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Though both spoken and written communication are addressed to an audience, public speaking is different from written because the audience is present. They have gathered for an occasion, and they have expectations that a speaker must recognize. The public speaker must have some purpose or something they are trying to accomplish. Good public speaking always considers these three components.


Speakers must be able to communicate differently to different audiences. For example, you’d tell your best friend about your new boyfriend in a totally different way than you’d tell your grandmother. You wouldn’t discuss biology in the same manner to a college roommate as you would to your elementary aged sibling. Why? Quite simply, it is because they’re different people. A speaker should always ask two questions to adapt to an audience:

Who are they? First, distinguish general from specific audiences. A general audience is everyone who will hear the speech. A specific audience, however, is a portion of the audience who the speaker particularly wants to reach. It the audience attendees have varying degrees of knowledge on a subject, a speaker might gear the speech primarily to non-experts.

What qualities about them are important? Every audience will vary in values, knowledge, style of communication, and intellectual capacity, etc. Factors such as the audience being young or old, rich or poor, female or male, highly religious or less believing, etc., can have an effect on how the speech is perceived. They usually have different expectations. These qualities and expectations help shape a speaking situation.


Written communication can be read any time, but public speaking is different and is affected by many things:
Time and place: The speech effectiveness can be affected by events that have very recently occurred, by the time of day, or by the fact that it comes after or before other speeches.

The place: Different-sized rooms make a difference for visual aids and audience rapport.

The occasion gathered for: Each occasion has different norms for speaking, and the speakers need to operate in different modes.


Speakers hope to accomplish a purpose when they speak. For most speaking there are two general purposes. These are to inform or to persuade. Many speeches will do some of both.

Speaking to inform: When a speaker wants to inform, they try to make sure their audience to leaves knowing more than they knew when they came, no matter if they’re trying to explain an idea or process, share new information, or show how to do something.

Speaking to persuade: When a speaker wants to inform, they want the audience to form a new position or belief, to change their minds about something, or move them to take action. Persuasion speaking requires the speaker to take a firm position, and defend it against challenges.

A successful speech requires a clear sense of general and specific purposes and clear presentation of ideas and words. If you keep audience, occasion, and purpose in mind when you write, it will help you write the right speech, for the right people, and for the right reason!


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