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To Add Vividness


In addition to clarifying content and enhancing credibility, support helps make a speech more vivid. Vividness refers to a speaker’s ability to present information in a striking, exciting manner. The goal of vividness is to make your speech more memorable. One of the authors still remembers a vivid example from a student speech given several years ago. The student was speaking about the importance of wearing seat belts and stated that the impact from hitting a windshield at just twenty miles per hour without a seat belt would be equivalent to falling out of the window of their second-floor classroom and landing face-first on the pavement below. Because they were in that classroom several times each week, students were easily able to visualize the speaker’s analogy and it was successful at creating an image that is remembered years later. Support helps make your speech more interesting and memorable to an audience member.

KEY TAKEAWAYS


  • The strategies a public speaker can use to provide corroborating evidence for the speech’s central idea and specific purpose are called support.

  • There are three primary reasons to use support: to clarify content, to increase speaker credibility, and to make the speech more vivid.

  • A good piece of support should be accurate, authoritative, current, and unbiased.

EXERCISES


  1. Find an article online about a topic on which you are interested in speaking. Examine it for the four aspects of effective sources (e.g., accuracy, authority, currency, and objectivity). Do you think this source is credible? Why?

  2. Find a speech on the Vital Speeches of the Day website (http://www.vsotd.com) and try to identify the types of support the speaker utilized. Is the speaker’s use of support effective? Why or why not?



8.2 Exploring Types of Support




LEARNING OBJECTIVES


  1. Understand how speakers can use statistics to support their speeches.

  2. Differentiate among the five types of definitions.

  3. Differentiate among four types of supportive examples.

  4. Explain how narratives can be used to support informative, persuasive, and entertaining speeches.

  5. Differentiate between the two forms of testimony.

  6. Differentiate between two types of analogies that can be used as support.

Now that we’ve explained why support is important, let’s examine the various types of support that speakers often use within a speech: facts and statistics, definitions, examples, narratives, testimony, and analogies.



Facts and Statistics


As we discussed in Chapter 7 "Researching Your Speech", a fact is a truth that is arrived at through the scientific process. Speakers often support a point or specific purpose by citing facts that their audience may not know. A typical way to introduce a fact orally is “Did you know that…?”

Many of the facts that speakers cite are based on statistics. Statistics is the mathematical subfield that gathers, analyzes, and makes inferences about collected data. Data can come in a wide range of forms—the number of people who buy a certain magazine, the average number of telephone calls made in a month, the incidence of a certain disease. Though few people realize it, much of our daily lives are governed by statistics. Everything from seat-belt laws, to the food we eat, to the amount of money public schools receive, to the medications you are prescribed are based on the collection and interpretation of numerical data.

It is important to realize that a public speaking textbook cannot begin to cover statistics in depth. If you plan to do statistical research yourself, or gain an understanding of the intricacies of such research, we strongly recommend taking a basic class in statistics or quantitative research methods. These courses will better prepare you to understand the various statistics you will encounter.

However, even without a background in statistics, finding useful statistical information related to your topic is quite easy. Table 8.3 "Statistics-Oriented Websites" provides a list of some websites where you can find a range of statistical information that may be useful for your speeches.


Table 8.3 Statistics-Oriented Websites

Website

Type of Information

http://www.bls.gov/bls/other.htm

Bureau of Labor Statistics provides links to a range of websites for labor issues related to a vast range of countries.

http://www.fedstats.gov

Federal Stats provides information on the US federal government.

http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov

Bureau of Justice Statistics provides information on crime statistics in the United States.

http://www.census.gov

US Census Bureau provides a wide range of information about people living in the United States.

http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/datawh.htm

National Center for Health Statistics is a program conducted by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It provides information on a range of health issues in the United States.

http://www.stats.org

STATS is a nonprofit organization that helps people understand quantitative data. It also provides a range of data on its website.

http://www.ropercenter.uconn.edu

Roper Center for Public Opinion provides data related to a range of issues in the United States.

http://www.nielsen.com

Nielsen provides data on consumer use of various media forms.

http://www.gallup.com

Gallup provides public opinion data on a range of social and political issues in the United States and around the world.

http://www.adherents.com

Adherents provides both domestic and international data related to religious affiliation.

http://people-press.org

Pew Research Center provides public opinion data on a range of social and political issues in the United States and around the world.

Statistics are probably the most used—and misused—form of support in any type of speaking. People like numbers. People are impressed by numbers. However, most people do not know how to correctly interpret numbers. Unfortunately, there are many speakers who do not know how to interpret them either or who intentionally manipulate them to mislead their listeners. As the saying popularized by Mark Twain goes, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” [1]



To avoid misusing statistics when you speak in public, do three things. First, be honest with yourself and your audience. If you are distorting a statistic or leaving out other statistics that contradict your point, you are not living up to the level of honesty your audience is entitled to expect. Second, run a few basic calculations to see if a statistic is believable. Sometimes a source may contain a mistake—for example, a decimal point may be in the wrong place or a verbal expression like “increased by 50 percent” may conflict with data showing an increase of 100 percent. Third, evaluate sources (even those inTable 8.3 "Statistics-Oriented Websites", which are generally reputable) according to the criteria discussed earlier in the chapter: accuracy, authority, currency, and objectivity.

Definitions


Imagine that you gave a speech about the use of presidential veto and your audience did not know the meaning of the word “veto.” In order for your speech to be effective, you would need to define what a veto is and what it does. Making sure everyone is “on the same page” is a fundamental task of any communication. As speakers, we often need to clearly define what we are talking about to make sure that our audience understands our meaning. The goal of a definition is to help speakers communicate a word or idea in a manner that makes it understandable for their audiences. For the purposes of public speaking, there are four different types of definitions that may be used as support: lexical, persuasive, stipulative, and theoretical.


Lexical Definitions


lexical definition is one that specifically states how a word is used within a specific language. For example, if you go to Dictionary.com and type in the word “speech,” here is the lexical definition you will receive:

–noun

  1. the faculty or power of speaking; oral communication; ability to express one’s thoughts and emotions by speech sounds and gesture: Losing her speech made her feel isolated from humanity.

  2. the act of speaking: He expresses himself better in speech than in writing.

  3. something that is spoken; an utterance, remark, or declaration: We waited for some speech that would indicate her true feelings.

  4. a form of communication in spoken language, made by a speaker before an audience for a given purpose: a fiery speech.

  5. any single utterance of an actor in the course of a play, motion picture, etc.

  6. the form of utterance characteristic of a particular people or region; a language or dialect.

  7. manner of speaking, as of a person: Your slovenly speech is holding back your career.

  8. a field of study devoted to the theory and practice of oral communication.

