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Oral Communication Essay


Making a business or social speech is more than just standing up and ‘saying a few words’. Experience has shown that the importance of oral presentations, especially in the business world, cannot be underestimated. This is because presentations are an opportunity to demonstrate knowledge, competence, and composure while making an impression on both superiors and subordinates. Although oral presentations are very important, they strike fear in the hearts of those who give them. This should not however be the case. The key to a successful oral presentation is preparation. Preparation alleviates apprehension, and helps identify potential problems in presentations. I hope this course will go a long way to prepare you for the task.


This is the origin of communication message. A public speaker is the source of ideas and information for an audience. The job of the speaker or source is to encode or translate images and ideas in his or her mind into a system of signals that will be recognized by an audience. For example, the speaker may encode into words “The new product should be two inches square” or into gestures (showing the size with hands).


The receiver is the target of the message. The receiver’s task is to decode the sender’s verbal and non-verbal symbols, translating these codes back into mental ideas and images. Of course, the decoded message will never be exactly the thought or idea that the speaker intended to convey as the receiver’s perception is dependent on his or her own unique blend of past experiences, attitude beliefs and values.


The message in public speaking is the speech itself – both what is said and what is heard. As said earlier, speaker’s intended message may differ from the meaning the audience decodes. If a speaker has trouble finding words to convey his or her ideas, the message suffers right away. And because the listener’s frame of mind may be different from that of the speaker’s, he may interpret what he hears and sees in a manner that was not all what the speaker intended. In reality, an intended message will differ a little from the actual message perceived by an audience. However, the less distorted the message between the sender and receiver, the more accurate and successful the communication


A channel in communication is the means used to communicate. Information can be communicated face-to-face, in writing, or by way of an audio tape or video tape. Note that although it is possible to hold the content of the message constant across channels, different modes or forms of communication will often vary in terms of some of the context factors. For instance, the audience obtains more information about physical and behavioral characteristics of the source from face-to-face or video messages than when the information is presented in written or oral form. The message is usually transmitted from sender via to channels; visual and auditory (or a combination). The audience sees the speaker and decodes his or her non-verbal message – eye contact (or lack of it), facial expressions, posture/gestures and dress. This is the visual channel. The auditory channel, on the other hand, opens as the speaker speaks. Then audience hears his or her words and such vocal cues as inflection, rate and voice quality.


In public speaking, the speaker does most or all the talking. But public speaking is still an interactional process. Remembering the old question of whether a falling tree can make noise if there is no around to hear, we may as well ask whether one can engage in public speaking without an audience to hear and provide feedback. The answer is no, skillful speakers are audience-centered. They depend on the nods, facial expressions, and murmuring of the audience to adjust their rate of speaking, volume, vocabulary, type and amount of supporting materials and other variables in order to maximize the success of their communication.


The context of public speaking experience is the environment or situation in which the speech occurs. It includes such elements as time, place and the physical and psychological factors affecting both speaker and listener. As John Donne said, “No speech is an island”. No speech occurs in a vacuum. Rather, each speech is a unique blend of circumstances that can never occur in exactly the same conjunction again. For example, if the room is too hot, crowned or poorly lit, these conditions affect both speaker and audience. This audience who hears a speaker at 10.00 in the morning is likely to be fresher and more receptive than the audience who hears the speaker at 4.30 in the afternoon. Likewise, if the speaker is coming down with a cold, this malaise is likely to affect his or her performance. These factors make up the element of public speaking process that e call context.


When variables interfere with the communication of a message, we call them noise. Noise may be literal or external. For example, if your 8.00 am Public speaking class is frequently interrupted by campaigning students or the roar of a lawn mower, it may be difficult to hear a speaker. Noise may also be “Internal”, a term that refers to some of the other factors we have discussed. An internal noise may affect either the source or the receiver. For example, a speaker’s bad cold may cloud his or her memory or subdue a usually enthusiastic delivery. An audience member who is worried about an examination later in the day is unlikely to remember what speaker says. Just before lunch, they may also be too hungry to pay much attention. All these factors interfere with the transmission of a message from sender to receiver.

