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Updated on November 30, 2011

Speaking & Conversation

This is a stage for public speaking
This is a stage for public speaking
this is called conversation
this is called conversation

In Details


How much time do you spend each day talking to other people? The average adult spends 30 percent of her or his waking hours in conversation. As you will see, there are many similarities between daily conversation and public speaking.

Children learn the art of conversation by trial and error. A toddler says, “Cookie!” to persuade her father to give her a snack. A five-year-old tells a little story to entertain Grandma and gain admiration. If nether of these things works—the cookie is not forthcoming, Grandma is not amused—well, back to the drawing board. Next time the child will try it a slightly different way.

By the time you read this book, you will have spent much of your life perfecting the art of conversation. You may not realize it, but you already employ a wide range of skills when talking to people. These skills include the following:

  1. Organizing your thoughts logically. Suppose ho were giving someone directions to get to your house. You were giving someone directions to get to your house. You would not do it this way: (When you turn off the highway, you will see a big diner on the left. But before that, stay on the highway to Exit 76. Usually a couple of the neighbors’ dogs are in the street, so go slow after you turn at the blinking light. Coming from your house you get on the highway trough Maple Street. If you pass the taco stand, you are gone too far. The house is blue. )
  2. Tailoring your message to your audience. You are geology major. Two people ask you how pearls are formed. One is your roommate: the other is your nine-years-old niece. You answer as follows: (To your roommate “When any irritant, say a grain of sand, gets inside the oyster’s shell, the oyster automatically secretes a substance called nacre, which is principally calcium and is the same material that lines the oyster’s shell. The nacre accumulates in layers around the irritant core to form the pearl”). To your nice: “Imagine you are an oyster on the ocean floor. A grain of sand gets inside your shell and makes you uncomfortable. So you decide to cover it up. You cover it with a material called mother –of—pearl. The covering builds up around the grain of sand to make a pearl
  3. Telling a story for maximum impact. Suppose you are telling a friend about a funny incident at last week’s football game. You do not begin with the punch line (“Keisha fell out of the stands right onto the field. Here’s how it started….. ”). Instead, you carefully build up your story, adjusting your words and tone of voice to get the best effect.
  4. Adapting to listener feedback. Whenever you talk with someone, you are aware of that person’s verbal, facial, and physical reactions. For example: (You are explaining an interesting point that came up in biology class. You listener begins to look confused, puts up a hand as though to stop you, and says “Huh?” You go back and explain more clearly. A friend has asked you to listen while she practices a speech. At the end you say, “There’s just one part I really don’t like—that quotation from the attorney general.” You friend looks very hurt and says, “That was my favorite part!” So you say “but it you just worked the quotation in a little differently, it would be wonderful.”)

Each day, in casual conversation, you do all these things many times without thinking about them. You already possess these communication skills. And these are among the most important skills you will need for public speaking.

To illustrate, let’s return briefly to one of the hypothetical situations at the beginning of this chapter. When addressing the school board about the need for a special teacher:

  1. You organize our ideas to present them in the most persuasive manner. You steadily build up a compelling case about how the teacher benefits the school.
  2. You tailor your message to your audience. This is no time to launch an impassioned defense of special education in theUnited States. You must show how the issue is important to the people in that very rook to their children and to the school.
  3. You tell your story for maximum impact. Perhaps you relate an anecdote to demonstrate how much your child has improved. You also have statistics to show how many other children have been helped.
  4. You adapt to listener feedback. When you mention the cost of the special teacher, you notice sour looks on the faces of the school board members. So you patiently explain how small that cost is in relation to the overall school budget.

In many ways, then, public speaking requires the same skills used in ordinary conversation. Most people who communicate well in daily talk can learn to communicate just as well in public speaking. By the same token, training in public speaking can make you a more adept communicator in a variety of situations, such as conversations, classroom discussions, business meetings, and interviews

Public Speaking



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    • learntolive profile image


      8 years ago

      Good hub! Voted up and useful :)


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