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We will also discuss how to select a topic, what to do if you’re just drawing a blank, and four basic questions you should ask yourself about the speech topic you ultimately select.Finally, we will explain how to use your general purpose and your chosen topic to develop the specific purpose and thesis of your speech.
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). 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).
After you read this chapter, you’ll understand how to go about finding interesting topics for a variety of different types of speeches.
In this chapter, we are going to explain how to identify the general purpose of 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.
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.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.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.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.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. Simply put, this is about helping audience members acquire information that they do not already possess.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.