• Course Introduction

        • Time: 92 hours
        • Free Certificate
        This course systematically examines the elements of an effective speech and goes through an element-by-element examination of the essentials of public speaking while also identifying traits of the individual speaker and how they affect preparation and presentation. This course also demonstrates specific, performance-oriented aspects of public speaking. The themes of information and ethics tie these elements together and are emphasized in every part of the course because they are vitally important to all communicators. Since modern societies have ever-increasing access to information, there are increased demands on the individual to use information effectively and ethically. For example, "the New York Times has more information in one week than individuals in the 1800s would encounter in a lifetime". This illustrates the additional challenges speakers face beyond the common stresses of public speaking anxiety. In spite of that, ethical communication means not only accepting responsibility for the information you present but also speaking up when others abuse their information platforms.

        • Course Syllabus

          First, read the course syllabus. Then, enroll in the course by clicking "Enroll me". Click Unit 1 to read its introduction and learning outcomes. You will then see the learning materials and instructions on how to use them.

        • Unit 1: Why Public Speaking Matters Today

          You probably remember the public protests from 2011 which rocked the world. In northern Africa, in the United States, in Russia and in many other countries, people protesting their governments' decision-making dominated the news sections of many media outlets. These protests – literally "mass" communication from people to people – represent just one of many reasons why public speaking matters today. Although it can now take on many forms and formats, from standing in front of a crowd to tweeting, emailing, posting on a social media site, or commenting in the discussion area after a news article, communicating in public matters today for the same reason has always mattered, because it can be one of the most effective ways for the voices of the people to be heard. Recognize, however, that due to the primary textbook this course utilizes, the material in this unit approaches public speaking with an inevitably American cultural bias. Moreover, it is unethical to force one's cultural biases onto others and expect them to conform. The content which ends this unit covers the topic of ethics in public speaking, completing this introductory examination of the subject in a manner that should encourage you to become more aware of and sensitive about such issues, which also illustrate why public speaking matters today.

          Completing this unit should take you approximately 8 hours.

        • Unit 2: Speaking Confidently

          Unfortunately, understanding the anxiety which you may experience about public speaking does not necessarily help to alleviate it. However, as this unit of the course emphasizes, recognizing how your anxiety manifests itself in your behavior and then being able to try out a few recommendations for managing it can at least make you feel more empowered to carry on regardless. This unit will explore what is communication apprehension, where it comes from, and suggestions and tips on how it can be minimized.

          Completing this unit should take you approximately 5 hours.

        • Unit 3: The Importance of Listening

          Every speech course includes a unit on listening, even though most people do not associate the subjects with each other. Yet, it is very important that you associate listening habits with public speaking skills and public speaking presentations. A well-known saying is that you should "walk a mile in another man's shoes" in order to understand that person. That also applies to speech audiences; you need to imagine what it would be like to be your own audience. This means assessing your personal listening habits as well as those of your anticipated audience. Unit 4 introduces audience analysis as one of the ways to proceed with that assessment, but in this unit, the focus is on the general traits possessed by all listeners and how you should plan your speech with those traits in mind.

          Completing this unit should take you approximately 5 hours.

        • Unit 4: Audience Analysis

          The Shannon and Weaver model of communication introduced in Unit 1 (see the Section 1.2 reading in Stand up, Speak out: The Practice and Ethics of Public Speaking) identifies all of the elements which influence the process of communication, and because it is a model intended to apply to a wide range of communication situations, it uses generic terms for those elements: "source", not "speaker;" "receiver", not "audience;" "noise", not "distraction", for example. Considering your "audience" in the generic sense of being "receivers" of your messages is a good way to approach the contents of this unit. The word "audience" tends to imply the passivity of sitting before a television or a stage or a book, as spectators not participants. However, in reality audiences are far more active than that, and using Shannon and Weaver's generic terms, you can frame this concept of the audience as a receiver more clearly. A source sends a message to a receiver in the same way a pitcher tosses a ball to a batter. The pitcher analyzes, among other things, the batter's stance and perhaps what is known about the batter's swinging style, temperament, or weaknesses. Then, the pitcher throws the ball and the batter reacts either by swinging, because the throw was good, or by stepping back because the ball was foul. Communication audiences react much like batters; their responses are based on how the ball – the message – is sent to them. The analogy breaks down at this point, however, because in the game of baseball, the pitcher does not want the batter to connect with the ball, while in public speaking, that connection is your goal. As you review the materials in this unit, keep in mind that audiences are not passive. They stand at bat, ready to swing and hit, swing and miss, or stand back and let your message just pass them by.

          Completing this unit should take you approximately 5 hours.

