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43 18.1 Understanding Entertaining Speeches

Learning objectives.

  • Understand the purpose of entertaining speeches.
  • Explain the four ingredients of a good entertaining speech.

entertaining speech is used for these purposes

In broad terms, an  entertaining speech  is a speech designed to captivate an audience’s attention and regale or amuse them while delivering a message. Like more traditional informative or persuasive speeches, entertaining speeches should communicate a clear message, but the manner of speaking used in an entertaining speech is typically different. Entertaining speeches are often delivered on special occasions (e.g., a toast at a wedding, an acceptance speech at an awards banquet, a motivational speech at a conference), which is why they are sometimes referred to as special-occasion speeches. However, they can also be given on more mundane occasions, where their purpose is primarily to amuse audience members or arouse them emotionally in some way. Remember, when we use the word “entertain,” we are referring not just to humor but also to drama. The goal of an entertaining speech is to stir an audience’s emotions.

Of all the types of speeches we come in contact with during our lives, the bulk of them will probably fall into the category of entertainment. If you spend just one evening watching a major awards show (e.g., the Grammys, the Tonys, the Oscars), you’ll see dozens of acceptance speeches. While some of these acceptance speeches are good and others may be terrible, they all belong in the category of speaking to entertain.

Other speeches that fall into the entertaining category are designed to inspire or motivate an audience to do something. These are, however, different from a traditional persuasive speech. While entertaining speeches are often persuasive, we differentiate the two often based on the rhetorical situation itself. Maybe your school has hired a speaker to talk about his or her life story in an attempt to inspire the audience to try harder in school and reach for the best that life has to offer. You can imagine how this speech would be different from a traditional persuasive speech focusing on, say, the statistics related to scholastic achievement and success later in life.

Entertaining speeches are definitely very common, but that doesn’t mean they don’t require effort and preparation. A frequent trap is that people often think of entertaining speeches as corny. As a result, they don’t prepare seriously but rather stand up to speak with the idea that they can “wing it” by acting silly and telling a few jokes. Instead of being entertaining, the speech falls flat. To help us think through how to be effective in delivering entertaining speeches, let’s look at four key ingredients: preparation, adaptation to the occasion, adaptation to the audience, and mindfulness about the time.

Be Prepared

First, and foremost, the biggest mistake you can make when standing to deliver an entertaining speech is to underprepare or simply not prepare at all. We’ve stressed the need for preparation throughout this text, so just because you’re giving a wedding toast or a eulogy doesn’t mean you shouldn’t think through the speech before you stand up and speak out. If the situation is impromptu, even jotting some basic notes on a napkin is better than not having any plan for what you are going to say. Remember, when you get anxious, as it inevitably happens in front of an audience, your brain doesn’t function as well as when you are having a relaxed conversation with friends. You often forget information. By writing down some simple notes, you’ll be less likely to deliver a bad speech.

Be Adaptive to the Occasion

Not all content is appropriate for all occasions. If you are asked to deliver a speech commemorating the first anniversary of a school shooting, then obviously using humor and telling jokes wouldn’t be appropriate. But some decisions about adapting to the occasion are less obvious. Consider the following examples:

  • You are the maid of honor giving a toast at the wedding of your younger sister.
  • You are receiving a Most Valuable Player award in your favorite sport.
  • You are a sales representative speaking to a group of clients after a mistake has been discovered.
  • You are a cancer survivor speaking at a high school student assembly.

How might you adapt your message and speaking style to successfully entertain these various audiences?

Remember that being a competent speaker is about being both personally effective and socially appropriate. Different occasions will call for different levels of social appropriateness. One of the biggest mistakes entertaining speakers can make is to deliver one generic speech to different groups without adapting the speech to the specific occasion. In fact, professional speakers always make sure that their speeches are tailored for different occasions by getting information about the occasion from their hosts. When we tailor speeches for special occasions, people are more likely to remember those speeches than if we give a generic speech.

Be Adaptive to Your Audience

Once again, we cannot stress the importance of audience adaptation enough in this text. Different audiences will respond differently to speech material, so the more you know about your audience the more likely you’ll succeed in your speech. One of our coauthors was once at a conference for teachers of public speaking. The keynote speaker stood and delivered a speech on the importance of public speaking. While the speaker was good and funny, the speech really fell flat. The keynote speaker basically told the public speaking teachers that they should take public speaking courses because public speaking is important. Right speech, wrong audience!

Be Mindful of the Time

The last major consideration for delivering entertaining speeches successfully is to be mindful of your time. Different entertaining speech situations have their own conventions and rules with regard to time. Acceptance speeches and toasts, for example, should be relatively short (typically under five minutes). A speech of introduction should be extremely brief—just long enough to tell the audience what they need to know about the person being introduced in a style that prepares them to appreciate that person’s remarks. In contrast, commencement speeches and speeches to commemorate events can run ten to twenty minutes in length.

It’s also important to recognize that audiences on different occasions will expect speeches of various lengths. For example, although it’s true that graduation commencement speakers generally speak for ten to twenty minutes, the closer that speaker heads toward twenty minutes the more fidgety the audience becomes. To hold the audience’s attention and fulfill the goal of entertaining, a commencement speaker would do well to make the closing minutes of the speech the most engaging and inspiring portion of the speech. If you’re not sure about the expected time frame for a speech, either ask the person who has invited you to speak or do some quick research to see what the average speech times in the given context tend to be.

Key Takeaways

  • Entertaining speeches are speeches designed to captivate an audience’s attention and regale or amuse them while delivering a clear message. Speakers engage in entertaining speeches generally at special occasions (e.g., weddings, funerals) or are asked to deliver a keynote address.
  • Entertaining speeches should include four key considerations: preparation, adaptation to the occasion, adaptation to the audience, and mindfulness of the time. As with all speeches, speakers need to prepare the speech. Second, speakers need to think about the specific occasion. Third, speakers need to adapt their speeches to the specific audience. Lastly, speakers need to think about how long they should speak.
  • Type in the word “roast” into YouTube and watch a few minutes of a roast. Did the speaker clearly exhibit the four clear ingredients of an entertaining speech?
  • Watch several toasts and acceptance speeches on YouTube. Can you identify specific ways in which each speaker adapts the speech to the occasion and the audience?

Elements of Public Speaking Copyright © by Lumen Learning is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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Types of Public Speaking: Entertaining Speaking

featured-image-entertaining-speaking

Public speaking is an essential skill that allows individuals to captivate and influence their audience, and entertaining speaking is a particularly effective method of achieving this.

As one of the five primary types of public speaking, this enjoyable approach not only educates but also amuses listeners, leaving a lasting impression. In this blog post, we’ll dive into the fascinating world of entertaining speaking by discussing its purpose, characteristics, various forms such as humorous speeches and storytelling performances, and indispensable techniques for delivering impactful messages with flair.

Key Takeaways

  • Entertaining Speaking is a type of public speaking that aims to amuse and engage the audience through humor, storytelling, music or performance art while still conveying an important message.
  • Successful entertaining speeches possess good communication skills , evoke different emotions in listeners, maintain perfect timing and offer memorable and unique content.
  • Different types of entertaining speaking include humorous speeches, storytelling speeches, inspirational speeches and even musical and poetry performances.
  • Essential techniques for effective entertaining speaking include knowing your audience, practicing your delivery, using humor and emotion effectively and engaging your audience through compelling storytelling techniques.

What Is Entertaining Speaking?

Definition and purpose of entertaining speaking.

Entertaining speaking is a type of public presentation that aims to captivate, engage, and delight an audience, often by evoking their emotions or appealing to their sense of humor.

This form of oral communication focuses on delivering messages in an enjoyable and memorable manner while still maintaining the intended message’s core essence.

The purpose of entertaining speeches goes beyond simply amusing or captivating the listeners; it also creates connections between the speaker and the audience. By tapping into shared experiences or sparking laughter through clever jokes , entertaining speakers are able to build stronger relationships with those they’re addressing while reinforcing key points within their presentations.

Characteristics Of A Successful Entertaining Speech

To deliver a successful entertaining speech, certain characteristics should be present. Firstly, the speaker must possess good communication skills and have an excellent stage presence to engage their audience fully.

They should also evoke different emotions in their listeners by using humor, anecdotes, or other storytelling techniques.

Secondly, timing is critical when giving an entertaining speech. Speakers must time their jokes or humorous statements to perfection to ensure that they land effectively on the audience.

Thirdly, memorable and unique content creates impact in entertaining speeches.

Finally, creativity plays a crucial role in delivering an entertaining message; entertainers who think outside of the box come up with ideas for delivering speeches creatively tend to leave lasting impressions on their audiences.

In summary, mastering effective communication skills along with possessing strong creativity ensures success as an entertainer giving speeches captivating your audiences’ attention through emotion-evoking delivery techniques resulting in memorable performances leaving them wanting more.

Different Types Of Entertaining Speaking

Entertaining speaking comes in many forms, including humorous speeches, storytelling speeches, inspirational speeches, and even musical and poetry performances.

Humorous Speeches

Humorous speeches are a type of entertaining speaking that focuses on making an audience laugh. Humor can be used to break the ice and establish a connection between the speaker and their listeners, making it easier for them to absorb the message being delivered.

A good humorous speech is not just about telling jokes but also involves creating funny situations, using irony or sarcasm, and incorporating personal experiences into the narrative.

As an entertaining public speaker, it’s crucial to know when humor is appropriate and how much of it should be included in a speech. Too many jokes or poorly placed ones can detract from the primary message of the presentation.

Storytelling Speeches

Storytelling speeches are a popular type of entertaining speaking that hinges on the power of narrative. In this kind of speech, the speaker shares personal or fictional stories with their audience in order to convey an important message or emotion.

Storytelling speeches can take many forms, from humorous anecdotes to moving tales of overcoming adversity.

A great example of a storytelling speech is  Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford commencement address , in which he shares three stories from his life to inspire and motivate his audience.

Through these stories, he imparts valuable life lessons about following your passions and embracing change.

Inspirational Speeches

Inspirational speeches aim to motivate and uplift listeners, encouraging them to strive for greater heights. They are often delivered by keynote speakers at important events such as graduations or corporate conferences.

A successful inspirational speech should tap into the audience’s emotions, leaving them feeling empowered and ready to take action. For example, a famous example of an inspiring speech is Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford Commencement Address in which he shared three stories from his life that taught him valuable lessons about following one’s passion and persevering through tough times.

Musical And Poetry Performances

Musical and poetry performances are great ways to add an entertaining element to your public speaking. These types of speeches involve using music or poetry to convey a message or evoke emotions from the audience.

For instance, reciting a poem can be used as a way to tell a story or illustrate complex ideas in an easy-to-understand manner.

One famous example of musical performance in public speaking is the  “I Have A Dream” speech by Martin Luther King Jr. , where he incorporated his words with lyrics from various spirituals and hymns.

By doing so, he was able to engage his listeners on both intellectual and emotional levels, creating an unforgettable experience for everyone present.

Essential Techniques For Effective Entertaining Speaking

To effectively entertain your audience, it is crucial to know who you are talking to, practice your delivery beforehand, use humor and emotion strategically, and engage them through compelling storytelling techniques.

Knowing Your Audience

To deliver an entertaining speech, it is essential to know your audience. Understanding their interests, backgrounds, and perspectives can help you tailor your message to capture their attention and keep them engaged.

It’s also helpful to consider the setting and context of your speech. Are you speaking at a formal or casual event? Is the audience expecting a certain type of performance or presentation? By taking these factors into account, you can adjust your delivery style and content accordingly.

Practicing Your Delivery

In order to deliver an entertaining speech successfully, it is crucial to practice your delivery. This involves rehearsing your speech multiple times in front of a mirror or with friends or family members who can provide constructive feedback.

Additionally, practicing allows you to identify areas that might need improvement such as intonation, pacing, or body language.

