Situational Characteristics: Factors in a specific speech setting that you can observe or discover before you give the speech. They include audience size, time of the speech, location and audience mobility.
Size: The number of people that could hear your speech will affect how you will design your speech and how you will deliver it. For example Q & A sessions. With small audiences, you can communicate in a more intimate way. Conversely, if you have a larger audience of 100 or more people you can’t have that same interaction and it’s harder to anticipate their questions.
Speaking of questions, decide in the beginning how you’re going to take questions. In smaller groups you can take questions as they arise, but you might want to reserve any comments/questions till the end in larger group settings.
Also, be sure to repeat the question that’s asked, so that everyone is on the same page.
Time: You need to consider “Time” both in terms of the length of your speech and the audience clock.
First, consider the topic in terms of main points and subpoints. This will give you a sense of how long your speech should be, ( i.e. 5, 10, 15, 20 minutes, etc.). It’s up to you to make some tough choices on you you’ll include and not include, especially if you’re only given a set number of minutes to deliver your speech.
If you have more time, that obviously allows you to expand on your main points, but it also means you’ll likely get distracted with questions or be able to share anecdotes. So, keep your focus and the focus of the audience by sticking to the main points.
Some of the most powerful TV and Radio ads are only :30 seconds to :60 seconds, but can give use lots of information and strongly influence our decisions.
Body Clock: It’s important to consider the time of day, your speech will be delivered. Avoid Monday mornings, lunch time or late afternoon or early evening. People can be easily distracted, so the least number of mental distractions, the better. Also, you can’t always count on your speech time going off on schedule. That can be a definite road block for an afternoon speech.
Scope out the location of your speech as far in advance as possible. Determine the size of the room in terms of how it will affect delivery. Will it be a structured delivery or more informal. Will you need A/V support and if so, what will you need and will you need someone to assist you. If so, don’t wait till the last minute.
Mobility: Audience is on the move. They may be attending a convention and pass through an exhibit area where salespeople must make their speeches/pitches compelling enough to make people stop and listen. Someone selling a product or service in this environment must focus on the main points quickly. Making key points in this environment can also be greatly enhanced by getting the audience involved (i.e. sampling products, taking part in a demonstration, etc.).
- Stationary: Audience is sitting in a classroom or auditorium setting with all eyes focused toward the front of the room. Typically, there is less effort to get and keep audience attention because there are few if any distractions.
- Mobile : Audience may be listening for only a few minutes as they pass through an exhibit hall, carnival or other outdoor setting. This is more challenging, so you need to offer incentives to stop and listen for a few minutes. (i.e. Auto Show, Ginsu knife pitch, Flower Show, etc.)
Demographics: Age, gender, socioeconomic status, religious orientation, sex orientation, political affiliation, ethnicity. It’s always important to determine what age group(s) you will be addressing because there will be distinct areas of interest for younger audiences vs. older audiences.
Prior Exposure : Have they heard your message before and if so, what might be the degree of message acceptance. If the audience is negative, you’ll need to spend more time making the case to persuade your audience to accept your viewpoints.
Example: The Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. ObamaCare) and resistance: Economy changed: Crash of 2008. Voters became skeptical because they worried about cost. As a result the Obama Administration needed to adjust message to show accessibility.
Disposition: Attitude toward message : 3 groups, sympathetic, hostile and neutral. Neutral audience : Are they apathetic, disinterested or do they need persuading to come to your side.
- Sympathetic Audience: They already agree with your message or they hold you, the speaker, in high regard and will therefore respond favorably.
- Hostile Audience: Opposes your message or they don’t accept you as a credible public speaker. Hostile audiences are resistant to your views and/or message.
- Neutral Audience: These people have no opinion either pro or con on issues. They are simply apathetic or just disinterested!
Audience Surveys: A set of questions asked of audience members to determine their views on the topic(s) being presented
- Fixed Questions: True/False, Multiple Choice, or select all that apply gives the respondent a set of specific answers from which to choose. Good for gaining insights on what is known vs. unknown
- Scaled Questions: Indicate intensity of feelings on a scale of 1:5, 1:10, etc. where the range could be from strongly agree to strongly disagree and anywhere in between
- Open Ended Questions: Allows an audience to express their views in an open way. These questions can help you anticipate what you might have otherwise overlooked, because your not confining your answers to a list.
- Situational Analysis: Reading the mood of the Audience
Goal of a Persuasive Speech:
To affect audience attitudes, beliefs or actions, while advocating a fact, value or policy claim.
