Basics of Public Speaking

The Basics of Public Speaking

Preparation ~ Practice ~ Performance

A handbook/lecture supplement  for my Chinese EFL students

John R. Whittaker

Lesson one: discovery


finding and developing a theme within a topic.

When asked to make a speech, write an essay, or prepare a presentation, you will usually be given a topic or general theme. But what to say? Often the first reaction is “I don’t know anything about this”. But you almost always do know something, and after a short time thinking you find you actually know too much. What you need is just one good idea, one good story. You need to find a specific theme within the topic that you can develop into a speech. The most important asset for you here is TIME. It takes time to think. The other important asset is pencil and paper. Ideas come and ideas go, and when they go they generally never come back, especially the really good ones. They must be written down before they are forgotten and lost. NEVER RELY ON YOUR MEMORY.

A good way to keep track of your ideas is an IDEA MAP. This is a simple device to store and sort out your ideas as they come to you over time. Good ideas do not come when called, nor do they come in any sort of order; they sneak up on us when least expected. So they must be caught and recorded quickly. It is also very helpful if these – usually random – ideas can be sorted out a bit as they arrive. For this, the geography of the IDEA MAP is very important.

An IDEA MAP also needs a helper, a small notebook you can carry in your pocket all the time to catch ideas that come along while you are on the bus, shopping, watching TV, surfing the Internet, even having a shower. Ideas will come to you at unexpected times and in unexpected places. These captured ideas can be transferred to the IDEA MAP later when you get home.

Using a large piece of paper – the larger the better – write the topic of your speech IN LARGE LETTERS and IN THE CENTER of the page. If you must find your own topic, then your first IDEA MAP will have the topic “MY SPEECH” and, after finding the topic, your second IDEA MAP will use that found topic. Place your IDEA MAP in an easy-to-see place in your room and go shopping, or watch a movie, and just relax. But keep that little notebook handy and be ready to catch any ideas related to your topic that come along. And be sure to WRITE DOWN EVERYTHING. You never know which of those ideas will turn out to be of value later. It is better to catch ALL the ideas, and discard some later, than to miss some idea now because it does not seem important, and then wish you could remember it later.

TIP: Since the purpose of an idea map is to gather together all of the ideas and information related to the topic and collect it all in one place where it can be compared and grouped, you should DO THIS IN CHINESE. Don’t let some idea escape just because you cannot write it down in English.

Do not rush. You cannot force good ideas to come into your mind, and the harder you try the less successful you will be. You must let the topic float around in your mind freely, then catch any ideas that pop up. But this takes time. Your first ideas will be boring, tedious, the same stuff everyone else will think of. First ideas come from the top of your mind, obvious reflex responses to the topic. The good ideas are buried deep in your mind and need time to surface. For a good and interesting speech you must have a good and interesting theme developed in an interesting way. For example, if the given topic is “pollution” everyone will immediately think water pollution, air pollution, garbage, maybe global warming. But some time spent thinking about this will give you noise pollution, light pollution, and information pollution on the Internet. Less common and more interesting ideas.

But where to get all these ideas? First, of course, is to search the Internet. General pages such as or wikipedia are a very good place to begin, as is Baidu. And, of course, your school library. Look for general information related to your topic, but do not go into too much detail yet. First you want to get a good overview of your topic and some idea of the possibilities offered by your topic. Allow your mind to freely relate this information to your personal experience, to your previous knowledge, to other readings. Most importantly, you want to have a general topic idea in mind so that, while surfing the net for fun, reading a newspaper, looking at people from the bus window, or whatever casual activity you may be doing, you will be able to recognize opportunities related to your topic as they pass by you in the everyday world.

As ideas come to you, place them on the IDEA MAP around the central topic, grouping related ideas together, and leaving lots of space between unrelated ideas. (HINT: always give yourself plenty of room to work in).

After several days or a week or so, you will notice some set of related ideas beginning to form a story-line or interesting direction. Some one set of ideas will catch your attention as being interesting and something you want to talk about. Now you have a theme or focus within the general topic, something perhaps very different from your first thoughts and perhaps not what you expected.

So, first your idea map will expand as you discover many bits of information and many ideas related to your topic. But, of course, you cannot and should not write about everything. This is only a speech, after all, not an encyclopaedia. However, you will find these bits of information and ideas grouping themselves into possible story-lines. From these you will choose ONE story-line or line of thought to follow and develop. You will narrow the topic to a single, interesting IDEA that you can develop.

You should allow 1 or 2 weeks to complete your IDEA MAP.

When properly done, your IDEA MAP will be a mess of scrawled notes in Chinese and English and abbreviations, little scribbled ideas grouped all over the place surrounding the central topic. But one set of those scribbled notes will stand out as being the thing you are after, the main points of your speech or essay. So now you need to extract that group from the surrounding chaos and make the LIST.

The List is used to isolate your theme and begin organizing the ideas within the theme.

Take a fresh sheet of paper, and copy the one set of notes that interests you from the IDEA MAP to the LIST, one point or note on a line, with plenty of room between lines. Now you have isolated the theme and the main points of the BODY of your speech, but they may not be in a good order or sequence. Number the points in a logical order, either using time – past to present (chronological), or cause and effect (causal), or other suitable ordering. Once you have arranged the main points into a suitable order (you may want to copy to another sheet of paper) you can use the space you left between each point to briefly expand the point, add some few thoughts or details, and form the note into a short paragraph.

NOTE: an IDEA MAP helps to discover what you want to say, a LIST helps to organize what you want to say

You now have an outline of the BODY of your speech. The hard part is over. The thinking is done. You now know, generally, WHAT you want to say. Now it is time to get to work, research the final IDEA for more details and understanding, and write the speech.


finding and developing a style.

You now have a LIST and brief outline of the main points for the BODY of the speech. But before you can begin writing the speech there are several important things you must consider, and several important bits of information you must have.

First you must understand the difference between an ESSAY and a speech. The difference is the AUDIENCE. And it is a big and very important difference. With an essay your audience will read the work and is free to re-read if necessary. Your audience is free to use a dictionary. But your audience can only see (read) the work.  However, with a speech, your audience must sit and LISTEN. The audience can hear the words only once and must understand the words immediately. But the audience can both hear and see (listen and watch).

So before you can begin to write either a speech or an essay you must know the 5 Ws: who ~ what ~ where ~ when ~ why. These will be different for a speech and an essay.

WHO is the audience? Classmates? Other students? The general public? Consider their education level, English listening ability.

WHAT is the topic and theme and how does it relate to the audience?

WHERE is the speech to be? School auditorium? (large audience) Classroom? (small audience) Somewhere familiar or somewhere new? Will the audience be able to see you clearly?

WHEN is the speech to be given? Before lunch when everyone is hungry and thinking of food? After lunch when everyone is sleepy? In the evening? On the weekend?

WHY are you giving this speech or writing this essay? Exam? Competition? Just for fun?

With an essay you only need to consider WHO WHAT and WHY. The reader will choose the WHERE and WHEN.

With a speech you must consider all of these 5 Ws.

The answer to the 5 Ws will determine your style of writing. For an essay you must use good grammar, correct punctuation, and correct vocabulary. But you can use more difficult words, longer sentences, and more detailed facts and numbers.

For a speech you must focus on your audience’s ability to listen and understand. You must have correct body language, good use of tone and volume when speaking, and a clear pronunciation. K.I.S.S. (Keep It Short & Simple) becomes very important in a speech. You must consider your audience’s English level and education, their age, their occupation (students, teachers), friends or strangers. Are they familiar with your voice or have they never heard you before?

You must consider what you will say and how to make your topic most interesting to that particular audience. This will influence your choice of examples you may use, or the people you might quote in your speech.

You must consider where you will be speaking, in a large room, maybe using a microphone (in which case you will want to avoid using too many words with “P” or “SH”) and where small movements of body language may not be seen or noticed, or a small room where everyone will be able to see and hear you easily. Will you be giving your speech in a classroom with a blackboard you can use, or an auditorium?

You must consider when you will be speaking, both the day of the week and the time of day. Will your audience be wide awake or sleepy? Rested at the beginning of the week or tired at the end of the week? Can you give a quiet, serious, speech, or do you need to make it more lively?