Lexical definitions are useful when a word may be unfamiliar to an audience and you want to ensure that the audience has a basic understanding of the word. However, our ability to understand lexical definitions often hinges on our knowledge of other words that are used in the definition, so it is usually a good idea to follow a lexical definition with a clear explanation of what it means in your own words.

Persuasive Definitions


Persuasive definitions are designed to motivate an audience to think in a specific manner about the word or term. Political figures are often very good at defining terms in a way that are persuasive. Frank Luntz, a linguist and political strategist, is widely regarded as one of the most effective creators of persuasive definitions. [2] Luntz has the ability to take terms that people don’t like and repackage them into persuasive definitions that give the original term a much more positive feel. Here are some of Luntz’s more famous persuasive definitions:

  • Oil drilling → energy exploration

  • Estate tax → death tax

  • School vouchers → opportunity scholarships

  • Eavesdropping → electronic intercepts

  • Global warming → climate change

Luntz has essentially defined the terms in a new way that has a clear political bent and that may make the term more acceptable to some audiences, especially those who do not question the lexical meaning of the new term. For example, “oil drilling” may have negative connotations among citizens who are concerned about the environmental impact of drilling, whereas “energy exploration” may have much more positive connotations among the same group.

Stipulative Definitions


stipulative definition is a definition assigned to a word or term by the person who coins that word or term for the first time. In 1969, Laurence Peter and Raymond Hull wrote a book called The Peter Principle: Why Things Always Go Wrong. In this book, they defined the “Peter Principle” as “In a Hierarchy Every Employee Tends to Rise to His [sic] Level of Incompetence.” [3] Because Peter and Hull coined the term “Peter Principle,” it was up to them to define the term as they saw fit. You cannot argue with this definition; it simply is the definition that was stipulated.

Theoretical Definitions


Theoretical definitions are used to describe all parts related to a particular type of idea or object. Admittedly, these definitions are frequently ambiguous and difficult to fully comprehend. For example, if you attempted to define the word “peace” in a manner that could be used to describe all aspects of peace, then you would be using a theoretical definition. These definitions are considered theoretical because the definitions attempt to create an all-encompassing theory of the word itself.

In an interpersonal communication course, one of our coauthors asked a group of random people online to define the term “falling in love.” Here are some of the theoretical definitions they provided:



I think falling in love would be the act of feeling attracted to a person, with mutual respect given to each other, a strong desire to be close and near a person,…and more.

Being content with the person you are with and missing them every minute they are gone.

Um…falling in love is finding a guy with lots of credit cards and no balances owing.

Falling in love is when you take away the feeling, the passion, and the romance in a relationship and find out you still care for that person.

Meeting someone who makes your heart sing.

Skydiving for someone’s lips.

Definitions are important to provide clarity for your audience. Effective speakers strike a balance between using definitions where they are needed to increase audience understanding and leaving out definitions of terms that the audience is likely to know. For example, you may need to define what a “claw hammer” is when speaking to a group of Cub Scouts learning about basic tools, but you would appear foolish—or even condescending—if you defined it in a speech to a group of carpenters who use claw hammers every day. On the other hand, just assuming that others know the terms you are using can lead to ineffective communication as well. Medical doctors are often criticized for using technical terms while talking to their patients without taking time to define those terms. Patients may then walk away not really understanding what their health situation is or what needs to be done about it.



Examples


Another often-used type of support is examples. An example is a specific situation, problem, or story designed to help illustrate a principle, method, or phenomenon. Examples are useful because they can help make an abstract idea more concrete for an audience by providing a specific case. Let’s examine four common types of examples used as support: positive, negative, nonexamples, and best examples.

Positive Examples


positive example is used to clarify or clearly illustrate a principle, method, or phenomenon. A speaker discussing crisis management could talk about how a local politician handled herself when a local newspaper reported that her husband was having an affair or give an example of a professional baseball player who immediately came clean about steroid use. These examples would provide a positive model for how a corporation in the first instance, and an individual in the second instance, should behave in crisis management. The purpose of a positive example is to show a desirable solution, decision, or course of action.

Negative Examples


Negative examples, by contrast, are used to illustrate what not to do. On the same theme of crisis management, a speaker could discuss the lack of communication from Union Carbide during the 1984 tragedy in Bhopal, India, or the many problems with how the US government responded to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The purpose of a negative example is to show an undesirable solution, decision, or course of action.

Nonexamples


nonexample is used to explain what something is not. On the subject of crisis management, you might mention a press release for a new Adobe Acrobat software upgrade as an example of corporate communication that is not crisis management. The press release nonexample helps the audience differentiate between crisis management and other forms of corporate communication.

Best Examples


The final type of example is called the best example because it is held up as the “best” way someone should behave within a specific context. On the crisis management theme, a speaker could show a clip of an effective CEO speaking during a press conference to show how one should behave both verbally and nonverbally during a crisis. While positive examples show appropriate ways to behave, best examples illustrate the best way to behave in a specific context.

Although examples can be very effective at helping an audience to understand abstract or unfamiliar concepts, they do have one major drawback: some audience members may dismiss them as unusual cases that do not represent what happens most of the time. For example, some opponents of wearing seat belts claim that not wearing your seat belt can help you be thrown from a car and save you from fire or other hazards in the wrecked automobile. Even if a speaker has a specific example of an accident where this was true, many audience members would see this example as a rare case and thus not view it as strong support.

Simply finding an example to use, then, is not enough. An effective speaker needs to consider how the audience will respond to the example and how the example fits with what else the audience knows, as discussed under the heading of accuracy earlier in this chapter.

Narratives


A fourth form of support are narratives, or stories that help an audience understand the speaker’s message. Narratives are similar to examples except that narratives are generally longer and take on the form of a story with a clear arc (beginning, middle, and end). People like stories. In fact, narratives are so important that communication scholar Walter Fisher believes humans are innately storytelling animals, so appealing to people through stories is a great way to support one’s speech. [4]

However, you have an ethical responsibility as a speaker to clearly identify whether the narrative you are sharing is real or hypothetical. In 1981, Washington Post reporter Janet Cooke was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for her story of an eight-year-old heroin addict. [5]After acknowledging that her story was a fake, she lost her job and the prize was rescinded. [6] In 2009, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal gave a nationally televised speech where he recounted a story of his interaction with a local sheriff in getting help for Hurricane Katrina victims. His story was later found to be false; Jindal admitted that he had heard the sheriff tell the story after it happened but he had not really been present at the time. [7]



Obviously, we are advocating that you select narratives that are truthful when you use this form of support in a speech. Clella Jaffe explains that narratives are a fundamental part of public speaking and that narratives can be used for support in all three general purposes of speaking: informative, persuasive, and entertaining. [8]

Informative Narratives


Jaffe defines informative narratives as those that provide information or explanations about a speaker’s topic. [9] Informative narratives can help audiences understand nature and natural phenomena, for example. Often the most complicated science and mathematical issues in our world can be understood through the use of story. While many people may not know all the mathematics behind gravity, most of us have grown up with the story of how Sir Isaac Newton was hit on the head by an apple and developed the theory of gravity. Even if the story is not precisely accurate, it serves as a way to help people grasp the basic concept of gravity.

