Rural System's

Rural System Speeches

Within all aspects of Rural System work, standing and speaking before groups is part of our job. Before every speech, even experts go over the following notes to help remember and use the messages here. These notes give the criteria and grounds that have have been found to be the basics and essentials for judging the quality of a speech and a speaker. Public speaking is an essential part of our job. We know it, work to improve it, and work with each other to make significan improvements.

Speaking is an art and as all artists know, it may take years of practice to achieve the form, expression, or skill desired.

In this unit, we share our lessons and insights so that they may be of value to more than Rural System staff.

We speak as managers, teachers, and people who have learned new things and are eager to share the good news with others. We know we can improve with practice. To that end, we stand when talking in groups, have pleasant contests, and provide each other with constructive notes on speeches just heard. The following notes are based on those of Dr. Larry Nielsen, R.H. Giles, and others assembled over 40 years of working with graduate students and trying to become an improved speaker.

It is likely that each speech will be unique -- in content, presentation, group, and responses.

An impromptu speech is not speaking to a group on a subject about which you have never thought. It is on a subject well known but delivered at short notice. An extemporaneous or impromptu speech differs from the general public speech (suggested below). Here are the similar but brief rules to follow if asked to give one:

  1. Pause ..only for study and thought, not for effect. Ask for a brief delay
  2. Decline if you know nothing about the topic; say " no"
  3. Make quick notes
  4. Use the inverted triangle format of the newspaper...major topics followed by progressively lersser ones
  5. Say: " Your question, as I understand it is ..."
  6. Be brief
  7. Look at everyone
  8. Consider using the pattern of the general system - context, starting, objectives, inputs, processes, feedback, feedforward

Often the topic can be one of

  1. I shall tell you ...
  2. I shall convince you ...
  3. Our question is ...

The fundamentals of presentation never vary. They are a small system

  1. Know your subject matter
  2. Know your objective
  3. Know your audience
  4. Know the audience and the occassion (including time limits)
  5. Prepare your presentation
  6. Practice aloud
  7. Prepare for unusual expected "unexpected" occurrences
  8. Perform
  9. Do realistic self evaluation and note the needed changes
  10. Continually add new skills and techniques
  11. Get evaluations of respected others

General observations and "rules":

Know the subject

Know the audience and the occasion.

Prepare the presentation

Practice aloud for the presentationPractice is needed for several reasons:

There are several stages of practicing

Performing (public speaking is performing!)

Be specific. Don't you dare let the audience leave saying "So what?" or "What's all of this to me?"

Consider studying the speeches within Rural System.

Specific Staff Notes

The goals and objectives for Rural System staff and working colleagues require superior communication. Staff write, speak and communicate with visual media in nearly every situation to technical as well as popular audiences and use visual media that are appropriate to their audiences.

The objective of the Q Works is for all staff and colleagues to be able to communicate clearly and effectively in writing and by speaking to technical audiences and a variety of non-technical audiences, ranging from children to adults and from interested citizens to policy makers. They will be able to employ effective and appropriate visual and oral communication techniques and tools selected from a wide variety that are appropriate to their intended audiences.

Staff will seek to be able to

  1. Describe and explain scientific principles and results of research in a variety of technical formats, including but not limited to, journal-quality manuscripts, technical reports, and log books for field and laboratory research.
  2. Describe and explain scientific principles and results of research in a variety of non-technical formats, including but not limited to, executive briefs, newspaper articles, popular magazine articles and opinion-editorials.
  3. Effectively portray data in tabular and graphic formats to support both technical and non-technical publications.
  4. Design and deliver effective presentations for both technical and non-technical audiences in either oral or poster format.
  5. Effectively utilize graphics, photographs and other visual media to support other presentations.

Throughout a suite of courses and seminars, staff will write a wide variety of technical and nontechnical articles, management plans, scientific sampling plans and opinion editorials. Presentations will range from brief summaries of current events in natural resources to executive briefings for policy makers and presentation of results of empirical research. They will be encouraged to use increasingly sophisticated analysis and graphical displays as appropriate for the situations, mindful of costs and probable desired behavioral change, to support their writing and speaking.

Staff communication abilities will be assessed by

  1. Encouraged self-evaluation and continuing learning. Resources will be provided.
  2. Cooperative and constructive editing for continual improvement.
  3. Interviews or focus groups on the spoken, written, and visual communication of individuals and groups.
  4. Occasional surveys of the performance of staff from employers and customers/clients on communication skills.


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Last revision: December 10, 2004