Introduction

Not only is there an art in knowing a thing, but also a certain art in teaching it.

—Cicero

A teacher writing on the boardEvery day you give others information in an informal way, whether you realize it or not. You give your grandparents driving directions to your college campus. You tell your professor about a breaking news story. You teach a friend how to ride a motorcycle. You explain to your significant other your spiritual philosophy. You show a co-worker how to operate the cash register. You help your younger brother build his first Facebook page. Or you share your summer travel experience with your roommate. Without a doubt, information plays a vital role in our everyday lives. In the dictionary, the term “inform” has several meanings, including to impart knowledge; to animate or inspire; to give information or enlightenment; to furnish evidence; to make aware of something; to communicate something of interest or special importance; to give directions; and to provide intelligence, news, facts or data. When you deliver an informative speech, your primary purpose is to give your audience information that they did not already know, or to teach them more about a topic with which they are already familiar.

Your ability to give informative speeches is one of the most important skills you will ever master, and it will be used both during the course of your career, and in your personal life. A pharmaceutical sales representative who can’t describe the products’ chemical composition, uses and side effects, will have trouble making a sale. A high school math teacher who can’t explain algebra in simple terms will have students who will not learn. A manager who can’t teach workers how to assemble microchips will have a department with low productivity and quality. And a little league coach who is unable to instruct players on batting and catching techniques will have a disadvantaged team. It is easy to imagine how difficult it would be to go about the business of our daily lives without the ability to give and receive information. Speeches to inform are the most common types of speeches (Gladis, 1999), so speech writers should give priority to learning how to construct them.

A speaker hasn’t taught until the audience has learned.