Persuasive Narratives


Persuasive narratives are stories used to persuade people to accept or reject a specific attitude, value, belief, or behavior. Religious texts are filled with persuasive narratives designed to teach followers various attitudes, values, beliefs, and behaviors. Parables or fables are designed to teach people basic lessons about life. For example, read the following fable from Aesop (http://www.aesopfables.com): “One winter a farmer found a snake stiff and frozen with cold. He had compassion on it, and taking it up, placed it in his bosom. The Snake was quickly revived by the warmth, and resuming its natural instincts, bit its benefactor, inflicting on him a mortal wound. ‘Oh,’ cried the Farmer with his last breath, ‘I am rightly served for pitying a scoundrel.’” This persuasive narrative is designed to warn people that just because you help someone in need doesn’t mean the other person will respond in kind.

Entertaining Narratives


Entertaining narratives are stories designed purely to delight an audience and transport them from their daily concerns. Some professional speakers make a very good career by telling their own stories of success or how they overcame life’s adversities. Comedians such as Jeff Foxworthy tell stories that are ostensibly about their own lives in a manner designed to make the audience laugh. While entertaining narratives may be a lot of fun, people should use them sparingly as support for a more serious topic or for a traditional informative or persuasive speech.

Testimony


Another form of support you may employ during a speech is testimony. When we use the word “testimony” in this text, we are specifically referring to expert opinion or direct accounts of witnesses to provide support for your speech. Notice that within this definition, we refer to both expert and eyewitness testimony.

Expert Testimony


Expert testimony accompanies the discussion we had earlier in this chapter related to what qualifies someone as an expert. In essence, expert testimony expresses the attitudes, values, beliefs, or behaviors recommended by someone who is an acknowledged expert on a topic. For example, imagine that you’re going to give a speech on why physical education should be mandatory for all grades K–12 in public schools. During the course of your research, you come across The Surgeon General’s Vision for a Fit and Healthy Nation (http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/obesityvision/obesityvision2010.pdf). You might decide to cite information from within the report written by US Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin about her strategies for combating the problem of childhood obesity within the United States. If so, you are using the words from Dr. Benjamin, as a noted expert on the subject, to support your speech’s basic premise. Her expertise is being used to give credibility to your claims.

Eyewitness Testimony


Eyewitness testimony, on the other hand, is given by someone who has direct contact with the phenomenon of your speech topic. Imagine that you are giving a speech on the effects of the 2010 “Deepwater Horizon” disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Perhaps one of your friends happened to be on a flight that passed over the Gulf of Mexico and the pilot pointed out where the platform was. You could tell your listeners about your friend’s testimony of what she saw as she was flying over the spill.

However, using eyewitness testimony as support can be a little tricky because you are relying on someone’s firsthand account, and firsthand accounts may not always be reliable. As such, you evaluate the credibility of your witness and the recency of the testimony.

To evaluate your witness’s credibility, you should first consider how you received the testimony. Did you ask the person for the testimony, or did he or she give you the information without being asked? Second, consider whether your witness has anything to gain from his or her testimony. Basically, you want to know that your witness isn’t biased.

Second, consider whether your witness’ account was recent or something that happened some time ago. With a situation like the BP oil spill, the date when the spill was seen from the air makes a big difference. If the witness saw the oil spill when the oil was still localized, he or she could not have seen the eventual scope of the disaster.

Overall, the more detail you can give about the witness and when the witness made his or her observation, the more useful that witness testimony will be when attempting to create a solid argument. However, never rely completely on eyewitness testimony because this form of support is not always the most reliable and may still be perceived as biased by a segment of your audience.


Analogies


An analogy is a figure of speech that compares two ideas or objects, showing how they are similar in some way. Analogies, for public speaking purposes, can also be based in logic. The logical notion of analogies starts with the idea that two ideas or objects are similar, and because of this similarity, the two ideas or objects must be similar in other ways as well. There are two different types of analogies that speakers can employ: figurative and literal.


Figurative Analogies


Figurative analogies compare two ideas or objects from two different classes. For the purposes of understanding analogies, a “class” refers to a group that has common attributes, characteristics, qualities, or traits. For example, you can compare a new airplane to an eagle. In this case, airplanes and eagles clearly are not the same type of objects. While both may have the ability to fly, airplanes are made by humans and eagles exist in nature.

Alternatively, you could attempt to compare ideas such as the struggle of The Church of Reality (http://www.churchofreality.org/wisdom/welcome_home/, a group that sees the use of marijuana as a religious sacrament) to the struggle of the civil rights movement. Is a church’s attempt to get marijuana legalized truly the same as the 1960s civil rights movement? Probably not, in most people’s view, as fighting for human rights is not typically seen as equivalent to being able to use a controlled substance.

Figurative analogies are innately problematic because people often hear them and immediately dismiss them as far-fetched. While figurative analogies may be very vivid and help a listener create a mental picture, they do not really help a listener determine the validity of the information being presented. Furthermore, speakers often overly rely on figurative analogies when they really don’t have any other solid evidence. Overall, while figurative analogies may be useful, we recommend solidifying them with other, more tangible support.

Literal Analogies


Literal analogies, on the other hand, compare two objects or ideas that clearly belong to the same class. The goal of the literal analogy is to demonstrate that the two objects or ideas are similar; therefore, they should have further similarities that support your argument. For example, maybe you’re giving a speech on a new fast-food brand that you think will be a great investment. You could easily compare that new fast-food brand to preexisting brands like McDonald’s, Subway, or Taco Bell. If you can show that the new start-up brand functions similarly to other brands, you can use that logic to suggest that the new brand will also have the same kind of success as the existing brands.

When using literal analogies related to ideas, make sure that the ideas are closely related and can be viewed as similar. For example, take the Church of Reality discussed in Section 8 "Expert Testimony". You could compare the Church of Reality’s use of marijuana to the Native American Church’s legal exemption to use peyote in its religious practices. In this instance, comparing two different religious groups’ use of illegal drugs and demonstrating that one has legal exemption supports the idea that the other should have an exemption, too.



As with figurative analogies, make sure that the audience can see a reasonable connection between the two ideas or objects being compared. If your audience sees your new fast-food brand as very different from McDonald’s or Subway, then they will not accept your analogy. You are basically asking your audience to confirm the logic of your comparison, so if they don’t see the comparison as valid, it won’t help to support your message.

