As you already know being able to speak in public is a powerful skill that can be used to earn money, change your career path, etc.
There are different types of public speaking. Verbal communications have many forms, each with its own specific purpose, context, and audience. The types of public speaking we will explore each serve a unique purpose and require different skills. The most effective public speakers understand the goals and expectations of each type and tailor their approach and speech accordingly.
In this section, you’ll find the main four types of public speaking with a simple to understand explanation of each type.
An instructional public speech, aka a demonstrative speech, is a talk where you demonstrate an action or series of steps to a group of people. The topic you teach is irrelevant – if you’re running a demo you’re giving an instructional speech. You can liken this type to being a friendly and knowledgeable guide who helps others learn and understand things.
Here’s an example: Let’s imagine you’re explaining to your friend how to bake cookies. You would take them through a sequence of steps, such as mixing the ingredients, shaping the dough, and baking it in the oven. This example is identical to an instructional public speech, except that instead of teaching just one friend, you’re talking to a group of people who want to learn what you know.
When you’re giving an instructional speech, the following points are important to keep in mind:
Clear Steps: Break down whatever you’re teaching into simple, clear steps. See your speech as a series building blocks – one step leads to the next that people can follow along with ease.
Visuals: Sometimes, showing is easier than telling. You can use pictures, diagrams, or even videos to help people understand better. This is particularly important if you’re teaching people new skills.
Speak Slowly and Clearly: When you’re explaining the steps, speak slowly and make sure your words are clear. This is important as everyone needs to understand what you’re saying.
Examples: Use real examples people can relate to. If you’re explaining how to take care of a dog, tell them about a time when you cared for your dog and what you found worked best.
Questions and Answers: Q&A speeches are common forms of instructional presentations and you need to be prepared to answer any questions about the topic you’re teaching. See it as having an informal chat with your audience to make sure they understand.
Educational public speaking can be likened to acting as a friendly teacher. The aim is to present to a group of people to share interesting and helpful information. Another way to view educational speaking is to think back to a time when your school teacher told you interesting facts or explained new things you didn’t know before.
When you’re doing educational public speaking, here are a few thoughts to keep in mind:
Interesting Facts: Take time to think about what you’re going to talk about. Select facts, ideas, or skills that invoke curiosity in your audience and make them want to learn more. See it as like sharing a secret that’s really interesting.
Simple Language: Void complex words – make your language simple enough that everyone can understand. Imagine you’re explaining things to a young person who might not have the same grasp of language as you do, or might not know a lot about the topic.
Tell Stories: Adding stories to your speech makes them more fun and is a powerful way to connect to your audience. Give real-life examples and stories as a way of explaining the ideas you’re talking about.
Eye Contact: Look at the people you’re speaking to. For some, especially beginner speakers, this can be hard and I have some tips to help overcome this particular speaking fear. Imagine you’re having a friendly conversation with your audience, even though you’re the one doing most of the talking.
Answer Questions: People will have questions. When you have the answers, that’s great! If not, it’s okay to say you’ll find out and tell them later.
Practice: Just like practising a sport or a game, practice your speech a few times before you do it for real. Memorize the fundamentals of your topic as learning a speech word for word restricts your ability to continue talking if you forget a part of the presentation.
So, if you’re talking to your work colleagues about your hobby, including all the important information, you’re giving an educational public speaking. It’s about sharing cool things you know with others so they can learn too which is why this is one type of speech people like to hear.
Imagine you want to persuade your friend to go see a movie with you. You’d probably tell them why it’s going to be fun, exciting, or interesting. Persuasive public speaking is similar to having a one-to-one conversation, but instead of trying to persuade one friend, you’re talking to a large group of people (the public) many of whom will have different opinions.
When you plan your persuasive speech, think about these points:
Your Opinion: What are your beliefs or what do you want others to think about? It’s like sharing a story of your favourite ice cream and explaining why other people should try it too.
Good Reasons: One of the most important skills a persuasive speaker must master is that of forming strong reasons. Not everyone will agree with the statement, “This is the best ice cream in the world!”. You need to give a good explanation of why.
Examples: Give powerful examples that show why your opinion is right. If you’re trying to convince people to use public transport instead of cars, tell them how buses and trains are less polluting. Adding emotion into your presentation gives your words more weight and this is another of the skills you need to learn.
Confident Voice: Learning how to speak confidently, in a strong and powerful voice helps people that you really know what you’re talking about and can make your argument more persuasive.
