Types of speeches


In every speech you want to be able to speak and to be understood. These are the basic elements of communication.

Although these basic communication activities are identical for every speech, different speeches serve different purposes. Although every speech is unique in its own way, public speeches are ordinarily place in one of four categories:

  • Informative
  • Demonstrative
  • Persuasive
  • Special Occasions

Informative Speeches

Informative speeches are simply speeches that are designed to relay information on a particular topic. The most common type of informative speech is a lecture and as a student you are likely to hear lectures very frequently.

An informative speech simply provides information. It isn’t designed to persuade an audience to think a particular way (a persuasive speech) or to be able to do something (a demonstration speech). An informative speech simply gives an audience certain information and leaves it up to them what to do with the information.

Demonstrative Speeches

A demonstrative speech is similar to a persuasive speech in that it communicates information, but its primary point is to tell people how to do something. For example, you might demonstrate how to perform a magic trick. This would include not only information related to doing to trick but also showing them how to do the trick.

Persuasive Speeches

A persuasive speech includes information related to a topic, but the purpose of the speech is more than providing information about a topic. In a persuasive speech, you are articulating your own opinion to the audience and trying to persuade them that your opinion is correct.

An effective persuasive public speech will communication not only your opinion to the audience but also why you hold the opinion. Namely, what evidence supports the opinion that you hold. When you communicate this information in the form of evidence, you will make it more likely that you will be able to convince your audience.

Aristotle, the “father” of modern public speaking, was a Greek philosopher who lived in the 4th century b.c. He identified three ways that a speaker can persuade his or her audience. In modern terms, these are articulated in the following ways.

  • Ethos. Ethos is the credibility and prestige that the speaker brings with him or her to the speech.
  • Logos. Logos is the information broken down into logical arguments that support the main point of the speech.
  • Pathos. Pathos is the emotions, feelings and gut reaction that the speaker is able to trigger in the audience.

Although the elements are separate, persuasive speakers must be able to succeed in each category.

Special Occasions Speeches

Although there is significant overlaps amongst the previous types of speeches, the final category is very unique and includes everything from “saying a few words” on a special occasion, to delivering a brief toast to making a thirty minute speech. You may be the main speaker at an event, asked to toast the bride or groom eulogizing a friend or family member, or presenting or accepting an award at a banquet.

Sometimes you may deliver a prepared speech and other times you may need to give an impromptu speech.

Although the type of special occasion speech will vary, it is very important to that you set an appropriate tone so that you create the mood that you want to create with the speech. Humor is important at a wedding banquet but not at a business meeting where you are preparing a presentation on financial matters.

Although most speakers at special occasions have adequate time to prepare in advance, sometimes you may be asked to make an impromptu speech at the occasion. If you think that you may be asked to give such a speech, you should consider in advance what you may say.

When you are asked to speak for a special occasion, you should remember that the focus of the speech should be the occasion itself and you should always focus your thoughts on that occasion.