Public Speaking — Extemporaneous Speaking — Basic Instruction

Communication Apprehension

(and probably among most people on Earth)

Stage fright! One cure is good preparation. Immersion in the topic. Another is motivation, that certain desire that energizes behavior to prepare and to propel oneself before the audience. Feeling worthy to be heard. Having something to add to the public dialogue. Sensing the duty of citizenship. Knowing that most will respect any effort to contribute.

Besides, the feeling is not really “fear”. It is a disturbance of equilibrium, of what is normal stability, of feeling what you always feel, of business as usual, when you are in the audience listening in a normal vegetative state, and not up there doing the speaking.

That feeling of apprehension could be thought of in a positive way — the power of positive thinking — as “getting keyed up”, “excitement”. Putting a positive spin on the imminent experience. One other help to a “cure” is experience, enough that one can become desensitized to the “fear” angle and develop a new arena of self-confidence, thus adding to a repetoire of skills useful in business, social and political contexts.

Speaking in Public

Speaking with good preparation. Speaking one to many. Not impromptu. Not reading from manuscript. Not speaking from memory. Good forethought, but leaving the spoken words to the spontaneous moment, with confidence the words will flow, that is the meaning of “Extemporaneous Speaking”.

The Speakers: A great number of speakers do not meet the speaker’s burden. They beg many questions that can leave the audience dissatisfied.

The Listeners: The speaker’s auditors do not meet their burden of responsibility to keep their speakers accountable. Most listeners need basic instruction in the criticism of public speaking.

Both speaker and listener must know what the speaker should be doing. “What is sauce for the goose is sauce for a gander.” The criteria by which to judge speaking performance constitute a critical apparatus to be applied by communicators and auditors.

This basic instruction should be made available. Just in case the criteria for judgment are not made available anyhere else on the WWW, some basics are put here in a nutshell, surrounding an example, the ten drachma course.

Modeling the Structure and Functions of a Speech

1. Gaining Attention

“Dem Wahren, Schönen, Guten” A German phrase saying, “To the true, the beautiful, the good”. What is it? Is it a toast to the wonderful works of a famous person? to the serene beauty of a treasured place? to a brilliant work of classic art? to a thrilling performance in a theater or concert hall? to a lovely ceremony? a summary in remembrance of a life well lived? None of those.

  • Other devices, besides a quotation: a series of rhetorical questions;
  • a humorous story;
  • an anecdote;
  • poems;
  • an illustration;
  • a metaphor, or simile;
  • or any device that is immediately engrossing and relevant to the topic.

A good exercise, if you work in a group, is to have each person come prepared to give only an unforgettable opening that will be relavent to the chosen topic. Discuss and judge the “memorability” of each after all have been presented.

2. Ethos

Where did I see it? After World War II, I was walking the streets of Berlin, littered with the debris of skeletal buildings. The bombings had flattened nearly everything. I saw in the rubble an arched stone. Carved on it were those words. It had marked the entrance to what was once a public park. I recognized immediately the irony of that sentiment, “the true, the beautiful, the good”, lying in a heap of war-torn debris at the entrance to a supposed place of urban solitude.

  • At some point, the speaker ought specifically to address his or her own involvement with the topic. Auditors are usually wondering about the background of the speaker.
  • Include some background and experience underlying the desire to speak on the subject.
3. Thesis

What was it that I read that day, a remembrance I have never forgotten, carved in stone, lying monumentally in ruins? It was a belief. As it lay there, it became a testament to the false, the ugly, the evil.

It was an aspiration of a culture, a need, an idea which the people who carved it in stone themselves eventually subverted. How? By following an ideologue whose demogogic rants compelled a naive public to accept the idea of a holocaust and Lebensraum as truth, beauty and good. How firmly did that belief etched in stone reside in the hearts of the people? A demagogue would know.

Ideologies can be dangerous ways of thinking. Ideologies can be destructive of all that is good, beautiful, or true. Ideology is a statement contrived from beliefs and not derived from reliable knowledge, and often contrived by charismatic leaders who can persuade people to accept their authority to define what they should be thinking, and who also contrive to back up their authority with some form of coercion.
The ideological falsehood may also be something the people want to hear, to their shame.

To quote from a poem I wrote about ideology:
To say, then see, reality contrived.
To see, then say, reality derived.

Are there markers of a national ideology? If so, what are they? In any national ideology, are there portents of a national tragedy that would lead to some major conflict, to revolution or civil war? Do people in our nation have a national ideology that has any fatal flaws?

  • The thesis should be a succinct formulation at the core of the speech.
4. Preview

I want, first, to talk about that German ideology which so infamously involved the world in war. Second, I want, mainly, to dwell on the American ideology that now involves us in questions about the soundness of our social compact.