Remember that the more prepared you are, the better equipped you will be to connect with your audience through storytelling techniques and keep them engaged throughout your presentation.

Using Humor And Emotion Effectively

One of the key elements of effective entertaining speaking is using humor and emotion in a way that resonates with your audience. A well-timed joke or personal anecdote can help break the ice and put your listeners at ease, while strong emotions can inspire them to action or move them in unexpected ways.

For example, if you’re delivering an entertaining speech about procrastination, you might start by sharing a humorous story about the time you waited until the last minute to finish a project for school.

This could help demonstrate your point while also engaging your audience on a personal level.

The key is to be authentic in your use of humor and emotion—don’t try too hard to be funny or overly sentimental. Instead, focus on what works for you as an individual speaker and what connects most strongly with your specific audience.

Engaging Your Audience Through Storytelling Techniques

Engaging your audience through storytelling is an essential technique for any entertaining speaker. A well-told story can capture their attention, connect with them on an emotional level, and leave a lasting impression.

To effectively engage your audience, start by knowing who they are and what kind of stories will resonate with them.

It’s important to practice delivering your story in a way that engages the audience from beginning to end. Use pacing and tone changes to build suspense or add emphasis where needed.

Incorporating descriptive language helps paint vivid mental images for listeners as you transport them into your world or experience.

An example could be a comedian using personal anecdotes about everyday life situations like getting lost while driving but adding humorous exaggeration may have people laughing out loud with recognition at their own similar experiences!

Overall, when done correctly, engaging storytelling techniques are one surefire way to captivate your audience throughout the duration of speech delivery whether for informative public speaking or for entertainment purposes only!

Conclusion: The Importance Of Entertaining Speaking In Captivating Your Audience

In conclusion, Entertaining Speaking is a type of public speaking that aims to captivate the audience’s attention and stir their emotions. It involves different techniques such as humor, storytelling, music, and poetry performances.

Knowing your audience, practicing your delivery and engaging them through effective usage of humor and emotion are essential for delivering an impactful entertaining speech.

Entertaining Speaking has become increasingly popular in recent years due to its ability to amuse and delight audiences while also conveying important messages effectively.

1. What is entertaining speaking?

Entertaining speaking involves delivering speeches or presentations that are designed to captivate and engage audiences through the use of humor, storytelling and other creative techniques.

2. How do I prepare for an entertaining speech?

To prepare for an entertaining speech, it’s important to identify your audience, determine their interests and preferences, and tailor your material accordingly. You might also want to consider incorporating multimedia elements such as videos, images or music into your presentation.

3. What are some common topics used in entertaining speaking?

Some common topics used in entertaining speaking include personal anecdotes, pop culture references, current events or social trends. The key is to find a subject that resonates with your audience while showcasing your unique personality and style.

4. Can anyone become an entertaining speaker?

While there is no single formula for becoming an effective entertainer speaker, anyone can develop the skills necessary to engage and connect with audiences over time through practice and refinement of their presentation skills – including delivery techniques such as pacing, tone of voice or body language – while honing their content creation skills through research & experimentation until they find what works best based on context & audience preferences.

PRDV008: Preparing and Delivering Presentations

Entertaining speeches.

Read this chapter to learn about presentations whose general purpose is to entertain.

The final general purpose people can have for public speaking is to entertain. Whereas informative and persuasive speech making is focused on the end result of the speech process, entertainment speaking is focused on the theme and occasion of the speech. An entertaining speech can be either informative or persuasive at its root, but the context or theme of the speech requires speakers to think about the speech primarily in terms of audience enjoyment.

Why We Entertain

Entertaining speeches are very common in everyday life. The fundamental goal of an entertaining speech is audience enjoyment, which can come in a variety of forms. Entertaining speeches can be funny or serious. Overall, entertaining speeches are not designed to give an audience a deep understanding of life but instead to function as a way to divert an audience from their day-to-day lives for a short period of time. This is not to say that an entertaining speech cannot have real content that is highly informative or persuasive, but its goal is primarily about the entertaining aspects of the speech and not focused on the informative or persuasive quality of the speech.

Common Forms of Entertainment Topics

There are three basic types of entertaining speeches: the after-dinner speech, the ceremonial speech, and the inspirational speech. The after-dinner speech is a form of speaking where a speaker takes a serious speech topic (either informative or persuasive) and injects a level of humor into the speech to make it entertaining. Some novice speakers will attempt to turn an after-dinner speech into a stand-up comedy routine, which doesn't have the same focus. Roye, S. (2010). Austan Goolsbee a funny stand-up comedian? Not even close… [Web log post]. After-dinner speeches are first and foremost speeches.

A ceremonial speech is a type of entertaining speech where the specific context of the speech is the driving force of the speech. Common types of ceremonial speeches include introductions, toasts, and eulogies. In each of these cases, there are specific events that drive the speech. Maybe you're introducing an individual who is about to receive an award, giving a toast at your best friend's wedding, or delivering the eulogy at a relative's funeral. In each of these cases, the speech and the purpose of the speech is determined by the context of the event and not by the desire to inform or persuade.

The final type of entertaining speech is one where the speaker's primary goal is to inspire her or his audience. Inspirational speeches are based in emotion with the goal to motivate listeners to alter their lives in some significant way. Florence Littauer, a famous professional speaker, delivers an emotionally charged speech titled "Silver Boxes". In the speech, Mrs. Littauer demonstrates how people can use positive comments to encourage others in their daily lives. The title comes from a story she tells at the beginning of the speech where she was teaching a group of children about using positive speech, and one of the children defined positive speech as giving people little silver boxes with bows on top.

Sample: Adam Fink's Entertainment Speech

The following speech, by an undergraduate student named Adam Fink, is an entertainment speech. Specifically, this speech is a ceremonial speech given at Mr. Fink's graduation. As with our earlier examples, while this speech is written out as a text for purposes of analysis, in your public speaking course you will most likely be assigned to speak from an outline or notes, not a fully written script. Notice that the tenor of this speech is persuasive but that it persuades in a more inspiring way than just building and proving an argument.

Good evening! I've spent the last few months looking over commencement speeches on YouTube. The most notable ones had eight things in common. They reflected on the past, pondered about the future. They encouraged the honorees. They all included some sort of personal story and application. They made people laugh at least fifteen times. They referred to the university as the finest university in the nation or world, and last but not least they all greeted the people in attendance. I'll begin by doing so now.

President Holst, thank you for coming. Faculty members and staff, salutations to you all. Distinguished guests, we are happy to have you. Family members and friends, we could not be here without you. Finally, ladies and gentlemen of the class of 2009, welcome to your commencement day here at Concordia University, Saint Paul, this, the finest university in the galaxy, nay, universe. Really, it's right up there with South Harlem Institute of Technology, the School of Hard Knocks, and Harvard. Check and check!

Graduates, we are not here to watch as our siblings, our parents, friends, or other family walk across this stage. We are here because today is our graduation day. I am going to go off on a tangent for a little bit. Over the past umpteen years, I have seen my fair share of graduations and ceremonies. In fact, I remember getting dragged along to my older brothers' and sisters' graduations, all 8,000 of them – at least it seems like there were that many now. Seriously, I have more family members than friends.

I remember sitting here in these very seats, intently listening to the president and other distinguished guests speak, again saying welcome and thank you for coming. Each year, I got a little bit better at staying awake throughout the entire ceremony. Every time I would come up with something new to keep myself awake, daydreams, pinching my arms, or pulling leg hair; I was a very creative individual.

I am proud to say that I have been awake for the entirety of this ceremony. I would like to personally thank my classmates and colleagues sitting around me for slapping me every time I even thought about dozing off. Personal story, check  and now, application!

Graduates, don't sleep through life. If you need a close friend or colleague to keep you awake, ask. Don't get bored with life. In the words of one of my mentors, the Australian film director, screen writer, and producer Baz Luhrman, "Do one thing every day that scares you". Keep yourself on your toes. Stay occupied but leave room for relaxation; embrace your hobbies. Don't get stuck in a job you hate. I am sure many of you have seen the "Did You Know?" film on YouTube. The film montages hundreds of statistics together, laying down the ground work to tell viewers that we are approaching a crossroad. The way we live is about to change dramatically. We are living in exponential times. It's a good thing that we are exponential people.

We are at a crossing point here, now. Each of us is graduating; we are preparing to leave this place we have called home for the past few years. It's time to move on and flourish. But let's not leave this place for good. Let us walk away with happy memories. We have been fortunate enough to see more change in our time here than most alumni see at their alma mater in a lifetime. We have seen the destruction of Centennial, Minnesota, and Walther.

Ladies, it might not mean a lot to you, but gentlemen, we had some good times there. We have seen the building and completion of the new Residence Life Center. We now see the beginnings of our very own stadium. We have seen enough offices and departments move to last any business a lifetime.

Let us remember these things, the flooding of the knoll, Ultimate Frisbee beginning at ten o'clock at night, and two back-to-back Volleyball National Championship teams, with one of those championship games held where you are sitting now. I encourage all of you to walk out of this place with flashes of the old times flickering through your brains. Reflection, check!

Honorees, in the words of Michael Scott, only slightly altered, "They have no idea how high [we] can fly". Right now you are surrounded by future politicians, film critics, producers, directors, actors, actresses, church workers, artists, the teachers of tomorrow, musicians, people who will change the world. We are all held together right here and now, by a common bond of unity. We are one graduating class.

In one of his speeches this year, President Barack Obama said, "Generations of Americans have connected their stories to the larger American story through service and helped move our country forward. We need that service now". He is right. America needs selfless acts of service.

Hebrews 10:23–25 reads, "Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching".

Let us not leave this place as enemies but rather as friends and companions. Let us come back next fall for our first reunion, the Zero Class Reunion hosted by the wonderful and amazing workers in the alumni department. Let us go and make disciples of all nations, guided by His Word. Let us spread God's peace, joy, and love through service to others. Congratulations, graduates! I hope to see you next homecoming. Encouragement, check!

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Types of Speeches: The Entertaining Speech

In the context of this series, an entertaining speech is one whose sole purpose is to have the audience enjoy the presentation. The purpose of an entertaining speech is not to educate, inform or inspire … it is to make the audience smile, relax, enjoy and maybe even laugh their heads off. (Figuratively, of course … real heads falling off would cause a nasty mess!)

Types of Speeches: The Entertaining Speech

If you decide to become a professional speaker or use speaking as an integral part of your marketing strategy, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the various types of speeches you might be asked to give. In this series of posts, I’ll give you the basics of a variety of types of presentations you can prepare. At the end of this post, I’ve listed previous articles in this series.

Let’s be honest here, entertainment truly is in the eye of the beholder. What one person finds entertaining, another may find duller than dishwater. So, you really have to know your audience in order to entertain them.

But what does that mean?

Although many — if not most — entertaining speeches are funny, they do not need to include humor to be entertaining. Dramas are entertaining but not funny, right? Here are some tips for creating an entertaining speech:

How to write an entertaining speech

There are many ways to entertain an audience. You can:

  • tell funny stories
  • dramatize an anecdote
  • tell a scary story

When it comes right down to it … there are probably as many ways to entertain as there are entertainers … and audiences.

That said, there are some guidelines for creating an entertaining speech.

  • Chose an appropriate topic: You don’t want the topic to be too dense, complicated or heavy. Remember, you’re not trying to give your audience a greater understanding of anything. You’re there to help them have a good time.
  • Enjoy yourself: Believe it or not, it is hard for an audience to enjoy your presentation if it looks like you are not enjoying presenting it!
  • Keep it simple: Your presentation should be easy to follow. Don’t make it hard for your audience to keep up with you mentally … or in any other way.
  • Make it visceral: Use vivid word pictures. This is not the type of presentation where you can be lazy in your descriptions. Make your words pop with strong images that pop in their minds.
  • Say it like a roller coaster, baby! Add unexpected twists and turns to your presentation. When you surprise your audience with where your story is going, that adds to the entertainment factor.

