Four basic types of speeches: Do you want to persuade, inform, inspire or entertain?
Public speaking is much more than just “get up and say a few words.” Any audience has certain expectations that they expect the speaker to meet, no matter the occasion. They want you to be clear, interesting, and tell them something they don’t already know. There are 4 basic types of speeches that you can use to achieve these goals.
The purpose of any speech is to persuade, inform, inspire, or entertain. Sometimes speeches will contain more than one of these elements. All speeches, regardless of type, should have an opening, a body, and a conclusion. It must be clear to your audience what you intend to say. If they can’t tell where you’re going after a minute or two into your pitch, they’ll tune out.
Let’s take a closer look at the four basic types of speech:
speech to persuade: Every day we are constantly exposed to attempts to persuade us to do one thing and not do another. TV ads, political ads, salespeople, spouses and family members, bosses and co-workers all try to convince us to follow their particular proposition. Because of this, audiences tend to be a bit secretive about your attempts to persuade them. People have become cautious.
Your main purpose in a persuasive speech is to influence the thinking or behavior of your audience. In order for your audience to be willing to listen to you, they must like, respect, and trust you. They need to be able to relate to you in some way and you have to give them a reason why they should listen to what you have to say.
speech to inform: This is probably the most common type of speech you will give and the most common you will hear others give. Your purpose is to teach your audience something new or expand their existing knowledge. It may mean exposing them to a topic or idea they know nothing about, showing them how to use equipment, or helping them learn a new skill. You could be explaining a new management system at work. Informational speeches cover many areas. Remember to use some humor in these speeches and try to keep it light. Informational speeches can be boring to the listener if the speaker is not careful. Think of a teacher or professor you had who was boring. Don’t do that to your audience!
speech to inspire: The purpose of an inspirational speech is to ask your audience to improve themselves in one of several ways, personally, emotionally, professionally, or spiritually. The inspirational speaker relies more on emotional appeal than logical appeal. You are trying to connect with the feelings of the individual listener. You explain why and how the situation is changing or why their current emotions, fears, or goals may be inappropriate or counterproductive. Inspirational speakers motivate the audience and challenge them to do more at a higher level and spell out the benefits they can expect if they do so.
speech to entertain: Conventions, dinners and seminars often include entertaining speakers on their agenda. Everyone likes to laugh and that is the job of an entertainer. Ideally, the entertaining speaker will also make a serious point in an understated humorous way. You don’t have to be naturally funny to give an entertaining speech, your job is to provide interesting diversion. Entertaining speakers typically do this by telling stories. Know who your audience is and match your stories to that group. A young audience will not be interested in what you have to say if you are talking about events and people from before they were born.
You have to be a showman when you’re giving an entertaining speech. If it’s supposed to be funny, then your attitude should be fun and light-hearted. Their main goal is to make sure the audience is having fun.
Warning: Make sure you know the details about the audience before agreeing to give an entertaining speech. These are often after-dinner speeches and people have been drinking for an hour or so. If you don’t have significant speaking experience and very tough skin, this can be a harrowing experience. I know! Even many professional speakers reject engagements that the audience has been drinking on.
Public speaking is a skill, and as with any skill, it will only improve with practice. Volunteer to speak at work, church, or school. The organizers are always grateful when someone volunteers. The more you talk, the better you will become and the more you will enjoy it.
For more information on these topics, see Toastmasters International. Joining Toastmasters is a wonderful way to practice and polish your skills, and it’s fun!