Speech 20: Public Speaking

This course covers the theory and practice of public speaking. Building on ancient rhetorical canons while recognizing unique challenges of contemporary public speaking, the course guides students through topic selection, organization, language, and delivery. Working independently and with peer groups, students will be actively involved in every step of the process of public speaking preparation and execution. Assignments include formal speeches (to inform, to persuade, and to pay tribute), brief extemporaneous speeches, speech analyses, and evaluations. No prerequisites. Limited enrollment.

To view the ORC description, which indicates the terms the course is scheduled to be offered, follow this link: Speech 20

In this course, we’ll discover answers to a seemingly simple question: What is good public speaking?

We will discover answers to this question using a number of strategies. We will consult ancient canons of rhetoric. We will talk about contemporary findings of social scientific and rhetorical scholarship. We will also discover what constitutes good public speaking by practicing public speaking. We will try some techniques and strategies, see what works, learn what doesn’t, and then try again. We will consider challenges of selecting and refining topics, organizing arguments, supporting positions, and delivering speeches of impact. Perhaps most importantly, I’ll help you to find your unique voice, preserve what’s effective, improve what’s lacking, and become a more successful speaker.

There will be two longer speeches in the course, several brief speeches, written activities, peer evaluations, and class discussions/activities. You’ll be asked to post entries to our class blog on Blackboard, and you will also keep a Blackboard-based journal during the term to help monitor your progress in public speaking. You will have experience speaking extemporaneously and from manuscript.

The challenges of this course are demanding yet motivating: How do we transform our ideas into clear and convincing speeches? How do we craft and deliver messages that matter? How do we not only answer, but also demonstrate an answer, to the fundamental question of this course: What is good public speaking?

Course Goals

The overriding goal of the course is for you to become a better public speaker, with improved skills in researching, organizing, developing, and delivering speeches.

To achieve this goal, we will aim for two primary learning objectives:

  • to become better speakers through the practice of public speaking;
  • to help others to become better speakers through observation, collaboration, and constructive criticism.

To meet these primary objectives, I will help you to:

  • apply ancient rhetorical principles to contemporary public speaking contexts;
  • approach each stage of speechmaking with a mindfulness of audience and situation;
  • select and refine speech topics and theses;
  • evaluate and implement organizational strategies and craft transitions that guide audience understanding;
  • use wording that is clear, concise, accurate, and interesting;
  • enhance skills of memory and familiarity;
  • practice delivery that aids in audience understanding and elicits and maintains audience interest;
  • create and apply criteria of good public speaking;
  • improve critical listening skills;
  • create, prepare, and deliver public speeches;
  • consider ethics of public speaking;
  • develop a deeper understanding of speech as more than a way of showing what we know.