  • Given up front. Given in the middle. Given in the conclusion.
  • Introduction: Tell ’em what you’re gonna tell ’em.
    Body: Tell ’em.
    Conclusion: Tell ’em what you told ’em.
  • REDUNDANCY is one key function, for the audience does not have the manuscript in hand to go back and double check something said.
First Point: Past Markers of the German Ideology Leading to World War II

  1. Anthems: Deutschland, Deutschland über alles;
  2. Hymns
  3. Manifestos, Constitutions: Mein Kampf;
  4. Heroes: Richard Wagner;
  5. Emblems: the Nazi salute;
  6. Myths: das Volk; pure Aryan; inferiority of the Jews; Treaty of Versailles;
  7. Religion:
  8. Mottos
  9. Revolutions, Civil Wars: Martin Luther;
  10. Political Experience: failure of the Weimar Republic, its first democracy. The German people were inexperienced in democracy. They were naive, and therefore, fallow ground for the demagoguery of ideology.

  • The number of points to develop the core idea is limited by the time given to speak.
Second Point: Markers of the American Ideology

  1. Anthems: land of the free, and the home of the brave;
  2. Hymns: God shed His grace on thee, and crowned thy good with brotherhood;
  3. Holidays; 4th of July; Christmas; Easter;
  4. Manifestos, Constitutions: Congress can make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting its free exercise;
  5. Heroes, and Anti-heroes: the Scopes trial; Billy Graham; Pat Robertson; Jerry Falwell; the Pope; Abraham Lincoln; Martin Luther King; the Founding Fathers-Deists;
  6. Emblems: hats off; hand on heart; bowing heads; paper currency with the eye of providence atop the pyramid; flag burning;
  7. Myths: a Christian nation; “America” for the “United States” excluding recognition of its application to Canada, Mexico, or any South American nation;
  8. Religion: pre-game prayers; prayer in schools; teaching religions in the schools; creationism v. evolution; faith v. reliable knowledge;
  9. Mottos: in God we trust; one nation, under God;
  10. Revolutions, Civil Wars: External tyrants begone! Internal enemies reonciled!


There are markers of ideology in both Germany and the United States. These are the most telling markers of destructive ideology in the United States: (enumerate here).

  • Redundancy
Thesis Restated

The enumerated ideological practices in the U.S. warrant the throwing of yellow flags for infractions that, if not penalized, will allow the game to get out of the control of the referees and eventuate in a major conflict, endangering democratic principles in the social contract. We defeated the British tyranny. We resolved the internal issue of slavery in a civil war. As we now stand looking forward with trepidation to the possibility of a new civil war, it will be the theocratic ideologues versus the democratic practitioners. Leadership of party or person may tip the balance toward civil discourse rather than civil war.

  • The thesis should be a succinct formulation at the core of the speech.

I have written a libretto for an opera about the ideology of the French nationalists that gave us the eponym, chauvinism, from the life of Nicolas Chauvin, a highly decorated soldier in Napoleon’a army, ultimately lampooned on the French stage for his excessive patriotism glorifying the French empire and the French Grande Armée. I am very sensitive to the effect of ideology and I see much of it in everyday life. Reliable knowledge, proceeding from science, is the antidote.

How we as a nation now respond to this warning will determine the future political course of our society.

“To the true, the beautiful, the good” can be a noble aim perverted in the hands of the ideologue who can dim the consciousness and brainwash a naive society with a group belief system, ritual, and a charismatic presentation of himself or herself as the last and only authority on the final solution for social survival, An ideology contains every dangerous feature that can hypnotize its adherants to follow it to a false, ugly and evil conclusion.

  • Other devices, besides a quotation: a series of rhetorical questions;
  • a humorous story;
  • an anecdote;
  • poems;
  • an illustration;
  • a metaphor, or simile;
  • or any device that is immediately engrossing and relevant to the topic.


How the speaker looks, acts, sounds, uses the time given, and supplements with visual aids are five more critical aspects of his or her performance.


  • Jargon
  • Disfluency of vocalized pauses
    • “uh-uh-uh”
    • “like”
    • “you know what”
    • “you know”
    • If working in a group, try negative reinforcement. One clap of the hands at each noticeable disfluency, to make the speaker become aware of the frequency.
  • Adapting to the audience present (and remote if broadcasting)
  • In Q&A, repeating audience questions for all to hear
  • Microphone handling
  • Ignorance of “eloquence”
    • Eloquence is an amalgam of passion, intellect, and fluency.
      • Colorful language (intellect) applied to a great variety of delivery skills (passion and fluency).
      • Gesture
      • Eye contact
      • Movement
      • Posture
      • Vocal Variety
        • Rate
        • Pause for effect
        • Pitch, optimum and variation (monotone?)
        • Quality
        • Fluency
    • MLK


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