Choosing a topic for a speech can be a problem. However, there are two methods by which you can choose a speech topic.

i. The first is brainstorming which involves thinking of as many topics as you can in a limited time so that you can select one topic that will be appropriate for your audience. First, give yourself a limited time. Get a list of a number of possible topics for yourself. Next, pick about three of the topics which have the most appeal. Then you choose the most appropriate of the three topics. ii. The other methods of selection are personal inventories where you conduct personal inventory of your reading and viewing habits. Thus, a topic can be chosen from books you read, films you watch, etc, For instance, your personal inventory of newspapers, periodicals,
television, talents, hobbies etc.


After you choose the topic, ask yourself three questions.
i. First, whether the topic is appropriate for the audience. To know this, ask whether you can speak about it on a level the audience can understand. Does the audience need technical or specialized knowledge? Do they have enough background knowledge to understand the subject? Answers these questions will help determine the appropriateness of your topic. ii. Second, is the topic appropriate for you? Can you get involved in it, and is it interesting enough to motivate you to do the necessary research? Normally, the best topics come from your own experiences. iii. Besides your audience and interest, you should ask whether the topic is appropriate for the occasion. For instance, an after-dinner speech should be light and not be too long as members of the audience may be full and not be alert. On the other hand, a speech at a seminar will afford you the opportunity to speak on a more complex topic. Another consideration is whether you can fit the speech into the time limit of the occasion.


One mistake that beginners make is that they try to cover a broad topic resulting in a superficial treatment of the topic. The result is that the speech will not be meaningful. To narrow a topic, you must find a specific aspect of a subject that will best meet the time restrains and other demands of the speaking situation.

i. Health issues in third-world countries
ii. Infant mortality in third-world countries
iii. Infant formula(as against breast-feeding) in third-world countries
iv. How infant formula affects health in third- world countries.

After selecting and narrowing your topic. You need to decide on both the general and specific purpose. You can speak to inform, persuade, or entertain. But sometimes these overlap to some extent.

i. General Purpose
Speaking to inform is the primary objective of class lectures, seminars, workshops, etc. When you inform, you teach, define, illustrate, clarify or elaborate on a topic. In informative speeches, speakers do not take sides when the subject is controversial. The informative speaker will present all sides to an issue and let members of the audience make up their minds. In a persuasive speech, however, the speaker takes a particular stance and tries to get the audience to accept and support that stance. Persuasion is a process of changing or reinforcing attitudes, beliefs, value or behaviour. To be persuasive, you need to be sensitive to your audience’s attitude towards your and your topic. Sermons, political speeches, students’ campaign speeches, sales presentations, etc. are examples of persuasive speeches.

ii. Specific Purpose
The Statement of a specific purpose will help you focus on what you want to accomplish. It will help you define what you are going to inform or persuade you audience about. Your specific purpose should be a fine-tuned, audience-centered goal that should follow the following guidelines.

1. State your purpose clearly and completely.
To explain to the audience members how to stay physically fit. To persuade audience members not to buy products from advertisers who use sexist language.

2. State your purpose in terms of the effects you want to have on your audience. In an informative speech, you may want your audience to restate an idea, identify, describe or illustrate something. However, in a persuasive speech, you may your audience to take classes, buy something, or vote for someone. To inform my audience about how they can improve their study habits. To persuade my audience to donate blood to the Ghana Red Cross.

3. Limit your purpose statement to one idea. This will help you narrow your topic and keep it specific.
4. Use specific language in your purpose of statement
The more precise your language, the clearer the language will be in their minds. To persuade my audience to fight crime is too vague a topic. By crime, do you mean drugs, rape, kidnapping, murder, or what? You could rephrase your purpose this way: To persuade my audience that everyone can help curb armed robbery.

5. Develop your central idea
While your statement of specific purpose indicates what you want your audience to do when you have finished your speech, your central idea statement (Thesis statement) identifies the essence of your message.

