Communication scholar at USC Annenberg

Syllabi

Public Speaking

Course Description

Public speaking—the act of performing speech to and before an audience—is a foundational life skill. Politics and culture are founded upon public speech, and the ability to effectively speak in public is crucial for success in any domain of society. But public speech is not merely about the content of one’s words, but the voice in which they are presented, and in which contexts. In this introductory public speaking course, students will both examine the established principles and cultivate the practices of effective verbal and nonverbal oral communication for a variety of professional and social contexts. This work will involve critically analyzing the dynamics between speaker and listener; performing research, as well as selecting and organizing materials, in preparation for public speaking; using various multimedia tools and sensory aids to bolster oral presentations; and most importantly, giving compelling, ethically-grounded speeches for a variety of purposes.

Learning Objectives

By the end of the course, students will:

  • Understand and clearly explain the communication concepts that underlie effective public speech;

  • Listen to speech more critically, developing the ability to analyze and evaluate the content and style of presentations by others;

  • Develop verbal, nonverbal, and research competencies, and demonstrate them in the preparation and delivery of presentations tailored to relevant audiences; and

  • Become a more confident, ethical speaker and a more active responsive listener, capable to asking sophisticated questions and providing thorough, articulate answers to questions.

Required Readings

Our primary course text (The Public Speaking Project. Public Speaking: The Virtual Text (PSVT). Available at: http://publicspeakingproject.org/psvirtualtext.html) is available freely online, and other texts will be provided for you on Blackboard; there are no texts that you are required to purchase. It is expected that you will come to each course meeting having thoroughly read the assigned reading and that you are ready with comments and questions to contribute to our group discussions.

Description and Assessment of Assignments

A Public Introduction: Speaking About Yourself (40 pts.)

This should be a brief, 60 – 90 second speech about yourself that introduces yourself to me and to your classmates, and that helps you feel more comfortable speaking in front of other people.

A Meetup Presentation: Informing Others (140 pts.)

This should be a 5 – 7 minute speech in which you inform your classmates about a topic you’re passionate about. We’re modeling these speeches on the type of presentation often given at Meetup sessions, in which a subject matter expert discusses their subject of expertise with an interested group of other professionals and hobbyists. The purpose of this speech is to (1) sharpen your research skills and (2) train you to speak with confident authority on factual matters. In addition to presenting your speech in class, you will be required to submit your speaking notes and references via Blackboard by the start of the class session in which you are speaking.

A Public Testimony: Persuading Others (140 pts.)

This should be a 5 – 7 minute speech in which you present an effective persuasive argument and refute potential counterarguments. We’re modeling these speeches on the types of public comment and testimony often allowed in local government proceedings. Your job is to request an action or achieve a change in opinion from your audience. In addition to presenting your speech in class, you will be required to submit your speaking notes and references via Blackboard by the start of the class session in which you are speaking.

Speech Beyond Speech: Employing Sensory Aids (180 pts.)

This should be a 5 – 7 minute speech in which you employ visual, audio, or other non-verbal resources. This assignment is less prescriptive than the others. You can choose to revisit the topic you spoke on for your Meetup presentation or public testimony (though you may not deliver the same exact speech) or you can choose to go in an entirely new direction; maybe you want to perform some kind of public demonstration, like a cooking demonstration, a beauty tutorial, or a product launch, or maybe you want to perform some kind of public analysis, like breaking down a sports play strategy visually or explaining a particular musical technique. It’s totally up to you (with prior approval). In addition to presenting your speech in class, you will be required to submit your speaking notes and references via Blackboard by the start of the class session in which you are speaking.

The 1st Annual Annenberg Awards: Speaking on Special Occasions (100 pts.)

Congratulations, you’ve been nominated! Now let’s hope your colleagues don’t butcher your introduction. This should be a 2 – 3 minute speech in which you formally celebrate someone else (and in turn, you will be celebrated, too). We’re modeling these speeches on the types of public recognitions given at awards ceremonies—think the Oscars Lifetime Achievement Award, the Nobel Prize, or the Presidential Medal of Freedom; how would you speak about a recipient before presenting them the prize? This is an opportunity to practice that kind of formal grandeur in a less formal environment.

A Press Conference: Speaking Under Pressure (40 pts.)

This in-class activity will put your public speaking to the test by making you respond to a group of journalists in a crisis situation. You’ll be given a crisis to manage, some time to prepare a statement on it, and then the floor is open for questions! They could throw anything at you, so you’ve gotta think quickly and speak with authority. Students who excel in this activity will be eligible for up to 10 points of extra credit.

