Public speaking

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
The Roman orator Cicero speaks to the Roman Senate.
Cicero Denounces Catiline (1889), fresco by Cesare Maccari

Public speaking (also called oratory or oration) is the process or act of performing a good speech to a live audience. This type of speech is deliberately structured with three general purposes: to inform, to persuade and to entertain. Public speaking is seen traditionally as part of the art of persuasion. Public speaking is commonly understood as formal, face-to-face speaking of a single person to a group of listeners.[1] Public speaking can be governed by different rules and structures. For example, speeches about concepts do not necessarily have to be structured in any special way. However, there is a method behind giving it effectively. For this type of speech it would be good to describe that concept with examples that can relate to the audiences life.[2]

Public speaking can serve the purpose of transmitting information, telling a story, motivating people to act or some combination of those. Public speaking can be used in many different forms and has evolved through the years to become what it is now. The history of public speaking has changed and transformed through technology and history. Knowing when public speaking is most effective and how it is done properly is a key part in understanding the importance of it.[3]


The Orator, c. 100 BCE, an Etrusco-Roman bronze sculpture depicting Aule Metele (Latin: Aulus Metellus), an Etruscan man wearing a Roman toga while engaged in rhetoric; the statue features an inscription in the Etruscan alphabet.

Although there is evidence of public speech training in ancient Egypt,[4] the first known piece[5] on oratory, written over 2,000 years ago, came from ancient Greece. This work elaborated on principles drawn from the practices and experiences of ancient Greek orators. Aristotle was one of the first recorded teachers of oratory to use definitive rules and models. His emphasis on oratory led to oration becoming an essential part of a liberal arts education during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. The classical antiquity works written by the ancient Greeks capture the ways they taught and developed the art of public speaking thousands of years ago.

Ezra calls for the rebuilding of the temple in this 1860 woodcut by Julius Schnorr von Karolsfeld

In classical Greece and Rome, rhetoric was the main component of composition and speech delivery, both of which were critical skills for citizens to use in public and private life. In ancient Greece, citizens spoke on their own behalf rather than having professionals, like modern lawyers, speak for them. Any citizen who wished to succeed in court, in politics or in social life had to learn techniques of public speaking. Rhetorical tools were first taught by a group of rhetoric teachers called Sophists who are notable for teaching paying students how to speak effectively using the methods they developed.

Separately from the Sophists, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle all developed their own theories of public speaking and taught these principles to students who wanted to learn skills in rhetoric. Plato and Aristotle taught these principles in schools that they founded, The Academy and The Lyceum, respectively. Although Greece eventually lost political sovereignty, the Greek culture of training in public speaking was adopted almost identically by the Romans.

In the political rise of the Roman Republic, Roman orators copied and modified the ancient Greek techniques of public speaking. Instruction in rhetoric developed into a full curriculum, including instruction in grammar (study of the poets), preliminary exercises (progymnasmata), and preparation of public speeches (declamation) in both forensic and deliberative genres.

The Latin style of rhetoric was heavily influenced by Cicero and involved a strong emphasis on a broad education in all areas of humanistic study in the liberal arts, including philosophy. Other areas of study included the use of wit and humor, the appeal to the listener's emotions, and the use of digressions. Oratory in the Roman empire, though less central to political life than in the days of the Republic, remained significant in law and became a big form of entertainment. Famous orators became like celebrities in ancient Rome—very wealthy and prominent members of society.

The Latin style was the primary form of oration until the beginning of the 20th century. After World War II, however, the Latin style of oration began to gradually grow out of style as the trend of ornate speaking became seen as impractical. This cultural change likely had to do with the rise of the scientific method and the emphasis on a "plain" style of speaking and writing. Even formal oratory is much less ornate today than it was in the Classical Era.

Despite the shift in style, the best-known examples of strong public speaking are still studied years after their delivery. Among these examples are Pericles' Funeral Oration in 427 BCE addressing those who died during the Peloponnesian War; Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address in 1863; Sojourner Truth's identification of racial issues in "Ain't I a Woman?”; and Mahatma Gandhi's message of nonviolent resistance in India, which in turn inspired Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech at the Washington Monument in 1963.[6]

Women and public speaking[edit]

Throughout the 18th and 19th century, there were many obstacles women all around the U.S had to face through public speaking in society. They did not have much of a role when participating in public speaking for they were seen lower than men for most of history. They were banned to speak publicly mainly because their religion would not allow them to speak in front of audiences containing both men and women. They were banned to speak publicly anywhere from the courtroom, the senate floor, or the pulpit.[7][pages needed] It was also improper for women to be heard in a public setting. The ideas of their society were that women are lower in rank of men and their opinions and thoughts are not worthy to be spoken publicly. There was only one exception and that was of the Quaker religion allowing women to public speak in meetings of the church. [8][pages needed]