And you must consider not only why you are making the speech, but also why is the audience there? Are they attending because it is of interest? Or because it is a required lecture? Or because they were told to attend by their teacher or boss?

Since the point of any speech is to clearly express an idea and communicate that idea to an audience, it is MOST IMPORTANT to know and understand your audience so that you can design a speech written just for them, a speech they will find easy to listen to and understand, a speech they will find interesting, and a speech they will afterwards be happy to have heard.


In the next lesson we will begin to develop the BODY of the speech focusing on the 5 Ws and the need to communicate our ideas to a particular listening audience.

Lesson two: preparing


developing the body of the speech.

You now have a LIST of the main points of your speech, roughly organized, and written mostly in Chinese. This will grow to be the BODY of the speech.

Now you can begin to expand each of these main points into a paragraph WRITTEN IN ENGLISH. Here it is important to remember to do ONE THING AT A TIME. Do not use a dictionary yet. Just write out a short paragraph expanding each of your main points and, where you do not know the English, write that bit in Chinese. When you have finished this first expansion, then you will use your dictionary to replace the few bits of Chinese with English. But when you are writing, do not interrupt yourself to look up words or you will lose your train of thought and ruin the smooth flow of your ideas. First write, then translate where necessary.

When you have finished expanding each of these main points, you will have the FIRST DRAFT of THE BODY of your speech. And you will have discovered that there are many things you do not know about your topic. You should never use any word in your speech if you do not understand its meaning and correct usage. Never give any fact in your speech unless you know and understand it. Never say anything you don’t fully understand. You cannot develop ideas you do not fully understand. And you cannot give an interesting speech if you don’t really KNOW what you are talking about.

Poor students generally stop here, memorize something they really don’t understand, and bore their audience to death, their teacher to despair, and their grades to an F. Good students continue.

So now it is time for RESEARCH.

Back at the beginning, when you were gathering ideas, you may have (should have) done a bit of Internet and library searching to give you a general overview of the subject. Now you need to do some detailed research focused on the main points of your speech. This includes checking that words are being correctly used. You will certainly come across new words, expressions, idioms, and phrases, and you must know how to use these correctly. Otherwise do not use them at all. When in doubt, leave it out.

Also, you need to consider whether your AUDIENCE will know and understand these new words. If you think the audience will not understand, but it is necessary for you to use a certain word, you must try to use it in such a way that the audience can catch the general meaning from the context, or try to define the word in your speech. For example, if talking about the habitat loss and damage to coral reefs, you may find it necessary to mention zooxanthellae, you need only say “zooxanthellae, a type of algae important to coral”. Your audience should understand the word “algae” or at least understand that this is something important to coral. But of course you will not be able to do this unless YOU understand what you are saying.

When you have done your research, checked your facts to be certain that you do understand what you are talking about, and written it all up in English, you have completed the SECOND DRAFT of the body.

Almost all students stop here. When they know what it is they want to say and have something written up, they believe that is good enough. But all they have is the body of an essay – perhaps a well written body of an essay – but an essay nevertheless, not a speech. There is much more to do  to turn this core of an essay into a successful speech.

It must be written in a way that will be understandable and interesting to a LISTENING AUDIENCE. It must SOUND good.

So you must write it in a style suitable to the conditions of the 5 Ws. These 5 Ws must be considered often and in several different ways. For now you must consider:

You already know WHAT you will say.

You must also know WHO the audience is, what is their English level, and ask yourself: can my audience understand this speech?

You must ask yourself WHERE your speech will be, will you have a blackboard to write new words on for the audience? Or will you be in a big room where the audience will not be able to see your writing or body language?

You must ask yourself WHEN will the speech happen and what condition will the audience be in at that time?

And of course you must ask yourself WHY are you giving this speech, but much more importantly, you must ask yourself WHY should the audience want to listen to you? What do you have to say to them that will be interesting? Are you saying it in a way they can easily follow and understand? Will your audience be happy that they came to listen to you?

Image yourself standing on stage speaking to an audience, telling them your thoughts and ideas on a certain topic and theme. This is how your speech must be written. Not according to how it looks on paper, but how it sounds. Not to dazzle a reader with long sentences, perfect grammar, and unknown words, but to clearly express yourself to a group of people listening to your words.

MINDSET CHECK: throughout all of your school years, you have written things for the teacher, essays, homework, etc. Throughout all of your school years you have put on paper words that a teacher will read. And so you have written words with the habit of using correct spelling, correct punctuation, correct sentence structure.But with a speech you must break that habit. You should never WRITE a speech. You should SAY a speech on paper. Put on paper what you imagine yourself saying to an audience.

Don’t write WORDS, write SOUNDS.

Now you can pull all of this work together into one more draft, organized and presented in a way that satisfies the 5 Ws. And for this there are certain simple points to follow:

~ Stay focused on the audience. They are what a speech is all about. The audience is your GOD, and if the audience cannot understand, then you are just standing in front of a large group of people and making a lot of meaningless noise.

~ Develop your speech around a single IDEA.

~ Begin with a general statement about the IDEA.

~ Stay well focused on this one main idea.

~ Present your speech in a clear and relevant order.

~ Use examples the audience will relate to, and quote from people the audience will know.

~ By the end of the speech you should be able to show the audience how this topic and your ideas relate to the audience.

~ Always remember K.I.S.S. Keep It Short and Simple. Short, simple, clear sentences that are easy for you to say and easy for the audience to listen to. The better known common words rather than the less known words.

~ NEVER USE NUMBERS IN A SPEECH IF YOU CAN AVOID IT and if you must use numbers, never more than one decimal place. Never say “21.78654% of the people…..” instead say “ about 22%”. That is close enough and all that a LISTENING audience can handle.

~ The audience will only remember at most the last three facts you give them, so focus on the idea and minimize the facts and figures.

~ Never, never, NEVER say things like “as we all know” or “as you know” or “it is well known”. If it is so well known then why are you telling me, and why should I sit through a speech if all you are going to do is tell me something I already know? Never say “ As we all know, pollution is a big problem in China.” Just say “Pollution is a big problem in China” and then go on to present your ideas on that topic.

The BODY of your speech will be finished when you can image yourself performing the speech for an audience and it SOUNDS good.

You should give yourself about one week to complete this part.


the rest of it

Now that you have the middle (body) done, you need to fill in both ends. There are four more parts to do: an opening; an introduction; a conclusion; and a closing. The opening and closing are found in speeches, but not used with essays. These four parts are written in the order 1) introduction, 2) conclusion, 3) closing, 4) opening. These four parts can be written in a very short time, perhaps an hour or so.

The Introduction is perhaps the most important part for the listening audience. Here you will give a brief AND VERY CLEAR statement of your topic. You must be absolutely certain that your audience knows what it is you are going to talk about, otherwise they will be lost. Remember, this is an INTRODUCTION not a lecture. You only mention what it is you are going to say later on in the speech. Never say anything in the introduction that you do not discuss in the body of the speech. In the introduction you clearly and carefully tell your audience what it is that you are going to tell them. This is why you write the body of the speech first. You cannot introduce what does not yet exist.

Introduce the TOPIC. Then introduce the IDEA you have related to that topic. For example:

“Pollution. A serious threat to our lives, to our safety, and to the quality of our community. But I will not speak to you today of material pollution, of air and water and soil pollution. These are well known problems, already being addressed by our government. I will speak to you of a more serious kind of pollution, a pollution that can attack our children and poison their minds. I will speak of information pollution on the Internet.”

Here we go from a general topic – pollution – to a specific topic – information pollution – and to the main idea, that this is dangerous and harmful to children. The introduction should address the audience, give the audience some reason to think that maybe this speech will be important to them and have meaning to them.

The introduction should be in the future tense: tell them what you are going to say later.

And the introduction must be simple. A clear and simple and easily understood statement of what is to come. An introduction usually should be no more than one minute. Less is better. But be sure it is enough for your audience.

The Conclusion is a summary of TWO or THREE main points from the body of the speech. Never more than three. One is usually enough. It is written in the past tense and tells the audience what it is that you have just told them. In the conclusion you tell the audience what it is you want them to remember from the speech.

