Public speaking is much more than just “standing up and saying a few words.” Any audience has certain expectations that they hope will be met by the speaker, regardless of the occasion. They want you to be clear, interesting, and tell them something they don’t know yet. 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, must have an opening, a body, and a conclusion. It should be clear to your audience what you are trying to say. If they can’t tell where you’re going after a minute or two of your speech, they’ll log out.

Let’s take a closer look at the four basic types of speech:

Speech to persuadeEvery day we are constantly exposed to attempts to persuade us to do one thing and not do another. TV commercials, political ads, salespeople, spouses and relatives, bosses and co-workers try to convince us to follow their particular proposition. Because of this, the public tends to be a bit secretive about their attempts to persuade you. People have become cautious.

Your main purpose in a persuasive speech is to influence the thinking or behavior of your audience. For your audience to be willing to listen to you, they must like, respect, and trust you. They need to be able to identify with 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 type that you will hear from others. Its purpose is to teach your audience something new or expand your existing knowledge. It can 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 may be explaining a new management system in place. 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 who had that 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 in one of several ways, personally, emotionally, professionally, or spiritually. Inspirational speaker refers more to emotional appeal than logical appeal. You are trying to connect with the feelings of the individual listener. Explain why and how the situation is changing or why your current emotions, fears, or goals may be inappropriate or counterproductive. Inspirational speakers motivate and challenge the audience to do more at a higher level and specify the benefits they can expect from doing 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 artist. Ideally, the entertaining speaker will also present a serious point in a low-key humorous way. You don’t have to be funny by nature to give an entertaining speech. Entertaining speakers usually do this by telling stories. Know who your audience is and relate 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 need to be a showman when you are giving an entertaining speech. If it’s supposed to be funny, then your attitude should be fun and lighthearted. Your main goal is to make sure your audience has a great time.

Warning: Make sure you know the details about the audience before agreeing to give an entertaining speech. These are usually speeches after dinner and people have been drinking for about an hour. If you don’t have a meaningful public speaking experience and a very tough skin, this can be a heartbreaking experience. He! Even many professional speakers turn down commitments that the audience has been drinking on.

Public speaking is a skill and, as with any skill, you will only get better 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 hone your skills, and it’s fun!

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