Specific Purpose: to inform my audience about how to make sure their drinking water is safe.

Central Idea: People can do three things to ensure that their drinking water is safe.

1. Purchase an activated – carbon filter
2. Have it tested
3. Reduce exposure to bacteria by disinfecting product

As a wise person once said, if effort is organized, accomplishment follows. While generating ideas for your speech, you actually begin the task of organizing your message. After additional research, you need to develop an outline of your talk. A clearly and logically structured speech helps your audience remember what you say and also help you to feel more in control of your speech and greater control will help you feel more comfortable while delivering your speech.

Every speech has three main parts: the instruction, the body and the conclusion. Since an introduction previews a speech and the conclusion summarizes it, most teachers recommend that students prepare their introductions and conclusions after they have organized the body of the talk. We will therefore discuss the introduction and conclusion later.

Purpose of the introduction

Within a few seconds of meeting a person, you form a first impression that is often quite lasting. So too, do you form a first impression of a speaker and his message within the opening seconds of the speech. The introduction may convince you to listen to a credible speaker presenting a well prepared speech or may send the message that the speaker is ill-prepared and the message not worth your time. To say that the introduction should be well planned is an understatement, considering the fact it is very important and yet very brief. An introduction serves the following functions: A key purpose of the speech introduction is to gain favorable attention for your speech.

Because listeners from their first impression often speech quickly, if the introduction does not capture their attention and cast the speech in a favorable light, the rest of the speech may be wasted on the audience. After capturing the audience’s attention and introducing the subject, you have to give the audience some reason to want to listen to the rest of your speech. You can do this by showing them how the topic affects them directly. Perhaps, the most obvious purpose of the introduction is to introduce the subject of the speech. Within a few seconds after you begin your speech, the audience should have a good idea of what you are going to talk about. The best way to do this is to include statement of your central idea in the introduction.

Purpose of Conclusion

Your introduction creates an important first impression: your conclusion leaves an equally important final impression. Long after you have finished speaking, your audience is likely to remember the effect, if not the content of your closing remarks. There are a number of purposes of an effective conclusion:

One purpose of the conclusion is to summarize the speech. A conclusion is s speaker’s last chance to repeat his or her main ideas to the audience. Another purpose of the speech conclusion is to reemphasize the main ideas in a memorable way. The conclusions of a number of speeches are among the most memorable statements we have. Also, motivation is a necessary component of an effective conclusion: not motivation to listen, but motivation to respond in some way. If your speech in informative, you want your audience to think about the topic or research it further. If your speech is persuasive, you may want your audience to take some sort of appropriate action-buy a product, make a phone call, or get involved in a cause. The conclusion is your last chance to motivate your audience to respond to your message. The most obvious purpose of the conclusion is to let audience know that the speech has ended. Speeches have to “sound finished”

Principles of organization

You must try as much as possible to relate the points you make in your speech directly to your specific purpose and central idea. In the speech, the challenge to excel, notice how all the main points are related to the purpose and central idea.

Specific Purpose. To inform my classmates about the four things required to excel.

Central Idea: No matter what people’s abilities are, there are four things they can do to excel.

Main ideas:
1. Learn self –discipline.
2. Build a knowledge base.
3. Develop special skills.
4. Bounce back from defeat.

i. Give points a parallel structure

Parallel structure means that each of your points will begin with the same grammatical form. Example, on a speech about ways to loose weight, this speaker started each suggestion with a verb:

Exercise at least three times a week
Eat low-fat, high energy snacks like fruits.
Count your daily intake.

Specific Purpose: To persuade my audience that the United States should act now to protect its citizens against electronic invasions of their personal privacy.

Central Idea: The loss of personal privacy in our electronic society is a serious problem that requires decisive action.


(i) Would you let a perfect stranger examine your medical files, peek at your personal finances, eavesdrop on your phone calls, or invade other aspects of your personal life?

(ii) Yet all of these are happening as a result of privacy invading technology by business and government agencies.

(iii) The erosion of personal privacy has become one of the most serious problems facing Americans in our high-tech, electronic age.

