The Different Types of Public Speaking and How to Use Them

We tend to look at public speaking as the act of walking in front of a few people and saying some lines about something important.

While this definition barely holds merit, it doesn’t capture everything there is to know about public speaking.

For instance, did you know there are four types of public speaking activities?

Did you know that for you to become an excellent speaker, you should know these types like the back of your hand?

If you did, that’s great! You’re well on your way to becoming the next Steve Jobs (or whatever public speaking idol you have in mind).

And if you didn’t, then no worries. In this post, I’m going to cover what public speaking is, the four different types of public speaking activities, and how you can use them to your advantage.

What is Public Speaking?

I have yet to find a solid definition for this, so I’m going to go ahead and make my own.

Public speaking is the process of transferring information from a speaker to an audience, all through an instilled methodology.

Man holding a microphone - signifies the different types of public speaking

The last part of the definition is what brings this definition home; the “methodology” I’m referring to correlates to the different types of public speaking.

What Are the Types of Public Speaking Activities?

Public speaking opportunities come in many shapes and forms. But for right now, you should be concerned with just four.

And yes, they’re pretty different.

But like I said before, the key to being a good speaker is to align your communication goals with one of these four types (depending on your message, of course).

The Informative Technique

This type of public speaking focuses on explaining a concept or idea to the audience.

Informative speakers tend to focus on specific subject matter, such as people, events, places, stories and so on.

Examples could include a college professor holding a lecture on a particular subject, or a company’s senior executive giving a presentation on last year’s sales.

Man giving a speech to a class - an informative lecture - one of the types of public speaking

If you’re opting for an informative approach, then be sure to do two crucial things.

First, research your topic like crazy. You need to know the ins and outs of your content by heart.

Second, and more importantly, you have to keep your speech (or presentation) short and simple. Nobody wants to sit for an hour just to be informed about something. We have Animal Planet for that.

The Persuasive Technique

This is the bread and butter of public speaking and presentations; indeed, it’s widely perceived as the power-move of public speaking.

Persuasive speaking is the act of convincing members of your audience to do something, based on them agreeing with your viewpoint.

In this technique, the spectrum of persuasion is broad: You can get your audience members to agree to buy a product, take on a new lifestyle, or even conform to a particular political opinion.

Lawyers, politicians, and salespeople all use this technique to their benefit, and if you want to persuade your audience to do something, then you should too.

Lawyer giving his case a - a persuasive illustration - one of the types of public speaking

There is more than one way to practice persuasive speaking effectively to capitalize on public speaking opportunities. But, for right now, here are some tips to get you going:

The Demonstrative Technique

This one’s a little debatable because it focuses more on the actions omitted during a speech or presentation rather than the words being spoken.

Still, it’s worth talking about.

Demonstrative speeches are ones where the speaker performs actions, and clearly explains those actions in the process.

The idea is to engage the audience in both verbal and non-verbal communicational methods. By doing so, the speaker has a better chance to get the message across to the audience.

Have you ever witnessed a cheesy product infomercial? You know, the ones where the host goes on and on about some product and shows you all the features?

Infomercial spoof - there has to be a better way - in line with the demonstrative speech - one of the types of public speaking

That’s considered an example of demonstrative speaking.

Other examples include scientific revelations or even role-playing scenarios.

If you’re thinking about going with this technique, then it’s important to focus on both the verbal (i.e. the content of the speech) and non-verbal (i.e. body language, facial expression, actions conducted, etc.) aspects of communication.  Be sure you don’t miss a beat. Both need to go together to make your demonstration benefit your public speaking efforts.

Whatever you choose to do, be sure you don’t punch yourself in the face as this presenter did.

The Ceremonial Technique

Ceremonial speeches are all about giving speeches during special occasions (such as weddings, birthdays, graduations, and so on).

The goal of ceremonial speaking is to trigger an emotional response from an audience. It’s all about fostering an emotional connection with the people who are taking the time to listen to you.

woman giving ceremonial speech in a graduation - a ceremonial speech - one of the types of public speaking

If you’re going for this approach, then talk about the things that will bring you and your audience closer together, in a way that unites everybody in the room.

For example, if you’re asked to prepare a speech at a graduation ceremony, it would be a good idea to talk about the bright futures that lie ahead for the graduates. It wouldn’t hurt to talk about how parents and guardians could support the graduates either.

Putting It into Practice with an Example

And now for a case study.

Let’s say there’s a public speaker called John Doe, who happens to be an avid anti-smoking activist. His purpose in life is to get as many smokers in the world to quit as fast and as effectively as possible.

Let’s also say that John has a habit-breaking formula to make sure smokers would never have to pick up a cigarette again.

Seeing as John wants to make sure he reaches out to as many people as he can, he took up the offer to do to a TED Talk, where his unique formula will be communicated to the masses.

A damaged cigarette

In his talk, John briefly goes over the dangers of smoking. He then spends a lot of time detailing the steps that are required for a heavy smoker to put the bad habit to rest for good.

So, based on the above, we can assume two things.

First, John is transferring information to his audience through an informative speaking technique. He did this by discussing the dangers of smoking.

Second, John transitions into a persuasive technique by detailing the steps that are required to quit.

As you probably noticed, John used two types of public speaking techniques in the same talk.

And that, my friends, is what makes the power of public speaking a reality.

By combining different types of  techniques, you have a better shot at capitalizing every public speaking opportunity that comes your way.

Moral of the story: don’t be afraid to use two (or more) techniques in the same talk if you think it would have a more significant impact on the members of your audience.

Does This Sound Familiar to You?

Have you ever used any of these techniques in a speech or presentation that you’ve given? If so, I’d love to hear about it! Just drop me a line in the comments section below.

Yousef "Yoyo" Abu Ghaidah

Yousef "Yoyo" Abu Ghaidah

Yousef "Yoyo" Abu Ghaidah is a PowerPoint ninja that founded Slide Cow, a learning platform for all things PowerPoint, presentations and public speaking. When he's not designing slides or giving presentations, he's on another coffee run.
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