KEY TAKEAWAYS


  • Speakers often use facts and statistics to reinforce or demonstrate information. Unfortunately, many speakers and audience members do not have a strong mathematical background, so it is important to understand the statistics used and communicate this information to the audience.

  • Speakers use definitions—which may be lexical, persuasive, stipulative, or theoretical—to clarify their messages. Lexical definitions state how a word is used within a given language. Persuasive definitions are devised to express a word or term in a specific persuasive manner. Stipulative definitions are created when a word or term is coined. Theoretical definitions attempt to describe all parts related to a particular type of idea or object.

  • Examples—positive, negative, non, and best—help the audience grasp a concept. Positive examples are used to clarify or clearly illustrate a principle, method, or phenomenon. Negative examples show how not to behave in a specific situation. Nonexamples are used to express what something is not. Best examples show the best way someone should behave in a situation.

  • Narratives can be used in all three general purposes of speaking: informative, persuasive, and entertaining. Informative narratives provide information or explanations about a speaker’s topic. Persuasive narratives are stories a speaker can use to get his or her audience to accept or reject a specific attitude, value, belief, or behavior. Entertaining narratives are stories that are designed purely to delight an audience. Speakers have an ethical obligation to let the audience know whether a narrative is true or hypothetical.

  • Expert testimony is an account given by someone who is a recognized expert on a given topic. Eyewitness testimony is an account given by an individual who has had firsthand experience with a specific phenomenon or idea. Explaining the context of the testimony is important so your audience can evaluate the likelihood that the testimony is accurate, current, and unbiased.

  • Analogies, both figurative and literal, can help audiences understand unfamiliar concepts. Figurative analogies compare two ideas or objects from two different classes. Conversely, literal analogies compare two objects or ideas that clearly belong to the same class. Speakers using analogies need to make sure that the audience will be able to see the similarity between the objects or ideas being compared.

EXERCISES


  1. Look at the speech you are currently preparing for your public speaking class. What types of support are you using? Could you enhance the credibility of your speech by using other types of support? If so, what types of support do you think you are lacking?

  2. Find and analyze a newspaper op-ed piece or letter to the editor that takes a position on an issue. Which types of support does the writer use? How effective and convincing do you think the use of support is? Why?

  3. You’ve been asked to give a speech on child labor within the United States. Provide a list of possible examples you could use in your speech. You should have one from each of the four categories: positive, negative, non, and best.

  4. Of the three types of narratives (informative, persuasive, and entertaining), which one would you recommend to a friend who is giving a sales presentation. Why?


8.3 Using Support and Creating Arguments




LEARNING OBJECTIVES


  1. Explain how to distinguish between useful and nonuseful forms of support.

  2. Understand the five ways support is used within a speech.

  3. Describe the purpose of a reverse outline.

  4. Clarify why it is important to use support for every claim made within a speech.

  5. Evaluate the three-step process for using support within a speech.

Supporting one’s ideas with a range of facts and statistics, definitions, examples, narratives, testimony, and analogies can make the difference between a boring speech your audience will soon forget and one that has a lasting effect on their lives.

Although the research process is designed to help you find effective support, you still need to think through how you will use the support you have accumulated. In this section, we will examine how to use support effectively in one’s speech, first by examining the types of support one needs in a speech and then by seeing how support can be used to enhance one’s argument.

Understanding Arguments


You may associate the word “argument” with a situation in which two people are having some kind of conflict. But in this context we are using a definition for the word argument that goes back to the ancient Greeks, who saw arguments as a set of logical premises leading to a clear conclusion. While we lack the time for an entire treatise on the nature and study of arguments, we do want to highlight some of the basic principles in argumentation.

First, all arguments are based on a series of statements that are divided into two basic categories: premises and conclusions. A premise is a statement that is designed to provide support or evidence, whereas the conclusion is a statement that can be clearly drawn from the provided premises. Let’s look at an example and then explain this in more detail:

Premise 1: Eating fast food has been linked to childhood obesity.

Premise 2: Childhood obesity is clearly linked to early onset type 2 diabetes, which can have many negative health ramifications.

Conclusion: Therefore, for children to avoid developing early onset type 2 diabetes, they must have their fast-food intake limited.

In this example, the first two statements are premises linking fast food to childhood obesity to diabetes. Once we’ve made this logical connection, we can then provide a logical conclusion that one important way of preventing type 2 diabetes is to limit, if not eliminate, fast food from children’s diets. While this may not necessary be a popular notion for many people, the argument itself is logically sound.

How, then, does this ultimately matter for you and your future public speaking endeavors? Well, a great deal of persuasive speaking is built on creating arguments that your listeners can understand and that will eventually influence their ideas or behaviors. In essence, creating strong arguments is a fundamental part of public speaking.

Now, in the example above, we are clearly missing one important part of the argument process—support or evidence. So far we have presented two premises that many people may believe, but we need support or evidence for those premises if we are going to persuade people who do not already believe those statements. As such, when creating logical arguments (unless you are a noted expert on a subject), you must provide support to ensure that your arguments will be seen as credible. And that is what we will discuss next.



Sifting Through Your Support


When researching a topic, you’re going to find a range of different types of supporting evidence. You may find examples of all six types of support: facts and statistics, definitions, examples, narratives, testimony, and analogies. Sooner or later, you are going to have to make some decisions as to which pieces of support you will use and which you won’t. While there is no one way to select your support, here are some helpful suggestions.

Use a Variety of Support Types


One of the most important parts of using support is variety. Nothing will kill a speech faster than if you use the same type of support over and over again. Try to use as much support as needed to make your point without going overboard. You might decide to begin with a couple of definitions and rely on a gripping piece of eyewitness testimony as your other major support. Or you might use a combination of facts, examples, and narratives. In another case, statistics and examples might be most effective. Audience members are likely to have different preferences for support; some may like statistics while others really find narratives compelling. By using a variety of forms of support, you are likely to appeal to a broader range of audience members and thus effectively adapt to your audience. Even if your audience members prefer a specific form of support, providing multiple types of support is important to keep them interested. To use an analogy, even people who love ice cream would get tired of it if they ate only ice cream every day for a week, so variety is important.

Choose Appropriate Forms of Support


Depending on the type of speech you are giving, your speech’s context, and your audience, different types of evidence may or may not be appropriate. While speeches using precise lexical definitions may be useful for the courtroom, they may not be useful in an after-dinner speech to entertain. At the same time, entertaining narratives may be great for a speech whose general purpose is to entertain, but may decrease a speaker’s credibility when attempting to persuade an audience about a serious topic.