(iv) Today I would like to explain the extent of this problem and encourage you to support a solution to it.


Need: (i). The use of electronic data gathering by business and government poses a serious threat to personal privacy.

A. Business and government agencies have compiled massive  amounts of information on the personal lives of most Americans.

B. There are few laws protecting Americans against the gathering or misuse of personal information by businesses and government agencies.

Satisfaction: (ii) The problem could be greatly reduced by the passage of federal privacy laws.

A. These laws should impose strict controls on the collection of personal information by businesses and government agencies.

B. These laws should also include stiff penalties on anyone who uses personal information for unauthorized purpose.

Visualisation: (iii) Similarities laws have worked in other counties and can work in the United States.

A. The practicality of privacy laws has been demonstrated by their success in almost all the countries of Western Europe.

B. If the U.S had such laws, you would once again have control over your medical files, financial records, and other kinds of personal information.


Action: (i) So I urge you to support privacy legislation by signing the petition I am passing around to be sent to our state’s U.S Senators and Representatives.

(ii) As Congressman Jack Fields has stated, “This is not a Democratic or Republican issue… Privacy is a basic human right.”

Try using the motivated sequence when you seek immediate action from your listeners. Over the years it has worked for countless speakers – and it can work for you as well.

There are different ways by which you can arrange the main points of your speech. Your choice will depend on what best suits your materials. These patterns include time or chronological order, spatial order, cause and effect order, problem- solution order, and topical order.

Time Order
This is used to show development over time. This pattern works well when you are using a historical approach. It is often used to explain a process and this process could be anything ranging from how to wrap a gift to how to apply for a student’s loan.

Spatial Order
This is approach refers to the physical or geographical layout to help your audience see how the parts makes up the whole. To help your audience visualize subject, you explain it by going from left to right or form top to bottom, or any direction that best suits your subject. Example

Specific Purpose: To inform my audience about the layout of K’dua Poly campus Central Idea : The campus is laid out logically as a series of concentric (having a common centre) circles.

Main Points : I. Parking and athletic complexes occupy the outermost circles.
II. The hostels, fraternities and sororities occupy the next concentric circle.
III. Next to the centre circle are the library, the student union and the classroom buildings.
IV. The administrative offices occupy the centre circle of campus. The spatial order works particular well when the speech focuses on a chart or a diagram. When using the visual aid, the speaker naturally moves from top to bottom or from left to right. Example:

Specific Purpose: To inform my audience about who make decisions on campus.

Central Idea: Campus business is divided into branches: the administrative branch and the academic branch.

Main Point:
I. The Principal is the chief administrative officer of the polytechnic and the main spokesman for the polytechnic community.
II. The academic vice principal is responsible for everything that concerns classes, such as curriculum and faculty.
III. The administrative vice principal is responsible for everything that concerns classes, such as curriculum and faculty.

Causes – Effect order
With this pattern, the speaker divides the speech into: causes (Why something is happening), and effect (what impact it is has).

Specific purpose: To inform my audience on why smart people sometimes fail.
Central Idea : Smart people sometimes do things that lead to failure.

Main Point: I. Smart people are defined as those with high IQs.
II. Causes for their failure include ignorance, isolation, recklessness, and over reaching.
III. Failure (effects) includes loss of high paying profile jobs, public humiliation, loss of opportunity, and even loss of fortunes. When you are using this approach, you do not always have to begin with a cause and end with an effect. In the above example, the speaker could have reversed points II and III and first use examples of some of the possible effects of high. I Q. and them continue with the causes. The important thing is to begin with the aspect most likely to capture the audience’s attention.

iv. Problem –Solution Order
The problem –Solution order, like the cause – effect order, divides as speech into two sections. One pat deals with the problem and the other part, with the solution.


Specific Purpose: To persuade my audience that American schools need to teach students more about the third world.

Central Idea: Americans must know about the third world because what happens in those countries affect American lives.