Strengthen or weaken their commitment ( Banning food on Campus example)
Influencing audiences might mean that your goal is to strengthen commitment, weaken commitment or cause your audience to take action.
- Strengthening Commitment: If an audience already agrees with your point of view, then you want to strengthen their existing
- Weakening Commitment: If you advocate removing all fast food outlets on campus, you could easily encounter some resistance. A good strategy might be to convince people that eating fast food is hazardous to your health..too many calories, salt, sodium, etc. To promote action, you could ask people to drink fewer soft drinks, fewer burgers and fries, etc. in favor of salads, yogurt, etc.
Fact Claim: Asserts something is True or False. Fact Claims make strong Example : Do energy drinks cause more health problems that drinking coffee?? Have Charter Schools affected positive change?? Do violent video games promote crime??
Value Claim: Attaches a judgement to the topic being discussed (i.e. good, bad, ethical vs. unethical )
Policy Claim: Advocates actions by organizations, groups, government agencies, etc.)
Two Paths to Persuasion:
Central Routing: This process involves a high degree of elaboration and explanation in terms of accessing a speakers. Audience members tend to process the message through the prism of their preexisting ideas or perceptions about an issue. Central Routing listeners are more likely to develop a positive attitude when the speakers arguments are strong. This method implies more serious evaluation by the audience and therefore means action on a particular issue is more likely to happen.
Peripheral Routing: This method implies a low level of elaboration. Audience members are swayed more due to a flashy presentation, colorful visual aids, the speakers appearance, etc. vs. factual information.
Ethical questions are often raised with the Peripheral Routing process because much of the persuasion is not based on fact, but rather emotional appeal!
In either case, keeping your message well organized and easy to follow is the key to getting your point across.
Strategic Discourse: The process of selecting supporting argumentsthat will best persuade the audience in an ethical manner
Adapting to Audience Disposition: Any audience has attitudes about a particular topic, so your job as a speaker is to adjust your thesis statement in accordance with the audience type you’re addressing (i.e. sympathetic, hostile or neutral)
Latitudes of Acceptance or Rejection: Audiences tend to have a wide range of positions regarding acceptance or rejection of an issue.
Those who are concerned about your issue will tend to have a more narrow level of acceptance, whereas those who are unaffected by an issue will likely be more open to a broader range of positions.
Therefore, listeners will generally accept your views if what you say falls within their latitude of acceptance. They will generally tend to reject your views ifthose ideas/notions, etc. fall within their latitude of rejection.
Boomerang Effect: Pushing your listeners to oppose an idea even more vigorously than they already do.
Hierarchy of Needs: Once our basic survival needs such as food, water, health and shelter are met, we move on to our need to be safe, socially accepted, like love and friendship. After those needs are met, self esteem needs and self actualization needs (i.e. personal growth, creativity and self fulfillment.
Methods of Persuasion:
Credibility or “Ethos” has to do with the speaker being knowledgeable, honest and genuinely interested in doing the right thing for his/her audience. They will basically embrace your point of view if they feel you are competent and trustworthy. In Greek times Competence was referred to as practical wisdom and trustworthiness with virtue.
A couple of other related terms to know:
Logos: The reasoning that supports a speakers claims and makes an argument more persuasive
Pathos : Appealing to an audiences emotions
Goodwill is a notion that implies doing the right thing for the audience and wanting what’s best vs. doing or saying what is in the best interest of the speaker.
Goodwill can be expressed by doing the following:
Understanding Listener needs and feelings
Empathizing with the audiences views even if you don’t share them
Responding quickly to others communication.
Sharing any formal education or first hand experiences with regard to your topic
Presenting strong evidence from reputable sources. This shows the audience that you have researched your topic well and have referenced third party sources to support the claims you are or have made.
Highlighting Common Ground or letting the audience know about a shared experience with them can put them at ease and at the same time, bolster your credibility.
Building credibility also implies choosing any words you use very carefully and don’t talk over the audiences head. Keep language simple and non:offensive.
Loss of credibility can occur if you get your facts wrong or if you don’t pronounce words, phrases or terms correctly.
Loss of Credibility
Failing to acknowledge a potential conflict of interest ( Advocating a position that you have a personal stake in!)
Stretching a Connection with the Audience : Pretending that you’ve experienced the same interests, feelings, etc. that they have when you really haven’t!