Check for Relevance


Another consideration about potential support is whether or not it is relevant. Each piece of supporting material you select needs to support the specific purpose of your speech. You may find the coolest quotation, but if that quotation doesn’t really help your core argument in your speech, you need to leave it out. If you start using too many irrelevant support sources, your audience will quickly catch on and your credibility will drop through the floor.

Your support materials should be relevant not only to your topic but also to your audience. If you are giving a speech to an audience of sixty-year-olds, you may be able to begin with “Think back to where you were when you heard that President Kennedy had been shot,” but this would be meaningless with an audience of twenty-five-year-olds. Similarly, references to music download sites or the latest popular band may not be effective with audiences who are not interested in music.



Don’t Go Overboard


In addition to being relevant, supporting materials need to help you support your speech’s specific purpose without interfering with your speech. You may find three different sources that support your speech’s purpose in the same way. If that happens, you shouldn’t include all three forms of support. Instead, pick the form of support that is the most beneficial for your speech. Remember, the goal is to support your speech, not to have the support become your speech.

Don’t Manipulate Your Support


The last factor related to shifting through your support involves a very important ethical area called support-manipulation. Often speakers will attempt to find support that says exactly what they want it to say despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of evidence says the exact opposite. When you go out of your way to pull the wool over your audience’s eyes, you are being unethical and not treating your audience with respect. Here are some very important guidelines to consider to avoiding support-manipulation:

  • Do not overlook significant factors or individuals related to your topic.

  • Do not ignore evidence that does not support your speech’s specific purpose.

  • Do not jump to conclusions that are simply not justified based on the supporting evidence you have.

  • Do not use evidence to support faulty logic.

  • Do not use out-of-date evidence that is no longer supported.

  • Do not use evidence out of its original context.

  • Do not knowingly use evidence from a source that is clearly biased.

  • Make sure you clearly cite all your supporting evidence within your speech.


Using Support within Your Speech


Now that we’ve described ways to sift through your evidence, it’s important to discuss how to use your evidence within your speech. In the previous sections of this chapter, we’ve talked about the various types of support you can use (facts and statistics, definitions, examples, narratives, testimonies, and analogies). In this section, we’re going to examine how these types of evidence are actually used within a speech. Then we will discuss ways to think through the support you need for a speech and also how to actually use support while speaking.

Forms of Speech Support


Let’s begin by examining the forms that support can take in a speech: quotations, paraphrases, summaries, numerical support, and pictographic support.

Quotations


The first common form of support utilized in a speech is direct quotation.Direct quotations occur when Speaker A uses the exact wording by another speaker or writer within his or her new speech. Quotations are very helpful and can definitely provide you a tool for supporting your speech’s specific purpose. Here are five tips for using quotations within a speech:

  1. Use a direct quotation if the original author’s words are witty, engaging, distinct, or particularly vivid.

  2. Use a direct quotation if you want to highlight a specific expert and his or her expertise within your speech.

  3. Use a direct quotation if you are going to specifically analyze something that is said within the quotation. If your analysis depends on the exact wording of the quotation, then it is important to use the quotation.

  4. Keep quotations to a minimum. One of the biggest mistakes some speakers make is just stringing together a series of quotations and calling it a speech. Remember, a speech is your unique insight into a topic, not just a series of quotations.

  5. Keep quotations short. Long quotations can lose an audience, and the connection between your support and your argument can get lost.



Paraphrases


The second form support takes on during a speech is paraphrasing. Paraphrasing involves taking the general idea or theme from another speaker or author and condensing the idea or theme in your own words. As we described in Chapter 7 "Researching Your Speech", a mistake that some speakers make is dropping a couple of words or rearranging some words within a direct quotation and thinking that is a paraphrase. When paraphrasing you need to understand the other speaker or author’s ideas well enough to relate them without looking back at the original. Here are four tips for using paraphrases in your speeches:

  1. Paraphrase when you can say it more concisely than the original speaker or author.

  2. Paraphrase when the exact wording from the original speaker or author won’t improve your audience’s understanding of the support.

  3. Paraphrase when you want to adapt an example, analogy, or narrative by another speaker or author to make its relevance more evident.

  4. Paraphrase information that is not likely to be questioned by your audience. If you think your audience may question your support, then relying on a direct quotation may be more effective.



Summaries


Whereas quotations and paraphrases are taking a whole text and singling out a couple of lines or a section, a summary involves condensing or encapsulating the entire text as a form of support. Summaries are helpful when you want to clearly spell out the intent behind a speaker’s or author’s text. Here are three suggestions for using summaries within your speech.

  1. Summarize when you need another speaker or author’s complete argument to understand the argument within your speech.

  2. Summarize when explaining possible counterarguments to the one posed within your speech.

  3. Summarize when you need to cite a number of different sources effectively and efficiently to support a specific argument.

Numerical Support


Speakers often have a need to use numerical support, or citing data and numbers within a speech. The most common reason for using numerical support comes when a speaker needs to cite statistics. When using data to support your speech, you need to make sure that your audience can accurately interpret the numbers in the same way you are doing. Here are three tips for using numerical support:

  1. Clearly state the numbers used and where they came from.

  2. Make sure you explain what the numbers mean and how you think they should be interpreted.

  3. If the numbers are overly complicated or if you use a variety of numbers within a speech, consider turning this support into a visual aid to enhance your audience’s understanding of the numerical support.



Pictographic Support


The last form of support commonly used in speeches we label pictographic support, but it is more commonly referred to as visual aids. Pictographic support is any drawn or visual representation of an object or process. For the purposes of this chapter, we call visual aids pictographic support in order to stress that we are using images as a form of support taken from a source. For example, if you’re giving a speech on how to swing a golf club, you could bring in a golf club and demonstrate exactly how to use the golf club. While the golf club in this instance is a visual aid, it is not pictographic support. If you showed a diagram illustrating the steps for an effective golf swing, the diagram is an example of pictographic support. So while all forms of pictographic support are visual aids, not all visual aids are pictographic support. Here are five suggestions for effectively using pictographic support in your speech.

  1. Use pictographic support when it would be easier and shorter than orally explaining an object or process.

  2. Use pictographic support when you really want to emphasize the importance of the support. Audiences recall information more readily when they both see and hear it than if they see or hear the information.

  3. Make sure that pictographic support is aesthetically pleasing. See Chapter 15 "Presentation Aids: Design and Usage" on using visual aids for more ideas on how to make visual aids aesthetically pleasing.

  4. Pictographic support should be easy to understand, and it should take less time to use than words alone.

  5. Make sure everyone in your audience can easily see your pictographic support. If listeners cannot see it, then it will not help them understand how it is supposed to help your speech’s specific purpose.



Is Your Support Adequate?


