Public speaking: what it is, meaning, types of public speaking, characteristics, how to write and present speeches


What is the subgenre of public speaking?

It is an oral speech, since it refers to the art of public speaking. It is one of the most important subgenres of the didactic genre in which elements such as precision and eloquence are essential for the development of oratory, since its function is to persuade the listener about a particular topic.

It is particularly different because it is based on a theoretical process that aims to motivate the mood of a group of people according to the inclination of a topic that is argued or an idea that is exposed by the person who gives the speech, which is called speaker.

Meaning of the subgenre oratory

The term oratory comes from the Latin term directly oratorĭa or orare, which means -speaking in public-. Thus, it refers to the art of public speaking, fulfilling an essential value in the process: eloquence and persuasion, where the point of view expressed before a given audience is understandable and attractive.

Definition of the subgenre oratory

Oratory can be defined as the art of speaking persuasively and eloquently. It is a literary subgenre formed from speech with the intention of persuading the person listening to the content. It is thus constituted as the art of persuasion using the word, built from a set of principles that guarantee the correct emission and reception of what you want to say.

Definition of the subgenre oratory

What is the function of public speaking?

The main objective of public speaking is to persuade the person to whom it is addressed, which is why it is possible to differentiate this subgenre from other oral communication processes. In this sense, we can raise another series of secondary objectives from the type of oratory, as for example and one of the most important is teaching, as well as the exposition of arguments, movement of religious beliefs, change of emotions or points of view, among others. It is considered a tool of great power in the areas in which it is developed.

History and origin of the oratory subgenre

Oratory arose in Greece, where it was used as a tool to achieve political power. Thus, oratory began to be considered a kind of essential skill for those who aspired to office, which constituted, among other things, to achieve one of the elements to be an ideal figure. Hence, other political, business, religious, academic, public and entertainment figures began to develop oratory to achieve it. Socrates founded the oratory school in Athens and is the one who determines that the orator is a human being with high ideals and who is properly instructed in order to ensure the proper development and management of the state.

Thus, it was an art that required teaching in order to be developed, a task that was performed by the rhetoricians in the schools. From this, three schools of the art of speech emerged: the Atticist school based on conciseness in the speech, the Asianist school that focused on the abundance of the word and the Rhodian school, which sought the brilliance of what was said from a balance of elements.

The first orator of whom we have information was Appius Claudius the Blind, a political figure of the third century B.C. He dedicated himself to writing speeches in Greek language for political purposes, which were mentioned inside the Senate and were created to be published.

Characteristics of the oratorical subgenre

In order to delve deeper into this subgenre, it is necessary to identify the following characteristics:

Category of discipline: although oratory is an activity or form of communication that is found within the human being and that seeks persuasion or convincing the ideas of the other, in reality it takes great strength because it is consolidated as an established discipline, given that it has principles and rules that attend to its function.

Use of rhetorical questions: this is one of the most frequent elements of oratory in which questions are asked without necessarily obtaining an answer. They are also known as rhetorical interrogations, which seek to reinforce the point of view that is being presented to the audience in order to lead it to its argument and its reaffirmation.

Changes in the voice: another fundamental aspect of public speaking has to do with changes in the voice. Bearing in mind that it is a verbal communicative process, the speaker makes inflections and changes of tone in the voice according to the topic he is addressing, the intention and the formulation of the text he mentions, emphasizing concepts slowly, for example, to guarantee the clarity of the idea in the memory of the listener.

To whom it is addressed: since there are different types of oratory nowadays, the specific person to whom the word is addressed varies according to this modality. On the other hand, the speaker can refer to an undetermined number of people, since he/she can refer to a single person or to a group of more than two or three people.

Other forms: other forms of oratory begin to develop from oratory, such as farewell speeches, welcome speeches, invitation speeches, funeral speeches, thank-you speeches, lectures and other forms of oral communication that convey a specific message depending on the context.

Parts of the oratory subgenre

The organization to be followed in this case will depend on the speech to be developed within the oratory, so the following order should be taken into account:

Introduction of the oratory subgenre

In this part, the information to be mentioned is presented through a short introduction or a short presentation that includes, if it is the case, an introduction of the person who is going to speak, his name and main activity.

Development of the oratory subgenre

Here you start from the beginning to the end the main ideas that you want to express, developing each one of them and providing as much information as possible. During the development of the topic, as we mentioned, voice inflections such as tone, rhythm, height, volume, among other alterations that keep the viewer’s attention fixed, can be made.

Conclusion of the oratory subgenre

At the end of each presentation, the speaker will close the topic by way of a conclusion, in which the main idea of the presentation is reaffirmed, or the objective set in the initial part is highlighted. In this sense, the most important ideas are presented in a concrete way to make clear their perspective and objectives.

Types of the oratory subgenre

At present we can identify different types of oratory among which we find the following:

Social oratory

Also known as ceremonial or augural oratory, it consists of a type of oratory that is performed within spaces in which ceremonies are developed, so that they have a large influx of specific public within the meetings and ceremonies.

Political oratory

It is the best known and refers to the entire political field in relation to the figures that are part of the government. It is used with the purpose of expressing ideas and decisions, where oratory manages to persuade other citizens according to the point of view that the person has. One of the most common and close examples happens during elections, where the participants address the public more frequently to expose their proposals, essentially. It is also known as persuasive public speaking.

Judicial oratory

This type of oratory is developed especially in the legal area or the field of jurisprudence in which debates and oral expositions are carried out with the participation of lawyers, judges and prosecutors. It is a type of oratory linked to the rational and not to the imaginative, so that the use of terms is extremely important, as well as an objective vision handling a concrete language based on law as a science.

