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Thursday, November 6, 2008

Distinctive Features of Public Speaking (Response)

The response to a speech is what happens during and as a result of the speech. Of course you hope that your speeches are well received and that they will affect the lives of your listeners favorably. But whether they achieve that result depends a great deal on what happens during the speech. One of the things that make public speaking dynamic is its interactive quality. While you are speaking, listeners are responding. As they respond, so should you. This makes a speech an interaction in which listeners and speakers constantly adjust to each other. These on-the-spot adjustments lend an unpredictable quality to public speaking that can make it an interesting and exciting form of communication. Note the adjustment that one of our speakers made during a speech on the dangers of global warming;

Some of you are frowning, and I can hardly blame you. This is really hard to believe. But let me quote to you the words of Time magazine in a recent survey of all these scientific discoveries: “Except for unclear war or a collision with an asteroid, no force has more potential to damage our planet’s wed of life than global warming.” Yeah. I know. Tough words. Maybe an exaggeration. But I don’t think so. And I don’t think we can afford to ignore the threat, hoping it will be untrue or that it might just go away.

Although somewhat unpredictable, public speaking is also prepared, and this student was ready for such a possible response to his speech.

The technical term for the response listeners make during a speech is feedback. Feedback is important because it can improve the quality of communication. It can alert you to problems, signaling that some listeners railed to understand the point you just made, or that others are drifting away, or that still others may want more proof before they are willing to grant your point. Therefore, a good speaker will constantly monitor feedback so that she or he can make adaptations to make the speech more effective.

Distinctive Features of Public Speaking (Interference)

Interference can enter at any point in the process to disrupt the effectiveness of communication. Interference, which we discuss further in Chapter 3, can range from physical noise that impedes the hearing of a speech, such as a plane flying over the building, to psychological “noise” within speakers and listeners that prevents them from connecting.

Three forms of interference are especially troubling. The first is speaker apprehension. Fear is an understandable reaction to public speaking experiences. The situation may seem strange, and speakers may feel exposed and vulnerable. Listeners may seem distant, unfriendly, or threatening. Beginning speakers will learn to control their fears and to convert them into positive energy that adds sparkle and power to a speech. But at the outset, these feelings can interfere with effective communication.

A second form of interference is listener distraction, which imposes a barrier between an audience and a message. Listeners may decide that a topic really doesn’t concern them and lapse into daydreams. They may be distracted by worries over an upcoming test or dreams about the weekend ahead. Limitations in the physical setting, such as poor acoustics or a noisy environment can add to the distraction. Listener apprehension, the counterpart of speaker apprehension, can further compound the problem. We discuss such fear of listening in Chapter 3. The result of all these factors is psychological drift away from the speech. The message never really reaches the listener, and there is no true response to the speech.

A third important form of interference is cultural barriers. People from different backgrounds can view each other suspiciously. Speakers may prejudge how certain listeners will respond to their words and as a result make poor adaptations that listeners resent. Listeners may fear hidden agendas and close their minds to the speaker’s words. Stereotypes about race, gender, lifestyle, religion, nationality, and so forth can clutter our heads with prejudice that blocks the fair reception and interpretation of messages. The result is psychological distance and misunderstanding-the opposite of what speakers hope to achieve.

Distinctive Features of Public Speaking (Consequences)

Successful speeches obviously have impact. As a result of them, listeners learn, decide to change their minds or to take action, or join in celebrating the meaning of exemplary lives. Moreover, if we could see the communication process at work in a speech, we might also see the identities of speakers and listeners coming into or out of focus of communication or show those same people growing larger or smaller. These effects would all represent the consequences of public speaking, especially the ethical impact of public speaking as transactional and transformational communication.

Transactional communication suggests that successful communication goes beyond personal achievement and the sharing of vital information, ideas, and advice. It implies the sharing and sharing of sieves. In the introduction to Bridges Nor Walls, John Stewart, an interpersonal communication scholar, notes: “Every time persons communicate, they are continually offering definitions of themselves and responding to definitions of the other(s)......” therefore, Stewart suggests, communication is an ongoing transaction “in which who we are.......emerges out of the event itself.” We agree: public speaking is often a self-creative event in which we discover ourselves as we communicate with others.

This may seem like a mystical idea, but in large social movements when many speeches work together over time to create the identities of speakers and audiences, the transactional effects can be quite obvious. Consider what happened during the civil right movement from 1956 to 1965, when it was led by Martin Luther King Jr. During those years, King repeatedly identified himself with the biblical Moses. He spoke as though he had been destined and commanded by God to lead his followers out of semislavery. His followers, accordingly many of whom had suffered from the degrading identities assigned to them in the land of segregation, were redefined by his rhetoric as the “Children of Israe!.” Through the many battlefields of the civil rights movement where they moving toward a Promised Land. King was still offering visions of that land on the night before he was assassinated.

The example illustrates not only transactional but transformational communication as well. The figure of King grew and expanded into epic proportions as his leadership emerged. His followers were transformed into heroic figures as they marched through one ordeal after another. These transformations indicate how people can grow and develop when they interact in ethical communication. On the other hand, deceitful and dishonest communication will thwart the process of spiritual growth.


Supporting Materials and Critical Thinking

The materials used to support a speaker’s ideas. The skillful use of Supporting Materials often makes the difference between a poor speech and a good one. It is also closely related to Critical Thinking. Using supporting materials is not a matter of haphazardly tossing facts and figures into your speech. You must decide which ideas need to be supported, give your audience, topics and specific purpose. You must to research to find materials that will being your ideas across clearly and creatively. And you must evaluate your supporting materials to make sure they really do back up your ideas.

As you put your speeches together, you will need to make sure your supporting materials are accurate, relevant, and reliable. You will find yourself asking questions such as “Are my example representative?” “Am I using statistical measures correctly?” “Am I quoting reputable, qualified sources?” Assessing the supporting materials in your speech – as well as in your speech of your classmates—is yet another way in which critical thinking is part of public speaking.

Now we focus on the basic kind of supporting materials – example, statistics, and testimony – and on general principle for using them effectively and responsibly.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Supporting Materials (Example)

A specific case used to illustrate or represent a group of people, ideas, conditions, experiences, or the like.

Across from a small, grassy park dedicated to Greek and Irish immigrants, Joe Cogliano, whose grandparents were Italian, sells mangoes to Hispanic customers from the back of his truck. Children play tag while chattering in Spanish on O’Brien Terrace, part of the housing project built in 1939 for Irish laborers. The pungent odor of Vietnamese fish sauce fills a Southeast Asia restaurant where Giavis’ Greek Grocery once thrived for more than 70 years.

These were the opening lines of an article in Time Magazine about the interaction of cultures in Lowell, Massachusetts. It illustrates a device well known to magazine writes – and speech makers: get the audience involved.

See how skillfully this example accomplishes the goal.It begins by focusing attention on a particular person (Joe Cogliano). It then provides details of time and place that set the scene vividly before our eyes. We almost feel ourselves there in Lowell buying mangoes from the back of Cogliano’s truck, listening to the sound of children, smelling the Vietnamese fish sauce. We would not be nearly as involved if the article had merely said, “Many cultural groups interact in Lowell on a daily basis.” The example something in us that no generalization can.

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