Now that we’ve examined the ways to use support in your speech, how do you know if you have enough support?

Use a Reverse Outline


One recommendation we have for selecting the appropriate support for your speech is what we call a reverse outline. A reverse outline is a tool you can use to determine the adequacy of your speech’s support by starting with your conclusion and logically working backward through your speech to determine if the support you provided is appropriate and comprehensive. In essence, we recommend that you think of your speech in terms of the conclusion first and then work your way backward showing how you get to the conclusion. By forcing yourself to think about logic in reverse, you’re more likely to find missteps along the way. This technique is not only helpful for analyzing the overall flow of your speech, but it can also let you see if different sections of your speech are not completely supported individually.

Support Your Claims


When selecting the different types of support for your speech, you need to make sure that every claim you make within the speech can be supported within the speech. For example, if you state, “The majority of Americans want immigration reform,” you need to make sure that you have a source that actually says this. As noted at the beginning of this chapter, too often people make claims within a speech that they have no support for whatsoever. When you go through your speech, you need to make sure that each and every claim that you make is adequately supported by the evidence you have selected to use within the speech.

Oral Presentation


Finally, after you have selected and evaluated your forms of support, it is time to plan how you will present your support orally within your speech. How will you present the information to make it effective? To help you think about using support, we recommend a three-step process: setup, execution, and analysis.

Setup


The first step in using support within a speech is what we call the setup. The setup is a sentence or phrase in which you explain to your audience where the information you are using came from. Note that if you found the information on a website, it is not sufficient to merely give your audience the URL. Depending on the source of your support, all the following information could be useful: name of source, location of source, date of source, name of author, and identification of author. First, you need to tell your audience the name of your source. Whether you are using a song or an article from a magazine, you need to tell your audience the name of the person who wrote it and its title. Second, if your source comes from a larger work, you need to include the location of the source. For example, a single article (name of source) may come from a magazine (the location). Third, you need to specify the date of the source. Depending on the type of source you are using, you may need to provide just a year or the day and month as well. You should provide as much information on the date as is provided on the copyright information page of the source.

Thus far we’ve talked only about the information you need to provide specifically about the source; let’s now switch gears and talk about the author. When discussing the author, you need to clearly explain not only who the author is but also why the author is an expert (if appropriate). Some sources are written by authors who are not experts, so you really don’t need to explain their expertise. In other cases, your audience will already know why the source is an expert, so there is less need to explain why the source is an expert. For example, if giving a speech on current politics in the United States, you probably do not need to explain the expertise of Barack Obama or John Boehner. However, when you don’t provide information on an author’s expertise and your audience does not already know why the source is an expert, your audience will question the validity of your support.



Now that we’ve explained the basic information necessary for using support within a speech, here are two different examples:

  1. According to Melanie Smithfield in an article titled “Do It Right, or Do It Now,” published in the June 18, 2009, issue of Time Magazine

  2. According to Roland Smith, a legendary civil rights activist and former chair of the Civil Rights Defense League, in his 2001 book The Path of Peace

In the first example we have an author who wrote an article in a magazine, and in the second one we have an author of a book. In both cases, we provided the information that was necessary to understand where the source was located. The more information we can provide our audiences about our support, the more information our audiences have to evaluate the strength of our arguments.

Execution


Once we have set up the support, the second part of using support is what we call execution. The execution of support involves actually reading a quotation, paraphrasing a speaker or author’s words, summarizing a speaker or author’s ideas, providing numerical support, or showing pictographic support. Effective execution should be seamless and flow easily within the context of your speech. While you want your evidence to make an impact, you also don’t want it to seem overly disjointed. One mistake that some novice public speakers make is that when they start providing evidence, their whole performance changes and the use of evidence looks and sounds awkward. Make sure you practice the execution of your evidence when you rehearse your speech.

Analysis


The final stage of using support effectively is the one which many speakers forget:analysis of the support. Too often speakers use support without ever explaining to an audience how they should interpret it. While we don’t want to “talk down” to our listeners, audiences often need to be shown the connection between the support provided and the argument made. Here are three basic steps you can take to ensure your audience will make the connection between your support and your argument:

  1. Summarize the support in your own words (unless you started with a summary).

  2. Specifically tell your audience how the support relates to the argument.

  3. Draw a sensible conclusion based on your support. We cannot leave an audience hanging, so drawing a conclusion helps complete the support package.



KEY TAKEAWAYS


  • Systematically think through the support you have accumulated through your research. Examine the accumulated support to ensure that a variety of forms of support are used. Choose appropriate forms of support depending on the speech context or audience. Make sure all the support is relevant to the specific purpose of your speech and to your audience. Don’t go overboard using so much support that the audience is overwhelmed. Lastly, don’t manipulate supporting materials.

  • Speakers ultimately turn support materials into one of five formats. Quotations are used to take another speaker or author’s ideas and relay them verbatim. Paraphrases take a small portion of a source and use one’s own words to simplify and clarify the central idea. Summaries are used to condense an entire source into a short explanation of the source’s central idea. Numerical support is used to quantify information from a source. Pictographic support helps audience members both see and hear the idea being expressed by a source.

  • Use a reverse outline to ensure that all the main ideas are thoroughly supported. Start with the basic conclusion and then work backward to ensure that the argument is supported at every point of the speech.

  • Every claim within a speech should be supported. While some experts can get away with not supporting every claim, nonexperts must show they have done their homework.

  • To present support in a speech, use a three-step process: setup, execution, and analysis. The setup explains who the speaker or author is and provides the name of the source and other relevant bibliographic information to the audience. The execution is the actual delivery of the support. Lastly, a speaker needs to provide analysis explaining how an audience should interpret the support provided.

EXERCISES


  1. Choose and analyze a speech from the top one hundred speeches given during the twentieth century (http://www.americanrhetoric.com/top100speechesall.html). How does this speaker go through the three-step process for using support?

  2. Think about your upcoming speech and audience. What forms of support could you use to enhance your speech? Why did you select those options? Could you use other options?

  3. As you prepare your next speech, script out how you will use the three-step process for ensuring that all your support is used effectively.


8.4 Chapter Exercises




SPEAKING ETHICALLY


While preparing a speech on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Aban runs across a website that has a lot of useful information. The website has numerous articles and links that all discuss the importance of the different functions of the DHS. Being a good speaker, Aban delves into the website to determine the credibility of the information being provided.

Aban quickly realizes that the group sponsoring the website is a fringe-militia group that believes no immigrants should be allowed into the United States. While the information Aban is interested has nothing to do with immigration, he wonders if all the information provided on the website has been distorted to support the organization’s basic cause.



  1. Should Aban use the useful information about DHS even though the other information on the website is from an extremist group?