Main Point:
I. Most Americans have negative impressions of the third world from the mass media.
II. Most Americans are ignorant of the impressions of the impact that the third world has on American Trade.
III. Most Americans do not know how the third world influences political decision making among the super powers.
IV. American teachers and curriculum planners must add materials  about the third world materials about the third world to the school curriculum.
V. Textbook publishers should add third world materials.

Topical Order:
When your speech does not fit into any of the patterns described so far, you may use the topical pattern of organization. This pattern can be used whenever your subject can be grouped logically into sub topics. Examples – Four ways to overcome snoring – Five types of food that will help you live longer, four ways to save money for school, what can be done to protect natural resources, etc.

Specific Purpose: To persuade my audience that everyone can contribute to conserving natural resources.

Central Ideal: Conservation means practicing the four R’s of reduce, re-use, repair nad recycle.

Main Points:
I. Reduce consumption and waste.
II. Reuse what can be reused.
III. Repair what can be fixed.
IV. Recycle what can be recycled.

Persuasion is the process of trying to get others to change their attitudes or behaviour. All of us are trying to persuade one way or the other. The government bombards us with messages intended to foster patriotism and hard work. Sermons from churches and mosques enjoin us against selfishness, corruption, and other social vices, etc. Obviously, not all persuasive speeches work. We ignore many of the messages aimed at use and are unmoved by most. One may ask, what then make a speech persuasive? Aristotle, in his Rhetoric, attributed the persuasive impact of a message to three major factors: ethos (communicator characteristics), Pathos (Emotional nature of audience), and Logos (message features).


Until recently many psychologists believed that the most crucial characteristic of an effective speaker was his prestige. In other words, it was believed that any speaker who possesses prestige could cause the audience to submit to his message regardless of the logicality or illogicality of the message. Recent studies by social psychologists suggest that though prestige is necessary, it is not a sufficient factor in persuasive communication. Research indicates the following speaker characteristics for an effective speech.


The primary characteristic of the speaker has been found to be “Credibility” or “believability”, A speech has greater persuasive effect if the speaker is perceived to be credible or “believable”. In order words, for a message to be persuasive, the speaker must be credible. Here, credibility means expertness and trustworthiness. Expertness of the speaker (source) refers to the extent to which the audience believes that the speaker is capable of transmitting valid statements on the issue under consideration. Put simply, expertness refers to the degree to which the speaker is perceived by the audience to possess comprehensive knowledge on the subject matter. Thus, speakers who present an impressive amount of evidence, show insight into all aspects of the issue are usually perceived by audiences as experts or competent in area in areas they are dealing with, thereby inspiring greater credibility in their audience.

Though members of an audience are inclined to believe a message from an expert or knowledgeable source, the impact is even greater if they have reasons to believe that the source is trustworthy. There are two issues to trustworthiness. First a source is less likely to be believed the audience perceived him to have something to gain if his message is accepted. Second, if the source is perceived from the outset to have a defined intention to persuade, it is less likely he will be perceived worthy of trust.

Nevertheless, being perceived as having an intention to persuade needs not always decrease the speakers’ effectiveness to persuade his audience. In fact, it can be an asset to persuade. Such frank admission can have disarming effect on the audience. This is because members of the audience tend to place credence on the remarks of those they regard as sincere and open. Therefore, the speaker who shows himself as honest is more likely to elicit friendly and less hostile responses from the audience. It is combined value of the speaker’s expertise on an issue and his trustworthiness that we refer to as credibility.


The speaker who seems to be in command of himself inspires confidence. Members of the audience tend to believe in speakers who deliver their message in a more confident tone than those who do it in tentative way. For instance, speakers who present their arguments prefaced with statements like obviously, speakers, who present their arguments prefaced with statement like obviously, in fact, certainly, etc. are more effective than those who present their arguments with expression like I don’t know; I am not positive, etc. Also the effective speaker does not become unsettled when the audience become hostile, or when reacting to hostile questions from the audience.


