The Major Types of Speeches Help

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Updated on Jul 15, 2013

Introduction to The Major Types of Speeches

Speak properly, and in as few words as you can, but always plainly; for the end of speech is not ostentation, but to be understood.

—William Penn, 1644–1718

Whatever your reason for speaking, this chapter will help you understand and achieve your goals on any speaking occasion.

As William Penn wisely remarked, the primary goal of any speech is to be understood, not to impress the audience with eloquence. Yet there are secondary goals to one's speech, beyond simple communication. Your secondary goal might be to teach the audience a new skill, or you might want to persuade the audience that one type of toothpaste is better than another, or you might simply want to entertain with warm and funny stories of the bride and groom.

Whatever your speech occasion may be, you will have two goals in mind before you even begin. The first goal is firm and fixed—to communicate and be understood—while the second goal will determine the type of speech you write. There are probably as many types of speech as there are speeches given, in the sense that every speech is unique, but we can categorize most speeches into four groups:

  • Informative
  • Demonstrative
  • Persuasive
  • Special Occasions

Informative Speeches

An informative speech is essentially a lecture. It is intended simply to inform your audience on some topic. If you're a student, you hear informative speeches all day long in your classes, as your teachers and professors stand up front and lecture on various subjects. Your teachers are trying to inform you, and their lectures are essentially informative speeches.

Some informative topics you might consider are:

  • Current trends in…
  • The future of…
  • The history of…
  • The pleasures of a particular hobby
  • Common causes of allergies
  • When to buy a home
  • Famous explorers and their discoveries
  • What equipment is needed for… [backpacking, kayaking, carpentry, etc.]

An informative speech is different from a how-to speech or a persuasive speech because it is only intended to provide information. You will leave it up to your audience to decide for themselves what to do with the information; you are not trying to persuade them to think as you do, nor are you specifically teaching them how to do something. You are only concerned with providing information for your audience on a particular topic.

Informative speeches are useful as an introduction to some topic that is unfamiliar to your audience. And this is where your audience research pays off, which you learned about in Lesson 1. You will want to be acquainted with what your audience already knows. After all, you wouldn't want to lecture on "The History of the Airplane" to an audience of NASA scientists. On the other hand, you could give an informative speech on "The Materials Used by the Wright Brothers for Their First Airplane" to that NASA audience. They might be well versed in the overall history of the airplane, but they might not know what exact materials were used at Kitty Hawk.

You will also want to know what topics will be of interest to your audience. Will your listeners care to learn about your favorite hobby, or will they be bored and distracted? The best way of answering this question, if you don't already know your audience, will be to conduct some basic interviews, beginning with the person who invited you to speak.

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