  2. Are all sources on the extremist group’s website automatically suspect because of the group’s stated anti-immigration stance?

  3. Is it ethical for Aban to use any of the information from this website?

  4. If Aban was a friend of yours and he showed you the website, how would you tell him to proceed?

END-OF-CHAPTER ASSESSMENT


  1. Which of the following is not a potential source of bias that a speaker or author may have? A. organizations to which the speaker or author belongs B. political affiliations of the speaker or author C. financial interests of the speaker or author D. information that is widely cited and supported by other sources E. information that is only found on the speaker’s or author’s website

  1. During a speech, Juanita says the following: “In his book The Dilbert Principle, Scott Adams defines the Dilbert principle as the idea ‘that companies tend to systematically promote their least-competent employees to management (generally middle management), in order to limit the amount of damage they are capable of doing.’” What type of definition is Juanita using? A. lexical B. persuasive C. précising D. stipulative E. theoretical

  1. Edward was delivering a speech on using the Internet for job hunting. In his speech he uses the example of his friend Barry, who was able to network using LinkedIn and other social networking sites to find his dream job. What type of example has Edward used? A. positive B. negative C. non D. circular E. best

  1. Which of the following is not a potential form of support manipulation? A. overlooking significant factors or individuals related to your topic B. ignoring evidence that does not support your speech’s specific purpose C. using evidence in its original context D. using evidence to support faulty logic E. using evidence from clearly biased sources

  1. During her speech about rodents, Anna shows a series of slides explaining the lifecycle of chipmunks. What form of support has Anna used within her speech? A. pictographic B. quotation C. paraphrase D. numerical E. summary

ANSWER KEY


  1. d

  2. d

  3. e

  4. c

  5. a



Chapter 9

Introductions Matter: How to Begin a Speech Effectively
One of the most common complaints novice public speakers have is that they simply don’t know how to start a speech. Many times speakers get ideas for how to begin their speeches as they go through the process of researching and organizing ideas. In this chapter, we will explore why introductions are important and various ways speakers can create memorable introductions. There may not be any one “best” way to start a speech, but we can provide some helpful guidelines that will make starting a speech much easier.


9.1 The Importance of an Introduction




LEARNING OBJECTIVES


  1. Explain the general length of an introduction.

  2. List and explain the five basic functions of an introduction.

  3. Understand how to use three factors of credibility in an introduction.

The introduction for a speech is generally only 10 to 15 percent of the entire time the speaker will spend speaking. This means that if your speech is to be five minutes long, your introduction should be no more than forty-five seconds. If your speech is to be ten minutes long, then your introduction should be no more than a minute and a half. Unfortunately, that 10 to 15 percent of your speech can either make your audience interested in what you have to say or cause them to tune out before you’ve really gotten started. Overall, a good introduction should serve five functions. Let’s examine each of these.



Gain Audience Attention and Interest


The first major purpose of an introduction is to gain your audience’s attention and make them interested in what you have to say. One of the biggest mistakes that novice speakers make is to assume that people will naturally listen because the speaker is speaking. While many audiences may be polite and not talk while you’re speaking, actually getting them to listen to what you are saying is a completely different challenge. Let’s face it—we’ve all tuned someone out at some point because we weren’t interested in what they had to say. If you do not get the audience’s attention at the outset, it will only become more difficult to do so as you continue speaking. We’ll talk about some strategies for grabbing an audience’s attention later on in this chapter.


State the Purpose of Your Speech


The second major function of an introduction is to reveal the purpose of your speech to your audience. Have you ever sat through a speech wondering what the basic point was? Have you ever come away after a speech and had no idea what the speaker was talking about? An introduction is important because it forces the speaker to be mindfully aware of explaining the topic of the speech to the audience. If the speaker doesn’t know what her or his topic is and cannot convey that topic to the audience, then we’ve got really big problems! Robert Cavett, the founder of the National Speaker’s Association, used the analogy of a preacher giving a sermon when he noted, “When it’s foggy in the pulpit, it’s cloudy in the pews.”

As we discussed in Chapter 6 "Finding a Purpose and Selecting a Topic", the specific purpose is the one idea you want your audience to remember when you are finished with your speech. Your specific purpose is the rudder that guides your research, organization, and development of main points. The more clearly focused your purpose is, the easier your task will be in developing your speech. In addition, a clear purpose provides the audience with a single, simple idea to remember even if they daydream during the body of your speech. To develop a specific purpose, you should complete the following sentence: “I want my audience to understand that…” Notice that your specific speech purpose is phrased in terms of expected audience responses, not in terms of your own perspective.



Establish Credibility


One of the most researched areas within the field of communication has been Aristotle’s concept of ethos or credibility. First, and foremost, the concept of credibility must be understood as a perception of receivers. You may be the most competent, caring, and trustworthy speaker in the world on a given topic, but if your audience does not perceive you as credible, then your expertise and passion will not matter. As public speakers, we need to make sure that we explain to our audiences why we are credible speakers on a given topic.

James C. McCroskey and Jason J. Teven have conducted extensive research on credibility and have determined that an individual’s credibility is composed of three factors: competence, trustworthiness, and caring/goodwill. [1] Competence is the degree to which a speaker is perceived to be knowledgeable or expert in a given subject by an audience member. Some individuals are given expert status because of positions they hold in society. For example, Dr. Regina Benjamin, the US Surgeon General, is expected to be competent in matters related to health and wellness as a result of being the United States’ top physician.

But what if you do not possess a fancy title that lends itself to established competence? You need to explain to the audience why you are competent to speak on your topic. Keep in mind that even well-known speakers are not perceived as universally credible. US Surgeon General Regina Benjamin may be seen as competent on health and wellness issues, but may not be seen as a competent speaker on trends in Latin American music or different ways to cook summer squash. Like well-known speakers, you will need to establish your credibility on each topic you address, so establishing your competence about the energy efficiency of furnace systems during your informative speech does not automatically mean you will be seen as competent on the topic of organ donation for your persuasive speech.

The second factor of credibility noted by McCroskey and Teven is trustworthiness, or the degree to which an audience member perceives a speaker as honest. Nothing will turn an audience against a speaker faster than if the audience believes the speaker is lying. When an audience does not perceive a speaker as trustworthy, the information coming out of the speaker’s mouth is automatically perceived as deceitful. The speaker could be 100 percent honest, but the audience will still find the information suspect. For example, in the summer of 2009, many Democratic members of Congress attempted to hold public town-hall meetings about health care. For a range of reasons, many of the people who attended these town-hall meetings refused to let their elected officials actually speak because the audiences were convinced that the Congressmen and Congresswomen were lying.