        • Unit 5: Finding a Purpose and Selecting a Topic

          More often than not, the purpose and topic of your speech will be determined for you by outside factors such as the context of your speech and its audience. Nevertheless, it remains your responsibility to narrow the topic of your speech such that it suits the nature of your audience, your own interests, and other factors associated with the setting and occasion. This unit examines all of the elements in the speech context which should influence your decisions. The operational word in the preceding sentence, however, is "should". Many inexperienced speakers do not take the time to fully analyze those elements which "should" determine the nature of their speech. The relationship between purpose and audience is one example of this problem. The only time an effective communicator does not analyze his or her audience with respect to the purpose of a speech is when he or she does not care how an audience receives or reacts to its message. To understand how important this is, consider the four goals of communication, three of which you will encounter in this course: to inform, to persuade, to entertain, and to express. Teachers inform, politicians persuade, comedians entertain, but who expresses? One answer could be artists. What impact does a poet seek in presenting a poem? To answer that, consider first what impact a communicator has with the other types: to inform someone of something, to persuade someone to do something, to entertain someone. But there is no "someone" at the other end of "to express", is there? And what about communicators who are not artists, but who also seek to express themselves anyway? One example of this occurs when an angry person swears. The problem that arises with expression, which could be defined as communicating with no consideration of context or audience, is that the speaker has little control over the effects, as the frequently offensive nature of swearing illustrates. In this unit, you will study the various purposes of speech-giving, as well as tips and suggestions for selecting a topic for your speech.

          Completing this unit should take you approximately 5 hours.

        • Unit 6: Researching Your Speech

          In the introduction to the chapter in the textbook which covers the topic of research, the authors emphasize an entity whose role in society is being usurped by other developments. That entity is the librarian and the most influential of those "other developments" is the Internet. Pursuing accurate, ethical, and relevant research today is complicated by the sheer number of sources of information that is now available. In the past, libraries and librarians acted as gatekeepers to screen out many flawed or misleading sources of information; today, however, access to the Internet gives the researcher the freedom to make his or her own choices, regardless of whether that individual is adequately prepared to do so. As this issue becomes increasingly important, educators are emphasizing information literacy as a "core" skill – like public speaking – which is a requisite for success in the information-driven, information-overloaded world we live and work in today.

          Completing this unit should take you approximately 5 hours.

        • Unit 7: Supporting Ideas and Building Arguments

          This unit covers topics which establish the substance of your speech. Many inexperienced speakers focus their efforts on the main points or major arguments of their speeches, but only cursorily attach to those elements synthesis of ideas – the details and connections which establish their real impact. The result is that student speeches tend to use the same type of support, over and over again, creating a dull sameness that causes the attention of audiences to sag even as they lose respect for the speaker's motivations and/or credibility. You can avoid this syndrome by absorbing not only the function of supporting details in a speech but also the variety of types and formats you can choose from to keep your speech interesting and influential. This unit will focus on providing you with information and advice on how to use various types of supporting evidence to strengthen any arguments made in your speech.

          Completing this unit should take you approximately 7 hours.

        • Unit 8: The Body of a Speech

          This unit of the course deviates from the order of content presented in the textbook by presenting material on developing the body of your speech before material on developing the speech's introduction. This has been done because an introduction introduces the body of the speech, but if the body of the speech does not exist yet, the speaker has nothing to base the introduction on. This unit also begins the second half of the course, which focuses on actually developing a speech. Moreover, because public speaking requires performance as well as comprehension, starting with this unit, the rest of this course includes a number of assignments which challenge you to apply the information you obtain to specific tasks associated with writing or presenting a speech.

          Completing this unit should take you approximately 5 hours.

        • Unit 9: Introductions and Conclusions

          Now that you have an understanding of how to develop the body of your speech, it is time to focus on creating an engaging introduction and memorable conclusion. This unit will provide information on the functions of an introduction and conclusion, as well as it will provide tips on developing effective openings and closings to your speech. You will also review analysis of introductions and conclusions in this unit to use as models in understanding which techniques work best in developing strong introductions and conclusions. As you review the resources in this unit, keep in mind that terminology used in instruction can vary from source to source. Moreover, some sources will group together information which others keep separate. These two traits are often the case with resources which discuss the functions of speech introductions and conclusions. When you encounter differences in the resources in this section, consider focusing on that resource which breaks down the information the most. Such a breakdown can be used as a checklist of what you must accomplish to be effective when you present these sections of your speech. This is particularly important with introductions and conclusions since different sources identify between three and five functions which these sections must fulfill. As a result, you should favor that source which identifies the most functions, thereby insuring that your introduction and conclusion sections are as effective as possible.

          Completing this unit should take you approximately 5 hours.

        • Unit 10: Outlining

          This unit explores the use of outlining in preparation for giving a speech. In this unit and the next, consider critically the authors' recommendation to favor sentence outlines over keyword outlines. Sometimes, the use of sentence outlines needs to be balanced with an inexperienced speaker's tendency to produce a manuscript rather than a speech. Unit 11 will emphasize using language designed for the ear rather than the eye when presenting a speech. Many would argue that sentence outlines can interfere with that process. Moreover, sentence outlines allow a speaker to be less familiar with a topic and thus less flexible in presenting it, even if, as the textbook also recommends, the sentence outline is converted to keywords and phrases on cue cards. Lastly, sentence outlines can make a speaker dependent on pre-planned phrasing rather than addressing the audience through a natural, conversational style. As a result of these potential pitfalls, pay particular attention to the "tricks" described at the end of the chapter, which are designed to avoid reliance on reading and/or on words that were originally written "for the eye rather than the ear".

