Public Speaking: Speech Organization & Preparation

CCC - July 23 2010

Imagine that a good friend of yours is going to speak in public, and s/he has come to you for advice. Obviously, you recommend that they prepare what they are going to say very carefully. In fact, you advise them to write out their speech and then bring it to you for revision.

Further, you think it is a good idea for the topic of the speech, Tact vs Talent, be researched sufficiently. When that is done, the words of the speech should be written out, and presented to you for your evaluation.

A couple of days later, your friend returns with the speech. Let’s take a look at the speech introduction below:

Tact vs Talent

Talent is something, but tact is everything. Talent is serious, sober, grave and respectable; tact is all that and more too. It is not a sixth sense, but it is the life of all the five. Talent is power, tact is skill; talent is weight, tact is momentum; talent knows what to do, tact knows how to do it; talent makes a man respectable, tact makes him respected; talent is wealth, tact is ready money.”

You think to yourself: “This looks brilliant, sounds brilliant, and is undoubtedly going to be a brilliant speech.” You congratulate your friend and assure him/her that you will be in the audience when the speech is delivered.

You keep your word and attend the speech. You even decide to do some research of your own, and poll some members of the audience after the speech. “How was the speech? What did you think of it?, you ask.

Again and again, the impression of the audience, the general response is the same: “Brilliant speech. The speaker contrasted tact and talent”.

You smile, because after all, you were the one who helped the speaker prepare the brilliant speech. However, you have an epiphany, a nagging voice at the back of your mind that insists that you have missed something. Something is wrong.

“Yes, the audience liked the speech”, you say to yourself, “but did they learn anything?” Therefore you begin to ask two questions:

1. What is tact?
2. What is talent?

Nobody has a clue, obviously, because the speaker did not clearly define neither tact nor talent. Why was it important to know anything about tact or talent? The audience is left with brilliant rhetoric, however, very little of substance. According to the Greek philosopher Aristoteles, great speeches seek to persuade or appeal to the audience on three levels:

1. Logos (Logic)
2. Pathos (Emotion)
3. Ethos (Credibility)

How might this speech be improved? How can the audience be addressed so that they take away something more tangible, more durable, of more substance?

This is a good question, I shall not answer it here. More information is necessary, much more than I have provided you.

Nonetheless, most people will surely answer that both ideas, tact and talent, should be dealt with separately. As a minimum, a full paragraph should be devoted to both topics. In this way, the speech can be more effective. The “running contrast“, if desirable as a rhetorical device, might be more effective as a summary of the fully developed topics of tact and talent.

This is especially true if it helps to achieve the objective of the speech. As I said before, however, we don’t know what the objective of the speech is, and must content ourselves with the principle of talking about only one topic at a time, or run the risk of confusing the audience.

In sum, we can see the clear need for prior preparation of the speech and the organization of one topic at a time. It is the job of the speaker to make it easy for the audience to understand the important ideas of the speech. Again, this is best achieved by dealing with one topic at a time, though an experienced speaker would feel comfortable breaking this general principle of clear organization and clear “signposting” for the audience to follow.

The next time you are sitting in the audience, listening to a speech, live or on TV/video, evaluate the speaker. Ask yourself: “What is the speaker talking about? What are the main points? Were the key concepts defined or clearly illustrated in some way that is memorable? How did the speaker develop his/her ideas? Did they stick to one point or did they jump around, from point to point, making it difficult (if not impossible) for the audience to follow them?

To conclude, let us evaluate a real speech. It is the “Welcome Speech” I made at the opening ceremony of the joint IATEFL -TESOL Chile annual conference in 2010. My questions: “How was it? What did you think? Did you learn anything? Were you informed, motivated, persuaded? What was the purpose of the speech?

Finally, how could this speech be improved?

July 23, 2010
Universidad San Sebastián
Santiago de Chile

Thomas Baker

Welcome speech follows:

“Good morning.

Distinguished visitors, honored guests, teachers of English and students of English pedagogy.

On behalf of TESOL Chile, it is my pleasure and my privilege to welcome you to this historic conference. Every second, of every minute, of every hour, for the next two days, we all will be making English Language Teaching history in Chile. This is a historic moment, a historic time, a historic place, and we thank you most humbly for sharing this with us, your IATEFL-TESOL Chile conference team.

In February, when this improbable journey began, bringing IATEFL & TESOL together, for a joint conference, we were all aware that it was the right thing to do, this year, 2010, the Bicentennial of Chilean independence. This was the right moment, the right time, and the right place for us to combine our knowledge, skills, talents and abilities in the service of you – our colleagues. TESOL brings over 40 years of excellence to this enterprise, and TESOL Chile has benefitted from that history for all six years of our existence.

Over the years, both IATEFL & TESOL Chile have strived to achieve perfection in our service to you. We are deeply aware that our efforts to do this are best described as “a work in progress“, not finished, evolving constantly. Despite our challenges, in this conference we offer you a transformation in the way we do three fundamental tasks, namely: Communication, Culture & Community, which are the combined themes of this conference.

Firstly, for the first time ever, in addition to using a traditional, static website presence, officially, we used a dynamic, social media site – Facebook – to serve your Communication needs in real-time. This combination allowed us to get you the information about the conference when you needed it, with no delays. It allowed you to communicate your concerns to us, so that we could act on them rapidly. We hope you have been satisfied with our efforts to improve the quality and quantity of our Communication with you, in order to serve your needs.

Secondly, IATEFL-TESOL brought two distinct organisational Cultures together. Both our cultures are based on long years of successful experience in organizing conferences. In this sense, there existed a wealth of Best Practice, Cultural Capital, to draw on. Our task was to select ways in which our cultures supported and reinforced each other’s strengths and minimised our weaknesses. As you can see, our combined cultural ingenuity has resulted in a well-organised conference for you to enjoy with us.

Thirdly, together, in Community with you, our guests, we have come full circle. We exist to serve your needs, and fully understand that without you, there is no need for us to exist. Community, we are here to help you achieve your individual and collective goals. We do this within our possibilities and our limitations. Yes, in some areas we are inadequate, yet this does not prevent us from doing the best we can to serve you, our guests.

Finally, Communication, Culture & Community; in the end, that’s where we begin, in Communication with you, sharing our Culture with you, and of course, we exist as a sharing and caring Community of professional educators, because of you.

Again, we pledge to do our very best to make your 2010 conference experience a pleasant, productive, marvelous and memorable experience.

Thank You


About profesorbaker

Thomas Baker is the Past-President of TESOL Chile (2010-2011). He enjoys writing about a wide variety of topics. The source and inspiration for his writing comes from his family.
This entry was posted in Connectivism, Culture, Education, EFL, Reflections, Teaching Tips, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s