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A Brief Guide to Successful
Public Speaking
You can use this guide to prepare for your fi rst speech and as a checklist for all the speeches you give in your public
speaking class. You can also use the guide as a handy
reference for speeches you give aft er college.
Presenting a speech involves six basic stages:
1. Determining your purpose and topic (Chapter 4)
2. Adapting to your audience (Chapter 5)
3. Researching your topic (Chapter 6)
4. Organizing your ideas (Chapter 8)
5. Practicing your speech (Chapter 12)
6. Presenting your speech (Chapter 12)
Th ese stages blend together—they’re integrated parts
of a whole, not discrete units. For example,
■ As you’re analyzing your audience (stage 2),
you revise your topic focus (stage 1).
■ What you fi nd out about your audience (stage 2) will
infl uence how you research your topic (stage 3).
■ When practicing your speech (stage 5), you may
decide that the fl ow of your ideas won’t work for
your audience (stage 2), so you go back and
modify the organization of your ideas
(stage 4).
Although public speaking may seem to be all about
presenting, most of a successful speaker’s work takes place behind the scenes, well before the speaking event. Let’s go through each activity in the speechmaking process.
1. Determine Your Purpose and Topic
a. Decide on your overall goal, or the general purpose
of your speech.
• First speeches in a public speaking class usually
aim to inform or enhance listeners’ knowledge
of a topic. Example: In introducing a classmate,
you’d want your audience to learn a few key bits
of information about the person.
• Some fi rst speeches seek to entertain listeners
by sharing anecdotes and using humor. Example:
In introducing yourself, you might tell your
audience a funny story about your summer
• Speeches to persuade focus on infl uencing people’s
behaviors, values, or attitudes. Example: Trying to
convince audience members to exercise regularly
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