Does the thought of public speaking leave you quaking in your boots?
When you were in school, you were probably required, at some point, to get up in front of the class and give a speech about something. Perhaps your teacher wanted you to give a 15-minute presentation about making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or you had to talk about what happens when a star explodes. Both of these are examples of informative speeches.
Now you have a career and your boss has asked you to give an informative speech about a new project that's on the horizon. If you've been lucky enough to live without having to give a presentation in the past, you may be wondering about the purpose of an informative speech. What are the rules? Are there different types of informative speech? How do you pick topics and generate ideas? Well, put on your learning hat and let's dive into these questions.
What is an informative speech?
Basically, an informative speech is when you verbalize a message to give someone else information. In that context, giving someone directions to your house is a miniature informative speech. Informative speeches are used by companies to present details about a new policy, describe procedures, and set expectations.
The content of an informative speech is educational and objective. It's based on facts and, often, visuals are used as supporting evidence to help cement the information into the audience's mind. No matter which type of informative speech you deliver, the overall objective should be education.
There are four goals of an informative speech. They are to be accurate, give meaningful information, articulate the message clearly, and be engaging. In other words, make it memorable and truthful in a way that people can easily understand.
4 types of informative speech
There are countless types of informative speech; however, there are four types that are commonly used.
A definition speech aims to explain what something means. The topic is likely something the audience knows little about. The easiest way to define concepts is by using synonyms or antonyms. You could also talk about how something is used or what it does as a way to define it. Another very effective way to deliver a definition-style informative speech is to use examples. Examples help your audience to assimilate the information in their brain for easier retention.
If you're going to deliver a demonstration speech, it's imperative that you're intimately familiar with the topic. You also must be able to think quickly to overcome any challenge that may occur during your demonstration. Above all else, be sure to practice, practice, practice! Talking and doing something at the same time involves psycho-motor skills that can be hard to accomplish with people looking.
Think of every television chef - Gordon Ramsay, Rachel Ray, or Julia Child. Their broadcasts are the epitome of a demonstration type of informative speech. Gordon Ramsay goes through the process of scrambling eggs and at the same time, he's telling you what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. Just because they make it look easy, doesn't mean you'll be able to wing it.
The really great thing about demonstration speeches is that you can do things like ask for volunteers from the audience, fill in any empty space in your speech with the definition of what you're working with, and have a clear sequence of steps to complete to ensure that the information is fully delivered.
A description type of informative speech relies on the five human senses to deliver information. You could be talking about a new restaurant and the hunger associated with the smells that come from the kitchen, or your speech could be something that advises your employees about a rebranding initiative and the vibrant colors in the new logo.
Either way, you're giving the audience a mental picture of what you're talking about. This is called spatial pattern organization and allows the people listening to you to arrange concepts in their minds to evoke a sensory reaction.
You have to be careful with explanation speeches as they can quickly become boring for your audience, especially if you're presenting complicated information. Of course, you can break up the information into units. Avoid word vomiting on your audience and use examples to explain the content in a way that your audience can relate to.
What are the rules for informative speech?
First and foremost, an informative speech isn't meant to persuade anyone of anything. Your informative speech may inspire people to change their minds about a topic; however, that isn't the goal. The goal of informative speaking is to give information. Persuasive speaking, often used in sales roles, is meant to get someone to do something or act in a particular way, based on information that is shared with them.
You may deliver an informative speech on solar panels and how their use on a residential dwelling lowers utility bills. The goal of your speech is simply to explain the correlation between the use of solar and the effect on the electricity bill that the resident receives each month. However, there may be some audience members who run home and get solar panels. Even though your informative speech ended up persuading that audience member to do something, that doesn't change the fact that your speech was informative. It's all about intent.
How do you start an informative speech?
Before you get up in front of your audience, there are several things to consider when you start building your informative speech.
Who is your audience? Of course, knowing the specific people you'll be presenting to is imperative. You need to also consider what they may or may not already know. This could greatly impact how much or how little information you need to share.
