Language in an Informational Speech

Learning Objectives

Identify effective language for an informative speech.

Words are important! It is essential in any speech to be cognizant of your word choice. People will be listening to you and what you say will stick in the minds of many. So, careful consideration of language is important.

When presenting information, the main difference is that you are not trying to persuade or impassion your group. You can take a more casual and conversational approach. You want to hook them by making sure that the information and language are interesting and directly speaking to them.

Young woman watching a recording of herself

It is a good idea to record yourself so that you can listen to the language and decide if it sounds conversational.

Speaking, Not Writing: It is important to keep in mind that speaking and writing are different in the language choices you will be making to present your ideas. Oral language is designed to be listened to and to sound conversational, which means that word choice must be simpler, more informal, and more repetitive. Repetition is a strategy that helps the audience remember a point you find particularly important for them to know. Written language uses a larger vocabulary and is more formal. When you choose words for your speech, think about how your words will sound to your audience.

As you practice your speech out loud, listen to how the words sound. Are they clear and easy to understand? You might even record yourself giving the speech on your phone or computer so you can listen to how the language you are using sounds and flows.

Audience Knowledge: In thinking about language to use in your speech, don’t assume your audience knows a lot about your topic. Are there terms, concepts, places, people, or events you will be speaking about that your audience might not be familiar with or only know a little about? Probably! So present any content that is likely to be unfamiliar to your audience in a clear, simple, and complete way so they’ll be sure to understand the information you are presenting.

Target Audience: Likewise, be careful with obscure or highly technical language and jargon—remember your audience. It’s perfectly fine to speak using the technical terminology of a structural engineer if you are speaking to an audience of engineers. But if you are speaking to a group of first- and second-grade teachers, you want to put technical engineering terms into everyday language that your audience is more likely to understand. If you do need to use words your audience may not be familiar with due to the nature of your topic, define those words for your audience.

Understandable: Informative speeches should contain clear, easy-to-understand language. Speeches aren’t generally the best occasion to pull out complex, multi-syllable words your audience may not know. Your goal is to inform your audience, not to confuse them with language they may not understand, so use language you think your audience finds familiar and relatable. Be conversational. As much as possible, use concrete rather than abstract language. Abstract language usually refers to ideas, qualities, or concepts. Concrete language, in contrast, appeals to our senses by describing things or ideas in vivid, specific language.

Effectively Communicate Complex Information: 4 SIMPLE STEPS

In this video, communication professor Bruce L. Lambert offers four tips about communicating complex information, such as in an informative speech.

You can view the transcript for “Effectively Communicate Complex Information: 4 Simple Steps” here (opens in new window).

To reiterate, the language you chose is contingent upon the audience you are addressing. Gauge your language by the audience’s knowledge, use language familiar to your audience, and structure your language to be understandable to the majority of audience members.

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