Determining Your Why: Understanding the Types of Speeches

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Determining your why: understanding the types of speeches, public speaking, informative speech, demonstrative speech, pursuasive speech, entertaining speech, humorous speech

So you’ve been asked to give a speech – ARGH!!!!


At first mention of speaking in front of a group, or as we terrifyingly refer to as “giving a speech,” a flurry of questions run through your mind. There are, of course, the initial questions about how many ways you could possibility embarrass yourself in front of the group.  However, you also need the answers to some basic questions about expectations.

  • Who will I be talking to
  • What will I talk about
  • When will I talk
  • Where will I talk

And now . . . . .

  • Why will I talk


It’s this last question, “why will I talk,” that will determine how you should research, prepare, and present the specific topic to the specific audience. Being familiar with the different types of speeches will help you define the purpose behind your need to talk to this group of people. It will help you determine what you want audience to do with the information you will present.

Determining your why: understanding the types of speeches, public speaking, informative speech, demonstrative speech, pursuasive speech, entertaining speech, humorous speech

Types of Speeches

Informative Speeches

Just the facts, ma’am, just the facts. The informative speech is all about explaining a concept. You simply want to increase the audience’s knowledge or understanding. Examples of this type of speech are lectures given in a classroom, vital information shared by public officials, or the weather report on the 10 p.m. news. Informative speeches require the speaker to thoroughly research the subject and to anticipate questions. In presenting the information, the speaker should be brief and to the point. Long, informative speeches or lectures easily bore the audience. The use of visual aids or occasional humor can help combat the drone of a tedious subject. The main goal is to teach something, and success is measured by how much the audience understands and takes away

A demonstrative speech is a specific type of  informative speech that shows the audience the information the being presented. The speaker explains the process and the audience actually sees it being done. Because he/she must concisely describe and perform the actions or steps, visual aids are appropriate and often essential.   To prepare a demonstrative speech, the speaker considers the how and why about any information to be presented and tries to anticipate he audience’s questions. Like any informative speech, how much the audience understands is the yardstick used to measure the success of the speech.

Persuasive Speeches

Persuasive speaking involves convincing the audience about an idea, or influencing some action or change of opinion. This is actually the type of speaking most people are involved in. The speaker has a personal stake in the outcome of the speech. Practicing and using voice inflections and nuances of language can help convince the audience (see 5 Vocal Characteristics for Public Speaking) to share a belief. Using emotional appeals, strong language, and consistent body language (see Nonverbal Communication: What it is and How to Do it Better or 3 Types of Nonverbal Communication) can stir the audience into a desired action. To influence others’ opinions and views, to motivate a change in belief or an action, a speaker must be credible. This is achieved through knowledge and enthusiasm of the topic.


Three specific uses for persuasive speaking are:

To Advocate: is to explain and support your position or viewpoint. The speaker attempts to convince the audience to share an opinion or belief. This type of speech is used frequently in a work environment when supporting a recommended course of action. It is also a common tool for politicians when taking a stand on a social topic.

To Actuate: is to motivate people enough for them to take a specific step or to act. It’s especially useful in conflict situation such as war or social protest. The successful speaker motivates people to join him/her through concrete action through a show of charisma, emotional involvement, and display of conviction.

To Inspire or Motivate: is to communicate an upbeat, positive ideas aimed at encouraging and uplifting the audience. It can give hope and belief, and can spur the audience to take action toward personal development. The speaker must be honest and sincere when presenting this type of oration; an audience can recognize a fraud. Attention should be made to ensure body language is in harmony with your verbal message.

Entertaining Speeches

Speaking to entertain an audience usually requires less research, but no less preparation. It often includes humor, stories, antidotes, and examples that touch the audience’s emotions. The speaker adds a personal touch in his/her words and posture, forming a bond with the audience on an emotional level.

Ceremonial speeches are a specific type of entertaining speech used to mark special occasions. They represent a tradition and focus on an intimate emotional connection between the speaker and audience and can be humorous, touching or emotional depending on the occasion. We expect to hear them at commencements, weddings, and retirement dinners. Awards and acknowledgements are often accompanied by formal explanations of the acts that earned the recognition. Keynote speeches are given at banquets; eulogies at funerals.


In Conclusion . . .

So back to your 5 Ws.

  • Who will I be talking to? Who is my audience?
  • What will I talk about? What is my subject?
  • When will I talk? Do I have a day or a month to prepare?
  • Where will I talk? Auditorium? Conference room table? Church meeting room?
  • Why will I talk? Do I want to inform, persuade, or entertain?

The first four W’s: who, what, when and where, are usually given to you when you are asked to speak to a group. You normally know the answers to these questions right from the beginning. The last W, why, is the one with which you have more flexibility. Before researching and preparing you need to decide what you will do with the material you are presenting. If your subject is Giving a Speech, Do you want to teach your audience what a speech is, persuade your audience to become speakers, or amuse them with fun antidotes of your experiences speaking before groups?  Understanding the different types of speeches and determining your Why will ultimately give you a much more successful speech.

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