“Speech is power. Speech is to persuade, to convert, to compel.” — Ralph Waldo Emmerson
Many events in human history can be traced back to that one well-written, well-presented speech. Speeches hold the power to move nations or touch hearts as long as they’re well thought out. This is why mastering the skill of speech-giving and speech writing is something we should all aim to achieve.
But the word “speech” is often too broad and general. So let’s explore the different types of speeches and explain their general concepts.
Basic Types of Speeches
While the core purpose is to deliver a message to an audience, we can still categorize speeches based on 4 main concepts: entertaining, informing, demonstrating and persuading.
The boundaries between these types aren’t always obvious though, so the descriptions are as clear as possible in order to differentiate between them.
1. Entertaining Speech
If you’ve been to a birthday party before, that awkward toast given by friends or family of the lucky birthday person is considered to fall under the definition of an entertaining speech.
The core purpose of an entertaining speech is to amuse the audience, and obviously, entertain them. They’re usually less formal in nature to help communicate emotions rather than to simply talk about a couple of facts.
Let’s face it, we want to be entertained after a long day. Who wouldn’t enjoy watching their favorite actors giving an acceptance speech, right?
You’ll find that entertaining speeches are the most common type of speeches out there. Some examples include speeches given by maids of honor or best men at weddings, acceptance speeches at the Oscars, or even the one given by a school’s principal before or after a talent show.
2. Informative Speech
When you want to educate your audience about a certain topic, you’ll probably opt to create an informative speech. An informative speech’s purpose is to simplify complex theories into simpler, easier-to-digest and less ambiguous ideas; in other words, conveying information accurately.
The informative speech can be thought of as a polar opposite to persuasive speeches since they don’t relate to the audience’s emotions but depend more on facts, studies, and statistics.
Although you might find a bit of overlap between informative and demonstrative speeches, the two are fairly distinct from one another. Informative speeches don’t use the help of visual aids and demonstrations, unlike demonstrative speeches, which will be described next.
Some examples of informative speeches can be speeches given by staff members in meetings, a paleontology lecture, or just about anything from a teacher (except when they’re telling us stories about their pasts).
3. Demonstrative Speech
ِFrom its name we can imagine that a demonstrative speech is the type of speech you want to give to demonstrate how something works or how to do a certain thing. A demonstrative speech utilizes the use of visual aids and/or physical demonstration along with the information provided.
Some might argue that demonstrative speeches are a subclass of informative speeches, but they’re different enough to be considered two distinct types. It’s like differentiating between “what is” and “how to”; informative speeches deal with the theoretical concept while demonstrative speeches look at the topic with a more practical lens.
Tutors explaining how to solve mathematical equations, chefs describing how to prepare a recipe, and the speeches given by developers demonstrating their products are all examples of demonstrative speeches.
4. Persuasive Speech
Persuasive speeches are where all the magic happens. A speech is said to be persuasive if the speaker is trying to prove why his or her point of view is right, and by extension, persuade the audience to embrace that point of view.
Persuasive speeches differ from other basic types of speeches in the sense that they can either fail or succeed to achieve their purpose. You can craft the most carefully written speech and present it in the most graceful manner, yet the audience might not be convinced.
Persuasive speeches can either be logical by using the help of facts or evidence (like a lawyer’s argument in court), or can make use of emotional triggers to spark specific feelings in the audience.
A great example of persuasive speeches is TED / TEDx Talks because a big number of these talks deal with spreading awareness about various important topics. Another good example is a business pitch between a potential client, i.e. “Why we’re the best company to provide such and such.”
Other Types of Speeches
Other types of speeches are mixes or variations of the basic types discussed previously but deal with a smaller, more specific number of situations.
5. Motivational Speech
A motivational speech is a special kind of persuasive speech, where the speaker encourages the audience to pursue their own well-being. By injecting confidence into the audience, the speaker is able to guide them toward achieving the goals they set together.
A motivational speech is more dependent on stirring emotions instead of persuasion with logic. For example, a sports team pep talk is considered to be a motivational speech where the coach motivates his players by creating a sense of unity between one another.
One of the most well-known motivational speeches (and of all speeches at that) is I Have a Dream by Martin Luther King Jr.
6. Impromptu Speech
Suppose you’re at work, doing your job, minding your own business. Then your co-worker calls you to inform you that he’s sick, there is a big meeting coming up, and you have to take his place and give an update about that project you’ve been working on.
What an awkward situation, right?
Well, that’s what an impromptu speech is: A speech given on the spot without any prior planning or preparation. It being impromptu is more of a property than a type on its own since you can spontaneously give speeches of any type (not that it’s a good thing though; always try to be prepared for your speeches in order for them to be successful).
Mark Twain once said, “It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.”
7. Oratorical Speech
This might sound a bit counterintuitive at first since the word oratorical literally means “relating to the act of speech-giving” but an oratorical speech is actually a very specific type of speech.
Oratorical speeches are usually quite long and formal in nature. Their purpose could be to celebrate a certain event like a graduation, to address serious issues and how to deal with them, or to mourn losses and give comfort like a eulogy at a funeral.
8. Debate Speech
The debate speech has the general structure of a persuasive speech in the sense that you use the same mechanics and figures to support your claim, but it’s distinct from a persuasive speech in that its main purpose is to justify your stance toward something rather than convince the audience to share your views.
Debate speeches are mostly improvised since you can’t anticipate all the arguments the other debaters (or the audience) could throw at you. Debate speeches benefit the speaker since it develops their critical thinking, public speaking, and research among other benefits.
You’ll find debate speeches to be common in public forums, legislative sessions, and court trials.
9. Forensic Speech
According to the American Forensic Association (AFA), the definition of a forensic speech is the study and practice of public speaking and debate. It’s said to be practiced by millions of high school and college students.
It’s called forensic because it’s styled like the competitions held in public forums during the time of the ancient Greeks.
Prior to a forensic speech, students are expected to research and practice a speech about a certain topic to teach it to an audience. Schools, universities, or other organizations hold tournaments for these students to present their speeches.
10. Special Occasion Speech
If your speech doesn’t fall under any of the previous types, then it probably falls under the special occasion speech. These speeches are usually short and to the point, whether the point is to celebrate a birthday party or introduce the guest of honor to an event.
Special occasion speeches can include introductory speeches, ceremonial speeches, and tributary speeches. You may notice that all these can be categorized as entertaining speeches. You’re right, they’re a subtype of entertaining speeches because they neither aim to teach nor to persuade you.
But this type shouldn’t be viewed as the black sheep of the group; in fact, if you aim to mark a significant event, special occasion speeches are your way to go. They are best suited (no pun intended) for a wedding, a bar mitzvah, or even an office party.
If you’ve reached this far, you should now have a general understanding of what a speech is and hopefully know which type of speech is needed for each occasion. I hope you’ve enjoyed and learned something new from this article. Which type will you use for your next occasion?
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