Introduction to Informative Speaking

Defining an Informative Speech

An informative speech is one that one that intends to educate the audience on a particular topic.

Learning Objectives

Define an informative speech

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • This type of speech uses descriptions, demonstrations, vivid detail, and definitions to explain a subject, person, or place the audience wants to understand.
  • An informative speech makes a complex topic easy to understand or offers a different point of view.
  • Unlike persuasive speeches, an informative speech relies less on pathos and more on communicating information.

Key Terms

  • informative: Providing knowledge, especially useful or interesting information.
  • definition: A statement expressing the essential nature of something; formulation.

An informative speech is one that intends to educate the audience on a particular topic. There are many different types of informative speeches, including speeches that describe the conditions of a subject and speeches that instruct the audience on how to perform an action.

Erik Möller speaking about a visual redesign of WikiProject main pages in his presentation on 'The purpose-driven social network: Supporting WikiProjects with technology' at Wikimania 2012.

Purpose of the Speech: An informative speech is one that aims to inform the audience about a given topic.

The main goal of an informative speech is to provide enlightenment regarding a specific topic the audience knows nothing about. It may demonstrate how to use a new type of software, explain a new concept in the field of science, describe an expedition an archaeologist took, or provide details about a person of interest that the audience wants to learn more about.

The topics covered in an informative speech should help the audience to understand a subject better and to remember what they learned later. The goal of this type of speech isn’t to sway the audience to the speaker’s point of view. Instead, the details need to be laid before the audience so that they can make an educated decision or learn about a subject they are interested in.

The outlines of two people. One person is passing a stack of shapes to the other person.

Transferring Information: In an informative speech, how the information is presented will determine how the audience receives it.

However, it is important for the speaker to think about how this information will be presented. An informative speech should rely less on pathos, which is an appeal to the emotions of the audience and an important component of persuasive speeches. Instead, an informative speech might rely on visual aids, for example, in order to give the audience a visual representation of important information contained in the speech. Providing the information in multiple forms during the speech increases the likelihood that the audience will retain the information included in the speech.

Types of Informative Speeches

The four types of informative speeches are definition, explanatory, descriptive, and demonstrative.

Learning Objectives

List the four types of informative speeches and describe their use

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • A descriptive speech helps the speaker create an accurate mental picture in the mind of the audience regarding a specific person, place, or thing.
  • A demonstrative speech describes how to perform an action.
  • An explanatory speech explains the state of a topic.
  • A definition speech explains a concept or theory regarding a topic.

Key Terms

  • definition: A statement expressing the essential nature of something; formulation.
  • description: A sketch or account of anything in words; a portraiture or representation in language; an enumeration of the essential qualities of a thing or species.

An informative speech is one that informs the audience. However, as should be clear, this general definition demonstrates that there are many ways to inform an audience. Therefore, there are several types of informative speeches. The main types of informative speeches include definition, descriptive, explanatory, and demonstrative.

A definition speech explains the meaning, theory, or philosophy of a specific topic that the audience likely does not know much about. The topics may be general, such as a sport, or highly specific, like a particular person. The main goal of this speech is to educate the audience so that they understand the main points regarding this subject.

A demonstration speech explains how to do something. If you have ever sat through a lecture where a teacher explained how to create a bibliography, then you have heard a demonstration speech. Like most informative speeches, a how-to speech will likely use visual examples that show the audience how to move from step to step through a particular activity. Visualizations help the audience retain what each step looks like, increasing the likelihood that they will retain the overall information of the speech.

Temple of Concordia

Demonstrative Speech: A demonstrative speech creates a mental image in audience members’ minds.

An explanatory speech might give a description of the state of a given topic. As an example, consider the types of speeches that are given at industry conferences. The goal of these speeches is for the speaker to inform the audience on a particular part of an industry. Commonly, these will also utilize visualizations that give the audience a visual representation of the particular data or statistics contained in the speech. This is one way to condense highly complex information into an easily retainable package for the audience.

A descriptive speech creates a vivid picture in a person’s mind regarding an object, person, animal, or place. An archaeologist who has discovered a new temple in South America or a paleontologist who believes they have found a new dinosaur may use a descriptive speech to inform an interested audience about their recent discoveries.

As all of these types make clear, there are many ways that a given set of information can be communicated in a speech. When deciding what type of informative speech you want to write and deliver, consider what you want the audience to know about your topic.

Subjects of Informative Speeches

Informative speeches can cover many subjects as long as they can be discussed without persuading or altering the perceptions of the audience.

Learning Objectives

Name some examples of subjects of an informative speech

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • When choosing a subject of an informative speech consider whether you want to describe, explain, demonstrate or educate the audience about the topic.
  • The subject of an informative speech should be one that can be communicated clearly to an audience.
  • When choosing a subject for an informative speech, consider what is the essential information that an audience should know about that subject.

Key Terms

  • subject: A particular area of study.

There are many different subjects that can be used in informative speeches. College lectures about an event in history or a historical figure would be considered informative speeches

An introduction slide for a lecture that says "Short lecture on Hans Frei."

Lecture: A lecture is one type of informative speech. It’s usually about an important event or figure in history.

Other examples of subjects for an informative speech include an actor or actress, the field of advertising, a classic film the history of Dracula, social networking websites, and what causes volcanoes.

Each of these examples lends itself to multiple types of information. For example, an informative speech about a particular actor or actress would likely focus on providing a description of who the person is and what movies or plays they have been in. Incorporating famous pictures or clips from works is a way of increasing the audience’s retention of the information about the particular person.

An informative speech about the causes of a volcano could be considered a how-it-happens speech, which could be similar to a how-to speech. A speech about volcanoes might include a model volcano, describing how the model’s functioning is similar to processes in the real world.

More technical subjects, such as the field of advertising, require more technical information and specific data relevant to the industry. Technical subjects especially, but really all informative speeches, benefit from the use of visualizations, such as bar graphs or images. The choice of visual aids depends on what information the speaker wants to inform the audience of. For example, a speech that intends to explore the financial trends of political advertising over ten years would benefit from a bar graph. However, a speech that is informing the audience on how political advertisements have functionally changed over time would benefit from actual examples of ad campaigns.

In order to differentiate an informative speech from other types of speeches, it is important to stick to the basic facts of the subject. No personal biases, unsubstantiated information, or popular opinion should be included when stating the main ideas of the topic. The goal is to educate the audience on the facts, not to provide the speaker’s opinion. When crafting an informative speech look at the subject carefully and eliminate any potential statements that have prejudice or might persuade the audience.