Resources for developing entertaining speeches:

  • List of Funny Speech Topics
  • How to Write an Entertaining Speech for Any Occasion
  • How To Make An Entertaining Speech/Presentation

Did you miss these?

Here are the previous posts in this “Type of Speeches” series:

  • The Keynote Address
  • The Training Session
  • The Motivational Speech

The next post in this series is The Demonstration .

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About the author

Carma Spence, is author of Public Speaking Super Powers. She is fiercely committed to guiding women to Owning their Superpowers and turning their knowledge and interests into a profitable business. She is masterful at helping her clients see what is possible for them and supporting them on the journey from where they are to where they want to be, releasing the Mind Goblins of self-doubt, self-sabotage and second-guessing that keep them stuck.

With 20+ years experience in marketing communications and public relations, natural intuitive skills and certification in using some of the most effective transformational coaching tools available, Carma’s mission and commitment is to unleash the inner power every woman entrepreneur possesses so they can boldly go out into the world, transforming the fabric of people’s lives in meaningful and positive ways.

You can find her on Facebook , Twitter , Google+ and LinkedIn . Her website is CarmaSpence.com .

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entertaining speech is used for these purposes

18.1 Understanding Entertaining Speeches

Learning objectives.

  • Understand the purpose of entertaining speeches.
  • Explain the four ingredients of a good entertaining speech.

In broad terms, an entertaining speech Speech designed to captivate an audience’s attention and regale or amuse them while delivering a clear message. is a speech designed to captivate an audience’s attention and regale or amuse them while delivering a message. Like more traditional informative or persuasive speeches, entertaining speeches should communicate a clear message, but the manner of speaking used in an entertaining speech is typically different. Entertaining speeches are often delivered on special occasions (e.g., a toast at a wedding, an acceptance speech at an awards banquet, a motivational speech at a conference), which is why they are sometimes referred to as special-occasion speeches. However, they can also be given on more mundane occasions, where their purpose is primarily to amuse audience members or arouse them emotionally in some way. Remember, when we use the word “entertain,” we are referring not just to humor but also to drama. The goal of an entertaining speech is to stir an audience’s emotions.

Of all the types of speeches we come in contact with during our lives, the bulk of them will probably fall into the category of entertainment. If you spend just one evening watching a major awards show (e.g., the Grammys, the Tonys, the Oscars), you’ll see dozens of acceptance speeches. While some of these acceptance speeches are good and others may be terrible, they all belong in the category of speaking to entertain.

Other speeches that fall into the entertaining category are designed to inspire or motivate an audience to do something. These are, however, different from a traditional persuasive speech. While entertaining speeches are often persuasive, we differentiate the two often based on the rhetorical situation itself. Maybe your school has hired a speaker to talk about his or her life story in an attempt to inspire the audience to try harder in school and reach for the best that life has to offer. You can imagine how this speech would be different from a traditional persuasive speech focusing on, say, the statistics related to scholastic achievement and success later in life.

Entertaining speeches are definitely very common, but that doesn’t mean they don’t require effort and preparation. A frequent trap is that people often think of entertaining speeches as corny. As a result, they don’t prepare seriously but rather stand up to speak with the idea that they can “wing it” by acting silly and telling a few jokes. Instead of being entertaining, the speech falls flat. To help us think through how to be effective in delivering entertaining speeches, let’s look at four key ingredients: preparation, adaptation to the occasion, adaptation to the audience, and mindfulness about the time.

Be Prepared

First, and foremost, the biggest mistake you can make when standing to deliver an entertaining speech is to underprepare or simply not prepare at all. We’ve stressed the need for preparation throughout this text, so just because you’re giving a wedding toast or a eulogy doesn’t mean you shouldn’t think through the speech before you stand up and speak out. If the situation is impromptu, even jotting some basic notes on a napkin is better than not having any plan for what you are going to say. Remember, when you get anxious, as it inevitably happens in front of an audience, your brain doesn’t function as well as when you are having a relaxed conversation with friends. You often forget information. By writing down some simple notes, you’ll be less likely to deliver a bad speech.

Be Adaptive to the Occasion

Not all content is appropriate for all occasions. If you are asked to deliver a speech commemorating the first anniversary of a school shooting, then obviously using humor and telling jokes wouldn’t be appropriate. But some decisions about adapting to the occasion are less obvious. Consider the following examples:

  • You are the maid of honor giving a toast at the wedding of your younger sister.
  • You are receiving a Most Valuable Player award in your favorite sport.
  • You are a sales representative speaking to a group of clients after a mistake has been discovered.
  • You are a cancer survivor speaking at a high school student assembly.

How might you adapt your message and speaking style to successfully entertain these various audiences?

Remember that being a competent speaker is about being both personally effective and socially appropriate. Different occasions will call for different levels of social appropriateness. One of the biggest mistakes entertaining speakers can make is to deliver one generic speech to different groups without adapting the speech to the specific occasion. In fact, professional speakers always make sure that their speeches are tailored for different occasions by getting information about the occasion from their hosts. When we tailor speeches for special occasions, people are more likely to remember those speeches than if we give a generic speech.

Be Adaptive to Your Audience

Once again, we cannot stress the importance of audience adaptation enough in this text. Different audiences will respond differently to speech material, so the more you know about your audience the more likely you’ll succeed in your speech. One of our coauthors was once at a conference for teachers of public speaking. The keynote speaker stood and delivered a speech on the importance of public speaking. While the speaker was good and funny, the speech really fell flat. The keynote speaker basically told the public speaking teachers that they should take public speaking courses because public speaking is important. Right speech, wrong audience!

Be Mindful of the Time

The last major consideration for delivering entertaining speeches successfully is to be mindful of your time. Different entertaining speech situations have their own conventions and rules with regard to time. Acceptance speeches and toasts, for example, should be relatively short (typically under five minutes). A speech of introduction should be extremely brief—just long enough to tell the audience what they need to know about the person being introduced in a style that prepares them to appreciate that person’s remarks. In contrast, commencement speeches and speeches to commemorate events can run ten to twenty minutes in length.

It’s also important to recognize that audiences on different occasions will expect speeches of various lengths. For example, although it’s true that graduation commencement speakers generally speak for ten to twenty minutes, the closer that speaker heads toward twenty minutes the more fidgety the audience becomes. To hold the audience’s attention and fulfill the goal of entertaining, a commencement speaker would do well to make the closing minutes of the speech the most engaging and inspiring portion of the speech. If you’re not sure about the expected time frame for a speech, either ask the person who has invited you to speak or do some quick research to see what the average speech times in the given context tend to be.

Key Takeaways

  • Entertaining speeches are speeches designed to captivate an audience’s attention and regale or amuse them while delivering a clear message. Speakers engage in entertaining speeches generally at special occasions (e.g., weddings, funerals) or are asked to deliver a keynote address.
  • Entertaining speeches should include four key considerations: preparation, adaptation to the occasion, adaptation to the audience, and mindfulness of the time. As with all speeches, speakers need to prepare the speech. Second, speakers need to think about the specific occasion. Third, speakers need to adapt their speeches to the specific audience. Lastly, speakers need to think about how long they should speak.
  • Type in the word “roast” into YouTube and watch a few minutes of a roast. Did the speaker clearly exhibit the four clear ingredients of an entertaining speech?
  • Watch several toasts and acceptance speeches on YouTube. Can you identify specific ways in which each speaker adapts the speech to the occasion and the audience?

My Speech Class

Public Speaking Tips & Speech Topics

Entertaining Speech Topics [195 Ideas To Keep Audience Engaged]

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Amanda Green was born in a small town in the west of Scotland, where everyone knows everyone. I joined the Toastmasters 15 years ago, and I served in nearly every office in the club since then. I love helping others gain confidence and skills they can apply in every day life.

entertaining speech topics

You need to offer persuasive speech that is informative with a specific purpose that will bring the event to life. Above all, to be an entertaining speaker, you need an interesting  and unique speech topic or even impromptu speech (though that is difficult to achieve) that will last more than a few minutes and engage the audience with an interesting story/stories. There are a lot of topics you can cover that will be entertaining, such as funny speech topics , informative speech topics , or even demonstrative speeches , but make sure you consider your audience before you choose one.

In this article:

How To Develop An Entertaining Speech Topic

How to deliver an entertaining speech, entertaining speech ideas.

There are many ways to write and develop a topic for a speech to entertain. And there are lots of fails to report.

My main objective is to make you aware if the fact that you  do not pretend to by the nice and humorous girl or guy . Nope, better is to set up a flat face and deliver the lines dry with an English stiff upperlip – that is why I used the word pokerfaced … A trick I have learned from my masters …

Use this speechwriting checklist for every issue of your choice.

Can We Write Your Speech?

Get your audience blown away with help from a professional speechwriter. Free proofreading and copy-editing included.

It is possible to bring a serious message with funny proven techniques listed below. Like these examples of serious/funny entertaining speech topic chapter. And stay to that theme. My main advice is: just talk on a specific theme.

  • Consider your entertainment topic from different points of view.
  • Choose for an unusual or strange angle of approach.
  • Wonder what the reason is for some habits or daily grind.
  • Give a normal issue, subject or topic a personal, dramatic twist.
  • List xx ways to …
  • Perform dialogues and metaphores.
  • Tell a story about a personal experience, interrelate the humorous anecdote in the main theme.
  • Give mocking comments on perfectly ordinary things, persons, places, values or thoughts.
  • Ridiculize large organizations or institutions. But do not offend.
  • Laugh at and ridiculize professional jargon or dialogues.
  • Find similarities between opposing subjects. That can be a very humorous and entertaining for your audience.
  • Ask:  What If and press the possibilities till it becomes ridiculous, funny and amusing.

My five additional rousing tips for further development are:

  • Organize and structure your diverting text in a way your presentation will flow just right; try to work to some sort of a climax.
  • Establish your speechwriting goal or purpose. That’s no problem if you talk about one theme.
  • If you tell funny or humorous things about some individuals in your public: don’t insult and be sensitive.
  • Try to deliver your public speaking speech topics extemporaneously as much as you can. So practice a lot. Ask a friend if it is witty enough.
  • And practice on the timing the smooth flow of your entertaining speech topic:
  • The Worst Joke I Ever Heard
  • The First Time I Got Caught
  • Why Did the Chicken Actually Cross the Road
  • How I Got My Nickname
  • How to Get a Toddler to Go the Sleep in 383 Easy Steps
  • The Funniest Thing My Kid Ever Said
  • Deep Fried Oreos and Dieting
  • My Worst Date
  • That Time I Shot Milk Out of My Nose
  • My Favorite Misheard Song Lyric
  • How to Embarrass Your Teenager
  • A Middle Aged Mom Figures Out Snapchat
  • Pick Up Lines that Will Never Work
  • The Key To Being Successful at Watching Television
  • How to Live in Your Mom’s Basement
  • My Biggest Pet Peeve
  • Things a T-Rex Can’t Do with Its Little Arms
  • How to Ruin a Date
  • How to Stay a Bachelor
  • What Not to Do On a Blind Date
  • Why Pineapple Is Not a Pizza Topping
  • How to Fail a Driver’s Test
  • Ways to Take the Worst Passport Picture Possible
  • The Worst Ideas for Halloween Costumes
  • My Biggest Auto Correct Fail
  • How to Trick Your Dog into Going to the Vet
  • The Time I Laughed at a Completely Inappropriate Time
  • Something That Made Me Laugh So Hard, I Cried
  • Lost in Translation
  • My Dinner with My Favorite Video Game Character
  • That Thing I Shared on Facebook that Maybe I Shouldn’t Have
  • The Right Way to Lie
  • My Most Embarrassing Childhood Memory
  • The Worst Haircut I Ever Had
  • My Life Motto
  • How My Cat Will Take Over the World
  • How to Be the Center of Attention
  • How to Freak out Your Roommate
  • Passive Aggressive Ways to Get Your Spouse to Do the Dishes
  • Alternatives to Cleaning
  • The Best Dad Jokes of All Time
  • Skinny Jeans or Where Have All the Men Gone?
  • Why does Halloween Have to Be the Only Holiday We Wear Costumes For?
  • Horrible How To Instructions
  • Going Out Versus Going to Sleep at 9 pm on a Saturday
  • My Worst Traffic Violation
  • That Time I Sent the Email to the Wrong Person
  • How To End a Bad Date
  • Why I Make the Best Pancakes
  • Nutella: Why I Just Can’t
  • How To Survive Your Brother’s Wedding
  • Why I’m Still Single
  • How to Fall In Love in 308 Easy Steps
  • An Argument for Leaving Your Christmas Tree Up All Year
  • Horrible Valentine’s Day Cards
  • I Love to Say I Told You So
  • My Biggest Fashion Mistakes
  • How To Act Like a Dude
  • Worst Twitter Mistakes
  • How to Lose Your Mind in 10 Days
  • Ten Dumb Things I’ve Done So You Don’t Have To
  • Things I’ve Only Told My Therapist
  • How I Knew I Didn’t Get the Job
  • Getting To Know the Little Voice in the Back of My Head
  • When To Give Up
  • How To Pretend to Have It All
  • Don’t Touch the Thermostat: My Rules for Surviving Winter
  • Sleeping with the Fan On Just for the Noise
  • How to Make the Worst of a Best Situation
  • Lies I Told Myself
  • Why I Sleep with Five Pillows
  • Hogging Your Side of the Bed: My Strategy to Sleep Alone
  • Why My Dog is My Best Friend
  • Why Nothing Rhymes with Orange
  • The Worst Color in the World
  • How to Ruin a Marriage: My Trip to Ikea
  • Why Hipsters Are the Worst
  • There Is No Such Thing as Too Much Caffeine
  • My Worst Hair Dye Experience
  • The Ugliest Facial Hair I’ve Ever Seen
  • The Case for Bubble Baths
  • The Worst Life Hack I’ve Ever Tried
  • That Time I Got Arrested
  • My Funniest Online Dating Story
  • How I Lost My Pants
  • The Worst Habit I Know I Have
  • The Worst Thing I Ever Smelled
  • That Time I Was a Hypochondriac
  • My Worst Experience with Rain
  • How to Make Sure He Doesn’t Call
  • How to Be Patient When You Just Can’t
  • Shoe Size: Does It Matter?
  • Why I Love You Anyway
  • The Worst Sound in the World
  • The Best Thing about Being Me
  • The Worst Song Lyric I Ever Heard
  • How to Be Lame
  • Times When Ice Cream is Appropriate
  • How Not to Decorate a Cake
  • Where Do All the Missing Socks Go?
  • Ten Things That Are Better Than Doing the Dishes
  • The Worst Chore I’ve Ever Had to Do
  • The Worst Punishment I Ever Had as a Kid
  • How I Knew I Was Done Having Children
  • Why I Don’t Bother Keeping Up with the Joneses
  • How to Pretend to Be Interested
  • How Not to Be Subtle
  • Why Are Horses the Only Animal We Ride?
  • What Your Dog Really Thinks about You
  • Best Reasons to Quit Your Job
  • The Best Thing I Ever Ate
  • The Coolest Thing I’ve Ever Seen
  • Why I Can’t Even
  • My Real Life Superpower
  • How to Win at Life
  • How to Cheat at Cards
  • How Not to Make Friends
  • Popcorn Is Underrated
  • Making the Least of Your Time
  • If I Were Invisible
  • Why I Still Use a Nightlight
  • Leaping Before You Look
  • What I Learned from High School
  • How to Be Awesome
  • Socks and Sandals Are Okay
  • If I Had A Million Dollars
  • How to Get Fired
  • When to Do the Grand Gesture
  • How to Panic
  • Relaxation Techniques that Haven’t Worked For Me
  • Reasons to Be Scared of the Dark
  • Why I Make My Bed Every Morning
  • The Perks of Being the Life of the Party
  • Changing My Mind, Again
  • My Guilty Pleasure
  • Best Places to Nap
  • Something I Thought I Knew
  • My Biggest Regret
  • The Invention of Lying
  • When I Knew I Wasn’t a Kid Anymore
  • The Kid’s Toy I Still Love to Play with
  • My Childhood Imaginary Friend
  • Hobbling Across the Finish Line
  • Finger Painting: Not Just for Kids Anymore
  • Why we don’t win the lottery.
  • Excuses for every occasion.
  • How to buy condoms discreetly.
  • Most stupid labels.
  • I am new in this place, entertain me!
  • IQ tests revealed.
  • How to impress a woman.
  • Crime does pay.
  • Breaking up isn’t hard.
  • Comparisons that won’t hold.
  • Grandchildren’s phrases.
  • Stereotypes of college students can generate lots of speech topics.
  • How to slowly drive your girlfriend crazy.
  • The male guide to selecting an outfit for a high school prom.
  • Crazy things to do in a final that doesn’t matter.
  • Chinese proverbs explained.
  • What to do when you are bored on a lazy Sunday.
  • Don’t say this to a police officer.
  • Things men would never say.
  • Extreme golf courses in the world.
  • Freudian slips of the tongue.
  • Test your popularity.
  • Marriage advice and strange counseling assistance.
  • Why Santa Claus is a woman.
  • About the French.
  • Things I learned from sports.
  • Things you wouldn’t know without watching films.
  • How to sing the blues from the heart.
  • Rare pronounciations of ordinary words and phrases.
  • The art of kissing.
  • Bad hair day solutions.
  • Shopping guide for a man.
  • Problem solving in an entertaining way.
  • Funny facts of life are popular topics for an entertainment speech.
  • Golfing at night or in the snow.
  • Lawyers and the truth.
  • Creative marriage proposals.
  • How to play the singing saw.
  • Gift wrapping tips for men.
  • How to photograph a puppy.
  • Are you ready for children?
  • Strange dress codes.
  • A man’s dilemma: beer or women?
  • Clean your house in 30 minutes.
  • Stages of a hard working employee.
  • Office work rules up side down.
  • Insults from famous people.
  • Basic rules for driving in – fill in a big city.
  • Things your mom would never say.
  • Explain baseball or football to a foreigner.
  • Applicant speaks in job letters is a great material-oil well too.

Types of Public Speaking

136 Speech Topics About Animals [Persuasive, Informative]

5 thoughts on “Entertaining Speech Topics [195 Ideas To Keep Audience Engaged]”

How useful your school stationeries can be for survival!! (e.g. permanent marker can be used as lightening)

Noice topics!

Things you don’t say to your husband!

Hi, I’m Lila. I have to write a speech and I am completely stuck! I would like a entertaining speech, but still informative. I am so stuck on the topic I should do! Do you have any ideas what to do?

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5.2: General Purposes of Speaking

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Learning Objectives

  • Differentiate among the three types of general speech purposes.
  • Examine the basics of informative speech topics and some common forms of informative speeches.
  • Examine the basics of persuasive speech topics and some common forms of persuasive speeches.
  • Examine the basics of entertaining speech topics and some common forms of entertaining speeches.

What do you think of when you hear the word “purpose”? Technically speaking, a purpose can be defined as why something exists, how we use an object, or why we make something. For the purposes of public speaking, all three can be applicable. For example, when we talk about a speech’s purpose, we can question why a specific speech was given; we can question how we are supposed to use the information within a speech; and we can question why we are personally creating a speech. For this specific chapter, we are more interested in that last aspect of the definition of the word “purpose”: why we give speeches.

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Ever since scholars started writing about public speaking as a distinct phenomenon, there have been a range of different systems created to classify the types of speeches people may give. Aristotle talked about three speech purposes: deliberative (political speech), forensic (courtroom speech), and epideictic (speech of praise or blame). Cicero also talked about three purposes: judicial (courtroom speech), deliberative (political speech), and demonstrative (ceremonial speech—similar to Aristotle’s epideictic). A little more recently, St. Augustine of Hippo also wrote about three specific speech purposes: to teach (provide people with information), to delight (entertain people or show people false ideas), and to sway (persuade people to a religious ideology). All these systems of identifying public speeches have been attempts at helping people determine the general purpose of their speech. A general purpose refers to the broad goal in creating and delivering a speech.

These typologies or classification systems of public speeches serve to demonstrate that general speech purposes have remained pretty consistent throughout the history of public speaking. Modern public speaking scholars typically use a classification system of three general purposes: to inform, to persuade, and to entertain.

The first general purpose that some people have for giving speeches is to inform . Simply put, this is about helping audience members acquire information that they do not already possess. Audience members can then use this information to understand something (e.g., speech on a new technology, speech on a new virus) or to perform a new task or improve their skills (e.g., how to swing a golf club, how to assemble a layer cake). The most important characteristic of informative topics is that the goal is to gain knowledge. Notice that the goal is not to encourage people to use that knowledge in any specific way. When a speaker starts encouraging people to use knowledge in a specific way, he or she is no longer informing but is persuading.

Let’s look at a real example of how an individual can accidentally go from informing to persuading. Let’s say you are assigned to inform an audience about a new vaccination program. In an informative speech, the purpose of the speech is to explain to your audience what the program is and how it works. If, however, you start encouraging your audience to participate in the vaccination program, you are no longer informing them about the program but rather persuading them to become involved in the program. One of the most common mistakes new public speaking students make is to blur the line between informing and persuading.

Why We Share Knowledge

Knowledge sharing is the process of delivering information, skills, or expertise in some form to people who could benefit from it. In fact, understanding and exchanging knowledge is so important that an entire field of study, called knowledge management , has been created to help people (especially businesses) become more effective at harnessing and exchanging knowledge. In the professional world, sharing knowledge is becoming increasingly important. Every year, millions of people attend some kind of knowledge sharing conference or convention in hopes of learning new information or skills that will help them in their personal or professional lives (Atwood, 2009).

People are motivated to share their knowledge with other people for a variety of reasons (Hendriks, 1999). For some, the personal sense of achievement or of responsibility drives them to share their knowledge (internal motivational factors). Others are driven to share knowledge because of the desire for recognition or the possibility of job enhancement (external motivational factors). Knowledge sharing is an important part of every society, so learning how to deliver informative speeches is a valuable skill.

Common Types of Informative Topics

O’Hair, Stewart, and Rubenstein identified six general types of informative speech topics: objects, people, events, concepts, processes, and issues (O’Hair, et al., 2007). The first type of informative speech relates to objects, which can include how objects are designed, how they function, and what they mean. For example, a student of one of our coauthors gave a speech on the design of corsets, using a mannequin to demonstrate how corsets were placed on women and the amount of force necessary to lace one up.

The second type of informative speech focuses on people. People-based speeches tend to be biography-oriented. Such topics could include recounting an individual’s achievements and explaining why he or she is important in history. Some speakers, who are famous themselves, will focus on their own lives and how various events shaped who they ultimately became. Dottie Walters is most noted as being the first female in the United States to run an advertising agency. In addition to her work in advertising, Dottie also spent a great deal of time as a professional speaker. She often would tell the story about her early years in advertising when she would push around a stroller with her daughter inside as she went from business to business trying to generate interest in her copywriting abilities. You don’t have to be famous, however, to give a people-based speech. Instead, you could inform your audience about a historical or contemporary hero whose achievements are not widely known.

The third type of informative speech involves explaining the significance of specific events, either historical or contemporary. For example, you could deliver a speech on a specific battle of World War II or a specific presidential administration. If you’re a history buff, event-oriented speeches may be right up your alley. There are countless historical events that many people aren’t familiar with and would find interesting. You could also inform your audience about a more recent or contemporary event. Some examples include concerts, plays, and arts festivals; athletic competitions; and natural phenomena, such as storms, eclipses, and earthquakes. The point is to make sure that an informative speech is talking about the event (who, what, when, where, and why) and not attempting to persuade people to pass judgment upon the event or its effects.