Speech Reflections (25 pts. x 4)

After each of the first four speeches, you’ll submit a 250-word self-reflection about your performance. Each reflection should incorporate course concepts, assessing your strengths and places for improvement for next time.

TED Talk Analysis (40 pts.)

As part of our discussion on informative speechmaking, you’ll submit a 500-word analysis of a TED Talk of your choice, as long as it exceeds 10 minutes (select one from http://www.ted.com/talks). Your analysis should briefly summarize the argument made, critique the presentation using course concepts, and reflect on the effectiveness of the talk.

Intelligence^2 Debate Analysis (60 pts.)

As your midterm exam, you’ll submit a 750 – 1000-word analysis of an Intelligence^2 Debate (select one from https://www.intelligencesquaredus.org/debates). Again, your analysis should briefly summarize the arguments made, critique the speakers’ presentations using course concepts, and reflect on the effectiveness of each speaker. Your analysis should focus heavily on comparing and contrasting the different speakers’ styles and performances and why some work better than others.

Final Reflection (100 pts.)

As your final exam, you’ll submit a 750 – 1000-word self-reflection about the concepts you’ve learned and adopted in the course, the progress you’ve made, and where you have room for improvement moving forward. You should expand on what you’ve written in previous reflections, rather than just reiterate what you’ve already said. Evaluate your improvement throughout the entire course and how you wish to utilize all of the concepts learned in class. Think about future occasions where you will need to speak in front of others and how you will utilize what you’ve learned here for those situations.

In-Class Activities (60 pts.)

The main purpose of this course is for you to feel more confident speaking in front of others—even in situations you’re not entirely comfortable with. That’s why we’ll have a number of in-class speaking activities to help you practice in a safe environment. Sometimes these activities will be pre-planned and everyone will participate, and other times they will be chosen by the Jars of Chance, and only some will participate. But don’t worry—participation will be distributed equally. You should come to every session prepared to engage in these activities and to be kind, compassionate, and encouraging colleagues who provide honest and helpful feedback to one another.

Grading Scale

All course grades will be determined using the following scale:

A           95-100

A-          90-94

B+         87-89

B            83-86

B-          80-82

C+         77-79

C            73-76

C-          70-72

D+         67-69

D           63-66

D-          60-62

F            59 and below

Assignment Submission Policy

All assignment due dates and times are listed in the syllabus, either above in the “Description and Assessment of Assignments” section or below in the weekly breakdown of the course schedule. Written assignments should be uploaded to Turnitin on Blackboard, as directed. Late submissions—even mere minutes late—will not be accepted unless you can provide sufficient documentation of extenuating circumstances, such as a hospital visit, a death in the family, etc.

Additional Policies

Attendance policy

You are expected to attend each meeting of the course. While attendance is not formally a part of your course grade, participation is, and if you do not attend you cannot participate. You are also expected to arrive to the course meetings on time, which means that you are prepared to begin active participation in meeting activities at the official start time. If you are 20 or more minutes late, you will receive at most half participation points for the day.

Classroom comportment

You will be expected to engage in thoughtful and considerate discussion with your colleagues and instructor. Please be sure to engage in meaningful and constructive dialogue, and maintain a degree of mutual respect, willingness to listen, and tolerance of alternative perspectives and opinions. You will also be expected to communicate your opinions respectfully, with language appropriate to a collegial environment. Neither physical nor rhetorical violence will be tolerated at any point in time, inside or outside of the classroom.

Technology use

Laptops and tablets may be used during course meetings for note-taking purposes only. Rare exceptions will be made during specific activities or for the purposes of information verification in the context of group discussions. Mobile phones may not be used during class time, and they must be both put away and silenced. If technology becomes a distraction in the classroom during the semester, these privileges may be revoked.

Consultation

I am here to support your learning as best as I can. Please do not hesitate to visit me during office hours, email me, or set up a meeting. Common topics for consultations include clarification of course meeting and/or reading materials, help improving your writing, advice on study strategies, discussion of assignment grades, and clarifying course expectations. I strongly encourage you to utilize me as a resource to enhance your learning experience.

Email policy

You are welcome to email me about administrative or substantive questions you may have regarding the course. I will be happy to offer advice and/or clarification on these matters. However, before emailing me please make a diligent effort to find the answer yourself, whether that means consulting the course syllabus, checking the course Blackboard site, or reviewing your class notes. Questions that could easily be answered through one of those efforts will be answered with directions to do so. Although I generally respond to emails within a few hours, that is not always possible. If I do not respond within 24 hours, please email me again because something has gone wrong, either on your end or mine. Also, please note that I will not respond to emails between the hours of 9:00PM and 9:00AM, and weekend response times will be slower than on weekdays.   

