Effective Informative Speaking



The Goals of an Informative Speech

An effective informative speech should be driven by a series of goals.

Learning Objectives

List the goals of an informative speech

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • One of the goals of an informative speech is to enhance the understanding of the audience.
  • Another goal of an informative speech is to maintain the interest of the audience.
  • A final goal of an informative speech is for the audience to remember the speech.

Key Terms

  • goal: A result that one is attempting to achieve.
  • inform: To communicate knowledge to others.

An effective informative speech requires the speaker to aim for a series of goals. And similar to a soccer match, hitting these goals increases the likelihood of a successful speech. The main goals for an informative speech are to help explain a specific subject and to help the audience remember the knowledge later.

A poster at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City, New York, showing Millennium Development Goals.

Setting Goals: You need to determine a series of goals in order to create a successful informative speech.

One of the goals, perhaps the most essential goal that drives all informative speeches, is for the speaker to inform the audience about a particular topic. In order to aim for this specific goal, a speaker should consider how best to package the complex understanding that they have cultivated of the topic, from personal experience and research, into an easily communicable form for the audience.

A final, significant goal an effective informative speech is to make the audience remember. Most memorable speeches have emotional appeals that audiences continue to talk about long after the speech is delivered, and sometimes even after the life of the speaker. To make sure that the information contained in a speech is remembered by the audience, the deliverer of an informative speech should combine organization, repetition and focused visualizations to increase the effectiveness of the speech and the likelihood that the audience will leave informed.

One way to help an audience remember the details of an informative speech is to maintain the interest of the audience. The challenge of an informative speech is delivering information in a neutral way that does not bore the audience. Unlike persuasive speeches, which rely heavily on emotional appeal, informative speeches have to demonstrate why the audience should care about the information contained in the speech without compromising a neutral tone.

Scoping Your Speech

Make sure that only the most relevant information is including in the speech, so the scope of your speech does not become too wide.

Learning Objectives

Explain how to effectively scope an informative speech

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Every piece of information in a speech should relate to the speech topic, purpose, and thesis simultaneously.
  • Audiences have a hard time following or understanding speeches that are too broad in scope (that is, speeches that include too much irrelevant or tangential information).
  • By keeping all of the information relevant as he or she develops your speech, the speaker’s job becomes easier by keeping all supporting information on point.

Key Terms

  • scope: The extent of the area or subject matter that something deals with or to which it is relevant.

Some speeches contain such a wide range of information that the audience is left wondering what the speaker was trying to communicate. A speech with a scope that is too broad complicates the audience’s ability to retain information. Properly scoping your speech allows the speaker to narrow down what the speech will cover, thus increasing its ability to inform the audience.

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Scope Out a Specific Target: Every piece of information in a speech should be relevant to the topic, purpose and thesis. If it’s only a tangent, it doesn’t belong in the speech.

Scope refers to the extent of the area or subject matter that something deals with or to which it is relevant. The key word here is relevance; the speech should not go in so many different directions that none of those directions relate to the original purpose and thesis of the speech.

One way to effectively scope a speech is to think of the question: “What information do I want my audience to know at the end of the speech? ” Use the answer to this question as a focal point for everything else to be included in your speech. Everything included then must be relevant to your purpose and thesis. Anything superfluous or extraneous is only going to broaden the scope and take the speech away from that ultimate goal.

The evidence and supporting arguments should not only be related tangentially; there should be direct lines of relevance to every piece of information included in your speech.

Scoping a speech is not only helpful for the audience, but is also to the benefit of the speaker. Keeping the speech on point and focused makes it easier for the speaker to build more credible, reinforced arguments. By narrowing the scope of the speech, the speaker improve the speech’s ability to effectively communicate essential information to the audience.

Tailor Complexity to Your Audience

An important component of effective informative speaking is knowing how to tailor the complexity of the speech to the audience.

Learning Objectives

Apply knowledge of your audience when composing your speech

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Consider the audience that will be hearing your speech.
  • Tailoring the complexity of the speech to your audience means considering how best they receive information.
  • Considering how much information your audience already knows should help you tailor the complexity of your speech.

Key Terms

  • complexity: The state of being complex; intricacy; entanglement.

Overview

The main goals for an informative speech are to help explain a specific subject and to help the audience remember the knowledge later. To achieve these goals, a speaker should consider how best to package the complex understanding that they have cultivated of the topic, from personal experience and research, into an easily communicable form for the audience.

Complexity

One way to deliver an effective informative speech and ensure that the audience leaves your speech informed is to tailor the complexity of the speech to the specific audience.

An audience listens to a speech.

Consider the Audience: The speaker should tailor the complexity of the speech to the specific audience.