An audience will generally only remember the last thing you say, so choose your conclusion carefully, say it clearly and simply, and keep it short. Never say anything in the conclusion that you have not already discussed in the body.

For example:

“And so we see that a lack of global, international control of the Internet, a lack of a co-ordinated effort by all governments to clean up the Internet, has resulted in a chaos of information, much of it bad, some of it evil, and all of it easily available to our children.”

The conclusion usually is one sentence, a summary statement, short, simple, and easy for the audience to remember.

The Closing is a form of goodbye. It may be something as simple as a bow and “thank you”, or it may be a final statement encouraging the audience to an action related to the topic, specifically related to the conclusion. For example:

“And so I encourage you all to guard your children when they are using the Internet, and let your voice be heard. It is time to clean up this mess!”


The Opening is not what it seems to be. It is not a part of the speech. On the surface it seems a simple “hello”. But this is a very important beginning both for you and for the audience.

It serves two functions. First, it lets the audience know that you are ready to start and will be beginning your speech soon. This gives everyone time to finish chatting, get seated, and begin to listen. And second, it gives you time to take a breath, deal with your nervousness, get yourself under control and a bit calm, and prepare your mind and body for what is to come.

For the audience, the opening gives them an introduction to your voice. If you are giving the speech before an audience of strangers, the audience needs time to accustom their listening to your tone, accent, and so on. In this case you may want to have a longer opening so as to be certain that your audience can understand your voice before you begin to say something important.

For you, the opening gives you time to breath, to look at the audience, and to get a bit comfortable. It gives you a way to get started without saying anything important.


And take precautions with the opening. Don’t have an opening that is difficult to say or likely to cause you to make a mistake. Any upset at the beginning will kill your confidence and destroy your speech. Keep it as short as possible while still giving enough time for the audience to settle and you to breath. If you practice a speech with “good morning” but then give your speech in the afternoon, you are likely to still say “good morning” and cause some laughter. This can be upsetting to you when you are at the beginning and nervous. It is better and safer to practice with “good day”.

Stay focused on the topic, even with the opening. Do not say something like “good day, ladies and gentlemen. A fine day, isn’t it?” You are here to give a speech, not talk about the weather. “Good day, ladies and gentlemen, honoured teachers, and fellow students” is much better.

The opening is separate from the speech, so keep it separate. Write an opening that is slow and clear so that the audience can begin to understand your voice, and so that you can relax.

Then allow for a brief pause, and maybe a deep breath, before beginning your speech.


In the next lesson we will discuss editing of the finished written copy of your speech and introduce the “working copy”.


Also at the end of next lesson there will be an opportunity for some students to give a short – 2 or 3 minute – speech on the topic: Noodles. This is a good chance to practice with an Idea Map. All of you have some “noodle” thoughts in your mind right now, but give it time, let the memories arise from the hidden depths of your mind (and childhood?) and watch where the Idea Map will take you.


Lesson three: public copy


producing and editing.

In most cases students, before delivering a speech in a competition or classroom situation, are required to hand in a printed copy of the speech for the judges or teacher. This is the Public Copy.

The Public Copy should LOOK good. A well presented printed copy will make a good first impression on a judge. You should treat the Public Copy the same way you would treat an essay.

You have now completed the text of what you want to say, your ideas are organized and on paper, you have added an introduction, conclusion, and closing, and have a suitable opening. Now it is time to start EDITING.

Editing is a process of polishing, of putting a fine shine to your work. It is an on-going step in HOW you will say your speech. It is what will turn a so-so speech into a very good speech. Editing makes the difference between Joe Student and Martin Luther King Jr. As you read over the last draft of your speech you will find bad spelling, poor grammar, too much use of the same word or phrase. As you practice your speech you will discover difficulties in your pronunciation or your practice audience’s listening. Editing is the line by line, sentence by sentence checking, re-checking, correcting, adjusting of these small errors.

The first thing to check are the WORDS. Are they appropriate? Can they be made simpler? Are they words the audience will understand? Are they words that you can easily pronounce? Are you using the same word or phrase too often? Perhaps there is another way to say the same thing. Or should you be repeating the same word or phrase more often to give emphasis to an important point? (Students using the 7th Edition of the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary can refer to the many “synonyms” boxes for help with this). Check for correct spelling. This may not be necessary for your spoken performance, but it is necessary to make your Public Copy look good and impress the judge or teacher.

Next, check the GRAMMAR. While grammar is not very important in conversations, it is important in speeches where the audience cannot interrupt or ask you to repeat, or may be too far away to clearly see your body language. (If you have a computer with an English word processor, it may have an English grammar checker you can use to help you with this). You will need to use your grammar textbooks and the grammar help sections in your dictionary. Check that your paragraphs are correctly separated and you are using correct punctuation.

For those of you with your own computer, go online to: and download this Open Office Suite. It is a full-line office suite, the same as Micro-Soft Office XP, but completely free. It is sponsored by Sun Microsystems. Download the English version to get all the English spell checker and grammar checker features.

And finally, read the entire speech over again, out loud, to a friend, and check the TIMING. Usually a speech comes with a time limit. In most English Speaking competitions, you are given about five minutes.

Listening is a very difficult thing to do, even when listening in your own first language. English speakers know this. That is why most English speeches are short. Abraham Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address was only a few minutes. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech is 16 minutes – a long speech by English standards.

Always keep in mind that it does not matter how fast you can read or speak, it only matters how fast your audience can listen. When a student is reading a passage aloud to the class the student often speaks too quickly. That is because the student is only thinking of the reading and not thinking of the listeners. When checking the timing of your speech, read it quietly to yourself at your normal, natural reading speed. If it takes you four minutes to read it, you should need five minutes to speak it. If you speak it in four minutes then you are speaking too fast.

When you are satisfied that your speech is technically correct (good grammar, appropriate words, correct spelling) then you want to give this Public Copy a good appearance. It should look good on paper and be displayed in a way that will allow the judge or teacher to easily follow along as you deliver the spoken speech.

To give the Public Copy a polished, impressive look, you need to follow only a very few simple rules. 1) Use a large type face that is easy to read. Times New Roman 14 pt. is very good. 2) Double space between paragraphs. 3) Leave the margins wide. Usually your computer word processor will automatically set the margins. 4) Center the title of your speech with your name below, the title in a larger typeface, 18 pt, and your name in a smaller type, 12 pt.

For example:


A Dangerous New Pollution

John Teacher

“Good evening honoured judges, teachers, fellow students, ladies, and gentlemen.

“Pollution. A serious threat to our lives, to our safety, and to the quality of our community. But I will not speak to you today of material pollution, of air and water and soil pollution. These are well known problems, already being addressed by our government. I will speak to you of a more serious kind of pollution, a pollution that can attack our children and poison their minds. I will speak of information pollution on the Internet.”


You now have a good looking, easy to read Public Copy that will impress the judge or teacher. But this copy of your speech is of no use at all to you for practice or rehearsal. You must prepare another copy for yourself. This is your “working copy”.


an introduction.

The Working Copy of your speech is exactly what the name says. It is the copy of your speech you will use when you practice both WHAT you will say and HOW you will say it. The Working Copy is YOUR PRIVATE COPY of the speech, and no other person will see that copy unless you show it to them. Probably before too long your Working Copy will be such a tangle of English and Chinese and your own private codes and notes and whatnots, that no other person could make any sense of it anyway. But that is no matter. It is only necessary that you can make sense of it.

The Working Copy is of so much importance and use to you that we will do one full lesson, two periods, on this in detail in Lesson four. Now we will just overview it.

The Working Copy should have the same words as the Public Copy. (In fact, it is best to print the final copy of the Public Copy after everything else is done, after the practising and adjusting and correcting that will happen as you go along. You can print the copies of the Public Copy the day of the speech, just before it is time to hand it in).

The physical appearance of the Working Copy, however, will be different. You do not need something that looks good, you need something you can work with, modify, adjust, correct, annotate as you proceed. You need something that will give you ROOM TO GROW. Never use the Public Copy as a practice copy. It looks too much like an essay. You will end by sounding as if you are reading an essay rather than speaking a speech. The Public Copy is for other people, the Working Copy is for you.