Course Schedule: A Weekly Breakdown

Week 1: Introduction to Public Speaking

Section A: Introduction to Public Speaking and Public Speaking Competencies

Section B: Introduction to Public Speaking and Effective Listening

  • PSVT, Chapter 1: “Introduction to Public Speaking”

  • PSVT, Chapter 4: “Listening Effectively”

Week 2: A Public Introduction

Section A: Your Public Introductions

*** A PUBLIC INTRODUCTION SPEECHES IN CLASS ***

Section B: Informative Speaking and Choosing Research Topics

  • PSVT, Chapter 15: “Informative Speaking”                                                                        

Week 3: Introduction to Informative Speaking and Research Portfolios

Section A: NO CLASS

Section B: Creating a Research Portfolio

*** A PUBLIC INTRODUCTION SPEECH REFLECTION DUE ***

*** A MEETUP PRESENTATION TOPIC IDEA DUE BY END OF DAY ***

  • PSVT, Chapter 7: “Supporting Your Ideas”

  • PSVT, Chapter 8: “Organizing and Outlining”

Week 4: A Meetup Presentation Preparation

Section A: Performing Your Speech

  • PSVT, Chapter 11: “Speaking With Confidence” 

Section B: The Uses of Language

  • PSVT, Chapter 9: “Introductions and Conclusions”

  • PSVT, Chapter 10: “Using Language Well”

Week 5: A Meetup Presentation Preparation

Section A: Freeing Your Voice

*** TED TALK ANALYSIS DUE ***

  • Linklater, Kristin. 1976. Freeing the Natural Voice. London: Nick Hern Books. [“An Introduction: The Approach to Vocal Freedom,” “How the Voice Works,” “Why the Voice Does Not Work”] 

Section B: A Meetup Presentation Peer Review

*** A MEETUP PRESENTATION OUTLINES DUE ***

Week 6: A Meetup Presentation Week

Section A: A Meetup Presentation, Group A

Section B: A Meetup Presentation, Group B

Week 7: Introduction to Persuasive Speaking

Section A: NO CLASS

Section B: Introduction to Persuasive Speaking

*** A MEETUP PRESENTATION SPEECH REFLECTION DUE ***

  • PSVT, Chapter 16: “Persuasive Speaking”

  • PSVT, Chapter 6: “Critical Thinking

  • Almossawi, Ali. 2013. An Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments. Available at: https://bookofbadarguments.com.

Week 8: Knowing Your Audience and Telling Your Story

Section A: Audience Analysis and Gestural Activity

  • PSVT, Chapter 5: Audience Analysis

Section B: Storytelling for Impact

*** A PUBLIC TESTIMONY TOPIC IDEA DUE BY END OF DAY ***

Week 9: A Public Testimony Preparation

Section A: A Press Conference In-Class Activity

  • Go on YouTube and watch a number of press conferences. Pick ones from different domains—politics, sports, business, entertainment. Note what some do well and what others do poorly.

Section B: A Public Testimony Peer Review

*** A MEETUP PRESENTATION OUTLINES DUE *** 

Week 10: A Public Testimony Presentation Week

Section A: A Public Testimony Presentation, Group A

Section B: A Public Testimony Presentation, Group B

Week 11: Introduction to Speaking with Multimedia Aids

Section A: Introduction to Speaking with Multimedia Aids

  • PSVT, Chapter 13: “Visual Aids” 

Section B: Slideware and Speech Props

*** SPEECH BEYOND SPEECH TOPIC IDEA DUE BY END OF DAY ***

Week 12: Special Topics in Public Speaking

Section A: Public Speaking via Technology

Section B: Code-Switching and Public Speech

Week 13: Introduction to Speaking on Special Occasions

Section A: Speech Beyond Speech Peer Review

*** SPEECH BEYOND SPEECH OUTLINES DUE ***

Section B: Introduction to Speaking on Special Occasions

*** INTELLIGENCE2 DEBATE ANALYSIS DUE ***

  • PSVT, Chapter 17: “Special Occasion Speaking” 

Week 14

Section A: Speech Beyond Speech Presentation, Group A

Section B: Speech Beyond Speech Presentation, Group B

 Week 15

Section A: The 1st Annual Annenberg Awards Preparation and Course Evaluations

*** SPEECH BEYOND SPEECH REFLECTION DUE ***

Section B: The 1st Annual Annenberg Awards Presentation 

Exam Week

*** FINAL REFLECTION DUE ***

Thomas J BillardComment