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.

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