Empowering Your Speech Help
Introduction to Empowering Your Speech
The ill and unfit choice of words wonderfully obstructs the understanding.
—Francis Bacon, 1561–1626
Rhetoric is the art of using words to communicate ideas. In this lesson, we will learn how to accomplish this more forcefully.
If you have tried reading a complete speech aloud, you have already discovered that word choices are important. Words that read well on the page, for example, may not speak well out loud. Similarly, a well-worded sentence can transform an ordinary statement into something extraordinary and memorable.
Good writing is a skill, and like any other skill it comes only by practice. As you rehearse your speech, pay attention to your choices of words and ask yourself whether you might be able to say things with more punch, as well as more succinctly, accurately, and memorably. After all, you want your audience to remember what you say, and there are many ways in which you can craft your wording to help them remember.
The techniques used to make speeches memorable are called rhetorical devices. They are devices or techniques used to enliven rhetoric. Rhetoric is the art of using language to persuade, which is at the heart of public speaking. There are many useful rhetorical devices that can keep your audience listening to your words, but we will focus only on the major categories in this lesson.
Spoken Words versus Written Words
We have already touched upon this distinction, but it is worth considering in more detail. A college essay will generally strive for a fairly formal tone, sounding somewhat stiff but erudite. That tone, however, will not sit well with your audience if you try it out in a speech. Your audience wants you to speak to them in a fairly conversational tone, not as though you were reading from an encyclopedia.
This is not to say that your tone will be informal. It might be, depending upon the setting; some special occasions call for a very informal style, such as proposing a toast at a wedding. More frequently, however, you will want your words to be carefully crafted to sound professional while still presenting the information at a level that is suitable to the audience.
You have probably been taught in college writing classes that you should never refer to yourself in an essay, using the first person pronoun I. This is appropriate for written essays, but not for spoken speeches. An effective public speaker connects with his or her audience, and the best way to do this (as we've mentioned numerous times) is to draw from your own experiences. You will, therefore, want to refer to yourself directly from time to time during your speech.
Another important aspect of formal writing is to avoid repetition—but this is not the case in a speech. Quite the contrary, in fact. You'll remember our little axiom from Lesson 9: "Tell them what you're going to tell them; tell them; tell them what you told them." Now that's repetitive! Yet that sort of repetition is important in a speech, because absorbing information from a lecture is an entirely different process than when one is reading it. You can always flip back a few pages to re-read something in a book, but you can't do that when listening to a speech, so you'll actually be helping your audience if you reiterate your points as you go along.
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