Adapting a Speech to the Audience, A Lesson Plan

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Introduction: Maintaining an audience-centered approach is crucial to each step of the speech preparation process. From selecting a speech topic to deciding how to organize, word and deliver it, audience analysis is key. It is the process of gathering and analyzing information about audience members’ attributes and motivations with the explicit aim of preparing a speech in ways that will be meaningful to them.

Often, audience analysis as a topic is covered once in a public speaking course (usually at the beginning.) Since it is a key factor in public speaking, I’d recommend that a conversation about audience analysis takes place at the start of every speech assignment in the course. The following plan serves as a platform to re-introduce audience analysis as students begin the final speech assignment in the course, a persuasive speech.

Pre-mail Reminder – Using Blackboard – I will send students a reminder email two days before our next class meets (this would already be posted on the Announcement page) to write and bring in their Position Statement for the upcoming persuasive speech assignment.

Report In – During the first ten minutes, I have students report in on what their Position Statements are. We can do an informal vote (anonymously if preferred, where I read the position statements and there is a show of hands or use pieces of paper) on how many students agree or disagree. Knowing this information during the speech preparation process allows the speaker to better adapt the upcoming speech content to the audience.

Video: Then, I will have students watch a 3-minute video (link below.)

In this video clip, musician Bobby McFerrin elaborates on the whole idea of expectation, what can happen when you make expectations of the audience. While he makes it seem fairly easy, this is not from lack of preparation. It is further evidence that good preparation can result in a seamless delivery. Similarly, when you build your strategy with persuasion, you have to anticipate what the audience members’ reactions might be.

Infographic: As we broaden classroom discussions on the various pieces that feed into audience analysis, I will share a mnemonic device type of infographic (AUDIENCE.)

In Class Smart Device Activity: After the Infographic discussion, students will be divided into groups of 3 or 4 and be assigned one of the alphabets from this mnemonic device. Using their smart phones or tablets, each group will search sources that will help them develop a quick presentation (skit/ role play; creativity is encouraged) exemplifying the importance of the alphabet (from the mnemonic device) they were assigned.

Homework: On Blackboard, students will find the writing assignment where they will have to answer a series of questions on how they will better adapt their final speech assignment, a persuasive speech, to the audience.

1.     What is your persuasive topic?

2.    What are the two controversial sides to this issue?

3.    What is your audience’s initial disposition toward your topic likely to be?

4.    From your time with this audience since the beginning of the semester, what common ground do they share with each other (and with you) that can help you in this speech?

5.     Relevance – What will you say (in the Introduction) to tell the audience how they will benefit if they listen?

6.     Credibility – How will you state your Credibility in the Introduction?

7.     What can you do to make it easier for members of the audience to comprehend and remember the information you will share?

Feedback: Using Jing I will send students a personal screencast through Blackboard giving them specific formative feedback on their answers. In particular, I find most students need further direction on how to handle Relevance and Credibility in the Introduction of a speech.

One Response to “Adapting a Speech to the Audience, A Lesson Plan”

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