Never presume that your audience has a lot of background knowledge on your subject, but also don’t assume they know nothing. The audience is an integral part of public speaking; not only will they hear your speech, but they should be an important component that informs the writing of the speech as well. Consider, for example, if you are preparing to deliver an informative speech on the topic of cloning to an audience of geneticists. Their professional training will have given them an extensive understanding of DNA. Because of this, you would want to tailor the complexity of the speech to match the knowledge that the audience already possesses, meaning that the speech could contain lots of technical terms with little explanation because the audience will already understand what those terms mean.

Conversely, consider delivering a speech on the same topic to an audience of college students. This audience, even if they have taken biology classes, will not possess the same expertise knowledge that professionals do. Therefore, you would want to tailor the complexity of your speech to the knowledge of the students, using fewer technical terms and more general explanations.

Demonstrate the Relevance of the Topic

Make the topic of your speech relevant to your audience by articulating why they should care about your chosen topic.

Learning Objectives

Choose a topic that is relevant to your audience

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • You can make a topic relevant by choosing a timely topic.
  • Another way to make a topic relevant is to tell the audience why they should care about the particular subject of your speech.
  • Making a topic relevant for your audience increases the likelihood that they will remember the information contained in your speech.

Key Terms

  • relevant: Not out of date; current.

Overview

Informative Speaking is a speech meant to inform the audience. This speech can take on topics ranging from the newest, high-tech inventions from around the world that hope to cure cancer, to more light-hearted topics. The topic should be one that is timely and interesting.

In order to improve the likelihood that the audience will walk away informed by your speech, you should make your topic relevant. The topic of an informative speech should be one that is timely. This means that what was a good topic for a speech for Teddy Roosevelt is probably no longer going to be a good topic for a speech given now. A relevant topic is one that is appropriate for the contemporary period. This is because the information that an informative speech contains should be the most recent, whether this information is statistical data or just the state of the conversation around a particular topic.

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Choose a Relevant Topic: Although Theodore Roosevelt was a great speaker, giving a speech about him today might not be relevant.

Another way to consider how to make the topic of a speech relevant is to consider the audience who will hear your speech. Ask yourself, “What topic would the audience find interesting or useful? ” If you feel committed to a particular topic, then begin thinking about how you can demonstrate why the topic is relevant to your audience. Doing this requires that you articulate why they should care about your chosen topic. But remember that an informative speech should try to communicate this in an unbiased way that does not rely heavily on emotional appeals.

Make Connections

Make connections among your ideas and with audience interests; use transitions, signposts, internal previews, and summaries when speaking.

Learning Objectives

Explain how to make connections in your speech

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Make connections among your ideas so you can connect the ideas into meaningful groups for your main points.
  • Make connections between your interests and the audience interests to motivate attention during your speech.
  • Make connections with transitions to show relationships and join ideas together.
  • Make connections with signpost transitions to help the audience organize ideas by numbering the main points, such as first, second, etc.
  • Make connections by using previews before main points and use internal summaries to connect one idea to what is coming next.

Key Terms

  • connection: The point at which two or more things are connected; a feeling of understanding and ease of communication between two or more people.
  • signpost: A particular type of transition in the form of a brief statement that indicates where the speaker is in the speech, such as “first” and “finally,” or that calls attention to a key idea, such as “now remember this.”
  • transitions: Words or phrases that allow the reader to understand how adjacent parts of a communication are connected.

Make connections like the old time switchboard operator.

In order to make your informative speech effective, you can think of yourself as the old time switchboard operator and make connections!

A switchboard staff making connections in 1979.

Connecting Information: In your speech, you should make connections between pieces of information for your audience.

Connect ideas and content when preparing the speech. After researching and collecting information for your speech, you will need to connect the ideas and different pieces of information into an organized message. You will group similar ideas together and connect them to form the main points of your speech. In addition to making connections between ideas and pieces of information, one of the most important connections is that between the speech and the audience.

Connect the topic to audience interests. There are many ways to establish this fundamental connection. One of the ways is to explain why the topic of the speech is important. This might occur in the introduction of the speech where you lay out what your speech will say. In addition to laying out the trajectory of the speech, you would include an additional explanation of why the topic is relevant to the audience. Another way to make the connection between the speech and the audience is to express your own interest in the topic. Demonstrating your own excitement could help the audience connect with you and your ideas.

Connect the ideas in the speech with transitions. Transitions are certain words, expressions, or other devices that give text or speech greater cohesion by making it more explicit, or signaling how ideas are meant by the writer or speaker to relate to one another. Transitions can signal addition, example, contrast, comparison, concession, result, summary, time (often chronologically), and place. The following are examples of transitional words and phrases: last, first, second, next, but, on the other hand, moreover, in addition, furthermore, however, to begin with, otherwise, conclusively, lastly, secondly, thirdly, most importantly, in conclusion , to end with, first of all, last of all, to sum it up, last but not least, lastly, finally, for example, on top of all, ultimately, or nevertheless.

