Talks and speeches feature prominently in schools just as they do in real life. Once in a while and for some people quite often, we find ourselves called upon to give talks or speeches. Sometimes, such talks are education biased. They are often meant to inform an audience on a specific subject or topic. Let us consider the following question:
The people of ‘Golden city’ of which you are native have invited you to talk to them on the National Health Insurance Scheme which they have heard in the mass media but do not fully understand. Write out the talk you will give them.
Let us try to find out what exactly we are expected to do in this essay by considering the following points:
MEDIUM: The medium is clearly a talk so you are expected to write prose which will be presented by word of mouth to a specified group of people.
AUDIENCE: The audience is the people of Golden City and will comprise men, women and children of various ages. We have to assume that the people are predominantly illiterates. This means that we have to be very considerate in our choice of words and expressions.
PURPOSE: The purpose of the talk is to explain to the people a new health scheme which has been introduced in the country. Although the people are not completely ignorant of the new health scheme, whatever knowledge they may have is negligible. Our talk is, therefore, meant to give them all the information they need to enable them understand the purpose and implications of the National Health Insurance Scheme.
SITUATION: A National Health Insurance Scheme has been introduced in the country. The audience has heard of the Scheme somehow. It follows therefore that the people have various idea that whatever knowledge they have about the Scheme is very limited. The people are, therefore, in a state of near ignorance and confusion which our talk must aim at planting sufficient knowledge in their minds. After such a detailed analysis, we should be in a position to write our talk.
Before then, it is necessary for us to take a look at the formal features of writing talks or speeches in general.
General Features of Talks and Speeches:
Talks, as explained above, are meant to be delivered directly to an audience and normally the question stipulates or at least suggests the audience to be addressed. The first important consideration when writing a talk is that it must take account of protocol arrangements. This means the talk must start by addressing the audience in an order of relative importance or prominence. This address begins with the person who is presiding over or chairing the function. Irrespective of which dignitaries are present, the person chairing the function must always be addressed first. Depending on the composition of the audience, we may open a talk in any one of the following ways:
- Mr.Chairman, Ministers of State, Chiefs, Students, Ladies and Gentlemen.
- Mr.Chairman, Invited Guests, Members of Staff, Students, Ladies and Gentlemen.
- Mr.Chairman, Guest Speaker, Headmaster and Staff, Students, Ladies and Gentlemen.
- Mr. Principal (Headmaster), Staff, Students, Ladies and Gentlemen.
The expression “Ladies and Gentlemen” is usually used in the order of protocol because it covers everybody present. In this way, nobody would feel left out. It is to be noted that the order of protocol is only a call to attention. It does not constitute a sentence in the grammatical sense of the word. It is usually followed by a comma, an exclamation sign or even a full stop. In writing a talk, you are addressing an (imaginary) audience, so when writing, imagine yourself facing a group of people who are listening attentively to you.
It would be wrong, therefore, to call the audience to order only once and thereafter leave them to sleep for the next thirty minutes while delivering your talk. What you do to keep the audience alive and silently participating in your talk is to keep calling them to attention every now and then. This should not be done too often or else it becomes disturbingly monotonous. Besides, it is necessary that you keep changing the form of your call to order.
Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Mr. Chairman, Invited Guests.
It is suggested that the full order of protocol be used to begin and end the talk. Note that the expression “I am done” is appropriate at the end of a talk but it is even better to use “Thank you” on its own or “l am done. Thank you”
The Content of the Talk or Speech
The material substance of your talk depends on the specific topic you write on. In the National Health Insurance Scheme example given, you will have to demonstrate sufficient knowledge of the scheme yourself by the facts you give. Break down the subject matter of your talk into convenient units and treat them one at a time. You must keep the education level of your prospective audience in mind so that you know the choice of words use. Vocabularies should be within the education level of the audience for easy understanding.
The talk is meant to be spoken so you are at liberty to use contracted forms and also to observe the features of spoken language.
Your words and expressions must suit the topic, the occasion and the educational level of your audience. A talk on the National Health Insurance Scheme meant for nurses must not be the same as a talk on the same topic for pregnant women gathered at clinic or a talk for junior high school pupils or group of teacher trainees in a college of education.
The Role and Place of Humour
Humour can either make or mar the beauty and success of a talk. Depending on the audience, it is necessary to demonstrate a good sense of humour during your talk. Make your examples as down to earth and as humorous as possible but without reducing yourself into a comedian.
The Plan for a Talk or Speech
The following gives an idea as to how you may proceed.
- Write a clear heading for your talk.
EXAMPLE: A TALK TO THE PEOPLE OF GOLDEN CITY ON THE NATIONAL HEALTH INSURANCE SCHEME.
- Address the order of protocol.
- Express gratitude to the organizers for inviting you or to the audience in general for the opportunity to talk to them.
- Introduce the topic for your talk and if possible say exactly the angle from which you will be looking at it.
- (Sometimes) define any terms or expressions you want them to understood as far as your talk is concerned.
- Deliver your ‘goods’ using humorous examples. This is necessary if you are treating a very academic topic and have an audience of low academic standing.
- Summarize the salient points.
- Express gratitude to the audience for listening to you.
Read the sample talk below to enlighten your understanding of how a talk or speech is written.
A TALK TO THE PEOPLE OF GOLDEN CITY ON THE JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL EDUCATION
BY CEO OF THE MINTUPDATES.COM
Mr. Chairman, Chiefs, Parents and Guardians, Ladies and Gentlemen. I am happy to have this opportunity to share my ideas with you on the issue- The Junior High School Programme.
I would like to discuss with you what the Junior High School is all about and also point out why the government decided to introduce it. My dear Parents and Guardians, I would first of all want us to consider the aims of education.
Before the introduction of formal education, we also had our own form education. We did not have schools then but we were able to teach our children our trades and also how to comport themselves. Our kind of education did not involve learning to read and write but it enabled us to prepare our children to be able to earn a living and thus live independent lives when they came of age.
Mr. Chairman, the aim of school education is also to make the children grow up useful to themselves and to the society as a whole. This means school has to provide opportunities for them to learn useful things. At first, when a child left school, he could easily get employment in a government office or department. These days, however, such job openings are no longer available. This is because our society has changed and now we need people who have acquired other specific skills and not just to read and write.
Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen, you are all witnesses to the fact that many of our children who have completed various schools and even universities are still depending us.
This is because there are no jobs for them. In order to prevent this sad situation, the government has decided to introduce the Junior High School Programme into the school system so that our children, in addition to ‘book knowledge’, will also acquire some other skills. The children will be exposed to areas of study such as masonry, carpentry, cookery, technical drawing and many others.
Mr. chairman, this means that our children will come out of school with skills with which they can make a living. They would no longer have to migrate to cities to look for jobs because they can use their skills right where they are to make artifacts that might satisfy human needs in exchange for money.
Mr. Chairman, Chiefs, Parents, Ladies and Gentlemen, the vocational subjects cannot be taught orally. They involve practical work which require specific tools and machines which the government has already supplied to our schools.