Listen to Others: Even though you’re trying to persuade people, it’s also important to listen to what they have to say. I find this useful as the audience often has questions or thoughts I didn’t think about.
Practice: Just like practising a sport or a game, practice your speech a few times. It helps you remember what you want to say and feel more confident.
If you’re telling your mum why going to school is a bad idea, or if you’re explaining to your manager why the business should invest in your idea, you’re already doing a persuasive speech as it’s about sharing your thoughts and reasons to convince others to see things from a different perspective.
Motivational public speakers are friendly cheerleaders. When you stand in front of your audience the aim is to give them a boost of energy and encouragement or motivate them to achieve a personal goal. It’s like when someone cheers for you at a game, but instead, you’re cheering for everyone in the audience to feel more positive and confident.
When you’re a motivational public speaking presenter, remember these things:
Positive Words: Using positive words and phrases makes people feel good and adds excitement to your speeches. It’s like using your words to give them encouragement to shoot for the stars.
Share Stories: Tell success stories about people who have aimed high and achieved great things. Show how others overcame challenges, and use those stories to inspire everyone to listen.
Believe in Them: Tell your audience you believe in their abilities, that you believe in them. It’s like saying to your children, “Hey, you can do amazing things in life. You can make your dreams come true.”
Body Language: Share your excitement by standing up tall and using gestures to emphasise you’re excited. Simple body language and the shifts you make as you transition through your speech show the public you’re enthusiasm you have.
Eye Contact: Look at the people you’re speaking to. It’s like having a friendly conversation that makes them feel important.
Practice: Practicing is important and needs to come accompanied by a genuine sense of excitement and belief in order for you to deliver your message with lots of energy.
If you’re telling a child that they’re capable of doing well in a big test, or if you’re explaining to a group about how they can achieve their dreams, you’re doing motivational public speaking – it’s about making others feel excited and ready to take on challenges that lay ahead.
What about an entertaining speech?
Entertaining public speaking is like being the storyteller at a campfire, or the best man recalling how he came to know the groom, and is often told on a special occasion. You’re there to make people smile, laugh, and enjoy themselves. This type of public speaking should tell a fun story or share a joke that makes people, laugh, feel happy, or be entertained.
When you’re doing entertaining public speaking, remember these things:
Funny Stories: Share stories that are funny or amusing in a light-hearted way. Tell a tale that has a surprise ending, or a joke, that makes everyone giggle.
Use Gestures: Use your hands and body to show excitement. Physically acting out the scene will make your story more interesting.
Express Emotions: Use your hands, face, and voice to show emotions. If something’s exciting, raise your voice a little and speak faster to emphasise the excitement. If it’s funny, allow yourself to laugh at what you’re saying.
Engage the Audience: Imagine your audience to be your friends, and talk to them as you would when having a chat with the people in your life. Enhance the engagement by asking questions or making the audience part of the story.
Practice Timing: If your speech includes jokes and comedy, practise timing which makes the story flow well and makes the funny parts even funnier.
Smile and Have Fun: When you’re having fun, the audience will too. It’s like sharing your joy and making everyone feel joyful too.
You’re already giving an entertaining speech if you’re telling friends about a hilarious event at work, or if you’re making your friends laugh with a funny story. It’s all about spreading joy to the public and creating a good time for everyone listening!
Questions you need to ask before speaking
Asking questions about your audience will help you create the right kind of speech. By writing down notes about the pain points people have you’ll be able to identify which of the four public speaking styles will be most suitable. Here are a few ideas:
What does your audience want?
Audience Demographics: Who will be in your audience? Are they students, professionals, a mix of ages, or a specific group?
Event or Occasion: Is this speech for a conference, a classroom presentation, a workshop, a social gathering, or something else?
The topic of Your Speech: What is the main subject you’ll be talking about and can it be easily categorised as informative, persuasive, motivational, or something else?
Goals of Your Speech: Are you trying to educate, inspire, entertain, persuade, or achieve another goal?
Any Specific Interests or Concerns: Do you know what your audience might be interested in, passionate about, or concerned with?
Can I merge different speaking types into one presentation?
Yes. The example below shows how you can merge all 4 of the main types of public speaking into one speech:
Start with a compelling hook that grabs the audience’s attention.
State the purpose of your presentation and what you aim to achieve.
Provide relevant facts, data, or information to educate the audience about your topic.
Keep your language clear and concise and, where possible, use simple explanations to ensure understanding.
Use visual tools like charts, diagrams, or images to enhance the information. Keep the diagrams simple and easy for people to understand as complex images often create confusion.
Introduce your views or opinions on the topic.