In these situations, where a speaker is in front of a very hostile audience, there is little a speaker can do to reestablish that sense of trustworthiness. These public town-hall meetings became screaming matches between the riled-up audiences and the congressional representatives. Some police departments actually ended up having to escort the representatives from the buildings because they feared for their safety. Check out this video from CNN.com to see what some of these events actually looked like:http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/bestoftv/2009/08/07/ldt.sylvester.town.hall.cnn?iref=videosearch. We hope that you will not be in physical danger when you speak to your classmates or in other settings, but these incidents serve to underscore how important speaker trustworthiness is across speaking contexts.

Caring/goodwill is the final factor of credibility noted by McCroskey and Teven.Caring/goodwill refers to the degree to which an audience member perceives a speaker as caring about the audience member. As noted by Wrench, McCroskey, and Richmond, “If a receiver does not believe that a source has the best intentions in mind for the receiver, the receiver will not see the source as credible. Simply put, we are going to listen to people who we think truly care for us and are looking out for our welfare.” [2] As a speaker, then, you need to establish that your information is being presented because you care about your audience and are not just trying to manipulate them. We should note that research has indicated that caring/goodwill is the most important factor of credibility. This means that if an audience believes that a speaker truly cares about the audience’s best interests, the audience may overlook some competence and trust issues.



Provide Reasons to Listen


The fourth major function of an introduction is to establish a connection between the speaker and the audience, and one of the most effective means of establishing a connection with your audience is to provide them with reasons why they should listen to your speech. The idea of establishing a connection is an extension of the notion of caring/goodwill. In the chapters on Language and Speech Delivery, we’ll spend a lot more time talking about how you can establish a good relationship with your audience. However, this relationship starts the moment you step to the front of the room to start speaking.

Instead of assuming the audience will make their own connections to your material, you should explicitly state how your information might be useful to your audience. Tell them directly how they might use your information themselves. It is not enough for you alone to be interested in your topic. You need to build a bridge to the audience by explicitly connecting your topic to their possible needs.



Preview Main Ideas


The last major function of an introduction is to preview the main ideas that your speech will discuss. A preview establishes the direction your speech will take. We sometimes call this process signposting because you’re establishing signs for audience members to look for while you’re speaking. In the most basic speech format, speakers generally have three to five major points they plan on making. During the preview, a speaker outlines what these points will be, which demonstrates to the audience that the speaker is organized.

A study by Baker found that individuals who were unorganized while speaking were perceived as less credible than those individuals who were organized. [3] Having a solid preview of the information contained within one’s speech and then following that preview will definitely help a speaker’s credibility. It also helps your audience keep track of where you are if they momentarily daydream or get distracted.



KEY TAKEAWAYS


  • Introductions are only 10–15 percent of one’s speech, so speakers need to make sure they think through the entire introduction to ensure that they will capture an audience. During an introduction, speakers attempt to impart the general and specific purpose of a speech while making their audience members interested in the speech topic, establishing their own credibility, and providing the audience with a preview of the speech structure.

  • A speaker’s perceived credibility is a combination of competence, trustworthiness, and caring/goodwill. Research has shown that caring/goodwill is probably the most important factor of credibility because audiences want to know that a speaker has their best interests at heart. At the same time, speakers should strive to be both competent and honest while speaking.

EXERCISES


  1. What are the five basic functions of an introduction? Discuss with your classmates which purpose you think is the most important. Why?

  2. Why is establishing a relationship with one’s audience important? How do you plan on establishing a relationship with your audience during your next speech?

  3. Of the three factors of credibility, which do you think is going to be hardest to establish with your peers during your next speech? Why? What can you do to enhance your peers’ perception of your credibility?


9.2 The Attention-Getter: The First Step of an Introduction




LEARNING OBJECTIVES


  1. Understand the different tools speakers can use to gain their audience’s attention.

  2. Name some common mistakes speakers make in trying to gain attention.

As you know by now, a good introduction will capture an audience’s attention, while a bad introduction can turn an audience against a speaker. An attention-getter is the device a speaker uses at the beginning of a speech to capture an audience’s interest and make them interested in the speech’s topic. Typically, there are four things to consider in choosing a specific attention-getting device:



  1. Appropriateness or relevance to audience

  2. Purpose of speech

  3. Topic

  4. Occasion

First, when selecting an attention-getting device, you want to make sure that the option you choose is actually appropriate and relevant to your specific audience. Different audiences will have different backgrounds and knowledge, so you should use your audience analysis to determine whether specific information you plan on using would be appropriate for a specific audience. For example, if you’re giving a speech on family units to a group of individuals over the age of sixty-five, starting your speech with a reference to the television show Gossip Girl may not be the best idea because the television show may not be relevant to that audience.

Second, you need to consider the basic purpose of your speech. As discussed earlier in this text, there are three basic purposes you can have for giving a speech: to inform, to persuade, and to entertain. When selecting an attention-getter, you want to make sure that you select one that corresponds with your basic purpose. If your goal is to entertain an audience, then starting a speech with a quotation about how many people are dying in Africa each day from malnutrition may not be the best way to get your audience’s attention. Remember, one of the basic goals of an introduction is to prepare your audience for your speech. If your attention-getter differs drastically in tone from the rest of your speech (e.g., dying in Africa when you want your audience to laugh), the disjointedness may cause your audience to become confused or tune you out completely.

Your third basic consideration when picking an attention-getting device is your speech topic. Ideally, your attention-getting device should have a relevant connection to your speech. Imagine if a speaker pulled condoms out of his pocket, yelled “Free sex!” and threw the condoms at the audience in the beginning of a speech about the economy. While this may clearly get the audience’s attention, this isn’t really a good way to prepare an audience for a speech about bull and bear markets. Not every attention-getter is appropriate for a given topic. Instead, a speaker could start this speech by explaining that “according to a 2004 episode of 60 Minutes, adults in the United States spend approximately $10 billion annually on adult entertainment, which is roughly the equivalent to the amounts they spend attending professional sporting events, buying music, or going out to the movies.” [1] Notice how effective the shocking statistic is in clearly introducing the monetary value of the adult entertainment industry.

The last consideration when picking an attention-getting device involves the speech occasion. Different occasions will necessitate different tones, or particular styles or manners of speaking. For example, a persuasive speech about death and dying shouldn’t be happy and hilarious. An informative speech on the benefits of laughing shouldn’t be dull, dreary, and depressing. When selecting an attention-getter, you want to make sure that the attention-getter sets the tone for the speech.

Now that we’ve explored the four major considerations you must think of when selecting an attention-getter, let’s look at a range of different attention-getters you may employ. Miller (1946) [2] discovered that speakers tend to use one of eleven attention-getting devices when starting a speech. The rest of this section is going to examine these eleven attention-getting devices.



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