What will you be talking about? The answer to this question defines the basis of your speech. Take into account where your passions lie and, conversely, what you don't like about the topic. If you want to keep your audience engaged, you have to keep any biases you may have about the subject in check so that they don't influence your message.
How long does the speech need to be? If you only have 5 minutes, a high-level overview may be all you have time to discuss. However, if you'll be in the spotlight for 30 minutes or more, you can spend a bit more time on the things you feel your audience may not be as familiar with. This will aid comprehension and knowledge retention.
Where will you physically give the speech? This is especially important if you'll have visuals. If you're in a large auditorium, the visuals you present need to be seen by the people in the back. If you're in a small conference room, it won't present much of an issue.
Why are you giving the speech? If you know the different types of speeches, answering the “why” will be easy. Your goal will be to inform someone about something in a demonstrative or descriptive way.
After you answer those questions, you can craft your presentation. When you get in front of your audience, remember to be engaging.
You only have a few seconds to grab their attention. The standard advice is to open with a joke, but that may not always be appropriate. Think about every speech or presentation you've had to attend. What were the things that made it memorable for you? Use those elements in your own speech.
Don't forget about your body language
Your audience isn't only listening to the words you say. They're also watching your posture, hand gestures, and facial expressions. When you need to give an informative speech, it's quite possible that the content is simply boring but, if you're an engaging orator, the audience will be more apt to follow along because they enjoy watching you.
It can be argued that body language says as much as our words. If you're smiling, the audience will assume you like the topic. If you slump over a podium, the audience may guess that you're not confident in what you're talking about.
The wrong body language can turn off your entire audience. Not only will they miss what you're saying, but they will also question your authority to tell them anything. They certainly won't walk away with the knowledge that you want them to possess. On the other hand, the right body language will improve audience engagement and assist in getting your message across.
Informative speech topics vary by career
You may have had to give informative speeches at school, but don't think graduation saves you from ever having to give one again. Almost every career path you can take could present an opportunity for you to give an informative speech.
Good news! If you find a career you love, giving informative speeches will be a breeze, and narrowing down your list of ideas will also lead you to easy informative speech topics.
Here are some examples of careers that require frequent informative speeches.
Teachers: Since informative speeches are, by nature, educational, it makes sense that teachers and professors use them to develop learning environments for their students. Teachers are also good at turning boring material into fun, informative speeches to engage students and promote knowledge retention.
Journalist: You must have a passion for relaying information if you decide to go into journalism. This career is filled with informative speeches on a daily basis. Journalists are the ones the public relies on to get pertinent information about critical events that are happening in the world.
Docent/Curator: If you've ever been to a museum and had someone guide you through the exhibits explaining the nature of the pieces being presented, you watched someone give an informative speech.
Doctor: Wait a second, doctors don't give speeches. Yes, they do! A lot! When a doctor describes your ailment or injury and what you have to do to take care of it, that's an informative speech. Additionally, many doctors present on topics at association events. Those are informative speeches, too.
Mechanic: This one may stump you, too. At what point does a mechanic give an informative speech? The moment he or she starts explaining what's wrong with your car and what needs to be done to fix it.
It doesn't matter what career you fall into, you will likely have to give an informative speech at some point - although some careers will require it more often than others.
Anything you need to tell someone can technically be considered an informative speech, as long as your goal is to give information and not try to change their mind about the topic. It doesn't matter if you're giving a 2-minute set of directions to someone or providing an hour-long oration over a complex concept; your informative speech needs to be:
Well thought out
One immutable truth is that you will see some sort of requirement for communication skills in every single job description you read. That's because communication is a highly sought-after soft skill that will first be judged during your interview - another form of informative speech.
TopResume would love to be a part of your career journey. We can help you with career advice and interview preparation, so that your speech-giving skills are up to par. Submit your resume for a free resume review and step into that interview room with confidence.