Informative Speeches about Events and People

Learning Objectives

  • Identify characteristics of informative speeches about events.
  • Identify characteristics of informative speeches about people (biographical).
  • Identify characteristics of informative speeches about oneself (autobiographical).

Speeches about Events

Merriam Webster defines an event as “something that happens.” You might give a speech about an event that happens only once or rarely, such as a lunar eclipse, or an event that occurs on a regular schedule, such as the World Cup or an annual professional convention. Many event speeches tell the story of a historical event.

One of the most important considerations in speaking about events is the need to tailor the information to your audience and demonstrate why it might be meaningful for them.

In speaking about events—especially historical events—it can be all too easy to slip into a “just the facts” recounting of what happened. “Frederick I was king, then he died and Frederick William I was king; then he died and Frederick II was king; then he died and Frederick William II was king.” Clearly, this recounting doesn’t help us to understand why we should care about Prussian history.

To watch: Mary beard, What can ancient Rome Teach us about the Migrant Crisis?

In this short video, best-selling British Classicist Mary Beard talks about a number of events in ancient Rome. To make it directly meaningful to the modern audience, she compares Roman conceptions of the rights and obligations of citizenship to those of present-day Europe, especially in light of the thousands of displaced migrants entering Europe at the time by way of the Mediterranean Sea or through Southeast Europe.

You can view the transcript for “What can ancient Rome teach us about the migrant crisis? Mary Beard – Newsnight” here (opens in new window).


Speaking about events: Press conferences

Press conferences offer many examples of informative speaking about events. Officials hold public health briefings to convey important steps listeners can take to keep themselves safe. Companies hold press conferences to talk about important changes or upcoming events. When mistakes or misdeeds come come to light, public figures or spokespeople might meet with the press to offer an explanation or an apology. After games, sports stars are asked to break down the events of the game, and offer some insight about their thinking and strategy. In each of these cases, the speaker tries to offer the appropriate level of detail and depth for the particular audience. In the following post-game interview with Stephen Curry, for instance, the audience is assumed to have seen the game immediately before, and to know a lot about the teams and the sport. (Curry’s interview also serves as an object lesson in dealing with distractions while speaking publicly!)

You can view the transcript for “Steph Curry’s Daughter Riley Steals the Show” here (opens in new window).

Speeches about People (Biographical)

People, living or dead, can be excellent topics for an informative speech. You can speak about people who are well known to your audience, such as an athlete or celebrity, or someone not well known to your audience, such as a member of your family or an influential mentor of yours like a teacher or coach.

More often than not, a speech about a person is setting them up as an exemplarwhich is a way of describing a person or thing that provides an excellent—or at least highly informative—model or example of something. The exemplar doesn’t always have to be a good role model, but does have to demonstrate qualities that can be generalized. You can probably imagine people who illustrate what it is to be a moral person, a great athlete, an empathetic listener, a clever businessperson, or a corrupt politician. When you speak about a person, you’re often telling your audience what this person’s life or actions tell us about how to be a certain kind of human being in the world.

To Watch: Bill Gates, “The best teacher I never had”

In this short video, Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates talks about the physicist Richard Feynman. As the title suggests, Gates portrays Feynman as an exemplary great teacher.

You can view the transcript for “The best teacher I never had” here (opens in new window).

Speeches about Oneself (Autobiographical)

A speech where you talk about an experience you had is an informative speech about yourself. For this type of speech, you have to remember that the speech is not just about who you are; it is about something you learned from an experience, how you changed from some event, or some growth experience. In some ways, this is the hardest part of the autobiographical speech: trying to build a speech that is about yourself but for the audience. Always ask yourself, how can your audience benefit from your experience? How can your story give the listeners a new line of sight into their own experiences?

To Watch: Jedida Isler, “The untapped genius that could change Science for the better”

In this speech, Jedida Isler talks about her experience of becoming an astrophysicist. However, she does much more than just tell her own story: Isler uses her experience to talk more generally about the concept of “intersectionality” and the remarkable events that happen at the intersection between two things.

You can view the transcript for “The Untapped Genius That Could Change Science for the Better | Jedidah Isler | TED Talks” here (opens in new window).

What to watch for:

As much as this is an autobiographical speech, it is also a speech about concepts, in particular the extremely complex idea of intersectionality, which describes how aspects of a person’s identity intersect or combine to create different kinds of knowledge and experience, as well as creating complex situations of discrimination and privilege. In the speech, Isler talks about getting a PhD in physics as a Black woman, which required contending with intersecting systems of racism and sexism (at the time of this speech, only 18 other Black women had earned a PhD in a physics-related discipline). Yet, she reminds us, intersectionality is not just about making success doubly challenging. As a metaphor for the incredible productive forces generated at intersections, she talks about astrophysics and the birth of stars: “I’ve lived the entirety of my life in the in-between, in the liminal space between dreams and reality, race and gender, poverty and plenty, science and society. I am both black and a woman. Like the birth of stars in the heavens, this robust combination of knowing results in a shining example of the explosive fusion of identities.”