The fourth type of informative speech involves concepts, or “abstract and difficult ideas or theories” (O’Hair, et al., 2007). For example, if you want to explain a specific communication theory, E. M. Griffin provides an excellent list of communication theories on his website, https://www.afirstlook.com/theory-list . Whether you want to discuss theories related to business, sociology, psychology, religion, politics, art, or any other major area of study, this type of speech can be very useful in helping people to understand complex ideas.

The fifth type of informative speech involves processes. The process speech can be divided into two unique types: how-it-functions and how-to-do. The first type of process speech helps audience members understand how a specific object or system works. For example, you could explain how a bill becomes a law in the United States. There is a very specific set of steps that a bill must go through before it becomes a law, so there is a very clear process that could be explained to an audience. The how-to-do speech, on the other hand, is designed to help people come to an end result of some kind. For example, you could give a speech on how to quilt, how to change a tire, how to write a résumé, and millions of other how-to oriented topics. 

The final type of informative speech involves issues, or “problems or matters of dispute” (O’Hair, et al., 2007). This informative speech topic is probably the most difficult for novice public speakers because it requires walking a fine line between informing and persuading. If you attempt to deliver this type of speech, remember the goal is to be balanced when discussing both sides of the issue. 

Sample: Jessy Ohl’s Informative Speech

The following text represents an informative speech prepared and delivered by an undergraduate student named Jessy Ohl. While this speech is written out as a text for purposes of analysis, in your public speaking course, you will most likely be assigned to speak from an outline or notes, not a fully written script. As you read through this sample speech, notice how Mr. Ohl uses informative strategies to present the information without trying to persuade his audience.

In 1977, a young missionary named Daniel Everett traveled deep into the jungles of Brazil to spread the word of God. However, he soon found himself working to translate the language of a remote tribe that would ultimately change his faith, lead to a new profession, and pit him in an intellectual fist fight with the world-famous linguist Noam Chomsky. As New Scientist Magazine of January 2008 explains, Everett’s research on a small group of 350 people called the Pirahã tribe has revealed a language that has experts and intellectuals deeply disturbed. While all languages are unique, experts like Noam Chomsky have argued that they all have universal similarities, such as counting, that are hard-wired into the human brain. So as National Public Radio reported on April 8, 2007, without the ability to count, conceptualize time or abstraction, or create syntax, the Pirahã have a language that by all accounts shouldn’t exist. Daniel Everett is now a professor of linguistics at Illinois State University, and he has created controversy by calling for a complete reevaluation of all linguistic theory in light of the Pirahã. Exploration of the Pirahã could bring further insight into the understanding of how people communicate and even, perhaps, what it means to be human. Which is why we must: first, examine the unique culture of the Pirahã; second, explore what makes their language so surprising; and finally, discover the implications the Pirahã have for the way we look at language and humanity. Taking a closer look at the tribe’s culture, we can identify two key components of Pirahã culture that help mold language: first, isolation; and second, emphasis on reality. First, while globalization has reached nearly every corner of the earth, it has not been able to penetrate the Pirahã natives in the slightest. As Dr. Everett told the New Yorker of April 16, 2007, no group in history has resisted change like the Pirahã. “They reject everything from outside their world” as unnecessary and silly. Distaste for all things foreign is the reason why the people have rejected technology, farming, religion, and even artwork. The lack of artwork illustrates the second vital part of Pirahã culture: an emphasis on reality. According to the India Statesman of May 22, 2006, all Pirahã understanding is based around the concept of personal experience. If something cannot be felt, touched, or experienced directly then to them, it doesn’t exist, essentially eliminating the existence of abstract thought. Since art is often a representation of reality, it has no value among the people. During his work as a missionary, Everett was amazed to find that the natives had no interest in the story of Jesus once they found out that he was dead. The Pirahã psyche is so focused on the present that the people have no collective memory, history, written documents, or creation myths. They are unable to even remember the names of dead grandparents because once something or someone cannot be experienced, they are no longer important. Since his days as a missionary, Everett remains the only Western professor able to translate Pirahã. His research has discovered many things missing with the language: words for time, direction, and color. But more importantly, Pirahã also lacks three characteristics previously thought to be essential to all languages: complexity, counting, and recursion. First, the Pirahã language seems incredibly simple. Now, this isn’t meant to imply that the people are uncivilized or stupid, but instead, they are minimalist. As I mentioned earlier, they only talk in terms of direct experience. The London Times of January 13, 2007, notes that with only eight consonants and three vowels, speakers rely on the use of tone, pitch, and humming to communicate. In fact, Pirahã almost sounds more like song than speech.
Second, Noam Chomsky’s famous universal grammar theory includes the observation that every language has a means of counting. However, as reported in the June 2007 issue of Prospect Magazine , the Pirahã only have words for “one, two, and MANY.” This demonstrates the Pirahã’s inability to conceptualize a difference between three and five or three and a thousand. Dr. Everett spent six months attempting to teach even a single Pirahã person to count to ten, but his efforts were in vain, as tribal members considered the new numbers and attempts at math “childish.” Third, and the biggest surprise for researchers, is the Pirahã’s apparent lack of recursion. Recursion is the ability to link several thoughts together. It is characterized in Christine Kenneally’s 2007 book, The Search for the Origins of Language , as the fundamental principle of all language and the source of limitless expression. Pirahã is unique since the language does not have any conjunctions or linking words. Recursion is so vital for expression that the Chicago Tribune of June 11, 2007, reports that a language without recursion is like disproving gravity. Although the Pirahã don’t care what the outside world thinks of them, their language and world view has certainly ruffled feathers. And while civilization hasn’t been able to infiltrate the Pirahã, it may ultimately be the Pirahã that teaches civilization a thing or two, which brings us to implications on the communicative, philosophical, and cultural levels. By examining the culture, language, and implications of the Pirahã tribe we are able to see how this small Brazilian village could shift the way that we think and talk about the world. Daniel Everett’s research hasn’t made him more popular with his colleagues. But his findings do show that more critical research is needed to make sure that our understanding of language is not lost in translation.

To Persuade

The second general purpose people can have for speaking is to persuade . When we speak to persuade, we attempt to get listeners to embrace a point of view or to adopt a behavior that they would not have done otherwise. A persuasive speech can be distinguished from an informative speech by the fact that it includes a call for action for the audience to make some change in their behavior or thinking.

Why We Persuade

The reasons behind persuasive speech fall into two main categories, which we will call “pure persuasion” and “manipulative persuasion.” Pure persuasion occurs when a speaker urges listeners to engage in a specific behavior or change a point of view because the speaker truly believes that the change is in the best interest of the audience members. For example, you may decide to give a speech on the importance of practicing good oral hygiene because you truly believe that oral hygiene is important and that bad oral hygiene can lead to a range of physical, social, and psychological problems. In this case, the speaker has no ulterior or hidden motive (e.g., you are not a toothpaste salesperson).

Manipulative persuasion , on the other hand, occurs when a speaker urges listeners to engage in a specific behavior or change a point of view by misleading them, often to fulfill an ulterior motive beyond the face value of the persuasive attempt. We call this form of persuasion manipulative because the speaker is not being honest about the real purpose for attempting to persuade the audience. Ultimately, this form of persuasion is perceived as highly dishonest when audience members discover the ulterior motive. For example, suppose a physician who also owns a large amount of stock in a pharmaceutical company is asked to speak before a group of other physicians about a specific disease. Instead of informing the group about the disease, the doctor spends the bulk of his time attempting to persuade the audience that the drug his company manufactures is the best treatment for that specific disease.

Obviously, the key question for persuasion is the speaker’s intent. Is the speaker attempting to persuade the audience because of a sincere belief in the benefits of a certain behavior or point of view? Or is the speaker using all possible means—including distorting the truth—to persuade the audience because he or she will derive personal benefits from their adopting a certain behavior or point of view? Unless your speech assignment specifically calls for a speech of manipulative persuasion, the usual (and ethical) understanding of a “persuasive speech” assignment is that you should use the pure form of persuasion.

Persuasion: Behavior versus Attitudes, Values, and Beliefs

As we’ve mentioned in the preceding sections, persuasion can address behaviors—observable actions on the part of listeners—and it can also address intangible thought processes in the form of attitudes, values, and beliefs.

When the speaker attempts to persuade an audience to change behavior, we can often observe and even measure how successful the persuasion was. For example, after a speech attempting to persuade the audience to donate money to a charity, the charity can measure how many donations were received. The following is a short list of various behavior-oriented persuasive speeches we’ve seen in our own classes: washing one’s hands frequently and using hand sanitizer, adapting one’s driving habits to improve gas mileage, using open-source software, or drinking one soft drink or soda over another. In all these cases, the goal is to make a change in the basic behavior of audience members.

The second type of persuasive topic involves a change in attitudes, values, or beliefs. An attitude is defined as an individual’s general predisposition toward something as being good or bad, right or wrong, negative or positive. If you believe that dress codes on college campuses are a good idea, you want to give a speech persuading others to adopt a positive attitude toward campus dress codes.

A speaker can also attempt to persuade listeners to change some value they hold. Value refers to an individual’s perception of the usefulness, importance, or worth of something. We can value a college education, we can value technology, and we can value freedom. Values, as a general concept, are fairly ambiguous and tend to be very lofty ideas. Ultimately, what we value in life actually motivates us to engage in a range of behaviors. For example, if you value protecting the environment, you may recycle more of your trash than someone who does not hold this value. If you value family history and heritage, you may be more motivated to spend time with your older relatives and ask them about their early lives than someone who does not hold this value.

Lastly, a speaker can attempt to persuade people to change their personal beliefs. Beliefs are propositions or positions that an individual holds as true or false without positive knowledge or proof. Typically, beliefs are divided into two basic categories: core and dispositional. Core beliefs are beliefs that people have actively engaged in and created over the course of their lives (e.g., belief in a higher power, belief in extraterrestrial life forms). Dispositional beliefs , on the other hand, are beliefs that people have not actively engaged in; they are judgments based on related subjects, which people make when they encounter a proposition. Imagine, for example, that you were asked the question, “Can gorillas speak English?” While you may never have met a gorilla or even seen one in person, you can make instant judgments about your understanding of gorillas and fairly certainly say whether you believe that gorillas can speak English.

When it comes to persuading people to alter beliefs, persuading audiences to change core beliefs is more difficult than persuading audiences to change dispositional beliefs. If you find a topic related to dispositional beliefs, using your speech to help listeners alter their processing of the belief is a realistic possibility. But as a novice public speaker, you are probably best advised to avoid core beliefs. Although core beliefs often appear to be more exciting and interesting than dispositional ones, you are very unlikely to alter anyone’s core beliefs in a five- to ten-minute classroom speech.

Sample: Jessy Ohl’s Persuasive Speech

The following speech was written and delivered by an undergraduate student named Jessy Ohl. As with our earlier example, while this speech is written out as a text for purposes of analysis, in your public speaking course, you will most likely be assigned to speak from an outline or notes, not a fully written script.

Take a few minutes and compare this persuasive speech to the informative speech Mr. Ohl presented earlier in this chapter. What similarities do you see? What differences do you see? Does this speech seek to change the audience’s behavior? Attitudes? Values? Dispositional or core beliefs? Where in the speech do you see one or more calls for action?