Pedagogical oratory

It is part of the art of speaking in the whole field of education, so that it will be developed in figures such as educators, teachers, professors and other figures participating in the institutions and the academic world. The use of public speaking is fundamental for the efficient transmission of knowledge to a group of students, as well as the exposition of information in the formative process.

Religious oratory

Also known as sacred oratory, it is that which is developed during sermons in which the word is dictated according to the Bible or any other type of religious book.

How to write and present yourself as a speaker?

One of the most important aspects of the art of speaking and persuading has to do with the fact that, in its beginnings especially, what was going to be said was written first, since writing allows a visualization of the information to highlight the most relevant and everything that should not be left out. As in ancient Greece, public speaking is a process that requires planning and preparation, therefore the following should be taken into account:

Choosing the topic 

The first thing to do is to choose the topic you are going to talk about. Remember that this may vary depending on the modality or type of public speaking. Although the ideal is to address an interesting topic, the truth is that it may not be a new topic, but there are many ways to make it interesting, especially when the central axis on which the presentation revolves is fixed, i.e. the idea you are defending and the perspective you are going to present on it.

If it is up to you, you can choose a topic that you are passionate about and excited to learn more about.

In-depth research 

Talking about a topic implies knowing about it, so once you have chosen it, you should do a thorough research about it. This research must be supported with important sources and references, in resources such as books, documents, archives, interviews, if applicable, among others. All this information must be written and you must be able to see it to highlight the most important ideas and those that must be developed in more detail. The document, even if it is not going to be presented physically but will be your study tool, must be written very well and with the best spelling, because the way it is there determines how it will be read and interpreted.

Present your ideas 

Following the previous line of research, which you should have at hand, it is necessary to propose a thesis from which you can structure the whole speech, keeping a specific central axis. A thesis is a clear and concise idea through which the argument is represented, so that the ideas that are developed should revolve around the resolution and aim at that thesis.

One of the keys to this is that the thesis must convey to the audience the clear idea that you are going to expose, so it must be presented in a direct way. This should be a concise sentence that makes clear a position or idea in relation to the topic. It is recommended that the thesis be presented with three main points to be discussed.

Knowledge of the guidelines

Each speech presentation space, as we have seen from the place and the type of oratory that is handled, has a series of guidelines that determine the rules of presentation, so it is advisable to know them in advance to organize the entire presentation that as a speaker you are going to offer to ensure a correct formulation of ideas and spaces. Distribute the content very well and highlight everything that should be clear to the audience you are going to address.

Writing the speech 

Once you have chosen the topic, done the research, formulated the ideas and thesis, and know the guidelines for the speaking space, it is time to develop the written speech. Although we all write differently, the ideal is to maintain an organizational structure following the parts of public speaking: introduction, development and conclusion.

Start with the main ideas according to the thesis you have established. Divide the development time for all the points, so that each one points to your objective. Remember that it is ideal for your speech to be supported with citations and recognized references. The introduction should be a focal point for the audience, so you should grab their attention from the very beginning.

Introducing the speech

When we talk about public speaking, we also refer to the original writing we have previously done. Therefore, the written text must be memorized, which you can do by taking it section by section and then putting it together completely.

You can rehearse beforehand in front of a mirror, evaluate your movements, the tone of your voice and the correct pronunciation of each of the words. According to the guidelines you know for the timing of the presentation, try using a timer that allows you to measure each participation and the amount of information you can mention.

Remember that eye contact is key to public speaking, as well as subtle physical movements that instead of distracting and disconnecting you from the audience, can unite you with them and allow you to hold their attention. Do not forget to take a look at the great speakers, this will help you to take references and develop your own style of public speaking.

works of the oratorical subgenre

Authors and most important works of the oratorical subgenre

In addition to authors such as Appius Claudius the Blind, who is considered the first known orator whose speeches were written for political propaganda purposes, there are also other important names such as Marcus Porcius Cato, Demosthenes, Marcus Tullius Cicero, noted as one of the most relevant Latin orators who mixed schools in his speeches and whose speeches are still extant today. Cicero’s oratory works include “In Verrem”, “De lege Manilia”, “In Catilinam”, “Philippicae”, among others. With the passage of time and the diversity of types of oratory, in addition to the sectors where it begins to develop, many more orators emerged, becoming a necessary skill for a wide variety of disciplines.

Example of the oratory subgenre

The following is a fragment translated from the “Second Speech against Philip”, written by Demosthenes and considered one of the most important and representative orators of the subgenre:

“For I Athenian men, I discourse thus: of what has Philip begun to make himself master, once the peace is concluded? Of Thermopylae and of the Republic of Phocis. Why, what use has he made of it? He has chosen to serve the interests of the Thebans and not those of the Athenians. But why? Because directing his calculations to his aggrandizement and to subjugating everything and not towards peace, nor tranquillity, nor anything that is just, I think he has seen very well that to our city and to a people like yours nothing could he promise or do that would induce him to abandon for your personal advantage any of the other Greek countries, but, on the contrary, having regard to what is right, fleeing from the infamy which such a policy represents, and foreseeing all that is necessary, should he undertake anything like it, you would oppose him as vigorously as if with him you were at war. On the other hand, he thought – and so it has happened – that the Thebans, in exchange for certain advantages, would let him do as much as he wished in everything else, and not only would they not attempt anything against him or stop him, but would campaign together with him if he so commanded. And at present he favors the Messenians and the Argives for the same reasons. Which is the highest praise for you Athenian men.”