SPE_1The_Rhetorical_Situation

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					Middle Tennessee State University
Margaret H. Ordoubadian University Writing Center
at James E. Walker Library
LIB 362 • 904-8237

                                       SPE 1: The Rhetorical Situation

A speech is as much dependent upon context as it is upon content. Like any piece of
performed writing, a speech has its greatest effect when the speaker, audience, and message
are in harmony. The following is a set of guidelines for speakers to consider in a given
situation:

What to Consider
Situation: The situation is the specific context in which a speech is given. Generally, a
speech is created with a particular situation in mind and is intended for a particular
audience. Think about what audience(s) would be considered at the following examples:
                  A corporate board meeting
                  A political rally
                  An awards ceremony
                        o An introductory speech
                        o An acceptance speech
              There are, of course, several more examples. Think about what your situation
              entails: Who is your audience? Why are they there? Why is it that you are
              addressing them?

Rhetorical Situation: Rhetoric can be defined as the study of how messages in language
affect people. A rhetorical situation, then, is the set of circumstances in which people’s
understanding can be changed through (spoken) messages. Examples include:
                   A president speaking to a country in time of crisis
                   A coach addressing players in the midst of losing a game
                   A professor lecturing
              When you give a speech in class, your rhetorical situation is influenced by the
              audience and by the values its members hold—this is simply the reality of the
              situation. Take the opportunity to modify your audience’s beliefs and values
              by what you say. Use your opportunities and your constraints to achieve your
              purpose.

Purpose: The purpose is the broad goal of a speech; i.e., to inform, to persuade, or to
entertain. Keep your audience in mind at all times. David Zarefsky says that “you don’t
want to just give any speech, you want to give a good speech.” Knowing who comprises the
audience and having a specific idea about what they want to hear will aid greatly in
conveying your message. A good way to circumscribe your purpose is to simply form a
sentence using the phrase “To _______ my audience….” Examples:
                   To inform my audience of the history of polar bears.
                   To inform my audience of the dangers of playing with polar bears.
                   To persuade my audience that polar bears enjoy Coca-Cola™

Adapted from: Lucas, Stephen E. The Art of Public Speaking. 9th Ed. (Chapters 14-17) and
Zarefsky, David. Public Speaking: Strategies for Success. 4th ed. (Chapter 4:Choosing a Topic and Developing a Strategy)
Middle Tennessee State University
Margaret H. Ordoubadian University Writing Center
at James E. Walker Library
LIB 362 • 904-8237
                       To persuade my audience that polar bears are warmongering beasts bent
                        on world domination.
                     To thank polar bears for keeping the north pole company. (It’s lonely.)
                 Similar to an essay, which revolves around a thesis statement, your speech will
                 revolve around a purpose statement. Although these general purposes may
                 seem completely separate, they can often coexist in a single speech. Each of the
                 above purpose statements would produce a very different speech.
                 Furthermore, they also incorporate elements of more than one purpose—the
                 dangers of playing with polar bears, for instance, is a rather serious matter; but
                 the likelihood of one playing with a polar bear seems quite unlikely (thus,
                 humorous).




Adapted from: Lucas, Stephen E. The Art of Public Speaking. 9th Ed. (Chapters 14-17) and
Zarefsky, David. Public Speaking: Strategies for Success. 4th ed. (Chapter 4:Choosing a Topic and Developing a Strategy)

				
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