Connect the important ideas with signposts. Signposts are a particular type of transition in the form of a brief statement that indicates where the speaker is in the speech, such as first and finally. You use signpost transitions to help the audience organize ideas when you number the main points, such as first, second, etc. You will also use signposts transitions to help the audience remember ideas by telling them what is important by directing their attention to an idea or concept. For example, you might saynow get this, this is really important, or now remember this when you want to signpost the attention of the audience.

Connect ideas with internal previews and summaries. Often you will devote more time to connecting ideas than a simple word or phrase. You may provide a short introductory preview of what you are going to be talking about in order to prepare the audience for what will come next. Additionally, you may want to summarize what you have just said to connect one main point to the next before you start talking about your next point.

Tailor Abstraction to Your Audience

Tailor abstraction to the specific content and the audience level of understanding.

Learning Objectives

Use concrete terminology and abstract terminology when it is appropriate for your audience

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • The ability to simplify experiences with a word makes it easier to communicate, but it also makes us lose the connection to the specific meaning that we want to convey through the abstract wording.
  • When you want the audience to make a concrete connection to their direct experience, remember to come down to earth on the the abstraction ladder. You can move up the ladder again to talk about boarder concepts.
  • Your objective when choosing words is not to avoid abstract general words altogether, but rather to avoid using them when your audience needs more specific,concrete connections to what you are saying.

Key Terms

  • abstraction: The act of comparing commonality between distinct objects and organizing using those similarities.

Abstraction and the Abstraction Ladder

Abstraction is the process of perceiving similarities from our direct, specific observations in the universe, organizing the similarities, and then assigning a word label for the more general concept. The ability to simplify experiences with a word makes it easier to communicate, but it also makes us lose the connection to the specific meaning that we want to convey through the abstract wording.

Abstraction, the Process

I see a number of different objects and I see something similar about all of them, let’s say the color. I take this one characteristic, the color, and give it a label, for example, red. Here I have a direct observable experience with the objects and I see the color in them. I abstract the color and give it the label red. For you my label red is not connected with the objects I saw, but you may see similar objects and learn to assign the same label, red, to the color. We group together all the similar experiences to form a higher-level concept, which includes all the specific, individual observations we are engaging in abstraction.

Abstraction Ladder, the Concept

S. I. Hayakawa explained the concept using a ladder. Hayakawa used his cow Bessie to illustrate the four levels of abstraction from highest level four at the top to lowest at the bottom.

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Ladder: Think of abstraction as a ladder. The most specific and direct experiences are at the bottom, while each step above is more abstract.

  • 4 – Wealth
  • 3 – Farm Asset
  • 2 – Cattle
  • 1 – Bessie, my cow

Lets look at another example with clothing. Level one is very specific, such as Levi 501. Moving up to level two, you have noun categories, such as clothing. Moving up a level, you have a broad noun class or group names such as manufactured goods or industry. Finally, at the top level, you have even more abstract concepts such as power, beauty, and casualness.

Almost anything can be described either in relatively abstract, general words or in relatively concrete, specific ones. You may say that you are writing on a piece of electronic equipment, or that you are writing on a laptop computer. You may say that your company produces consumer goods, or that it makes cell phones. When groups of words are ranked according to degree of abstraction, they form hierarchies.

Tailor the level of abstraction to the specific content and the audience level of understanding.

Using Concrete, Specific Words for Clarity

In general, as you move from one level to another while speaking, you will tailor the level of abstraction to the specific speech content and the audience level of understanding. You can increase the clarity, and therefore the usability, of your speaking by using concrete, specific words rather than abstract, general ones. Concrete words help your audience understand precisely what you mean. If you say that you want to produce television shows for a younger demographic segment, they won’t know whether you mean teenagers or toddlers. If you say that you study natural phenomena, your audience won’t know whether you mean volcanic eruptions or the migrations of monarch butterflies. Such vagueness can hinder audience from getting the information they need in order to make decisions and take action. When you want the audience to make a concrete connection to their direct experience, remember to come down to earth on the the abstraction ladder. You can move up the ladder again to talk about boarder concepts.

For example, you will draw heavily on level one to create images of specific people, places, or things in the minds of your audience. You may move up and down the level of abstraction as needed. For example, if you are talking about a top-level abstraction such as transportation, you may need to make it real for the audience by describing actual means of transportation such as your green mountain bike for city use or your blue and silver BMW for longer trips.

Abstract and general terms do have important uses for different audiences and occasions. For example, in scientific, technical, and other specialized fields, speakers often need to make general points, describe the general features of a situation, or provide general guidance for action.

Use abstract and specialized terminology to communicate messages economically.

