
  • Never assume that the audience is already aware of the subject that you are going to talk about. You need to spend some time to introduce the subject. Short definition is enough though, no need to go deep into details.
  • Conclude your speech with re-stating all the key points of your speech. Listeners should have no unanswered questions. You can include Questions and Answers section if you feel you can handle it.

Here are some sample argumentative speech topics:

  1. Health risks of smoking are exaggerated.
  2. Vaccinations should be compulsory.
  3. Elderly drivers should be required to retake drivers test each year after a certain age.
  4. Workers should get four weeks paid vacation each year.
  5. Christmas is just a way for businesses to increase sales.
  6. Pit-bull dogs and other aggressive breeds should not be allowed.
  7. Adoptive parents should be legally bound to allow biological parents to access their children.
  8. Social Security and Medical Reform are non-negotiable ways out of the debt crisis.
  9. Spousal Abuse.
  10. Acceptance of all types of people.
  11. Today’s world is a dangerous place to live in
  12. People don’t enjoy what they have. They constantly seek for more.
  13. Benefits of having friends.
  14. Veganism is unhealthy way to raise kids.
  15. Modern offices should have facilities for an afternoon nap.
  16. Breast feeding is one of the most important things a mother can give to a child.
  17. Terminally ill patients should be allowed to use heroin.
  18. Knowing your ancestry is important for health.
  19. All farmers should go organic.
  20. Lapses in food safety as a result of a complex interplay of factors.

View list of 150+ ideas for argumentative speech topics.

A Sample Argumentative Speech: Free Condoms in Schools

Policy Speech

A policy speech is about the policies adopted by individuals, companies, and governmental groups. The focus is on presenting a new line of action to implement a task in more effective manner. In other words you are presenting a new public policy in your speech talking about the merits of your idea and demerits of existing policy.

Select a topic (a disputed public issue) that you really care about and gather all the facts about it. Don't assume that you already have enough knowledge to convince the audience you are talking to, as the existing system also have merits those benefit a group of people and positives of a policy can be way more than its negatives. Knowing about your audience is very vital while selecting a topic.

Here are some tips that might help you to write a policy speech:

  • Make use of Internet, magazines, and news bulletins while gathering the facts.
  • Write the outline of your speech with an attention-getting introduction. For example, if in your speech is political and you are supporting a new candidate, talk about an incident where the policy of the previously elected member failed. It will be of great help grabbing the audience attention.
  • List the key points of your speech and arrange them in a logical order. Start from talking about the demerits of the existing policy and make the audience think that it needs to be changed. Present your proposal and clearly state why it is far more practical and is in favor of general public. Use statistics about the old policy and prove that your idea will superior.

Finish your speech with a quote or a memorable statement.

A Sample Policy Speech

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