With a declining population of around 6,000, my home town of Denison, Iowa, was on the brink of extinction when a new industry rolled in bringing jobs and revenue. However, as the Canadian Globe and Mail of July 23, 2007, reports, the industry that saved Denison may ultimately lead to its demise. Denison is one of 110 communities across the country to be revolutionized by the production of corn ethanol. Ethanol is a high-powered alcohol, derived from plant matter, that can be used like gasoline. According to the Omaha World Herald of January 8, 2008, our reliance on foreign oil combined with global warming concerns have many holding corn ethanol as our best energy solution. But despite the good intentions of helping farmers and lowering oil consumption, corn ethanol is filled with empty promises. In fact, The Des Moines Register of March 1, 2008, concludes that when ethanol is made from corn, all of its environmental and economic benefits disappear. With oil prices at 100 dollars per barrel, our nation is in an energy crisis, and luckily, the production of ethanol can be a major help for both farmers and consumers, if done correctly. Unfortunately, the way we make ethanol—over 95% from corn—is anything but correct. Although hailed as a magic bullet, corn ethanol could be the worst agricultural catastrophe since the Dust Bowl. The serious political, environmental, and even moral implications demand that we critically rethink this so-called yellow miracle by: first, examining the problems created by corn ethanol; second, exploring why corn ethanol has gained such power; and finally, discovering solutions to prevent a corn ethanol disaster. Now, if you have heard anything about the problems of corn ethanol, it probably dealt with efficiency. As the Christian Science Monitor of November 15, 2007, notes, it takes a gallon of gasoline or more to make a gallon of ethanol. And while this is an important concern, efficiency is the least of our worries. Turning this crop into fuel creates two major problems for our society: first, environmental degradation; and second, acceleration of global famine. First, corn ethanol damages the environment as much as, if not more than, fossil fuels. The journal Ethanol and Bio-diesel News of September 2007 asserts that the production of corn ethanol is pushing natural resources to the breaking point. Since the Dust Bowl, traditional farming practices have required farmers to “rotate” crops. But with corn ethanol being so profitable, understandably, farmers have stopped rotating crops, leading to soil erosion, deforestation, and fertilizer runoff—making our soil less fertile and more toxic. And the story only gets worse once the ethanol is manufactured. According to National Public Radio’s Talk of the Nation of February 10, 2008, corn ethanol emits more carbon monoxide and twice the amount of carcinogens into the air as traditional gasoline. The second problem created from corn ethanol is the acceleration of global famine. According to the US Grains Council, last year, 27 million tons of corn, traditionally used as food, was turned into ethanol, drastically increasing food prices. The March 7, 2007, issue of The Wall Street Journal explains that lower supplies of corn needed for necessities such as farm feed, corn oil, and corn syrup have increased our food costs in everything from milk to bread, eggs, and even beer as much as 25 percent. The St. Louis Post Dispatch of April 12, 2007, reports that the amount of corn used to fill one tank of gas could feed one person for an entire year. In October, Global protests over corn ethanol lead the United Nations to call its production “a crime against humanity.” If you weren’t aware of the environmental or moral impacts of corn ethanol, you’re not alone. The Financial Times of May 27, 2007, reports that the narrative surrounding corn ethanol as a homegrown fuel is so desirable that critical thinking is understandably almost nonexistent. To start thinking critically about corn ethanol, we need to examine solutions on both the federal and personal levels. First, at the federal level, our government must end the ridiculously high subsidies surrounding corn ethanol. On June 24, 2007, The Washington Post predicted that subsidies on corn ethanol would cost the federal government an extra 131 billion dollars by 2010. This isn’t to say that the federal government should abandon small farmers. Instead, let’s take the excitement around alternative fuels and direct it toward the right kinds of ethanol. The Economist of June 2, 2007, reports that other materials such as switch grass and wood chips can be used instead of corn. And on July 6, 2011, The New York Times reported on ethanol made from corn cobs, leaves, and husks, which leaves the corn kernels to be used as food. The government could use the money paid in subsidies to support this kind of responsible production of ethanol. The point is that ethanol done right can honestly help with energy independence. On the personal level, we have all participated in the most important step, which is being knowledgeable about the true face of corn ethanol. However, with big business and Washington proclaiming corn ethanol’s greatness, we need to spread the word. So please, talk to friends and family about corn ethanol while there is still time. To make this easier, visit my website, at www.responsibleethanol.com . Here you will find informational materials, links to your congressional representatives, and ways to invest in switch grass and wood ethanol. Today, we examined the problems of corn ethanol in America and discovered solutions to make sure that our need for energy reform doesn’t sacrifice our morality. Iowa is turning so much corn into ethanol that soon the state will have to import corn to eat. And while my hometown of Denison has gained much from corn ethanol, we all have much more to lose from it.

To Entertain

The final general purpose people can have for public speaking is to entertain. Whereas informative and persuasive speech making is focused on the end result of the speech process, entertainment speaking is focused on the theme and occasion of the speech. An entertaining speech can be either informative or persuasive at its root, but the context or theme of the speech requires speakers to think about the speech primarily in terms of audience enjoyment.

Why We Entertain

Entertaining speeches are very common in everyday life. The fundamental goal of an entertaining speech is audience enjoyment, which can come in a variety of forms. Entertaining speeches can be funny or serious. Overall, entertaining speeches are not designed to give an audience a deep understanding of life but instead to function as a way to divert an audience from their day-to-day lives for a short period of time. This is not to say that an entertaining speech cannot have real content that is highly informative or persuasive, but its goal is primarily about the entertaining aspects of the speech and not focused on the informative or persuasive quality of the speech.

Common Forms of Entertainment Topics

There are three basic types of entertaining speeches: the after-dinner speech, the ceremonial speech, and the inspirational speech. The after-dinner speech is a form of speaking where a speaker takes a serious speech topic (either informative or persuasive) and injects a level of humor into the speech to make it entertaining. Some novice speakers will attempt to turn an after-dinner speech into a stand-up comedy routine, which doesn’t have the same focus (Roye, 2010). After-dinner speeches are first and foremost speeches.

A ceremonial speech is a type of entertaining speech where the specific context of the speech is the driving force of the speech. Common types of ceremonial speeches include introductions, toasts, and eulogies. In each of these cases, there are specific events that drive the speech. Maybe you’re introducing an individual who is about to receive an award, giving a toast at your best friend’s wedding, or delivering the eulogy at a relative’s funeral. In each of these cases, the speech and the purpose of the speech is determined by the context of the event and not by the desire to inform or persuade.

The final type of entertaining speech is one where the speaker’s primary goal is to inspire her or his audience. Inspirational speeches are based in emotion with the goal to motivate listeners to alter their lives in some significant way. Florence Littauer, a famous professional speaker, delivers an emotionally charged speech titled “Silver Boxes.” In the speech, Mrs. Littauer demonstrates how people can use positive comments to encourage others in their daily lives. The title comes from a story she tells at the beginning of the speech where she was teaching a group of children about using positive speech, and one of the children defined positive speech as giving people little silver boxes with bows on top ( http://server.firefighters.org/catalog/2009/45699.mp3 ).

Sample: Adam Fink’s Entertainment Speech

The following speech, by an undergraduate student named Adam Fink, is an entertainment speech. Specifically, this speech is a ceremonial speech given at Mr. Fink’s graduation. As with our earlier examples, while this speech is written out as a text for purposes of analysis, in your public speaking course you will most likely be assigned to speak from an outline or notes, not a fully written script. Notice that the tenor of this speech is persuasive but that it persuades in a more inspiring way than just building and proving an argument.

Good evening! I’ve spent the last few months looking over commencement speeches on YouTube. The most notable ones had eight things in common. They reflected on the past, pondered about the future. They encouraged the honorees. They all included some sort of personal story and application. They made people laugh at least fifteen times. They referred to the university as the finest university in the nation or world, and last but not least they all greeted the people in attendance. I’ll begin by doing so now. President Holst, thank you for coming. Faculty members and staff, salutations to you all. Distinguished guests, we are happy to have you. Family members and friends, we could not be here without you. Finally, ladies and gentlemen of the class of 2009, welcome to your commencement day here at Concordia University, Saint Paul, this, the finest university in the galaxy, nay, universe. Really, it’s right up there with South Harlem Institute of Technology, the School of Hard Knocks, and Harvard. Check and check! Graduates, we are not here to watch as our siblings, our parents, friends, or other family walk across this stage. We are here because today is our graduation day. I am going to go off on a tangent for a little bit. Over the past umpteen years, I have seen my fair share of graduations and ceremonies. In fact, I remember getting dragged along to my older brothers’ and sisters’ graduations, all 8,000 of them—at least it seems like there were that many now. Seriously, I have more family members than friends. I remember sitting here in these very seats, intently listening to the president and other distinguished guests speak, again saying welcome and thank you for coming. Each year, I got a little bit better at staying awake throughout the entire ceremony. Every time I would come up with something new to keep myself awake, daydreams, pinching my arms, or pulling leg hair; I was a very creative individual. I am proud to say that I have been awake for the entirety of this ceremony. I would like to personally thank my classmates and colleagues sitting around me for slapping me every time I even thought about dozing off. Personal story, check—and now, application! Graduates, don’t sleep through life. If you need a close friend or colleague to keep you awake, ask. Don’t get bored with life. In the words of one of my mentors, the Australian film director, screen writer, and producer Baz Luhrman, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” Keep yourself on your toes. Stay occupied but leave room for relaxation; embrace your hobbies. Don’t get stuck in a job you hate. I am sure many of you have seen the “Did You Know?” film on YouTube. The film montages hundreds of statistics together, laying down the ground work to tell viewers that we are approaching a crossroad. The way we live is about to change dramatically. We are living in exponential times. It’s a good thing that we are exponential people.
We are at a crossing point here, now. Each of us is graduating; we are preparing to leave this place we have called home for the past few years. It’s time to move on and flourish. But let’s not leave this place for good. Let us walk away with happy memories. We have been fortunate enough to see more change in our time here than most alumni see at their alma mater in a lifetime. We have seen the destruction of Centennial, Minnesota, and Walther. Ladies, it might not mean a lot to you, but gentlemen, we had some good times there. We have seen the building and completion of the new Residence Life Center. We now see the beginnings of our very own stadium. We have seen enough offices and departments move to last any business a lifetime. Let us remember these things, the flooding of the knoll, Ultimate Frisbee beginning at ten o’clock at night, and two back-to-back Volleyball National Championship teams, with one of those championship games held where you are sitting now. I encourage all of you to walk out of this place with flashes of the old times flickering through your brains. Reflection, check! Honorees, in the words of Michael Scott, only slightly altered, “They have no idea how high [we] can fly.” Right now you are surrounded by future politicians, film critics, producers, directors, actors, actresses, church workers, artists, the teachers of tomorrow, musicians, people who will change the world. We are all held together right here and now, by a common bond of unity. We are one graduating class. In one of his speeches this year, President Barack Obama said, “Generations of Americans have connected their stories to the larger American story through service and helped move our country forward. We need that service now.” He is right. America needs selfless acts of service. Hebrews 10:23–25 reads, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Let us not leave this place as enemies but rather as friends and companions. Let us come back next fall for our first reunion, the Zero Class Reunion hosted by the wonderful and amazing workers in the alumni department. Let us go and make disciples of all nations, guided by His Word. Let us spread God’s peace, joy, and love through service to others. Congratulations, graduates! I hope to see you next homecoming. Encouragement, check!

