Public speaking is when you stand before an audience and deliver a speech at a formal or an informal occasion. For many people, speaking in front of a large audience is a daunting task, so it is quite natural to become very nervous (though with effective training this could be overcome).
As public speaking has become a serious career option, many people are enrolling for classes where they are taught skills and techniques to speak well and speak effectively before a gathering. However, to be a good speaker, you should know the four types of public speaking and the peculiarities of each one of them.
 Speaking to Inform
When a person gives a speech before an audience to impart information on a particular topic or issue it said to be an informative speech. Business presentations, seminars in colleges, class presentations in schools are some examples of informative speeches. A person preparing for an informative speech has to research the subject or topic very well. It should be short and precise because long informative speeches (lectures) easily bore the audience. The success of an informative speech will depend on how much the audience could understand from the speech.
 Speaking to Persuade
Persuasive speeches are those where you try to persuade or convince you audience about an idea or product. These speeches aim to influence and change the opinions of the audience. This can be a difficult task as you could be facing a group of people who may have totally different views from your own. The most important point that has to be kept in mind here is that if you want to influence others' views and ideas, you have to show your enthusiasm while speaking.
However, you must remember that you are not there to wage war and should talk without hurting others' feelings. Persuasive speeches are often given by sales and marketing people to attract interest in their products. They are also used to influence political and religious views.
 Speaking to Actuate
Speaking to actuate is a higher level of persuasive speaking. Here, the speaker goes a step beyond persuasion and convincing. The aim is to motivate people enough to take a specific step—to act. This is a powerful level of speaking. Very few people have achieved this level of mastery of the art of persuasion where they could so deeply convince people that they move into action.
This type of speech is useful in conflict situations like war. It is also in action when a speaker not only tries to garner support for some cause or reason but also wants the people he’s speaking to to join him in actualising it through concrete action. It is characterised by a show of charisma, very strong words, and great emotional involvement and display of conviction.
A speech of this type typically does not rely on facts and figures, though they may be offered. The speaker’s aim is to get his listeners so emotionally enthralled that they wholesomely adopt his idea, his principles, his reasoning, as theirs and literally take up the cross and share his burden. Sometimes, listeners may be so deeply moved that they take up the cause more seriously than even the person who’s invited them into it! This sometimes happens among militia groups where members of a mob would overthrow their leader accusing him of not being “aggressive enough” in the fight for their common cause. They go on to introduce tougher measures to the dismay of their deposed leader. This is the pinnacle of persuasive speaking and, indeed, of public speaking.
 Speaking to Entertain
Ceremonial speeches are another form of public speaking usually given at weddings, funerals, graduation parties, retirement parties etc. One very important factor to make these speeches effective is to add a personal touch.
One gives these speeches for people one knows and it would be great if one can bring in stories and incidents about the respective person. The speech can be humorous, touching or emotional, as per the occasion and the mood. However, one should take utmost care not to hurt feelings by making snide remarks about them.
Public speaking is a skill that is best mastered through continuous practice. A talkative person may not be able to give the best speech. To give a great speech, one must first understand the type of speech one is expected to give and should prepare along those lines. A good public speaker is one who understands the needs of the audience and is flexible enough to adopt changes that may arise even while delivering the speech.
Do you want to improve your skills in public speaking? Find a programme that suits you. LiveSpeech public speaking training is deliverable in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and major cities across Nigeria.
Jonas Ezeanya is an executive speech coach and presentation expert based in Lagos, Nigeria. Connect with him on LinkedIn.