Words convey meaning. And spoken words convey meaning differently than written words.

When instructors identify the oral rhetorical assignments that they will assign, they usually refer to speeches and presentations. Sometimes they include things like a brief oral report-out after small group work, but not usually.

If you’re in a rush, here are some fundamentals to quality public speaking. This list hits the essential principles of our subcategories and tries to cover some recurring themes from the subcategories:

  • Consider your audience. Adapt the topic to them, and make them care.
  • Understand the type of speech and research your topic.
  • Maintain a focused central point.
  • Organize. It’s much easier to get lost in a speech than an essay because there’s no going back to reread.
  • Keep the principles of good oral style in mind.
  • Practice your delivery and maintain vocal variety.

Throughout these subcategories of oral rhetoric (preparing to write a speech, writing speeches, organization, and delivery) we apply the general rhetorical questions to public speaking:

  • What purpose do I want to accomplish in my speech?
  • How can I use my knowledge of my audience to write an effective speech?
  • How can I improve my audience’s sense of my expertise through my speech?
  • How can I convey and emphasize a central idea throughout my speech?
  • What is the essential content that I need to convey?

If your oral rhetoric assignment involves visual aids, check out the visual rhetoric page and this document compiled by Calvin communication professor, Kathi Groenendyk.

For a resource about the entire speech process, we recommend this document also compiled by Professor Groenendyk. The resource isn’t meant to be used as a dogmatic formula for success. Rather, it covers speaking fundamentals and operates as a starting point for any oral rhetoric assignment.

Click on specific questions in this FAQ grid, and it will take you where you need to be. If you want to explore the resources on your own, click on one of the categories on the right side of the page.

Frequently asked questions

Specific oral rhetoric assignments

You’ll encounter various types of oral rhetoric assignments while at Calvin. We believe the main categories throughout our Oral Rhetoric page are transferable to various assignments. However, assignment specific resources are still valuable. For this reason, we’ve provided resources to guide you through these assignments.