Audience Centered Public Speaking

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One aspect of being audience centered in public speaking is speaking in a way that they can relate to them. Here is the follow on to my previous post on audience speaking

In the previous post our speaker talked in a strong, informal, friendly manner. The boys mentally termed him a “regular fellow.” He won their confidence and goodwill. They listened voluntarily even when he talked about the “straight and narrow.”
A short time later this speaker agreed to speak at a rest home for the aged. Did he begin his talk to these old people by dis­playing Tommie Thomas’ bearded mug and exclaiming, “How would you like to meet him in an alley at midnight?”
No. He talked about the old horse and buggy days, which he could remember as a boy, and which he knew every person in his audience could remember very well. He talked about the time they were bright as new century dimes, when the longest way was the sweetest way home, kerosene lamps, crackling fire­sides, and the home folks. He saw twinkles come to weak eyes and smiles to faded lips because his speaking was touching chords of basic interests in their experiences.
Most old people like to dream of the pleasant past. This speaker knew that so he dreamed with them for a while. His purpose, however, was not to encourage idle dreaming but to help even his aged audience see a bright future. This he did as he continued speaking. But he built attention into strong interest
by starting with material that was naturally interesting for his audience.
A careful speaker studies his audiences and selects material which will stimulate their natural or special interests.
What topics would appeal to an audience of high school freshmen? If a speaker has been a freshman he can recall his own interests or from observation and imagination determine the interest of such a group. Of course everyone in that group may not be vitally interested in how to be popular or in high school basketball. But most of them probably will be. And all a speaker can do is to slant his material so it will appeal to the greatest possible numbers.
Stories in which people can identify themselves, perhaps put themselves in the hero’s shoes, have universal appeal. People are constantly interested in themselves, the things they want or have, or the things they wish they could have but secretly fear they shall never get. They like a challenge, a struggle, a fight of some kind, even though it may be no more than a man trying to climb a mountain.
People like to hear about things and other people near them, about tangible articles they see every day and understand. Wealth, property, health, security, and love (of various types) has wide interest appeal. Studying the parables of Jesus indicates that the world’s most persuasive speaker talked about conditions and things near the people and in terms they could clearly under­stand. Abraham Lincoln would have preferred telling a story about a pig rather than one about a rare crustacean. More re­cently, Winston Churchill talked a “tears, sweat, and blood” language.
A truly persuasive speaker talks the language of common people; he understands their needs and wants. Being sincerely and deeply interested in them he causes them to feel that working together they can achieve the desired ends. This type of speaker encourages favorable results not only because he understands human nature, but also because he works in harmony with it.

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