Key Takeaways

  • There are three general purposes that all speeches fall into: to inform, to persuade, and to entertain. Depending on what your ultimate goal is, you will start by picking one of these general purposes and then selecting an appropriate speech pattern that goes along with that general purpose.
  • Informative speeches can focus on objects, people, events, concepts, processes, or issues. It is important to remember that your purpose in an informative speech is to share information with an audience, not to persuade them to do or believe something.
  • There are two basic types of persuasion: pure and manipulative. Speakers who attempt to persuade others for pure reasons do so because they actually believe in what they are persuading an audience to do or think. Speakers who persuade others for manipulative reasons do so often by distorting the support for their arguments because they have an ulterior motive in persuading an audience to do or think something. If an audience finds out that you’ve been attempting to manipulate them, they will lose trust in you.
  • Entertainment speeches can be after-dinner, ceremonial, or inspirational. Although there may be informative or persuasive elements to your speech, your primary reason for giving the speech is to entertain the audience.
  • Imagine you’re giving a speech related to aardvarks to a group of fifth graders. Which type of informative speech do you think would be the most useful (objects, people, events, concepts, processes, and issues)? Why?
  • Imagine you’re giving a speech to a group of prospective voters supporting a specific political candidate. Which type of persuasive speech do you think would be the most useful (change of behavior, change of attitude, change of value, or change of belief)? Why?
  • Imagine that you’ve been asked to speak at a business luncheon and the host has asked you to keep it serious but lighthearted. Which type of entertainment speech do you think would be the most useful (the after-dinner speech, the ceremonial speech, or the inspirational speech)? Why?

Atwood, C. G. (2009). Knowledge management basics . Alexandria, VA: ASTD Press.

Hendriks, P. (1999). Why share knowledge? The influence of ICT on the motivation for knowledge sharing. Knowledge and Process Management, 6 , 91–100.

O’Hair, D., Stewart, R., & Rubenstein, H. (2007). A speaker’s guidebook: Text and reference (3rd ed.). Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martins.

Roye, S. (2010). Austan Goolsbee a funny stand-up comedian? Not even close… [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.realfirststeps.com/1184/austan-goolsbee-funny-standup-comedian-close

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6.4 Specific Purposes

Learning objectives.

  • Understand the process of extending a general purpose into a specific purpose.
  • Integrate the seven tips for creating specific purposes.

Roma Street Steps

Andrew Sutherland – Roma Street Steps – CC BY-SA 2.0.

Once you have chosen your general purpose and your topic, it’s time to take your speech to the next phase and develop your specific purpose. A specific purpose starts with one of the three general purposes and then specifies the actual topic you have chosen and the basic objective you hope to accomplish with your speech. Basically, the specific purpose answers the who , what , when , where , and why questions for your speech.

Getting Specific

When attempting to get at the core of your speech (the specific purpose), you need to know a few basic things about your speech. First, you need to have a general purpose. Once you know whether your goal is to inform, persuade, or entertain, picking an appropriate topic is easier. Obviously, depending on the general purpose, you will have a range of different types of topics. For example, let’s say you want to give a speech about hygiene. You could still give a speech about hygiene no matter what your general purpose is, but the specific purpose would vary depending on whether the general purpose is to inform (discussing hygiene practices around the globe), to persuade (discussing why people need to adopt a specific hygiene practice), or to entertain (discussing some of the strange and unique hygiene practices that people have used historically). Notice that in each of these cases, the general purpose alters the topic, but all three are still fundamentally about hygiene.

Now, when discussing specific purposes, we are concerned with who, what, when, where, why, and how questions for your speech. Let’s examine each of these separately. First, you want to know who is going to be in your audience. Different audiences, as discussed in the chapter on audience analysis, have differing desires, backgrounds, and needs. Keeping your audience first and foremost in your thoughts when choosing a specific purpose will increase the likelihood that your audience will find your speech meaningful.

Second is the “what” question, or the basic description of your topic. When picking an effective topic, you need to make sure that the topic is appropriate for a variety of constraints or limitations within a speaking context.

Third, you need to consider when your speech will be given. Different speeches may be better for different times of the day. For example, explaining the importance of eating breakfast and providing people with cereal bars may be a great topic at 9:00 a.m. but may not have the same impact if you’re giving it at 4:00 p.m.

Fourth, you need to consider where your speech will be given. Are you giving a speech in front of a classroom? A church? An executive meeting? Depending on the location of your speech, different topics may or may not be appropriate.

The last question you need to answer within your speech is why. Why does your audience need to hear your speech? If your audience doesn’t care about your specific purpose, they are less likely to attend to your speech. If it’s a topic that’s a little more off-the-wall, you’ll really need to think about why they should care.

Once you’ve determined the who , what , when , where , and why aspects of your topic, it’s time to start creating your actual specific purpose. First, a specific purpose, in its written form, should be a short, declarative sentence that emphasizes the main topic of your speech. Let’s look at an example:

In this example, we’ve quickly narrowed a topic from a more general topic to a more specific topic. Let’s now look at that topic in terms of a general purpose and specific purpose:

For the purpose of this example, we used the same general topic area, but demonstrated how you could easily turn the topic into either an informative speech or a persuasive speech. In the first example, the speaker is going to talk about the danger embedded journalists face. In this case, the speaker isn’t attempting to alter people’s ideas about embedded journalists, just make them more aware of the dangers. In the second case, the specific purpose is to persuade a group of journalism students (the audience) to avoid jobs as embedded journalists.

Your Specific Statement of Purpose

To form a clear and succinct statement of the specific purpose of your speech, start by naming your general purpose (to inform, to persuade, or to entertain). Follow this by a capsule description of your audience (my peers in class, a group of kindergarten teachers, etc.). Then complete your statement of purpose with a prepositional phrase (a phrase using “to,” “about,” “by,” or another preposition) that summarizes your topic. As an example, “My specific purpose is to persuade the students in my residence hall to protest the proposed housing cost increase” is a specific statement of purpose, while “My speech will be about why we should protest the proposed housing cost increase” is not.

Specific purposes should be statements, not questions. If you find yourself starting to phrase your specific purpose as a question, ask yourself how you can reword it as a statement. Table 6.3 “My Specific Purpose Is…” provides several more examples of good specific purpose statements.

Table 6.3 My Specific Purpose Is…

Basic Tips for Creating Specific Purposes

Now that we’ve examined what specific purposes are, we are going to focus on a series of tips to help you write specific purposes that are appropriate for a range of speeches.

Audience, Audience, Audience

First and foremost, you always need to think about your intended audience when choosing your specific purpose. In the previous section, we talked about a speech where a speaker is attempting to persuade a group of journalism students to not take jobs as embedded journalists. Would the same speech be successful, or even appropriate, if given in your public speaking class? Probably not. As a speaker, you may think your topic is great, but you always need to make sure you think about your audience when selecting your specific purpose. For this reason, when writing your specific purpose, start off your sentence by including the words “my audience” or actually listing the name of your audience: a group of journalism students, the people in my congregation, my peers in class, and so on. When you place your audience first, you’re a lot more likely to have a successful speech.

Matching the Rhetorical Situation

After your audience, the second most important consideration about your specific purpose pertains to the rhetorical situation of your speech. The rhetorical situation is the set of circumstances surrounding your speech (e.g., speaker, audience, text, and context). When thinking about your specific purpose, you want to ensure that all these components go together. You want to make sure that you are the appropriate speaker for a topic, the topic is appropriate for your audience, the text of your speech is appropriate, and the speech is appropriate for the context. For example, speeches that you give in a classroom may not be appropriate in a religious context and vice versa.

Make It Clear

The specific purpose statement for any speech should be direct and not too broad, general, or vague. Consider the lack of clarity in the following specific purpose: “To persuade the students in my class to drink more.” Obviously, we have no idea what the speaker wants the audience to drink: water, milk, orange juice? Alcoholic beverages? Furthermore, we have no way to quantify or make sense of the word “more.” “More” assumes that the students are already drinking a certain amount, and the speaker wants them to increase their intake. If you want to persuade your listeners to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day, you need to say so clearly in your specific purpose.

Another way in which purpose statements are sometimes unclear comes from the use of colloquial language. While we often use colloquialisms in everyday life, they are often understood only by a limited number of people. It may sound like fun to have a specific purpose like, “To persuade my audience to get jiggy,” but if you state this as your purpose, many people probably won’t know what you’re talking about at all.

Don’t Double Up

You cannot hope to solve the entire world’s problems in one speech, so don’t even try. At the same time, you also want to make sure that you stick to one specific purpose. Chances are it will be challenging enough to inform your audience about one topic or persuade them to change one behavior or opinion. Don’t put extra stress on yourself by adding topics. If you find yourself using the word “and” in your specific topic statement, you’re probably doubling up on topics.

Can I Really Do This in Five to Seven Minutes?

When choosing your specific purpose, it’s important to determine whether it can be realistically covered in the amount of time you have. Time limits are among the most common constraints for students in a public speaking course. Usually speeches early in the term have shorter time limits (three to five minutes), and speeches later in the term have longer time limits (five to eight minutes). While eight minutes may sound like an eternity to be standing up in front of the class, it’s actually a very short period of time in which to cover a topic. To determine whether you think you can accomplish your speech’s purpose in the time slot, ask yourself how long it would take to make you an informed person on your chosen topic or to persuade you to change your behavior or attitudes.

If you cannot reasonably see yourself becoming informed or persuaded during the allotted amount of time, chances are you aren’t going to inform or persuade your audience either. The solution, of course, is to make your topic narrower so that you can fully cover a limited aspect of it.

Key Takeaways

  • Moving from a general to specific purpose requires you to identify the who , what , when , where , and why of your speech.
  • State your specific purpose in a sentence that includes the general purpose, a description of the intended audience, and a prepositional phrase summarizing the topic.
  • When creating a specific purpose for your speech, first, consider your audience. Second, consider the rhetorical situation. Make sure your specific purpose statement uses clear language, and that it does not try to cover more than one topic.
  • Make sure you can realistically accomplish your specific purpose within the allotted time.
  • You’ve been asked to give a series of speeches on the importance of health care in poverty-stricken countries. One audience will consist of business men and women, one audience will consist of religious leaders, and another audience will consist of high school students. How would you need to adjust your speech’s purpose for each of these different audiences? How do these different audiences alter the rhetorical situation?
  • For the following list of topics, think about how you could take the same topic and adjust it for each of the different general purposes (inform, persuade, and entertain). Write out the specific purpose for each of your new speech topics. Here are the three general topic areas to work with: the First Amendment to the US Constitution, iPods, and literacy in the twenty-first century.

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Chapter 18 Speaking to Entertain

Understanding entertaining speeches, learning objectives.

  • Understand the purpose of entertaining speeches.
  • Explain the four ingredients of a good entertaining speech.

In broad terms, an entertaining speech is a speech designed to captivate an audience’s attention and regale or amuse them while delivering a message. Like more traditional informative or persuasive speeches, entertaining speeches should communicate a clear message, but the manner of speaking used in an entertaining speech is typically different. Entertaining speeches are often delivered on special occasions (e.g., a toast at a wedding, an acceptance speech at an awards banquet, a motivational speech at a conference), which is why they are sometimes referred to as special-occasion speeches. However, they can also be given on more mundane occasions, where their purpose is primarily to amuse audience members or arouse them emotionally in some way. Remember, when we use the word “entertain,” we are referring not just to humor but also to drama. The goal of an entertaining speech is to stir an audience’s emotions.

Of all the types of speeches we come in contact with during our lives, the bulk of them will probably fall into the category of entertainment. If you spend just one evening watching a major awards show (e.g., the Grammys, the Tonys, the Oscars), you’ll see dozens of acceptance speeches. While some of these acceptance speeches are good and others may be terrible, they all belong in the category of speaking to entertain.

Other speeches that fall into the entertaining category are designed to inspire or motivate an audience to do something. These are, however, different from a traditional persuasive speech. While entertaining speeches are often persuasive, we differentiate the two often based on the rhetorical situation itself. Maybe your school has hired a speaker to talk about his or her life story in an attempt to inspire the audience to try harder in school and reach for the best that life has to offer. You can imagine how this speech would be different from a traditional persuasive speech focusing on, say, the statistics related to scholastic achievement and success later in life.

Entertaining speeches are definitely very common, but that doesn’t mean they don’t require effort and preparation. A frequent trap is that people often think of entertaining speeches as corny. As a result, they don’t prepare seriously but rather stand up to speak with the idea that they can “wing it” by acting silly and telling a few jokes. Instead of being entertaining, the speech falls flat. To help us think through how to be effective in delivering entertaining speeches, let’s look at four key ingredients: preparation, adaptation to the occasion, adaptation to the audience, and mindfulness about the time.

