Speech Study Guide

2.2 Audience Adaptation Initial audience disposition is the knowledge and opinions an audience has about a specific topic before they hear a speech. A speaker can use the information acquired from analyzing an audience to adapt their speech to address the audience’s particular needs and expectations. A speech about emergency preparedness for second graders should not be prepared the same way as a speech about emergency preparedness for college seniors. There are a variety of methods that a speaker may use to adapt their speech, specifically to a particular audience. Some of these methods include common ground, timeliness, credibility, and trustworthiness. Primarily, a speaker will attempt to find common ground with their audience. Common ground is a sense of a shared background, knowledge, attitudes, experiences, and philosophies between the speaker and audience members. If a speaker can highlight the common ground amidst the myriad of different knowledge, attitudes, philosophies, experiences, and perceptions of the world, the speech will be more effective. Common ground is achieved through the use of personal pronouns, rhetorical questions, and highlighting common experiences. By using personal pronouns, such as “we”, “us”, and “our”, a speech is able to create a sense of comradery between audience members and the speaker. Rhetorical questions are questions phrased to stimulate a mental response from audience members and are often used in speech introductions, but may be used as transitions. They may be used to highlight similar attitudes among the speaker and audience members to help pique interest in the given topic. A speaker may also draw on common experiences. Even though each individual has a different experience, there are a few common events in each of our lives: being happy, being afraid, feeling excitement, and feeling disappointment. When speakers draw on those common experiences, they are more able to relate to their audience and their audience is more able to relate to them. An audience will further identify with a speaker if the speaker demonstrates relevance. Relevance is adapting information in such a way to render it more important to the listeners. Listeners pay attention to ideas that personally affect them. Relevance is demonstrated by emphasizing timeliness, proximity, and personal impact of ideas throughout the speech. Good speakers will utilize timeliness. Timeliness is using information that is pertinent now or in the near future. If a speaker uses outdated information, the audience will likely not respond well to the speech. An audience responds further to the proximity of a speaker. Proximity refers to how geographically close a speaker is to their audience and the values/beliefs the audience holds. For example, a politician appealing to his/her home town or neighborhood is likely to garnish more votes than from a neighborhood in which he or she did not grow up. Proximity allows an audience to identify with a speaker and the speaker’s values. The last component of relevance is demonstrated through personal impact. Personal impact appeals to and emphasizes the physical, economic, or psychological impact of a topic. When a speaker appeals to the personal impact of a topic an audience is likely to “tune in” more. A speaker must also demonstrate credibility in order to adapt to an audience’s preferences. Credibility is the audience’s perception of a speaker as knowledgeable and trustworthy on a topic. Credibility is a fundamental concept in public speaking since the time of Aristotle. Credibility is


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