Our attempt to persuade others often fails because we do so in a tactless manner. Tact is the ability of what to say and how to say what you want to say without giving offence. In persuasion, tact means disagreeing without scolding, enlightening without insulting their intelligence. Persuasion without tact breeds alienation.


Temperance and restraint are crucial ingredients in persuasive communication. Speakers who indulge in personal abuse, overstatement, and inappropriate emotional displays tend to turn off their audience. They may even induce in the audience psychological resistance to the idea they are trying to promote.


It is very important for a speaker to be friendly towards an audience. Where the audience is hostile, goodwill is important. The speaker or source that shows a good disposition towards the audience clears one of the obstacles to persuasion even though he and the audience may disagree on certain points.

Similarity/Identity (e.g. Familiar Language)

It is often difficult to identify with someone whose past and present experiences are so different from your own. How can you see the historical significance of polygamy if you are, for instance a European, or understand the rational for divestiture of national assets if you are a socialist? In fact, a true meeting of the mind is enhanced when a speaker is similar to the audience in terms of ethnicity, sex, age, socio-economic status, educational background, current living conditions, political ideology, etc. Such a speaker is more likely to be perceived as more credible, and hence is more likely to have greater impact on his audience.

Non-verbal elements

Many worthwhile ideas go unheeded because they are ineptly presented. The audience because of misleading cues in the speaker’s non-verbal language misconstrues some ideas. For instance, a speaker may say one thing while the sound of this voice and facial expression tell the audience something else. Imperfections in communication occur when the non-verbal elements in the communication are not supportive of the verbal elements. Also, non-verbal elements convey to the audience more about the speaker than he realizes.

Physical appearance

All of us tend to make generalization about people’s personality, attitudes, and look from the clothes they wear the objects they keep on their persons (e.g. Jewelry) and their grooming, generally. We give them names according to what they wear, etc. Such generalizations are often made about speakers even before they begin to deliver their speech. We are not so much concerned about the validity of these generalizations by the audience. However, what every speaker must know is that inappropriate dress and grooming can be destructive in persuasive communication. Ironically, it is not possible to prescribe a universally acceptable dress for all speakers on all occasion. The real test is that appropriate appearance and grooming should be suitable for the speaker’s purpose, his audience expectations, and the occasion.

Facial expression and eye behavior

Another important aspect of non-verbal communication is facial expression. The speaker’s facial expression conveys to the audience, his attitude towards himself, the subject matter, and the audience. It can tell the audience whether he is sincerely motivated in his assertions or his animations are feigned. The inference an audience makes from the speaker’s facial expression can affect this trustworthiness and hence his credibility. Subtle nuances in facial expression can make a world of difference in perceived meaning. Such variables like amount and rate of dilation of the pupil or one’s eye blink rate can communicate a great deal of information.

The key facial expressions used to convey information include raising or dropping the eyebrows, smiling or frowning, knitting or relaxing the forehead, closing or widening the open eye, wrinkling the nose, pursing the lips, baring the teeth, dropping the jaw, etc. Eye behaviour also performs a persuasion function. We rate speakers who maintain eye contact as credible and we suspect those whose gaze is continually shifting about. If people avert their eyes when talking to us, we assume that they are either shy or are hiding something from us.

Bodily communication

This has dimensions including physical movements of the body like gestures, the way one holds one’s body (tense or relaxed posture), tilting or nodding the head, clenching one’s first, having ones arms akimbo on the waist, etc. These bodily movements can indicate arrogance, anger, degree of commitment, or determination, etc. Imagine a speaker trying to present a conciliatory message while standing in the ‘drill-sergeant’ position (feet planted widely apart as though he were issuing orders to his subordinates. This posture conveys defiance, which is incompatible with the conciliatory message. It is therefore important to note that a speaker’s body language should be compatible with the verbal message being uttered.

Since body language conveys meaning, it can be an asset or a liability. It is however an asset only when it directs the audience’s attention to the verbal message being communicated, and also when it actually transmits a meaning which intensifies the meaning of the verbal message. It should be emphasized that the absence of movement, that static state, is also a conveyer of meaning. In such a situation, parts of the verbal message will actually be lost due to the suppression of bodily action.

