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The Purpose of Speaking


Techniques Public speaking > Preparing the Presentation > The Purpose of Speaking

Informative | Invitational | Dispositional | Actuation | See also


When speaking, the first question you should ask 'What am I trying to achieve?' In brief, you can seek to inform, persuade or something in between. Here are four types of speaking on this spectrum.

Informative speaking

Informative speaking seeks to inform. Its goal is that the listeners understand something in the same way that the speaker understands that subject. In this way, the speaker is sharing meaning and ways of understanding.

Informative speaking uses facts, data, logic, evidence and other solid information and structured presentations to help the listeners understand and remember the information presented. It may well ask Kipling questions, such as 'Who', 'When', 'How' and 'Where' and then answer with the relevant information.

Three types of informative speaking are:

  • Description speeches: That describe objects or events.
  • Exploration speeches: That clarify ideas.
  • Demonstration speeches: That teach a process.

Once the hurdles of interest and attention have been surmounted, the biggest question that many informative speakers face is the cognitive ability of their audience to grasp what can be difficult concepts. This is a problem that academic speakers (and writers) face every day.

Invitational speaking

Invitational speaking is often similar to informative speaking, but adds judgment into the mix. The 'invitational' element is hence an invitation to listeners in agreement or evaluation of some sort. This evaluation may be of an idea, another person, an event, an object of some kind, an event or anything else who which judgment may be applied.

Invitational speaking uses evaluative and judgmental language and rational logic to present the case. As with informative speaking, it may well appear cool and factual and use classical argumentation principles.

Invitational speaking is more difficult than informational speaking as you are asking your listeners to accept particular evaluation criteria and processes of assessment with which they may not agree. Academics perform invitational speaking when they criticize others' research.  

Dispositional speaking

Dispositional speaking is more persuasive in intent than invitational speaking in that it seeks to gain agreement on an attitude, value or belief.

This can be a very difficult thing to do as to change such deep drivers can often be, in effect, to change the person and who they are, recreating their identity. It is not surprising, then, that many will resist such attempts, even if clear and logical reason is used.

Whilst academic speakers should not really use dispositional speaking, it can be argued that everything is a belief and that there are unquestioned canons and paradigms that many academics accept without question, and to challenge these can be particularly perilous.

Actuation speaking

Actuation speaking seeks to get people to act, to perform in some way. In practice this can be easy for simple actions and hardest of all for actions that the person may not normally undertake. In this way, actuation speaking can be considered to be the ultimate in persuasive speaking.

In its more difficult form, actuation may well be preceded by other forms of speaking, as you ay need people to understand, agree with a judgment and even change what they believe before they will take the actions you propose.

To conclude our example, academics engage in actuation speaking when they persuade those holding the purse strings to provide the precious cash that is needed to pursue their research.

See also

Critical Listening


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