          Completing this unit should take you approximately 4 hours.

        • Unit 11: The Importance of Language

          Critiquing the language you use in a speech is the oral equivalent of editing your own writing. It can be difficult to recognize when words and phrases you use casually every day may not suit the context or audience of a public presentation. Upon completing the readings and viewing the web media in this unit, you may conclude that it contains too many minor details about this subject. However, that would be an inappropriate conclusion. You may not remember all of those details, your exposure to them will, at the very least, heighten your awareness of the importance of choosing language which suits the occasion, even if, as is often the case, it does not suit you as well. Indeed, attention to language is often what distinguishes the professional communicator from the casual one, and it is why the term "wordsmith" is sometimes used as a compliment to those who do it well.

          Completing this unit should take you approximately 4 hours.

        • Unit 12: Delivering the Speech

          It is not just what you say; it is how you say it. This is why understanding the nature of oral delivery and improving your own oral characteristics are important in ensuring the success of your presentation. Few speakers have pitch-perfect delivery. Actors, politicians, businessmen and women, and clerics have been known to seek out delivery coaches to upgrade their oratory. You will probably not have access to a speech coach, but if you are determined to present powerfully delivered speeches, there are two actions you can take to improve your skills: videotape yourself and seek out opportunities to deliver public presentations. Private and public practice will create self-critiques and public exposure all speakers need to both educate and motivate them to improve. There are many ways you can do this – for example, you may consider joining Toastmasters International, a membership-based, educational organization which shares information about public speaking and gives speakers opportunities to practice their skills and be critiqued by other members. 

          Completing this unit should take you approximately 5 hours.

        • Unit 13: Presentation Aids: Design and Usage

          Decisions and opportunities associated with the design and use of presentation aids are innumerable, making it difficult to decide where to begin, but not if you approach such aids systematically. Many students err in this area when they develop the entire contents of their speeches first and then go back and attempt to fit some aids into the presentation – or even more commonly, simply used such aids to summarize content. Developing aids in such an isolated way almost always results in materials which do not strengthen a presentation, and sometimes even weaken it considerably. Systematically approaching the development of presentation aids means you select identify what you will require "as you go". For example, you have been advised in this course to develop the body section of your speech first. That section is controlled by main points and fleshed out by supporting details and evidence. As you identify the contents for each of these elements, you should ask yourself whether they would be enhanced – made more powerful, clearer, more memorable, or just more understandable – if aided. In other words, you should have a reason for including every presentation aid you use.

          Completing this unit should take you approximately 8 hours.

        • Unit 14: Speaking to Inform and Entertain

          In this unit, you will review and focus more directly on the purposes of informing and entertaining when giving speeches. Even though the topics of this unit often stand on their own as significant sections, in this course they are shorter because most of the guidance that might be necessary to develop both informative and entertaining speeches has already been covered. Unlike the theory-driven language and approaches you will discover are associated with persuasive speaking, the language and approach you take to inform or entertain is driven by you, the speaker, and your relationship to your audience, your topic, and your purpose – each of which have been the subject of entire units in this course already. As a result, rather than review those subjects, the material in this unit focuses on the characteristics which make these two types of speeches distinct.

          Completing this unit should take you approximately 5 hours.

        • Unit 15: Persuasive Speaking

          Most speakers consider persuasive speaking as the most difficult of the three basic types (informative, persuasive, and entertaining). One of the reasons why understanding the demands of persuasive speaking is more difficult is because it requires a knowledge of terms that are specific to argumentation, such as claims and evidence. What is important to realize, however, is that while the terms may be different, most of the elements they refer to function in ways that are similar to what occurs in informative and entertaining speeches. Main points are called arguments, supporting detail is evidence, but presenting your observation and then backing them up with the kind of information your audience can understand, accept, and/or appreciate is universal communicative behavior.

          Completing this unit should take you approximately 9 hours.

        • Course Feedback Survey

          Please take a few minutes to give us feedback about this course. We appreciate your feedback, whether you completed the whole course or even just a few resources. Your feedback will help us make our courses better, and we use your feedback each time we make updates to our courses.

          If you come across any urgent problems, email contact@saylor.org.

        • Certificate Final Exam

          Take this exam if you want to earn a free Course Completion Certificate.

          To receive a free Course Completion Certificate, you will need to earn a grade of 70% or higher on this final exam. Your grade for the exam will be calculated as soon as you complete it. If you do not pass the exam on your first try, you can take it again as many times as you want, with a 7-day waiting period between each attempt.

          Once you pass this final exam, you will be awarded a free Course Completion Certificate.