Vocalic communication

The other none-verbal element in speaker’s communication behaviour is aural. The voice of the speaker does more than rendering ideas into audible form. The pitch of the voice, its loudness or quality and the rate of delivery, convey various shades of meaning to the audience. The controllable elements of the voice also act as factors of attention. In fact, not only does the voice affects meaning and attention, but also transmits an impression of the speaker as a person to the audience. For example, a speech delivered in a weak voice may convey to the audience the speaker’s lack of courage and vigour. In effect, the public speaker must know that he is judged not only by words spoken, but also by the meaning the audience attaches to the sound of the voice that carries those words.

Artifactual Communication

People decorate their homes and work places with artifacts to symbolize their sense of self. Our culture has taught us to react in certain ways to the artifacts of others. It is important to note that these patterns of responses form the premises of persuasion and therefore we interpret artifacts that surround persuaders in message situations according to the dictates of our culture. Therefore, the banners, the bunting, insignias in a speech situation, all contribute to the success (or failure) of a persuasive attempt. Another type of artifact is clothing. What people wear send signals about what they believe in and what they stand for. However, these Artifactual messages, as said earlier, vary from culture to culture and can make a world of difference between a successful and an unsuccessful persuasion.

Tactical communication

A very important non-verbal message carrier is the way and degree to which people touch one another. Generally, there are gender related differences in the use of touch. Women are more likely to use touch to communicate than are men. In fact, the average woman torches someone else about twelve times a day, with the average man touching someone only eight times a day. In terms of persuasion, research shows that persuaders who touch are the most successful persuaders.

Touch seems to be a good way to convey social kind of emotional feeling like empathy, warmth, and reassurance. It is however important to note some touches are taboo. For instance, some parts of the body are ‘off limits’ to public touch. Therefore, a persuader who is too ‘touchy’ with persons around him is likely to offend not only the person touched, but also, persons observing the touch. Credibility can be drastically undermined if persuaders misread a relationship and respond inappropriately if a speaker touches in a way that is not appropriate.


If it the aim of the speech is to change the views, attitudes, and behaviours of an audience, then it is important that the speaker places particular emphasis on knowing the audience. In a very practical sense, it means the speaker finding out all he can about the people he will be speaking to. It is indeed, probable that the majority of failures in persuasive attempts can be traced to insufficient or inaccurate ‘ analyses’ or ‘targeting’ of those intended to be influenced. Only by seeing things from the audiences’ point of view can we deal directly and effectively with our audiences. In reality, the group of individuals that a speaker tries to influence is his audience. Therefore, for the speaker to know the audience, he must locate the common characteristics of the members of the audience and strategize the message accordingly. Research in this area suggests that there are several common characteristics about the audience and these include the following.

Initial attitude of the audience towards subject matter

The initial position of the members of the audience is crucial in bringing about opinion change. The more extreme the initial position of the audience from that of the speaker, the greater the latitude of rejection of the speaker’s message. In effect, maximum attitude change can be effected when the audience does not hold an extreme attitude position. However, with an audience that is hostile to the point of view espoused by the speaker, media experts suggest that the strategy is for the speaker to start with those points on which he agrees with the audience. This strategy may be effective for two reasons.

a. Agreeing with hostile audience from the start has a disarming effect and prevents heckling and outbursts that characterize hostile audience. b. Agreeing with audience at the outset can enhance the speaker’s trustworthiness with the audience, and may be perceived “fair” “objective” and non-opinionated.

Audience beliefs.

Another characteristic of the audience which can affect their persuasibility is their belief or current thinking about the issue under consideration. For instance, consider the national campaign on the judicious use of electricity due to the low level of water in the Akosombo Dam. Many people initially ignored the warnings or were simply unmoved by them. They did not believe that the Dm would ever dry up. It was not until the Volta River Authority (V.R.A) began issuing daily news on the water level-maximum and minimum operating levels that many people took them seriously. Also, some people do not just believe that AIDS is real and so there is little chance they could be persuaded to use condoms. It is evident that the beliefs people hold on issues can be a powerful deterrent to persuasion.

