Who is saying What to Whom

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					                           Who is saying What to Whom?

                                    By Joan Miller

Who is saying what to whom? Or more specifically…“Who is saying what to whom
with what medium with what effects?”

Quite the question…you are probably wondering where I’m going with this. Madame
Toastmaster, fellow toastmasters…..

This is the basis of public speaking….yes public speaking.

My purpose here today is to give you an overview of the history of public speaking
and in order to do that we need to define what public speaking is.

The Encyclopaedia Britannica defines public speaking as the process of speaking to a
group of people in a structured, deliberate manner intended to inform, influence, or
entertain the listeners. In public speaking, as in most forms of communication, there
are five basic components, often expressed as "who is saying what to whom using
what medium with what effects?"

That means we have an individual giving a message to an audience; they could be on
a stage, on tv, or here at toastmasters. That’s the medium. And they could be
informing or influencing or entertaining the audience (those are the effects).

How old is the art of public speaking? Public speaking is almost as ancient as speech
itself. It was well over 2500 years ago that the first known textbook on the subject
was written by a teacher by the name of Ptah-hotep. This book contained principles
inspired by the great orators in ancient Greece. These basic principles have undergone
modification over the centuries, yet have remained surprisingly uniform.

The word “Orator” is an originally a Latin word for speaker and comes from the
Latin verb oro, meaning "I speak" or "I pray". It also means someone who speaks
eloquently in public.

It was first recorded in the English language around the year 1374, and means "one
who pleads or argues for a cause," and has roots in the Anglo-French word “oratour”
and from the Latin “orator”. The modern meaning "public speaker" appeared around

Derivations of the word orator such as “oration” (or oratist) , were originally used for
prayer since around 1375. Oration now means (now being since the 1500s or so) any
formal speech, as on a ceremonial occasion and delivered in a dignified manner.
There is also the equivalent word "Rhetor" of Greek origin, hence the abstract noun

In ancient Rome, the art of speaking in public was especially cultivated by politicians
and lawyers. As the Greeks were still seen as the masters in this field, the leading
Roman families would often send their sons to Greece to study oration under a
famous master (as was the case with young Julius Caesar) or they would engage a
Greek teacher (who was under pay or as a slave).

In ancient Rome and Greece, “oratory” was studied as a component of rhetoric, more
specifically, as the composition and delivery of speeches, and was an important skill
in public and private life. Aristotle and others discussed oratory, and the subject had
definitive models and rules. An individual wasn’t considered to have had a "complete
education" during the Middle Ages and Renaissance unless they had mastered the art
of oration, although this mastery was generally confined to the clergy of the church.

In the opinion of one learned professional, a Dr. Necho, in his book The Short Essays
of Post Modern Rhetoric, “oratory suffered severely after the Latin power ascension.”
He felt that oratory had become merely “how to speak fluently” without any
content…because content would require critical thinking! I’m not sure if he was
putting the Romans down at that point or was bemoaning the decay of the spoken

The development of parliaments in the 18th century saw the rise of great political
orators; and the ability to wield words effectively became one of the chief tools of
politicians. (It still is, as a matter of fact, although you wouldn’t know it by all that
undignified pounding on the desks we see down in Ottawa!)

In the 19th century, orators and lecturers, such as Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, and
Col. Robert G. Ingersoll were major providers of popular entertainment.

By the mid 20th century, oratory became less grandiose and more conversational; for
example, the "fireside chats" of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Another individual widely regarded by historians as a master orator was Adolf Hitler.
His speeches would begin very slowly and gradually build up to an almost ecstatic
and frenzied climax that would drive the massive audiences berserk.

World War II , which was an historical moment where democratic ideals began to
take hold, there began a gradual disuse of the old Latin style of communication which
focused on formalism. The type of speech we hear today could be classified as
amplified conversation and is much more informal in nature.

I couldn’t find a lot of evidence historically of the fear of public speaking but I’m sure
it was there. This fear is called glossophobia (or, informally, "stage fright"). It is
believed to be the single most common phobia, affecting as much as 75% of the
population. Fear of public speaking is ranked even above that of death. As the
comedian Jerry Seinfeld observes, “the average person would rather be in the casket
than doing the eulogy!”

The next time you are composing a speech, think back to the great Greek scholars, to
the clergy of the churches and to the Roman politicians and lawyers and thank them
for their contributions to the art of public speaking. They were the contributors to the
five basic elements that compose the basis of our speech craft today!

Who is saying what to whom with what medium with what effects?
Madame Toastmaster…

Encyclopaedia Britannica
McGaw Hill Higher Education “Making a Difference; Public Speaking”

Manual assignment: Speaking to Inform, #5

Joan Miller is the past president of Bedstone Olympics Toastmasters and President of
the Year for Division C, District 42 (2005/06). Bedstone Olympics Toastmasters
meets Wednesday evenings at 7:30 pm in the Huntington Hills Community Centre in
NW Calgary, Alberta Canada. For more information please see

(May 18, 2007)

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