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Patterns of Organization: Informative, Persuasive, and Commemorative
As you organize your main points, keep your "big picture" goal in mind. Are you trying to inform your listeners about an issue? Or trying to persuade them to share your opinion? Perhaps you are commemorating an event?
Different goals call for different narrative structures and you may need to try a few models before you find one that suits. To aid your trial-and-error process, refer to the list of structural models in the previous chapter for ideas. If you haven't looked at these recently, it may be helpful to review "Ordering Main Points" before reading on. The following provides examples of some of these in action.
An informative speech should educate the audience about its topic. These speeches are not argumentative—they describe, announce, or explain their subject without making a case or taking sides.
Catering to the audience's needs is important in any speech, but it is crucial in an informative speech. This type of speech relies on the value of the information itself, without the added appeal of a conversion experience or an emotional catharsis. Make sure your information will be useful and interesting to your audience!
Here are some sample topic statements that illustrate different approaches to framing an informative speech:
Cause and Effect
Consumers listed rising gas prices and falling prices for electric vehicles as the main reasons behind their new interest in electric cars.
Compare and Contrast
Studies have found major demographic differences between consumers who would consider buying electric cars and those who would not, but both groups still share the same concerns.
Market research shows that consumers weigh three main issues when they consider buying an electric car: purchase price, convenience, and long-term cost savings.
A persuasive speech should make a convincing case for its position. While some are intended to win passive agreement from the audience, others encourage immediate action. For example, a speech arguing that drug-resistant bacteria strains are a serious problem seeks only passive agreement. However, if the speech went one step further and urged listeners to reduce their own consumption of antibiotics, it would belong to the second category.
If you want your audience to do something, end your speech with a call to action and explain how your listeners could help the cause.
These thesis statements about antibiotic-resistant bacteria illustrate different structural models for persuasive speaking:
Cause and Effect
The U.S. industry standard of giving daily antibiotics to healthy livestock promotes the creation of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Dangerous bacteria are adapting to resist antibiotics on under-regulated U.S. farms. The FDA should scrap its useless "voluntary guidelines" for agribusiness and impose legally-binding restrictions on the practice of feeding antibiotics to healthy animals.
Compare and Contrast
The European Union banned the routine feeding of antibiotics to livestock as part of its quest to fight antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Compared to the strict regulations in other industrialized nations, the U.S. policy of trusting agri-businesses to regulate themselves seems outdated and irresponsible.
The case for legally-binding restrictions on agricultural consumption of antibiotics should be evaluated in terms of its costs, benefits, and practical feasibility.
The European Union banned the practice of routinely feeding antibiotics to healthy livestock in 2004. Since then, calls for similar legislation in the U.S. have become increasingly urgent as new studies warn of public health risks from antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Dr. Marc Sprenger of the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention draws on his experience as a doctor and epidemiologist to combat antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
A commemorative speech should honor, celebrate, or remember its subject. These sample statements of purpose memorialize different aspects of the Titanic:
The sinking of the Titanic inspired a new wave of maritime safety laws. My panel will discuss the life-saving provisions we owe to that tragedy.
Compare and Contrast
The passenger carrier Lusitania sank only three years after the Titanic and claimed nearly as many lives. However, the legend of the Titanic overshadows the Lusitania's story. When I compare these two tragedies, I find myself asking—how different are they, really?
Are we justified in our nostalgia for a bygone era of chivalry? Behavioral economists have taken one step toward answering this question, using data from the Titanic and the Lusitania to study social norms in disaster responses. How many men actually gave up lifeboat seats to women and children? I will address these questions by analyzing the effects of age, gender, ticket class, and family structure on an individual's chance of surviving one of these disasters.
After the Titanic sank in 1912, the White Star Line spent four years in arbitration before reaching a deal to cover 16 million in legal claims with a settlement of 664,000. Let's give that controversial legal battle a retrial from beginning to end to see if the settlement is actually a fair outcome.
Tonight, we are gathered to celebrate Eva Hart, who was only seven years old when she sat on a lifeboat watching the Titanic sink into the sea with her father on board. The experience left her with terrible nightmares, but she overcame her fears and lived a full life as a singer, politician, and magistrate.
While informative speeches explain, educate and describe; persuasive speeches raise the stakes by using information to influence the audience; commemorative speeches assume a shared emotional connection to the subject.
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