It would therefore be a folly to try to convince people that you have the best solution when they don’t believe that a problem exists. Finding out an audience’s beliefs also involves seeking clarification on how the audience conceptualizes or defines the issue at stake. For example, as a speaker, you want to persuade an audience that Neoplan Buses are better than Tata Buses. You will have to find out first, how your audience defines a “better bus”. Does “better” here, means durability? Does it mean cost effective? Are Neoplan Busses better because they are sleek and comfortable?

Unless you discover the criteria, and in fact, the priority of the criteria your audience uses, you may be wasting your time in persuading them. You may have to convince the audience that though “sleekness” and “comfortability” are intended criteria for measuring a “better” bus, these are not the only criteria or necessarily the most important ones. You may try to convince them that “durability and “petrol consumption” the most important. In trying to win an audience, it is advisable to discover the criteria by which they measure the “truth” of the fact in question, and also, the priority if the criteria.


“Work! Harder. Faster. Shovel! Don’t just stand there. Shovel!” And so he shoveled with all his energy and all of his might. Hour after hour, he shoveled until his body could not shovel any more. Finally, he stopped working, learned over on his shovel, and let his body limply rest, as his eyes stared at the ground. The commander looked his way and hollered in a low penetrating voice, “Shovel”! But the man did not move. The commander lifted his gun, loaded it with ammunition, and shot him. The man released his hands from the shovel and fell to the ground. He murmured his last words, “How could this happen?”

The commander walked over, lifted his heel, and kicked the man into the mass grave, which he had been digging. One more Jew was removed from the world. He was one of 6 million who were brought to their death by the Nazi policy to annihilate the Jewish race. The Nazis collected the Jews in the ghettos; they transported the Jews to the death camps; they worked the Jews until they could not work any more. Then they killed them – by gun and by gas, by starvation and sickness, by torture and terror. Millions of Jews died in the death camps of Buchenwald, Auschwitz, Dachau, and Treblinka. It seems unfathomable that people could have survived the Nazis’ wartime atrocities. Yet, by the grace of God, there were survivors. The survivors were the young and the strong, not the old and the meek. The survivors were the lucky and the few. My grandparents are Holocaust survivors. They are each the only survivors in their families.

They witnessed the death of their mothers and fathers, brothers and sister, friends and neighbours. They witnessed the destruction of their lives and homes, towns and country, shops and synagogues. They lived through the death camps. They lived through the excruciating work. They lived to see liberation. Since I was a little girl, my grandparents have told me about their lives during the Holocaust. They have told me about the persecution, the intolerance, and the injustices so that I could appreciate my freedom, my liberty, and my independence. It has always amazed me that my grandparents don’t have spite or malice. After all they suffered, they have only hope and love. They don’t want to hate any more. During World War II, my grandparents were victims of anti-Semitism. Fifty years later, they are victims no longer. Today they fight against the “isms” which plague our communities, our states, our nation, and our world.

They tell their story so that we, the younger generation, will understand the horrific force which anti-Semitism was in their lives. They relate their experiences to the struggles which so many people grapple with today. They will tell their story, and they will not rest until all people can live without fear and without denial, until all people can live with pride and with dignity. And when my grandparents are gone, I will continue to tell their story. I will tell my children about the men and women who were murdered for no cause. I will tell my children about the heroism of the Jews in the Warsaw ghetto who fought strength for strength against the Nazi militia.

I will tell these stories to all who will listen. And I hope that you, too, will tell stories. As the Holocaust survivor and writer Elie Wiesel, once said, “Not to transmit an experience is to betray it” To the millions who died in the Holocaust, lie peacefully in your graves, for you have not been forgotten. To the survivors of the Holocaust, rest assured that we have listened to your stories. We have learned by your examples and we, too, will fight for freedom and peace. May no person around the globe again fall to his or her death murmuring, “How could this happen?”

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