The Working Copy must give you room to write keywords and notes, to highlight words and phrases, to encode emphasis or insert phonetic spellings, and it must be helpful to you in learning both the what and the how of your speech. All of these will be dealt with next lesson.

All that is needed is to copy the TEXT of your speech, increase the type size to 18 pt., and double space it. For example:


“Good evening honoured judges, teachers,

fellow students, ladies, and gentlemen.

“Pollution. A serious threat to our lives, to our

safety, and to the quality of our community.

But I will not speak to you today of material

pollution, of air and water and soil pollution.

These are well known problems, already being

addressed by our government. I will speak to

you of a more serious kind of pollution, a

pollution that can attack our children and

poison their minds. I will speak of information

pollution on the Internet.”


Next lesson we will explore the many ways the Working Copy will be useful to you.


Also at the end of next lesson there will be an opportunity for some students to give a short – 3 or 4 minute – speech on the topic: Yes, You Can. This is a good chance to practice with an Idea Map and practise developing a good opening and closing for your speech.


Lesson four: working copy


helping with what you want to say.

The Working Copy of your speech is exactly what the name says. It is the copy of your speech you will use when you practice both WHAT you will say and HOW you will say it. The Working Copy is YOUR PRIVATE COPY of the speech, and no other person will see that copy unless you show it to them. Probably before too long your Working Copy will be such a tangle of English and Chinese and your own private codes and notes and whatnots, that no other person could make any sense of it anyway. But that is no matter. It is only necessary that you can make sense of it.

The geography of the Working Copy is very important. You do not need something that looks good, you need something you can work with, modify, adjust, correct, annotate as you proceed. You need something that will give you ROOM TO GROW.

The Working Copy must give you room to write keywords and notes, to highlight words and phrases, to encode emphasis or insert phonetic spellings, and it must be helpful to you in learning both the what and the how of your speech.

All that is needed is to copy the TEXT (not the title) of your speech, increase the type size to 18 pt., and double space it. For example:


Who is responsible for the Internet? No one

nation, no one group or organization, has

control or “ownership” of the Internet. Is it a

great behemoth, a global leviathan far too large

to be tamed by any single nation. Countries of

the world, members of the United Nations,

collectively, and co-operatively, they alone can

gather together the strength to tame this

monster, to control this wealth, to ensure that

this great and marvelous blessing for all of

humanity is not destroyed by the evil few. All

nations working together can, if they wish,

separate the treasure from the trash.


Be sure to leave wide margins. These are important to you when you practice your speech. Every time you practice your speech, you will change something, add a word here, change a word or phrase there. The Working Copy must allow for easy editing, must give you the space to write a note or make a change and not have it lost among all the other notes and scribblings.

The Working Copy must be printed in a large typeface, one that you can easily read AT ARM’S LENGTH. Since you will not be holding your speech in your hand when you give the final performance, you must not hold it in your hand when you practice. So you need a copy printed large enough that you can read it from a distance, such as on a tabletop.

When you write the speech, you will still have that old mindset of writing something for your teacher to read. When you begin practicing your speech with a few friends (remember: never do anything alone: only crazy people talk to themselves) you will find that what looks good on paper does not always sound good when spoken. The Working Copy gives you the space to change words and phrases. Listen to what your friends tell you. Are you using words they don’t know or understand? If your classmate or roommate cannot understand, then perhaps your audience will not understand either. Is the order of your speech difficult to follow? It may seem fine to you, after all, you wrote it. But can other people follow your ideas? Is it a good order for a listening audience?

All of these feed-backs from your friends are important, and the Working Copy must allow you to easily note these and make the necessary adjustments.

But what you say is often not as important as how you say it.


