Public Speaking in a Democracy

By Evans, A. L.; Evans, V. et al. | Journal of Instructional Psychology, December 2004 | Go to article overview

Public Speaking in a Democracy


Evans, A. L., Evans, V., Kanra, A. M. Lami, Jones, O. S. L., Journal of Instructional Psychology


In this day, people all over academia feel that our democracy is eroding and that there is no need for rhetoric. Yet, if some effort is not made to help young people understand democracy and the role of public speaking in this form of government, all will truly be lost. The battle is always ongoing as long as one person stands to tell the story. Today, a story of how public speaking is a part of a democratic government will be told.

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Public Speaking and Democracy

Public Speaking is a mode of speech whereby one speaker presents a formal, continuous discourse on a topic of interest before a sizeable number of other people. A public speaker should have a clear speaking voice, a purpose, a familiarity with the audience composition, content/knowledge to convey in an organized and in a logical manner, memory of the content, and a delivery of the information, that includes regular vocal rate, good eye contact, appropriate gestures, correct pronunciation, and grammar. In essence, a public speaker should have something to say, a desire to present it to others, and good delivery.

Public Speaking may be used to inform, to persuade, or to entertain. That is, public speaking is used to impart information or to instruct on a subject or topic; to influence the attitudes, beliefs, convictions, or behaviors of others: or to amuse or to divert to a lighter, pleasant topic/subject. Public speaking is one way to inform or to teach a group via oral reports or lectures; to persuade a group to think a certain way or to do a certain thing: or to amuse or to entertain a group.

To present effective planned speeches, the speaker should carefully select a topic, have a purpose, narrow the subject or topic, revisit the purpose, analyze the audience, gather information on the topic or research for content, develop an outline, practice the speech, review all other steps, and present the speech.

Below are several steps in speech making (Evans, 200, pp 137-148)

1. In selecting the topic, be certain to review the speech assignment, length of the speech and any other particulars concerning the occasion on which the speech is to be presented. The purpose of the speech is tied to the particulars concerning the speech. The topic should be within your preview of in formation or that which is not too difficult to research. The topic should also be interesting to you and the audience, and should not be offensive. Take time to focus on the topic by writing or audiotaping your ideas on the topic, even the references to consult.

2. Describe the audience. Who are they? What are their interests, beliefs, convictions and attitudes on the topic? Are they informed on the topic? How can you secure and hold their attention. Can you locate facts or details, illustrations, quotations, analogies, and other information that would be interesting to the audience? Is the audience captive or voluntary? A captive audience is required to hear you, whereas a voluntary audience can walk out on you.

3. Collect as much information as you can. Decide at the time where you want to put specific information, whether in the introduction, body, or in the conclusion of the speech. This may give you a feeling for the speech or of what you want to say in the speech, even if you must rearrange the content before the delivery. Index cards or a tablet with specific sections or subtopics at the top of the page or card will help in organizing the content. You may consult general references first and specific references secondly: dictionaries, encyclopedias, quotation books, world almanacs, atlases, newspapers, magazines, periodical indices, content books, and resources individuals.

4. Write the speech or the outline of the speech. Have a definite introduction and a conclusion. In the introduction, you should address the dais and the audience, include an attention getter, state a rationale for your selecting the topic, and give a purpose of the speech. …

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