Speakers Have Many Options

Speakers have many options regarding the way that they want to speak
Speakers have many options regarding the way that they want to speak
Image Credit: Matt Harasymczuk

As someone who has the ability to give a speech, you have many options when it comes to the next speech that you’ll give. I think that most of us generally picture giving a speech as being something that we stand in front of a group of people and do. However, it turns out that there are many different opportunities that are available for speakers to use their skills. We don’t have to do the standard “stand and deliver” type of speech. The biggest challenge that you may be facing is trying to decide just exactly what type of speech you want to give next.

Many Types Of Speeches

All types of public speaking that we participate in share common qualities. Speaking requires preparation and practice, confidence on a stage or in front of a room, and requires us to make an effort to ensure the audience can see and hear us. Whether your aim is to entertain, persuade or educate, your speech must meet some basic goals: stay within the time allotted, engage the audience and convey information clearly.

However, once we move past the basics, there’s a wide variety of speech types we can try. The one that you end up choosing may be driven by your role at a special occasion or business meeting, by the audience, or by a format, venue or some sort of time restriction. As a speaker, you’ll want to stretch yourself to learn about, and practice, one or more of the many types of public speaking.

Business Presentations

Although we may not think of them as being very interesting, business presentations are an important form of public speaking. Unlike most other kinds of speeches that we give, business presentations hinge on at least one audience member: the decision-maker. Your goal as the speaker is to influence that person’s decision, so a vital part of your business presentation involves making sure that you know who the decision-maker is. Getting to your point quickly and clearly is another way that business presentations differ from other public speaking styles. In these types of speeches, you must be able to defend your arguments against any challenges. One way to do this is to practice having an answer to the question, “so what?” after each of your major persuasive points.

TED Talks

TED talks have become very popular and so TED-talk like events have sprung up all over the place. TED-talk speakers must meet a number of parameters. Speeches must be no more than 18 minutes long, delivered without a lectern and often with few or even no slides, and they often rely heavily on storytelling. TED talks are given before high powered audiences and are done to share “ideas worth spreading.” They are also often live-streamed to an even larger, remote audience, and later shared freely online where they can be viewed by millions. If you want to try out this format, take the time to watch TED talks online for examples of how it’s done, and explore the option of speaking at a local TEDx. In addition to the time limits, TED speakers will get specific guidance, known as “The TED Commandments.” The guidance aims to ensure the audience will hear new ideas that are presented by the speaker with passion and a unique point of view. The “commandments” also remind TED speakers that they need to be human, approachable and funny, and avoid self-promotion.


I think that we all know that telling a story is the one of the oldest forms of public speaking. This type of speaking predates written language. Your entire speech could tell a single story, or one story can be incorporated into a broader speech to illustrate a point, teach a lesson, connect with your audience, or even make history come alive. Distinct elements of a storytelling speech include building and releasing dramatic tension, incorporating surprise elements, and engaging the listener’s imagination.

Acceptance Speeches

The good news is that this type of speech is used to signal something good: you’re publicly accepting an honor, award or commendation. The purpose of your acceptance speech is to give gracious thanks to the organization bestowing this honor upon you. After addressing the organization, you will then have the option of thanking friends and family who helped you along the way and sharing why the recognition is meaningful to you. Often organizations bestow awards to draw attention to particular issues or actions that they wish to encourage, so speaking about your connection to that issue is another option that is good for you to consider.

Panel Discussions

When you are asked to speak as part of a panel discussion, you must take into account at least two other speakers. Learning how to both take and give up your turn at the microphone is essential if you want to be a good panelist. Panel speakers are often are called upon to react to what other panelists have said, in addition to what they came prepared to say. Answering audience questions is also a critical part of panel speaking, and the area in which many speakers find it most difficult to give up the floor. Some panelists will use slide presentations. Speakers may want to avoid panels of more than three people, since one’s time to speak is limited further with each person added to the group.

What All Of This Means For You

Although it is easy for speakers to think about the speeches that they give as all looking pretty much the same, it turns out that they can all come in different shapes and sizes. As speakers we need to realize this. For each of the different types of speeches that we may be called on to give, we need to prepare a different type of speech to give. Understanding the different types of speeches is an important responsibility of each speaker.

No matter what type of speech we are going to be giving, we have to create a speech that will allow us to stay within the time allotted, engage the audience and convey information clearly. The type of speech that we end up giving may be driven by a particular role that we are playing at an event. We may be called upon to give business presentations, TED talks, storytelling, acceptance speeches, or even participate in a panel discussion.

Speakers need to understand that the art of giving a speech is always the same no matter what format our speech may take. We have an obligation to create a speech that will both capture and then hold onto our audience’s attention. We just need to understand that not all speeches are created the same. Depending on the type of situation that we may find ourselves in, we may be provided with an opportunity to give a speech that does not look like our normal speech. We need to prepare for situations like this and prepare the best speech possible!

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Public Speaking Skills™

Question For You: Can speakers combine storytelling into other types of speeches?

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Note: What we talked about are advanced speaking skills. If you are just starting out I highly recommend joining Toastmasters in order to get the benefits of public speaking. Look for a Toastmasters club to join in your home town by visiting the web site www.Toastmasters.org. Toastmasters is dedicated to helping their members to understand the importance of public speaking by developing listening skills and getting presentation tips. Toastmasters is how I got started speaking and it can help you also!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

As speakers, when we are asked to give a speech we generally expect the speeches that we’ll be giving to last 30 to 60 minutes. However, that is not always the case. We all know that due to circumstances, the amount of time that we’ll be given to talk may be reduced. Because of this, we are often encouraged to have a shorter version of our speech in our “back pocket”. However, what if the speech that we are being asked to give is super short to begin with? Would you even know how to go about creating a very short speech?