Specialized, abstract terminology only works when your audience will understand them. You can use the specialized terminology of a particular profession or group if you know that they already have specific connections to the more abstract terminology. With audiences who understand the abstractions, the technical meanings can communicate messages economically with fewer words than if you started with specific instances at the bottom of the abstraction ladder.

Your objective when choosing words is not to avoid abstract general words altogether, but rather to avoid using them when your audience needs more specific, concrete connections to what you are saying.

Make It Memorable

Making your speech memorable is a way to improve its ability to inform the audience.

Learning Objectives

List ways to make your speech memorable for your audience

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Use visual aids to help make your speech memorable.
  • Repeat key points of your speech to make it more memorable.
  • Making your speech memorable is important because it increases the likelihood that the audience will walk away informed.

Key Terms

  • memorable: Worthy to be remembered; very important or remarkable.

Remember that the goal of an informative speech is to inform the audience. Ideally, not only are they informed while you are speaking, but they actually retain that information after you have left the podium. In order for this to happen, you have to make your speech memorable.

An audience clapping at a conference.

Memorable Speech: Making your informative speech memorable increases the likelihood that your audience will retain the information.

There are multiple ways to make your speech memorable. One way to do this is to repeat the key information that you want the audience to remember. This means repeating important information, within reason, throughout the speech. Lay out the important keys in the introduction of the speech, reiterate them in the body of the speech, and then repeat them again in the conclusion.

Another way to make your speech memorable is to use visual aids. Visual aids have the advantage of providing the information of your speech in an easily digestible form. In addition, visualizations have the ability to be uniquely captivating. Having an attractive visual can get the attention of the audience and improve the chances that they will remember the information contained in the visualization.

Though there are many ways to make an informative speech memorable, another way is to let yourself be engaged in the presentation of the speech. Demonstrating your own excitement by the speech’s topic has the possibility of drawing in the audience. If the speaker seems uninterested in the speech, then why should the audience be engaged? Therefore, let yourself be absorbed and excited by the speech, which might lure in the audience and make the speech more memorable.

These are just a few ways to make your speech memorable. Remember, the goal of making an informative speech memorable is to increase the likelihood that your audience will walk away informed. Using visual aids and repetition of key points are two strategies to use in order to deliver an effective informative speech.

Utilizing Devices to Enhance Audience Understanding

Visual aids, microphones, video screens, and/or a podium can help enhance audience understanding.

Learning Objectives

Describe the use of devices in public speaking

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Visual aids such as graphs, handouts, slide show presentations, and objects can help audiences understand complicated subjects. Many people learn visually and need information provided in this context, as well as orally, to enhance learning.
  • A podium can help the presenter provide the audience with necessary information on a topic by offering a place for the speaker to have cue cards or scripts.
  • A microphone is a good way to make sure that everyone in the audience hears the presentation properly. Wireless headsets allow the speaker to amplify the presentation while moving about the audience or reviewing visual aids.
  • A video screen is a good way to make sure the audience can see the entire presentation in a large venue.

Key Terms

  • podium: A platform on which to stand, as when conducting an orchestra, preaching at a pulpit, or delivering a speech.

Utilize Devices to Enhance Audience Understanding

Speakers at the re:publica XI visual language conference are showcasing their designs by using a large-screen digital projector.

Visual Aid: Using a visual aid, like a large-screen digital projector, helps inform the audience.

Visual Aids

Many people need the assistance of visual material to understand complicated topics. Visual aids help the speaker reinforce the information provided in the speech to increase absorption and retention of the material. Visual aids can include objects, models, handouts, graphs, charts, photos, and slide show presentations. With visual aids, a speaker needs to make sure they adequately enhance the presentation without causing a distraction for the audience.

Podium/Rostrum

A podium can help an audience understand a speech. It allows the speaker to have notes or scripts to make sure the important information is covered regarding the subject matter. Additional information can be included in the notes so that if the audience has any questions the speaker can make sure they provide a complete answer.

Amplification

Amplification is important to make sure that the entire audience can hear the speech properly. Some large auditoriums and amphitheaters are designed to assist acoustics. Still, a microphone is a beneficial addition to a speaker’s toolkit. With the advancements in wireless technology, a headset can also be used, enabling the speaker to move about during the presentation, go over visual aids, or enter the audience during the question and answer session.

Video Screens

Video screens are beneficial for an audience, especially those who are seated in a large venue. The screens can help the audience see the speaker and the visual aids better, especially if they are in the back of the room or off to the far right or far left of the stage. Video screens are often available at modern conference centers and auditoriums that can be synced with presentation devices.

With the addition of visual aids, podiums, microphones, and video screens, a presenter can ensure that the audience is able to see, hear, and understand the material properly. When determining the type of visual aids needed for a speech, the speaker needs to consider the subject matter, audience, and venue so that the right materials are used to enhance audience understanding.