Inspirational Speech assignment

Inspirational Speech assignment requirements and information

Total points  XX points
Speech length 5-8 minutes
Speech delivery Reading from a script, memorized from a script, or extemporaneous
Supporting Document Script if you read from a script or memorize a script Outline if extemporaneous
What you submit to me when you give your speech Script or outline, whichever is appropriate.  Presentation aids (when practicable)

Further explanation about the assignment: 

While an inspirational speech clearly involves persuasion, it very often includes both ceremonial and informative aspects. Common ceremonial speeches that must be inspirational are graduation speeches or eulogies. Many usually think of inspirational persuasive speeches as those by motivational speakers connected with commercial enterprises (e.g., Tony Robbins, Jack Canfield, Stephen R. Covey, Suze Orman, or Steve Jobs),  or with spiritual matters (e.g., Rev. Billy Graham, Dr. Deepak Chopra, or Pope Frances). A unifying characteristic of TED Talks is their inspirational quality. Inspirational persuasive speeches, however, are also part of our social movements and political landscape. Famous examples include the following:

· Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech during the U.S. Civil Rights movement

· Winston Churchill’s  “We shall fight them on the beaches” speech to the House of Commons in June 1940 designed to steel Great Britain’s resolve to get back to fighting in World War II despite the setback at Dunkirk and the likely defeat of France

· President John F. Kennedy’s 1960 inaugural address (“Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country”), which motivated young people to become involved in politics and community activities

· Rep. Shirley Chisholm’s “Equal Rights for Women” speech to the U.S. House of Representatives in May 1969 advocating for change in policy towards women in the workplace.

The point in discussing these various speeches is to show the range of the type of speeches that you could do when presenting an inspirational speech from ceremonial to spiritual to political to social to protest. What, then, are the characteristics that of an inspirational speech besides the basic elements of a persuasive speech?

Below are some suggestions about this type of speech and how you can prepare your speech.

1. The goal or purpose of the speech is more than just mere persuasion. The speaker intends to move the audience on a greater, more empowered level.

2. According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, the word inspiration comes from the Latin inspirare, which means “to breathe into.” Since the middle of the 16th century, inspiration was connected to breathing through its meaning of “drawing of air into the lungs” in contrast to “expiration,” which means the “act of releasing air from the lungs.” Based on that etymology (origin of a word), one way to conceptualize an inspirational speech would be to “breath into” your audience. As a speaker, you are not only transferring your message, but you are also transferring your passion and the importance of your topic to the audience.

3. The examples mentioned above are generally speeches that were very well written and delivered by strong speakers. Of course, these speakers and the writers of their speeches spent years and much effort developing their skills. Most likely, you are not at that level yet. a. However, you can craft and present a strong speech appropriate for your level of experience and knowledge. Start by selecting a topic or concept about which you truly care, and that you feel is important for all of us to know or believe or feel or do. That is the goal of you speech—to make us, your audience—know, believe, feel, or do that important thing. Given your time constraints, it’s best to have one important thing. b. As with the narrative speeches, emotion is important in this speech. Many times the dominate emotion in inspirational speeches is “hope” or “resilience” or “optimism.” You don’t have to evoke one of these emotions specifically. You may find another emotion is more appropriate to your speech.     If your speech is a toast at the wedding of a sibling and spouse, the emotions may be aspects of love (compassion, a wish for happiness, etc.)     If your speech as a teacher to your students about the importance of education, the emotion may be empowerment.  c. Quiet confidence in yourself as a speaker and in your message is important when giving an inspirational speech. Try to achieve confidence in your verbal and nonverbal communication without arrogance. One way to help you achieve this state is to remember that this speech is not about you; it is about achieving your goal. You accomplish that by focusing on your audience. d. Mix concrete examples with abstract concepts. Abstraction is necessary because you are trying to move the audience to something that is larger than themselves. Too often, however, these speeches are a series of statements about abstract concepts and the speaker loses the audience. As we learned with the narrative speeches, one or two stories that illustrate the abstract concept are powerful. Or as Martin Luther King Jr. did in “I have a dream,” you have a series of statements to illustrate the point. e. Practice your speech. Practice the introduction and conclusion equally amount of times. Practice emphasizing different words or phrases to hear how they sound. Speaking from the heart and giving a speech that you practiced are compatible and harmonious states. In fact, you are better able to “speak from the heart” when you have practiced saying the words.  (Note: The claim that “speaking from the heart” is mutually exclusive from a prepared speech and is better than a prepared speech is a myth perpetuated by films and television. All of those speeches are carefully crafted by the writers and carefully practiced by the actors, which is an inherent contradiction that those who blindly follow that myth [at graduations, weddings, and funerals] ignore. And, yes, this topic pushes my buttons.)  

4. Often these speeches are written out word-for-word because others may want copies of the speech as a memento of the occasion, the speaker’s time is limited, or the speaker wants to ensure specific information is presented. Don’t forget that when you write your script, you want to write a speech, not an essay. The language of a speech is much less complex than an essay with shorter sentences and words. Although you are reading a script, you want to practice reading it so you are familiar with it as a speech and can deliver it with appropriate emphasis and speed.

5. If you get stuck on what to do for your speech, consider watching or listening to those speeches (real or fictional) that have inspired you.

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