In the years 1828 and 1829 there were some women who were brave enough to surpass the obstacles knowing they would torment the wrath of an entire society and the leaders of the church such as the ministers. Said to be one of the first female public speakers of the united states, Frances Wright, advocated through large audiences and the press the importance of equal education for women and men.[7][pages needed] African American Maria Stewart, also said to be the second female speaker of the United States, lectured in Boston in front of both men and women just 4 years after Wright in 1832 and 1833 on educational opportunities and abolition for young girls.[8][pages needed]

Two brave sisters named Angelina and Sarah Grimké were able to make a platform for themselves in society and a platform for public lecture to women. They were the first female agents of the American Anti-Slavery Society. Both sisters also had many tours through the years 1837 and 1839 only 5 years after Maria Stewart, also an African-American women. The two sisters were attacked by churches not agreeing with their public speaking and the fact they were women. Both sisters confronted their issues by speaking about how slavery relates to women rights and explaining why women need equality to be able to have a say in the fight against slavery. This is a revolutionary start to allowing women into the public speaking world. Many women sacrificed their pride to become a pathway to our future.[9]


In addition to simple oratory skills, technology is a big and radical change to public speaking telecommunication and videoconferencing are also a form of public speaking. David M. Fetterman of Stanford University wrote in his 1997 article Videoconferencing over the Internet: "Videoconferencing technology allows geographically disparate parties to hear and see each other usually through satellite or telephone communication systems." This technology is helpful for large conference meetings and face-to-face communication between parties without demanding the inconvenience of travel. We've also noticed the radical changed new technology has had on how we communicate through public speaking. Now many presenters are using applications such as Microsoft PowerPoint that help give a visual to the audience adding to the presentation.

Now living in the twenty-first century age filled with many different types of technological advances it is no wonder our form of public speaking will advance alongside it. This introduces multimedia presentations containing different video clips, sound effects, animation, laser pointers, remote control clickers and endless bullet points.[10] All adding to the presentation and evolving our traditional views of public speaking.

New technology has also opened different forms of public speaking that are nontraditional such as Ted Talks[11] that are conferences that are broadcast globally. This form of public speaking had created a wider audience and had created a larger impact because now public speaking can be more than speaking to a physical audience.[12] These audiences can be watching from all around the world. Other forms of public speaking to a larger general audience can be YouTube. Where people can post videos of themselves and audiences watch these videos for all types of forms and purposes.[13]

These new forms of public speaking that are considered nontraditional have opened up debates whether or not these forms of public speaking are actually public speaking at all. Many people consider Ted Talks and YouTube broadcasting to not be true forms of public speaking because they're not speaking to a real physical audience. Whether or not the speech or conference is performed to a live audience or not, public speaking is about getting a group of people together, doesn't matter how, and educating them further.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ General Purposes of Speaking. Retrieved 2016-11-04.[ISBN missing]
  2. ^ Valenzano III, Joseph M.; Braden, Stephen W. (2012). The Speaker The Tradition and practice of public speaking. United States of America: Fountainhead press. p. 221. ISBN 978-1-59871-522-4.
  3. ^ McCornack and Ortiz, Steven and Joseph (2017). Choices & Connections: An Introduction to Communication.
  4. ^ Womack, Morris M.; Bernstein, Elinor (1990). Speech for Foreign Students. Springfield, IL: C.C. Thomas. p. 140. ISBN 978-0-398-05699-5. Retrieved June 12, 2017. Some of the earliest written records of training in public speaking may be traced to ancient Egypt. However, the most significant records are found among the ancient Greeks.
  5. ^ Murphy, James J. "Demosthenes – greatest Greek orator". Encyclopædia Britannica.
  6. ^ German, Kathleen M. (2010). Principles of Public Speaking. Boston: Allyn & Bacon. p. 6. ISBN 978-0-205-65396-6.
  7. ^ a b Mankiller, Wilma Pearl (1998). The Reader's Companion to U.S. Women's History. ISBN 978-0585068473.
  8. ^ a b O'Dea, Suzanne (2013). From Suffrage to the Senate: America's Political Women. ISBN 978-1-61925-010-9.
  9. ^ Bizzell, Patricia (2010). "Chastity Warrants for Women Public Speakers in Nineteenth-Century American Fiction". Rhetoric Society Quarterly. 40: 17.
  10. ^ Ridgley, Stanley K. (2012). The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting: What your professors don't tell you... What you absolutely must know. Anthem Press.
  11. ^ TED (conference)
  12. ^ Gallo, Carmine (2014). Talk Like TED: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World's Top Minds. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 978-1466837270.
  13. ^ Anderson, Chris (2016). TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

External links[edit]