Give the audience strong reasons and evidence that support your viewpoint.
Address potential counterarguments and provide rebuttals.
Using real-life examples or stories makes your points more relatable and more likely to be accepted.
Add anecdotes, funny stories, or engaging examples to keep the audience entertained.
At various points in the presentation, add humorous comments and thoughts to lighten the mood and create, or strengthen a connection with your audience.
Give people hope and inspiration by sharing stories of individuals who have succeeded in a related area.
Show the benefits or positive outcomes that can result from adopting your perspective.
Use enthusiastic language and an upbeat tone. This approach will aid in motivating and energizing your audience.
Using smooth transitions between different elements to maintain a logical and cohesive flow.
Connect each of your presentation points using summaries of key points which highlight their relevance.
Interact with your audience using questions, polls, or brief discussions.
Invite the audience to reflect on how the information, persuasion, entertainment, and motivation relate to their lives.
Visuals and Media:
Use multimedia to enhance your message and engage multiple senses. The tools you use can include: visuals, videos, or audio clips.
Ensure these elements align with the different aspects of your presentation.
Provide a summary of the main points covered in your presentation.
Repeat the benefits of adopting your perspective or taking action.
End with a strong closing statement – I often use a thought-provoking question to listeners.
Q&A and Discussion:
Allocate time for the audience to ask questions or share their thoughts.
Address any remaining doubts, concerns, or inquiries.
The example above looks complex, but is no different to planning a speech using only one of the 4 forms we’ve discussed and I’m going to write an example talk that follows the above pattern which you can take away, copy, steal, etc.
What is the most popular form of public speaking?
For various reasons, the most popular form of public speaking is informative speaking and here’s why: This type of speech is designed to educate or inform the audience about a particular topic and is most often used in classrooms, training sessions, and presentations which accounts for its popularity. Informative speeches can be about anything, from history to science to current events.
However, the most popular form of public speaking may vary depending on the context. Whilst, informative speaking is the most common form found in educational settings, persuasive speaking is much more common in political and business settings (politicians and businesses are always persuading us to buy into a particular idea or product). Ultimately, the best form of public speaking is the one that is most effective for the specific audience and purpose.
Should I copy other public speeches?
No, you shouldn’t copy public speeches given by other people. Having said that, this is a grey area. If you’ve listened to more than a few presenters who speak on motivational topics you will hear similar ideas being reused in talks, but copying someone else’s speech word for word is plagiarism, which is a form of dishonesty.
Here are some reasons why copying someone else’s speech is wrong:
It is unfair to the original speaker. The speaker likely put a lot of time and effort into their speech, and it is unacceptable for someone else to take credit for their work.
Copying a speech does not help you learn or develop as a public speaker. When you copy others you don’t learn new skills as you’re simply repeating someone else’s words and style.
If you’re caught copying a speech your reputation can be damaged. People will lose trust in you and your work.
If you are looking for inspiration for your own speech, there are a few things you can do.
Read speeches given by speakers on the same topic which will help you to learn about the various approaches people have taken to create content on the topic.
Watch videos of other speeches. Seeing how other speakers use body language and vocal variety to engage their audience is an easy way to understand how to deliver a powerful presentation.
Talk to people about the topic of your speech; ask them for their thoughts to get different perspectives on the topic. This is a great way to help develop your own ideas.
Follow these tips to avoid being accused of plagiarism and create a speech that is both original and engaging.
Here are some additional tips for avoiding plagiarism:
Cite your sources. If you use words or ideas from another speaker, give them credit as this will enhance your credibility.
Use your own words. Repeating the words of the original speaker does not improve your skills. Reword the content to put the ideas into your own words.
Paraphrase and summarize. These two skills are important if you’re giving a question and answer presentation and can also be used to shorten original quotes and ideas, putting them into your own words.
Avoid plagiarism checkers. Plagiarism checkers can be helpful, but they aren’t as intelligent as you would like to think. The best approach to avoiding plagiarism is to carefully check your work, or ask for feedback from a test audience.
By following these tips, you can avoid plagiarism and create a speech that is both original and engaging.
Of the 4 forms listed above, my personal favourite is motivational, or persuasive speech. Your preferences and needs will likely be different, which is a good thing as we are all individuals with specific needs. The key point to remember is this: your talk has to match the audience’s requirements. If you’re speaking at a special occasion the people in front of you probably don’t want to be educated! Public events are not created equal and neither are the presentations you give and, by using the information in this post, you can create a truly amazing message your audience wants to hear.