helping with how you want to say.

~~~ This is the part most students never practice. Perhaps some may practice in front of a mirror, but since they are reading their speech, they do not look at themselves in the mirror. Mostly students practice the speech by walking around on campus all alone and reading it aloud to themselves. ~~~

A Working Copy can be divided into two work areas: the margins, and the text.

First, the text.

Keep in mind that NO OTHER PERSON WILL EVER SEE THIS COPY OF THE SPEECH. You can write or draw anything you want on this copy, anything that will help you to remember the words and give a good performance.

So, WHO CARES ABOUT SPELLING? Many English words are spelt all wrong. “Laugh”, for example. Spellings can often get in the way of clear pronunciation. On the Working Copy you should write words according to how they sound, and don’t worry about spellings. That is a problem for your essay class, not for a speech. Names, especially, can cause a problem. On the Working Copy, write the names phonetically so that you will speak them correctly. And don’t worry. Barack Obama does this, and if it good enough for him it should be okay for you. Do not write both the correctly spelt word and the phonetically spelt word. You only need the phonetic spelling.

Use the fonts (different typefaces) on your computer word processor to help with emphasis and stress. (You should be doing all of this on a word processor). Generally, a stressed syllable is printed all in upper case characters: edu.CA.tion.  Use bold face for a word you want to say loudly or quickly, or italics when you want to speak softly. Underline words you want to emphasize.

It is important in a speech to keep a rather steady flow and rhythm to your voice. It helps the audience to listen. English students often will speak a sentence slowly, but speak the individual words quickly. If you are using a long (three or more syllables) word and say it quickly, many in the audience will miss it. You must train yourself, when giving a speech, to speak by SYLLABLES rather than by words. An easy device to help with this is to use the divisions shown in your dictionary. Should you find it necessary to use the word telecommunications, for example, you should print it in your speech as: This will help you to practice saying the word clearly and slowly in a way the audience will be able to catch.

One more very important item for the text of the speech is a PAUSE BUTTON. You want to deliver your speech at a good LISTENING SPEED for the audience. Sometimes you need to take a break and pause. It may be a pause to give you the chance to take a breath, or it may be used for emphasis, or perhaps to mark a change in the speech. Where you want to pause in your speech, put a mark, or just write the word “pause”.

By a pause, I do not mean to take a break and go for a coffee. A pause is perhaps one second. A long pause, perhaps three seconds. That is enough.

The other very important part of the Working Copy is the margins.

The margins are used for two “reminders” First, you should note in the margins keywords related to the paragraph. As you practice your speech these keywords will help you to remember what it is you want to say in each paragraph and help you to learn your speech.

Second, you use the margins to note performance tips, to remind yourself to look at the audience, when to smile, when to move, tips on body language. Use the margins to note feedback from your friends during practice about your physical habits or body language that is undesirable and that you want to avoid.  Generally, the right margin is used for keywords, and the left margin used for other notes on your visual performance.

The final printing of your Working Copy may look something like this:


Who is re.spon.sible for the pause

No one nation, no one group or or.gan.iza.tion,

has control or “ownership” of the It

is a great be.HEE.moth, a global le.VI.a.than

far too large to be tamed by any single nation.

pause Countries of the world, members of the

United Nations, collectively, and, they alone can gather

together the strength to tame this monster, to

control this wealth, to ensure that this great

and mar.vel.lous blessing for all of humanity is

not destroyed by the evil few. pause All nations

working together can, if they wish, separate the

treasure from the trash.


We have now finished with the basic of preparing what we want to say. In the next lesson we will begin to look at ways to practice how to say it.


Also at the end of next lesson there will be an opportunity for some students to give a short – 3 or 4 minute – speech on the topic: Somewhere, Over the Rainbow. This is a good chance to practice with an Idea Map and practice developing a good opening and closing for your speech. Practice with a Working Copy and use highlights, underlines, etc. to help you with emphasis. Use your dictionary to divide long words so that you can practice speaking those words smoothly. Use the margins to note keywords for each paragraph to help you remember the speech.


Lesson five: practicing


The Three Components of Practice.

Now that you have dealt with the preparation of the speech, have arrived at a useful Working Copy, and have decided WHAT it is you want to say, it is time to begin the PROCESS of PRACTICING how to give the performance.

Note that practice is a process. A speech is never “finished”. There are always improvements and adjustments to make as you go along. Practice is the second growth stage of your speech. This is the process of reaching maturity, of taking words written on paper and turning them into a spoken PERFORMANCE given before an audience.

There are three components to that spoken performance: the words ~ the tones ~ the gestures.

The words of your speech express your thoughts and ideas. These words are carefully chosen by you to best fit the ability of your audience to understand whatever it is that you want them to understand. Words will include quotes from people well known to your audience and examples the audience can relate to. You may, you most certainly will, change the words in your speech as you practice and discover better words to use, more suited to your audience or easier to pronounce. You have full control over the words.

Tone is used to express feelings and emotions, and to create a suitable feeling or emotion in the audience. As you practice your speech aloud, imagining yourself standing before your audience, you will mark your Working Copy with intonation markers: when to speak quickly or slowly, loudly or softly, and when to pause. Silence can be a powerful “tone”. And, as with words, you have full control over the tone of your speech.

Gesture, or body language, is used to express intuition, subtleties of expression and meaning that words and tone cannot convey. Words and tones are heard by the audience. Gestures are seen. Movements of the head or hands or the full body are used to add emphasis to a certain point or focus attention. However, a speech is something you want the audience to listen to, so anything that the audience can see must add to the speech and not be a distraction. While most gestures can be controlled, often we present the audience with visual distractions, usually unintentional, often unconscious, that interfere with the speech or even “say” something to the audience we really don’t want them to “hear”. This is why politicians usually stand behind a high podium when giving a speech. They do not want unintentional body language to reveal an inner thought or otherwise distract from their spoken words. Body language is not always easily or fully controlled.


The Visuals of Practice.

When you stand up in front of an audience to perform a speech you want the audience to listen to you. But your audience has eyes. They can see you and the things around you and behind you. So, as with words and tone, you want to have full control over what the audience can see, not just your gestures or body language, but everything.

But when you practice, you do not see yourself. This is why you should never practice alone. You must have someone listening to you and watching you every time you practice. Even if you rehearse in front of a full length mirror, your mind is too intent on remembering and correctly pronouncing the words and is not paying attention to your appearance in the mirror.

As you practice, imagining yourself performing a speech for an audience, you will naturally display body language suitable to your words. The important word here is NATURAL. Your body language must belong to you, to the speech, to the emphasis. It must fit.

But there are many gestures we make that are unintentional, unconscious physical expressions of our nervousness. Twisting of fingers, for example. Such movements are distracting, may cause someone in the audience to giggle, and can destroy your confidence. You must discover and correct these unconscious movements when practising, and this is why you must have someone watching, monitoring, and telling you.

A very common mistake is to practice while holding your speech in your hands. When it comes time to give the speech and you have nothing to hold, what to do with your hands? Never hold anything during practice that you will not be holding during the performance.

The number one biggest visual mistake students – especially the young women – make is to look too good. Yes, you want to look good. Neat, clean, tidy. But often, especially in an English Speech competition, students overdo it.

What you need is to look clean, confident, and comfortable. But visually neutral. No bright colours. No glittery clothing or jewellery that will reflect the stage lights. No “stylish” or “fashion” clothes. That is for the Oscars or MTV Awards where the performers need the look because they really have nothing to say.

The two most common mistakes are (for the women) hair and shoes. Yes, you are short. Yes, you want to look taller. So you buy a new pair of fashion high heels. But you are also nervous. So you fall off the high heels. Finished. (This has happened twice to students of mine, in front of a full auditorium, school president, teachers. It happens.)

But when you are standing alone on stage in front of the audience nobody can tell how tall you are and nobody cares. The audience has come to hear you speak, not recruit you for a basketball team. Choose shoes that are comfortable to stand in, have a good grip, look nice, and don’t squeak on the stage floor when you walk.

Hair is another problem, especially for Chinese young women, either because a) you had your hair styled for this performance or b) you didn’t. If your hair is not the way you usually wear it you may not feel comfortable, and you may not seem natural. On the other hand, since many students have long, straight hair, this can fall over the eyes and cause the speaker to be continually brushing it aside with her hand or flipping it aside with a small toss of the head. Such movements are usually unconscious on the part of the speaker and distracting to the audience. Hair should be neatly brushed, pulled back away from the face so that it does not bother you and so that the audience can easily see your face and eyes, and fastened with a dull-coloured clip or band that will not reflect light or glitter in a distracting way.

For the young men, avoid wearing a suit. Dress in a manner that is appropriate for you as a student, for the audience, and for the occasion. A necktie is okay, but not a brightly coloured one. Do not use a tie-clip. It will reflect light and glisten in a distracting way.

Never give your audience anything to look at that does not help with your speech.


You must control the visual environment of your speech by having natural gestures and body language, by avoiding unwanted and unintentional body language, by choosing a hair style, clothing, and shoes that gives the audience the impression of clean, confident, comfortable while also being visually neutral.


In the next lesson we will look at methods to help learn your speech and perfect the delivery and performance.


Also at the end of next lesson there will be an opportunity for some students to give a short – 3 or 4 minute – speech on the topic: If I Could Be…. This is a good chance to practice with an Idea Map and practise developing a good opening and closing for your speech. Practice with a Working Copy and use highlights, underlines, etc. to help you with emphasis. Use your dictionary to divide long words so that you can practice speaking those words smoothly. Use the margins to note keywords for each paragraph to help you remember the speech. And check your appearance and body language. Have a room mate or friend watch you and tell you of any unwanted habits.


Lesson six: more practicing


Learning your speech:

Usually for Chinese students you will not be allowed to have your full written speech with you during your performance. You will need to learn what you want to say. And you must be certain that you do LEARN what you are saying and understand every sentence and every word. Don’t just memorize something that you really do not understand. If you want your words to flow smoothly, your body language and gestures to be natural, and your whole physical appearance to be calm and confident, then you must understand completely what it is you are talking about.

The first step in learning your speech is to be critical of yourself. Do you really understand all of it, or do you just think you do? Check every fact, quote, and bit of information. Arm yourself with that extra bit of information about your topic and theme that may be just what you need to give an impressive answer to a judge’s question in a competition, or respond to a member of the audience. Learn more about your topic than just what you need for your speech. That will give you more confidence and show in your physical appearance and body language. An audience (and teachers or judges) respond better to a speaker who is confident, relaxed, and seems to know what she is talking about.

If you learn more than you need then you are sure to have enough.

Each time you practice your speech, imagine yourself actually performing. Do not practice the words, practice the performance. Use the right margin of your Working Copy to note keywords beside each paragraph, and gradually shift from the text to the keywords as you rehearse. Eventually you want to be able to perform your speech using only a few keywords. If you really do know and understand your topic and theme, then a few simple keywords will be all you will need to remind yourself of the next point in your talk.

To learn your speech well you must understand your topic in detail so that you can give a confident and easy-looking performance.

Learning your performance:

REMEMBER: When you practice, you are practicing a performance.

You must always practice in the most realist way possible so that you can discover all of the possible problems NOW rather than later.

Do not practice outside unless you are going to perform your speech outside. Practice in a classroom with a few friends to act as audience, to listen, watch, and give critical feedback. Try to practice in a room that is as nearly like the actual performance room as possible.

If you will be speaking using a microphone, practice with a microphone. Find out NOW how those “p” and “sh” words sound when you are using a microphone. Your MP4 will work for this.

If you will be using a podium, practice with a podium. If you will be using only a microphone stand, or standing exposed on a stage, practice that way. You will use different body language and need to do different things with your hands.

If you will perform your speech in a large room, practice in a large room with your friends sitting AT THE BACK OF THE ROOM. Can they still hear you clearly? Can they still follow your gestures and body language?

Have at least one rehearsal with a full class and ask for feedback. Give a short questionnaire to ten or so students scattered throughout the audience, front and back, left and right, and ask them a few simple comprehension and performance questions such as:

~ what was the main point of the speech?

~ which part did you like best?

~ what did you learn from the speech?

~ what things do you think I did well?

~ what things do you think I did badly?

And for the last few rehearsals, wear ALL of the same clothes and jewellery you will wear for the final performance. You want clothing that is comfortable, loose fitting, and (usually) cool. If you are going to be in a competition, in an auditorium, you do not want to be too warm. Get feedback about your clothes and accessories. Is there anything distracting about them? Too bright? Too stylish? You want clothes that are clean, cool, comfortable, and visually neutral. This is a speech, not a beauty contest.

For the men, consider the situation before deciding to wear a suit jacket. Perhaps that will be too warm. Check your wristwatch. Is it too shiny? Take it off before going onstage.


Using audio/visual technology.

Most students have the technology to record a rehearsal, both sight and sound. Many cell phones have short video capability. Students have MP4s to record sound.


Every time you rehearse you must have some friends to act as an audience and give you feedback. That is very important. Friends can make suggestions, give advice. But for correcting serious problems with pronunciation or body language nothing is more effective than to be able to listen to and watch your performance.

The last few practices in particular should be recorded.

Listen to yourself. If you don’t like what you hear, do it again. Then listen again. Look at yourself. If you don’t like what you see, do it again. Then watch again.

You may be surprised how quickly some problems can be fixed in this way.

Perhaps the biggest cause of serious nervousness just before a speech is realizing that you are not really well prepared, that there are many things you did not check out before, but now it is too late.

Practice is the time for discovery.

Never do anything in your final performance that you have not done in practice. Or, the other way, never fail to do in rehearsal anything you will need to do on stage during the performance. Never wear anything during the performance you have not worn during the practice. Anticipate and discover all there is to discover before the performance. You don’t want surprises.

If you have prepared and practiced well, the final performance will seem to you to be just another rehearsal, nothing new, nothing that you have not already done before. And your audience will be impressed by how easy it looks.

But when you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail.


Next lesson we will examine the final performance.


Also at the end of next lesson there will be an opportunity for some students to give a short – 3 or 4 minute – speech on the topic: Never Again. This is a good chance to practice all you have learned in this course so far. And check your appearance and body language. Have a room mate or friend watch you and tell you of any unwanted habits. Use the technology available to watch and listen to your practice performance.


Lesson seven: performing


The final preparations:

Some students have found it useful to have a checklist for the performance, a list of things to do and things to check just before giving the speech.  It is very important that you be physically comfortable, relaxed, and alert. You do not need any distractions coming from an unhappy or uncomfortable body. But students often get much too concerned about the speech and forget about some basic needs of their body. A checklist can be a helpful reminder.

One hour before the speech eat something that will fill your stomach without upsetting your stomach. Steamed bread is very good for this. You are not eating a meal. All you want is to keep your tummy full, happy, and quiet.

Thirty minutes before the speech go to the W.C. Otherwise, half way through your performance you might wish that you had.

Fifteen minutes before the speech go for a short walk to loosen your muscles, especially your leg muscles, and get rid of some of that excess nervous energy. Since you will be standing during your performance you want your legs to be comfortable.

Five minutes before the speech get into a position where you can see the audience clearly and have a good look at them. Find where the judges, teachers, and other important people are sitting before you go on stage. Also at this time you should quickly review the list of keywords for your speech.

Then take one long, slow, deep breath.


Sometime before this final preparation, several hours before speech time, you should check your appearance. You should be wearing clothes that are visually neutral: no writing or words on the top, no pictures or busy designs, no embroidered butterflies on the legs, no bright colours, no glittery bits. Have a friend check you over. Remember, this is not a beauty contest, so stay focused on a clean, comfortable, and confident appearance.

Review the list of DO’s and DON’T’s. Check all the little things like a shiny bracelet that might sparkle and distract when you make gestures, or a bit of stray hair that could fall over your eyes. Take off your wristwatch.

We usually take care with the big things, but often it is the little things that defeat us.


The most dangerous time of public speaking is those first five seconds as you walk out onto the stage in front of all those people who are looking back at you, with your heart in your throat and an “OMG this is it!” in your mind.

If you want to stay calm you must be physically calm. Avoid any sudden and quick movements. As you are being introduced, take a slow, deep breath in through the mouth, then let it out slowly through the nose. Just one good breath, not more. One is enough. Push all that tension out with the breath. Then walk at an unhurried pace onto the stage, not too fast, not too slow.

As you turn to face the audience, smile in a pleasant, natural way. It must be a sincere, relaxed, confident smile. AND REMEMBER TO KEEP BREATHING! Many students seem to want to hold their breath at this point. Not good. Keep breathing slowly and smoothly as you look at the audience. This should be the second time you have looked at them, but the first time when they are looking back. Remember that the audience also needs time to get accustomed to you. So take it easy. This is not a race.

Begin your opening statement in a slow, clear voice, looking directly at the judges, the teachers, the fellow students as you mention them in the greeting.

Take a short pause, another slow breath, and begin your speech.

Continue to pay attention to your body as you perform. If you notice a bit of nervousness coming, take a pause. You should have built some pauses into your Working Copy as you practiced, but you might need another.

When you have finished all of your performance, the speech, the question from the judges, anything else required for the event, DON’T RUN AWAY! Make a short, pleasant “goodbye”, smile, and leave the stage the same way that you arrived.


The 5 Ws of “I Have a Dream”:

Martin Luther King Jr.’s  “I Have a Dream”

This speech, so often taught to English Majors in China, is considered to be the greatest speech ever made. Yet most students do not understand most of it. Why?

It is this very aspect that makes this speech so great. The speech is so very, very well focused on its AUDIENCE, on a particular group of people in a particular place at a particular time. It is intensely focused on an historical, political, and economic context.

We cannot understand much of this speech because we are not young White or Black Americans living in the early 1960s. We cannot understand much of this speech because we are not standing in the Mall in Washington, D.C. with the Lincoln Memorial before us. We cannot understand this speech because we do not have first-hand experience of the Civil Rights Movement of that time.

A great speech is one that has a clear, strong focus on the AUDIENCE, that causes each member of the audience to feel that the speech was written just for him/her.

Following are some notes related to the context, especially political context, of the speech. Other notes and explanations have been inserted into the transcript of the speech.

THE CONTEXT: Historical: 1963

Jan. 14 George Wallace, sworn in as governor of Alabama, pledged, “segregation now, segregation tomorrow and segregation forever.”

Spring Civil rights campaigns throughout the South started with a voter registration drive in Greenwood, Mississippi, and segregation protests in Birmingham, Alabama, in April; continued in May, in Birmingham, and 3 North Carolina cities, Jackson, Nashville, and Atlanta; and spread in June to 6 major cities outside the South as well as 12 more in the South. Most of the protests were against segregation, but job discrimination and police brutality were often issues as well. Several thousand Blacks and their White supporters were arrested.

From May 2 to 7 in Birmingham, 2,543 demonstrators were arrested, prompting Governor Wallace to say he was “beginning to tire of agitators, integrationists and others who seek to destroy law and order in Alabama.” On May 9, black leaders and the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce reached an agreement to desegregate public facilities in 90 days, hire Blacks as clerks and salesmen in 60 days, and release demonstrators without bail in return for an end to the protests. Still, on May 11, 2 bombings of Black organizers’ homes provoked a riot of 2,500 Blacks which ended with State troopers clubbing any Blacks they could catch. In Cambridge, Md., the National Guard enforced martial law from June 14 to July 11 after several shooting incidents. In Detroit a peaceful antidiscrimination march of 125,000 was held with the support of the mayor and governor.