Be Prepared

First, and foremost, the biggest mistake you can make when standing to deliver an entertaining speech is to underprepare or simply not prepare at all. We’ve stressed the need for preparation throughout this text, so just because you’re giving a wedding toast or a eulogy doesn’t mean you shouldn’t think through the speech before you stand up and speak out. If the situation is impromptu, even jotting some basic notes on a napkin is better than not having any plan for what you are going to say. Remember, when you get anxious, as it inevitably happens in front of an audience, your brain doesn’t function as well as when you are having a relaxed conversation with friends. You often forget information. By writing down some simple notes, you’ll be less likely to deliver a bad speech.

Be Adaptive to the Occasion

Not all content is appropriate for all occasions. If you are asked to deliver a speech commemorating the first anniversary of a school shooting, then obviously using humor and telling jokes wouldn’t be appropriate. But some decisions about adapting to the occasion are less obvious. Consider the following examples:

  • You are the maid of honor giving a toast at the wedding of your younger sister.
  • You are receiving a Most Valuable Player award in your favorite sport.
  • You are a sales representative speaking to a group of clients after a mistake has been discovered.
  • You are a cancer survivor speaking at a high school student assembly.

How might you adapt your message and speaking style to successfully entertain these various audiences?

Remember that being a competent speaker is about being both personally effective and socially appropriate. Different occasions will call for different levels of social appropriateness. One of the biggest mistakes entertaining speakers can make is to deliver one generic speech to different groups without adapting the speech to the specific occasion. In fact, professional speakers always make sure that their speeches are tailored for different occasions by getting information about the occasion from their hosts. When we tailor speeches for special occasions, people are more likely to remember those speeches than if we give a generic speech.

Be Adaptive to Your Audience

Once again, we cannot stress the importance of audience adaptation enough in this text. Different audiences will respond differently to speech material, so the more you know about your audience the more likely you’ll succeed in your speech. One of our coauthors was once at a conference for teachers of public speaking. The keynote speaker stood and delivered a speech on the importance of public speaking. While the speaker was good and funny, the speech really fell flat. The keynote speaker basically told the public speaking teachers that they should take public speaking courses because public speaking is important. Right speech, wrong audience!

Be Mindful of the Time

The last major consideration for delivering entertaining speeches successfully is to be mindful of your time. Different entertaining speech situations have their own conventions and rules with regard to time. Acceptance speeches and toasts, for example, should be relatively short (typically under five minutes). A speech of introduction should be extremely brief—just long enough to tell the audience what they need to know about the person being introduced in a style that prepares them to appreciate that person’s remarks. In contrast, commencement speeches and speeches to commemorate events can run ten to twenty minutes in length.

It’s also important to recognize that audiences on different occasions will expect speeches of various lengths. For example, although it’s true that graduation commencement speakers generally speak for ten to twenty minutes, the closer that speaker heads toward twenty minutes the more fidgety the audience becomes. To hold the audience’s attention and fulfill the goal of entertaining, a commencement speaker would do well to make the closing minutes of the speech the most engaging and inspiring portion of the speech. If you’re not sure about the expected time frame for a speech, either ask the person who has invited you to speak or do some quick research to see what the average speech times in the given context tend to be.

Key Takeaways

  • Entertaining speeches are speeches designed to captivate an audience’s attention and regale or amuse them while delivering a clear message. Speakers engage in entertaining speeches generally at special occasions (e.g., weddings, funerals) or are asked to deliver a keynote address.
  • Entertaining speeches should include four key considerations: preparation, adaptation to the occasion, adaptation to the audience, and mindfulness of the time. As with all speeches, speakers need to prepare the speech. Second, speakers need to think about the specific occasion. Third, speakers need to adapt their speeches to the specific audience. Lastly, speakers need to think about how long they should speak.
  • Type in the word “roast” into YouTube and watch a few minutes of a roast. Did the speaker clearly exhibit the four clear ingredients of an entertaining speech?
  • Watch several toasts and acceptance speeches on YouTube. Can you identify specific ways in which each speaker adapts the speech to the occasion and the audience?
  • Public Speaking: Practice and Ethics. Authored by : Anonymous. Provided by : Anonymous. Located at : http://2012books.lardbucket.org/books/public-speaking-practice-and-ethics/ . License : CC BY-NC-SA: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike

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  1. How to Write an Entertaining Speech: Guide, Tips, and Example

    entertaining speech is used for these purposes

  2. What is an entertaining speech?

    entertaining speech is used for these purposes

  3. How to Write an Entertaining Speech: Guide, Tips, and Example

    entertaining speech is used for these purposes

  4. PPT

    entertaining speech is used for these purposes

  5. What is an entertaining speech? by Alejandro Castillo

    entertaining speech is used for these purposes

  6. 30+ Top Entertaining Speech Topics Ideas for Debate

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VIDEO

  1. Entertainment speech

  2. Persuasive speech on Why You Should Exercise on the course: INTRODUCTION TO COMMUNICATION

  3. How to write entertaining speeches

  4. IT’S MY TIME

  5. KILL YOUR LAZINESS

  6. Oral Communication in Context (Entertainment Speech)

COMMENTS

  1. 18.1 Understanding Entertaining Speeches

    Entertaining speeches are speeches designed to captivate an audience's attention and regale or amuse them while delivering a clear message. Speakers engage in entertaining speeches generally at special occasions (e.g., weddings, funerals) or are asked to deliver a keynote address. Entertaining speeches should include four key considerations ...

  2. 15.2: Understanding Entertaining Speeches

    15.2: Understanding Entertaining Speeches. In broad terms, an entertaining speech is a speech designed to captivate an audience's attention and regale or amuse them while delivering a message. Like more traditional informative or persuasive speeches, entertaining speeches should communicate a clear message, but the manner of speaking used in ...

  3. Understanding Entertaining Speeches

    Entertaining speeches are speeches designed to captivate an audience's attention and regale or amuse them while delivering a clear message. Speakers engage in entertaining speeches generally at special occasions (e.g., weddings, funerals) or are asked to deliver a keynote address. Entertaining speeches should include four key considerations ...

  4. 43 18.1 Understanding Entertaining Speeches

    Entertaining speeches should include four key considerations: preparation, adaptation to the occasion, adaptation to the audience, and mindfulness of the time. As with all speeches, speakers need to prepare the speech. Second, speakers need to think about the specific occasion. Third, speakers need to adapt their speeches to the specific audience.

  5. Types of Public Speaking: Entertaining Speaking

    Entertaining speaking is a type of public presentation that aims to captivate, engage, and delight an audience, often by evoking their emotions or appealing to their sense of humor. This form of oral communication focuses on delivering messages in an enjoyable and memorable manner while still maintaining the intended message's core essence.

  6. Speaking to Entertain

    In broad terms, an entertaining speech Speech designed to captivate an audience's attention and regale or amuse them while delivering a clear message. is a speech designed to captivate an audience's attention and regale or amuse them while delivering a message. Like more traditional informative or persuasive speeches, entertaining speeches should communicate a clear message, but the manner ...

  7. PRDV008: Entertaining Speeches

    After-dinner speeches are first and foremost speeches. A ceremonial speech is a type of entertaining speech where the specific context of the speech is the driving force of the speech. Common types of ceremonial speeches include introductions, toasts, and eulogies. In each of these cases, there are specific events that drive the speech.

  8. Types of Speeches: The Entertaining Speech

    Here are the previous posts in this "Type of Speeches" series: The Keynote Address. The Training Session. The Motivational Speech. The next post in this series is The Demonstration. Growing As a Person - Why You Shouldn't Be Afraid of Personal Growth. Public Speaking Tip #29: Respecting Time Limits.

  9. Understanding Entertaining Speeches

    Entertaining speeches should include four key considerations: preparation, adaptation to the occasion, adaptation to the audience, and mindfulness of the time. As with all speeches, speakers need to prepare the speech. Second, speakers need to think about the specific occasion. Third, speakers need to adapt their speeches to the specific audience.

  10. Entertaining Speech Topics [195 Ideas To Keep Audience Engaged]

    Rare pronounciations of ordinary words and phrases. The art of kissing. Bad hair day solutions. Shopping guide for a man. Problem solving in an entertaining way. Funny facts of life are popular topics for an entertainment speech. Golfing at night or in the snow. Lawyers and the truth. Creative marriage proposals.

  11. Entertaining Speeches Flashcards

    General entertaining speech may last 5 min ... a new library is completed, and so on. These speeches are designed to highlight the importance of the project and possibly those to whom the project has been dedicated. toast. is a speech designed to congratulate, appreciate, or remember. First, toasts can be delivered for the purpose of ...

  12. Chapter 18: Speaking on Special Occasions Flashcards

    A speech of presentation: 1) entertains and relaxes people. 2) gives some inspirational words while raising a glass. 3) is given before someone earns an award or honor. 4) is used to introduce an audience to a speaker and his or her accomplishments. Answer: 3) Is given before someone earns an award or honor.

  13. Developing Interpersonal Skills Flashcards

    A form of speech that is used to clarify, describe, demonstrate, and/or explain is referred to as _____. informative. The tone a writer takes is referred to as the writing _____. Voice. The writing format includes all but the following _____. writing purpose. Expository/informational writing discusses the what, when, where, and how of your topic.

  14. 5.2: General Purposes of Speaking

    An entertaining speech can be either informative or persuasive at its root, but the context or theme of the speech requires speakers to think about the speech primarily in terms of audience enjoyment. ... In each of these cases, the speech and the purpose of the speech is determined by the context of the event and not by the desire to inform or ...

  15. 6.4 Specific Purposes

    To form a clear and succinct statement of the specific purpose of your speech, start by naming your general purpose (to inform, to persuade, or to entertain). Follow this by a capsule description of your audience (my peers in class, a group of kindergarten teachers, etc.). Then complete your statement of purpose with a prepositional phrase (a ...

  16. Select all that apply. Entertaining speech is used for these purposes

    Entertaining speech is used for these purposes: bring people together at a social event, to be amusing and convince the audience to support a cause. The purpose of this kind of speech is so simple: to amuse and entertain your audience. To convey an idea in a funny way so it could be clearly understood and accepted.

  17. PDF This is "Speaking to Entertain", chapter 18 from the book Public

    1. Understand the purpose of entertaining speeches. 2. Explain the four ingredients of a good entertaining speech. In broad terms, an. entertaining speech. 1. is a speech designed to captivate an audience's attention and regale or amuse them while delivering a message. Like more traditional informative or persuasive speeches,

  18. Speaking Flashcards

    A form of speech used by a speaker who is attempting to be witty and amusing is _____. entertaining informative persuasive none of the above. entertaining. Select all that apply. Before speaking, the speaker should consider: where the speaking takes place maintaining eye contact providing feedback who the audience is.

  19. Understanding Entertaining Speeches

    Entertaining speeches are speeches designed to captivate an audience's attention and regale or amuse them while delivering a clear message. Speakers engage in entertaining speeches generally at special occasions (e.g., weddings, funerals) or are asked to deliver a keynote address. Entertaining speeches should include four key considerations ...

  20. Entertaining speech is used for these purposes: A) explaining how to

    Entertaining speech is used for these purposes: A) explaining how to repair a computer B) bring people togeth Get the answers you need, now! ... The purpose of an entertaining speech is to bring people together at a social event and to be amusing. It aims to entertain and engage the audience, providing enjoyment and creating a positive atmosphere.

  21. Public Speaking Unit 2 Flashcards

    The ability to hold two different kinds of ideas in our minds at the same time, such as when a person is against murder but in favor of capital punishment. When a persuasive speaker challenges our preconceived ideas, we experience a shift in our minds. We may believe one thing, but the speaker may believe another.