The task of a public speaker…

Rhetorica ad Herennium, Dr StoneDear Gaius

The task of the public speaker is to discuss, in a capable manner, matters that might be useful to other people, and to secure as far as possible the agreement of listeners.

There are three types of purposes for a speech: ceremonial, deliberative, and judicial. Ceremonial speech is devoted to specific occasions when the speaker needs to praise (or censure) some particular person. A deliberative speech involves a discussion of policy and embraces both persuasion and dissuasion. The judicial speech is based on the principles of legal argument, and presents the case for or against.

Now I shall explain what skills the speaker needs, and then I will demonstrate the proper means of adapting speech to specific purposes.

The speaker needs to have the following skills: invention, arrangement, style, memory and delivery.

  • Invention: means the ability to assemble content, both factual and plausible, in order to make a convincing case.
  • Arrangement: is the way in which the content of the speech is organised and arranged.
  • Style: is the choice of suitable words and sentences with which to express the content.
  • Memory: involves keeping in mind not only the content, but the words to be used, and the way in which they will be arranged.
  • Delivery: is the graceful regulation of voice, facial expression, and gesture.

All these skills can be acquired in three ways: theory, imitation, and practice. By theory, I mean by learning a set of rules that provide a definite method and system of speaking. Imitation allows us to attain, by studying the methods of others, effective methods of speaking. Practice involves us in both the practice and experience of speaking.

Now that I have shown you the types of speech that might be made, and the kinds of competencies a speaker should possess, I will now show you how speech can be adapted to suit the speaker’s purpose.



[Adaptation from Rhetorica ad Herennium, Book 1]
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