June 12 Medgar Evers, Mississippi civil rights leader, was shot in the back and killed late at night.

Aug. 28 Over 200,000 Blacks and Whites marched for civil rights in Washington and 10 Black leaders met with President Kennedy. In his keynote speech at the Lincoln Memorial, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., proclaimed, “Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice…. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights…. No, we are not satisfied and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”


Sept. Schools peacefully integrated throughout the South, except in Alabama where President Kennedy ordered the National Guard to keep schools open after Governor Wallace sent State troopers to close them.

Sept. 15 A Black church in Birmingham, Alabama, was bombed, killing 4 girls. Two more Blacks died in the riots that followed.

Nov. 22 President Kennedy was assassinated in a Dallas motorcade; Lyndon Johnson became the 36th President of the U.S.

The Place: on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, with the statue of Abraham Lincoln above and behind to King’s left.

The Audience: Americans, mostly young Whites and Blacks of all ages. The Whites are mostly college/university students, educated, middle-class.

The Speech: transcript of what was actually said. This is slightly different from the written speech.


(The opening greeting. Delivered in a slow and clear voice. This gives the audience a chance to settle and begin to listen. King speaks with a Southern accent and wants his audience to have some time to get accustomed to his voice before he begins to say anything very important.)

1) I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

(The thesis: a promise made to some. King makes a clear statement of the central idea of the speech.)

2) Five score years ago, ( the use of this phrase is not to denote a span of time, but to put into the mind of the American audience all of their knowledge of Abraham Lincoln, triggered by a memory of the opening words of Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address “Four score and seven years ago”) a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, (the statue of Lincoln is just above and to the left of King) signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

(The general theme: a promise not kept. Here the speech is directed to the Negro portion of the audience)

3) But one hundred years later, (here he wants us to think of time, and of the long time since the promise was made, emphasizing this point by repetition of the same phrase) the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination (manacles and chains were often used to confine slaves and prevent them from running away) . One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

4) In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, Black men as well as White men, (emphasizing that the promise was made to all, and so the theme of the speech applies to all) would be guaranteed the “unalienable Rights” of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honouring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.”

5) But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

6) We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time (repeating this phrase for emphasis) to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick-sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all (again using the word all to include the entire audience and direct the speech to everyone) of God’s children.

7) It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

8 ) But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

9) The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all White people, for many of our White brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. (King draws in all of the audience and begins to enlarge the idea that freedom for one is freedom for all, and to deny one is to endanger the freedom for all).

10) We cannot walk alone.

11) And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.

12) We cannot turn back.

13) There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as (again using repetition for emphasis) the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating: “For Whites Only.” We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until “justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.” (A quote from the Bible.)

14) I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest — quest for freedom — left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to ( and note another repetition when talking of himself in #25) Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

15) Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

16) And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. (here introducing a new sub-theme involving all Americans, and bringing all of his audience into personal involvement with the general theme)

17) I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

18) I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

19) I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

20) I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

21) I have a dream today!

22) I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of “interposition” and “nullification” — one day right there in Alabama little Black boys and Black girls will be able to join hands with little White boys and White girls as sisters and brothers.

23) I have a dream today!

24) I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.” (another Bible quote).

25) This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.

26) With this faith, we ( here using the word “we” not meaning Negro, but all Americans, and continuing to involve the audience on a personal level) will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

27) And this will be the day — this will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning:

My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.

Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim’s pride,

From every mountainside, let freedom ring! (a well-known song and almost a second national anthem learned by most American school children).

28) And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.

(here listing places in America where well-off Whites live and enjoy life)

And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.

Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.

Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

(here listing places where Negro Americans are facing hardship, discrimination, and poverty)

29) But not only that:

Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.

From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

(here uniting all parts and categories of American society and a final embracing of the total audience as all being equally  and personally involved)

30) And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, Black men and White men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

Free at last! Free at last!

Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

(King immediately leaves the podium and disappears from the audience without say “goodbye” or “thank you”. He wants the audience to remember the last words of the speech and not say anything more that could harm the emphasis or diminish the impact.)


In the next lesson we will look at presentations and how a presentation differs from a speech.


Lesson eight: presentations


The informational speech:

About 80% of everything we learn we get through our eyes, only about 20% from listening. Students know this. A written English exam is easy, but a listening comprehension exam is very difficult. It is quite easy to get information by reading, but much more difficult to learn by listening.

For this reason, speeches generally focus on ideas, on concepts that cannot be drawn as pictures but must be captured from the meanings of words. And because listening is so difficult, the language of a speech is simple. In a speech we avoid numbers and minimize facts. We focus on ideas.

But sometimes it is necessary to give a speech with facts and numbers. When we do that we use visual aids, display the facts and numbers written on a blackboard or projected on a computer screen with Power Point, and call it a “presentation”.

A presentation is an informational or instructive speech requiring facts and figures.

Everything learned in the last seven lessons applies to presentations. Even the style of speaking, the words chosen, are the same. We just add some visuals.

Obviously, some answers to the 5Ws may be different for a presentation. And the presenter will be using different gestures, less body language and more directed arm movements to point out displayed information. But it is important that, no matter how complex and difficult the displayed information may be, the spoken words of the presenter must still be the same simple words as in a speech. An audience at a presentation listens the same as an audience at a speech.

Preparation of a presentation is the same as for a speech, but with more detailed research. Practice is the same, but with the addition of visual aids.

In this lesson we will look at the development and use of visual aids in making a presentation.

Visual aids can be divided into two broad groups, those that are displayed for the audience during the presentation, and those that are given to the audience as hand-outs. In both cases, the presenter must still keep full control over what the audience can see and not allow these visual aids to distract the audience’s attention.

Timing is important.

If a presenter chooses to use a hand-out, to give each member of the audience a printed paper at the beginning of the presentation, that hand-out must not be something too interesting. You do not want the audience reading the paper when they should be listening to you. Hand-outs are used to provide the audience with necessary facts and figures, but facts and figures that are incomplete and of no interest to the audience until such time as you give the context of the facts and figures, draw the audience’s attention to some number or fact in the hand-out, and relate that information to what you are saying.

For example, you may have in the hand-out a chart like this:

Table 1:








































Source:   China Import/Export report: 2009:  page 296

Such a chart, in the hand-out, is of no interest to the audience until that point in your speech when you say “if you will all look at Table 1 in the hand-out, you will see that the pattern of imports and exports…..”

A hand-out, then, has the facts and figures that an audience will need when it comes time to understand and follow a certain part of your speech, but nothing they can find interesting until you make it interesting to them.

Numbers are very difficult things to listen to. So even in a presentation, do not speak too many numbers, and when you do, keep them simple. In the above example, you will point out the actual detailed numbers in Table 1, but you will SAY something like “as you can see, imports fell from about 18 percent in two thousand one to a low of about 17 percent, then rose again to a high of almost 20 percent in two thousand nine….” The audience can see the details, and what they hear is good enough for the purpose of drawing their attention to the actual numbers. Say only what is needed to direct the audience to the facts and figures, and keep what you say simple and easy to follow.

Preparing a hand-out, then, requires attention to details the audience will need, but is not written as a complete explanation of those details. A hand-out is a supplement or background to what you are saying. As with all else, when practicing your presentation, give your practice audience the same hand-out you will use in the presentation and check to be sure it is useful and informative without being too interesting in itself.

The information, facts, and figures should be shown in the hand-out in the same order as will be presented by you. This will make it easy for the audience to find a chart or table and follow along with the spoken and displayed parts of your presentation.

For English students, hand-outs may be useful for giving the audience some new words they may need to follow the presentation, since the audience is likely to also be English students. If you do this, list the words in the same order you will use them in the presentation. If some new words relate to some chart or set of facts, include the words together with the chart or set of facts.

