The speech to inform is your first major speaking assignment. It should be 6 minutes long, with an additional 2 minutes or so allowed for questions afterward. As usual, use note cards. The following will be helpful to you in preparing for this assignment: this handout, the “General Guidelines” handout, Ch. 11, 12, and 13 in your text, class discussion and consultation with me. (All page references here are for your textbook.)

On the day of your speech, you must turn in the following to receive full credit for the assignment; no late submissions will be accepted.

  • Your planning sheet, completed before you come to class (5-point penalty for incomplete plan or late submission)
  • A Works Cited page of at least 3 sources you used in your research; MLA format must be used



For this assignment, choose between these two options.

  • Do some research on your birthday. I’d like you to find a historical event that happened on that day, in the year of your choosing, that you are interested in learning more about. Don’t choose something everyone knows about (like 9-11, a space shuttle explosion, etc.) but something under the radar that you find interesting and you think your classmates will find interesting. It could be an war or terrorist attack, scientific discovery, important court ruling or crime, and — yes — a landmark moment in aviation or space (though remember your audience might know a lot about it already, which would make it a subpar topic). Once you have your event, focus your speech on what happened, the immediate impact/consequences, and — years later — what the significance of the event is today. If the event was controversial or political, do not bring emotion into or take a side. Discuss what the point of contention was and why the two sides felt the way they did. This is “informative,” not “persuasive,” although it’s OK to feel like you’re persuading the audience that this is an important and significant event.
  • Find a list of people who share your birthday. Identify someone you are interested in learning more about, someone who your classmates might not know much about but who has made, or is making, an important impact on society or has distinguished him or herself in a good or bad way. Your goal in this speech is to provide information on this person, discuss the person’s journey/accomplishments/crimes etc., and how this person should or will be or is remembered. Avoid making this a boring biography. Bring in only the most important facts. Tell stories. Bring in other voices to give perspective and talk about how important or significant this person is. In other words, make it great!

Be sure there is the potential for audience interest. Even if they may not initially be interested, it’s your job to make them interested by communicating the relevance, importance or interesting aspects of the topic. Research is important; you must use at least five sources (Ch. 11) but I would use more than that. Some of your sources will supply you with facts, but others will bring perspective. Bring in other voices and quote them.

  1. Content must be well-organized for the time allowed; be sure to narrow your topic

adequately, and select the organizational structure appropriate to your topic. (Ch. 12)

  1. The introduction must include a strong attention-getting device (branch out—don’t fall

back on the ordinary) , your thesis/central idea, and a preview of main points you will

cover in the body of your speech. Also, you must establish the audience’s “information hunger” for information you intend to give them. (p.385-6)

  1. The body of your speech must contain logically ordered main points supported by

specific subpoints—eg. vivid images, examples, concrete details, etc. Be sure to

provide clear, smooth transitions between points. (p. 362)

  1. The conclusion should restate your thesis—in different words/phrases—and/or

summarize your main points. You want the audience to remember your speech. Keep

in mind: “A speech is like a love affair. Any fool can start it, but to end it takes

considerable skill.” (pp. 365-6)

  1. You must use at least one visual aid in your speech. You may not use the white

board—i.e. draw on it. (pp. 392-97). Lack of a visual will lower your grade one letter.

  1. Practice your speech extensively; concentrate on all aspects of delivery
  1. Review previous evaluations for my recommendations about areas you needed to

work on or improve. Review your videos.


Determining Your Purpose

  1. All communication has purpose; there are primarily three general purposes for public

speaking: to inform, to persuade, and to entertain. Although these purposes may

interrelate within a given speech, one general purpose will predominate. For example,

a speech to inform may be entertaining, and a speech to persuade will include

informative elements.

  1. Your specific purpose explains precisely what you want your speech to accomplish. In

a complete sentence, you describe the response you want from your audience; your

expectations of them must be specific and realistic. The specific purpose statement is a

planning tool; it is not included in the delivered speech.

NOTE the following examples:

Topic: 1993 World Trade Center Bombing

Specific Purpose: After listening to my speech, the audience will know about the first attack on the World Trade Center and how it could have been so much worse.

Topic: Ryan White

Specific Purpose: After listening to my speech, the audience will know about Ryan White and the impact he had on AIDS awareness in the 1980s.

Formulating Your Thesis and Preview of Main Points

Your thesis, stated in a complete sentence, expresses the central idea of your speech, and it is included in the speech itself (unlike your specific purpose statement). The preview of main points is a phrase or statement that outlines in brief the major points you will develop in the body of the speech to support your thesis statement, or it may be a separate statement. The thesis is expressed in the introduction of the speech—i.e. tell them what you’re going to tell them.

Topic: 1993 World Trade Center bombing

Thesis and Preview: The “other” attack on the World Trade Center was just as insidious as 9-11 and could have been just as disastrous.

Topic: Ryan White

Thesis and Preview: A courageous Indiana teenager, Ryan White, was and unlikely hero in the fight against AIDS.

Establishing the Audience’s Need to Know

When speaking to inform, you must create “information hunger” in your audience—that is, you must give them a reason to want to listen to you, to learn from you. You can create information hunger by appealing to the general and specific needs of your particular audience. This is an essential element in the speech to inform; the need to know is usually established in your introduction, or very early in the body of your speech. (see p. 383)



  • Listen to the substance of the question, the big picture; if you’re not sure, ask the questioner to rephrase it. Let the questioner do the work—you don’t want to answer the wrong question.
  • Paraphrase a confusing question: “If I understand your question, you are asking….Correct? Have I understood you correctly?
  • Avoid defensive reactions even if the questioner is being combative or accusatory. Don’t stoop to that level; answer the substance of the question calmly and objectively. Don’t lose your temper or engage in debate. As the speaker, you have to be the grown-up in the exchange. If you return anger in kind, the audience may turn on you.
  • Answer as briefly as possible and then check for confirmation: “Have I answered your question?” Don’t use your answer to give another speech; if you’re brief, you’ll have time for others’ questions.
  • Avoid letting one person dominate the Q and A. This is sometimes difficult, but try to regain control politely but firmly, and move on to another questioner. Offer to follow up with the questioner after the presentation.
  • If you don’t know the answer, say so. If you try to cover your lack of knowledge, an audience member may speak up and embarrass you. Offer to find out and get back to the person, if that is reasonable/possible (ask for an email address afterward). Depending on circumstances and your comfort level in the situation, you might ask if anyone in the audience knows the answer if you don’t.