Information, facts, and figures may also be displayed by you on a computer screen using Power Point or, more likely, on a blackboard. Again, timing is important.

Whether you write some fact or figure on the blackboard, or display a chart or picture using the blackboard magnets, DO NOT DISPLAY ANYTHING UNTIL IT IS NEEDED. And when it is no longer needed, erase it or take down the chart. Never give the audience anything to look at unless you want them to look at it.

As with the hand-outs, what you write and what you say will be different. On the blackboard you may write some figure such as 62.99746% if it is necessary for the audience to have that much detail, but you will point to that number and say “about 63%” or “roughly 63%”. Again, 63% is close enough for listening.


Preparing the visual aids:

Obviously, before you can even begin preparing, you must know what it is you are going to talk about. You must do research, and more detailed research than what you might do for a speech.

Following all of the same procedures from lessons one through seven, prepare a speech on the assigned topic. You cannot produce any visual aids until after you have a speech in hand and know what it is you will need to display. Remember, these visual aids are there to help the audience follow and understand the spoken speech, they are aids to the speech.

First prepare a speech and get a rough draft completed. Print a Working Copy. Then begin to practice your SPEECH, but look for those parts of your speech that will need some visual help and make notes on the Working Copy where you may want to use some numbers or a picture, where you may want to put up a chart or graph. Get feedback from your friends, let them tell you what they need, as an audience, to understand and follow your words.

Once you have some idea of the visual needs of your speech, you can begin doing some research to find those necessary details. Collect the information in the same order as you present it in the speech.

After you have collected the necessary details and marked on your Working Copy where you will be using that information, then you can decide what you will put in a hand-out, what you will display on the blackboard, and how you will display it.

For hand-outs use details only, and only those details the audience will need to be able to follow your presentation. Never put anything into a hand-out that you do not use in the presentation.

Print the hand-out using a large, clear, easy-to-read typeface.

Number the separate bits or sets of details. This can make it much easier for the audience to find what you are referring to.

Leave space between each separate bit of information.

And, very important, always give the source of your information and cite any books, papers, journals, & etc. that you have used.

Hand-outs should be only a single page, printed on one side only.

For displays, follow all the same steps used to prepare hand-outs. But if you choose to use both hand-outs and displays, do not put the same information into both. Put some in the hand-out and the rest on display.

Generally, that information that is most important to the main theme of your presentation should be put on display so that you can draw the audience’s attention to some particular fact or number by pointing to it, circling it, or otherwise highlighting it during the presentation.

Display only keywords or specific facts or numbers you want the audience to notice. You want the audience to pay attention to YOU and listen to you, so use these displays as helpers to your speech, as references and background. The visual aids should be helpful, but it is your speech that should be interesting.

Use different colours in the displays to group related facts and figures. It will help the audience to understand, make some one set of figures easy to notice if you should need to draw the audience’s attention to that, and make the whole thing visually more pleasing.

Since chalk is messy, and your handwriting might not be so good, especially if you are nervous or unaccustomed to writing on a blackboard, it is best to prepare display material beforehand on large, poster-sized paper, and use the magnets to hang these papers on the blackboard. Use coloured, large sized markers. But be careful choosing the colours. Some colours do not show well in a large room or under some kinds of light. Yellow is very bad.

Display the material only at the time it is needed, not before, not after. Put up a poster or write on the board as you introduce the fact or figure, use it, then erase it or take it down. Note this timing on your Working Copy and practice putting up and taking down the material. You do not want to look clumsy and awkward, fumbling with papers or dropping magnets. Practice so that you can put up and take down large papers with ease.

If you are going to use more than one poster, number the posters on the upper right corner in the order you will want to display them, and practice keeping them in order so that you do not put up a poster in the wrong order at the wrong time.

A few tips: write or display posters at both ends of the blackboard, NOT IN THE MIDDLE. You are standing in the middle and are likely difficult to see through.

If you want, you can write the title of your presentation at the top of the board in the middle, but high above your head.

Have your own copy of the hand-out, but set up like a Working Copy, with large typeface, double spaced. You should print out large, separate copies of charts, tables, or graphs used in the hand-out that you can easily see WITHOUT HOLDING THEM when referring to them in your presentation.

Before beginning your presentation, perhaps 30 minutes or so before, check the room for supplies and check your papers and posters to be sure everything is in the correct order for use. Check the blackboard area for chalk and blackboard eraser. Chalk breaks easily, so be sure there is enough, and in several colours. Bring your own if you can. Better to have too much than not enough. If you will be using posters, check the supply of magnets. Check your marking pens.

Then do the same checklist you would do for a speech, take a deep breath, and do it.


A sample speech: the Public Copy:


A Dangerous New Pollution

John Teacher

Good evening honoured judges, teachers, fellow students, ladies, and gentlemen.

Pollution. A serious threat to our lives, to our safety, and to the quality of our community. But I will not speak to you today of material pollution, of air and water and soil pollution. These are well known problems, already being addressed by our government. I will speak to you of a more serious kind of pollution, a pollution that can attack our children and poison their minds. I will speak of information pollution on the Internet.

The Internet is a new and marvellous tool for students. With the Internet, the children and young people of China can connect to the world, can discover this great planet and the many and diverse people on it. They can even meet and chat with people face to face, people in Europe, in America, in Africa. People from other places in Asia.

The Internet is perhaps the most valuable tool and library for students. Using the Internet, students can research and study almost any topic, explore foreign literature, keep up with advances in modern science and technology. There is an enormous wealth of information available at their fingertips.

But who is to monitor this wealth of information? How is a student to know which of this vast wealth is true and useful? How is a student, a child, to separate the treasure from the trash?

And there is a lot of trash mixed with the treasure on the Internet. For a few American dollars, any person, no matter who, can open a website, can publish on that website anything he or she chooses, whether true or false, good or bad.

Websites that promote racism, websites that give detailed information on how to commit suicide, websites that teach bomb making.

Who is responsible for the Internet? No one nation, no one group or organization, has control or “ownership” of the Internet. Is it a great behemoth, a global leviathan far too large to be tamed by any single nation. Countries of the world, members of the United Nations, collectively, and co-operatively, they alone can gather together the strength to tame this monster, to control this wealth, to ensure that this great and marvellous blessing for all of humanity is not destroyed by the evil few. All nations working together can, if they wish, separate the treasure from the trash.

If they, the nations of this world, collectively have the resolve to act.

So far, that has not happened. So far, no nation or group of nations has shown a resolve to act. Yet they must act, and act soon, if we are to keep and preserve the treasure, and not let it be buried under a growing mountain of trash, lies, and misinformation. They must act to monitor, to set standards of content, to set standards of licensing for those who want a website, just as nations now set standards for and control radio and television.

The international community must act, and act soon.

So we can see that the lack of global, international control of the Internet, a lack of a co-ordinated effort by all governments to clean up the Internet, has resulted in a chaos of information, much of it bad, some of it evil, and all of it easily available to our children.

And so I encourage you all to guard your children when they are using the Internet, and let your voice be heard. It is time to clean up this mess!!!


Practicing Your Speech


  • Go to the room where you will give your presentation to get a feel for the environment/set-up. Practice in front of a friend or friends without stopping, just as you will want to give your presentation on speech day.

  • Practice in front of a mirror (full length if possible).

  • Practice using visual aids so you know how much time they will take up and how to incorporate them into your speech.

  • Practice with background noise (i.e.- turn on the TV, radio, etc.) in order to practice with distractions.

  • Practice with the actual speaking outline you will use in your presentation.

  • Practice your speech dressed as you plan to be for your actual presentation so that you can feel comfortable and ready to speak.

  • Time yourself. — Make sure that you are consistently within your time frame.

  • Video tape yourself if possible. This is the best way for you to be able to see what your mistakes are so that you can fix them before you give your presentation.

  • Practice becoming aware of your posture and mannerisms as you speak. If you are going to use movement on speech day — you need to practice moving — keep it controlled and natural.

  • Eliminate any distracting mannerisms you may have. Distracting mannerisms include (but are not limited to) many nervous habits you might have (i.e. playing with a ring or necklace, tucking hair behind your ear, playing with a pen, cracking knuckles, etc.). These are actions you can easily avoid doing if you are aware of them. Take off your jewelry; tie your hair back or moose it down; get rid of the pen, etc…

  • Take a short 10 or 15 minute walk just before the speech to get rid of excess physical/nervous energy and relax.

  • Go to the washroom about 20 to 30 minutes before giving the speech.


Speakers often do things that drive their audiences crazy. Don’t!

  • Never have change or keys in your pockets. You do not want to have the sound of objects competing with your voice.

  • Never wear a hat, unless it is part of your presentation. Dress appropriately any time you give a presentation. It is better to make a credible first impression by looking as if you are interested in giving a good speech.

  • Do not stand with your arms crossed or your hands in your pockets. This type of posture prevents you from gesturing and may even make your audience uncomfortable.

  • Never apologize if you make a mistake while giving a speech. Simply correct the mistake and move on. You never want to draw light to an error, chances are most people will miss it anyway. Along these same lines never make faces when you make a mistake, it is better to just keep going.

  • Don’t put your visual aids up in front of the class before you explain them. Rather introduce them as you are speaking. Also, don’t keep visual aids up after you are no longer referring to them. Use Visual Cues on your speaking outline to easily avoid these blunders.

  • Don’t practice your speech holding on to your speaking outline. When you are practicing put your outline on something – Music stand; a box; a high counter, anything to simulate the lectern that you will be presenting with.

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