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Teaching Persuasion in Public Speaking Podcast and Transcript

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Communication Corner Podcast

April 29, 2024

Transcript: 

Jennifer Foster:

Welcome to the Communication Corner, a McGraw Hill podcast for your communication discipline. I'm Jennifer Foster moderating today's session on teaching persuasion and public speaking. Today we would like to discuss what individual teachers and instructors have found helpful in teaching persuasion in our public speaking classes. Jeff, I'll have you start by introducing yourself and then we'll move to Connie and then we'll get into the discussion.

Jeff Fox:

Thank you, Jennifer. My name is Jeff Fox. I am the Associate Director of the School of Media and Communication at Northern Kentucky University and also full-time faculty, and I've been teaching here for 17 years.

Jennifer Foster:

Connie, how about yourself?

Connie Smothermon:

My name is Connie Smothermon. Over my about 40 year career, I have taught public speaking and persuasion in middle schools, high schools, undergraduate colleges and law schools, as well as to the law enforcement officers who testify in court. Happy to be here today.

Jennifer Foster:

Great, thank you. And I am Jennifer Foster, I'm the Core Curriculum Coordinator at the University of Central Oklahoma. I oversee our public speaking course and focus in on presentations, including teaching a class called Presentation Techniques where students work on presentations in the classroom, and have been teaching persuasion since we used to get resource material on VHS tape. So been a long time of using this material and trying to help students speak persuasively and to use those skills.

So Connie, my first question is for you, why do you think that teaching persuasion is important?

Connie Smothermon:

I think it's important because very little of what we do involves just giving information. Almost everything we talk about has some component of persuasion. We're persuading others all the time from important things like persuading your peers or your superiors at work to insignificant things like where to eat lunch, although that might be actually very important to some people, but everything we do I think includes persuasion.

Jennifer Foster:

Yeah, I think that that's very true, and we find ourselves being inundated with persuasive messages constantly. And so being able to teach persuasion both as a listener and a speaker is important. So Jeff, what are some key components of persuasive speaking that you try to emphasize in your classroom?

Jeff Fox:

So in addition to teaching persuasive public speaking, I also just teach psychology, a persuasion type class. And one of the big things that I focus on is that I want students to be critical consumers of information, and I want them to be able to recognize when they are being confronted with persuasive attempts, which is constantly, but I also want them to be ethical persuaders. And for me, some of the key components of persuasive speaking that I like to emphasize is that it's not always just about them. They have to think about who it is that they're trying to persuade. And a large part of the preparation process is learning about their audience, and learning who they are and their attitudes and their beliefs, and what information and what organization would work best for that particular audience. I don't want to skip ahead, but I like to tie in a little bit of, especially in the 100-level class, just some real basic theory, and then in the higher level classes put more in there.

Connie Smothermon:

It's funny you say that, Jeff, because when I heard Jennifer ask you that question, the first thing that popped into my mind was know your audience. You have to teach them that persuasion is not just about what they want to say, but about who they're trying to persuade, how the audience receives the message. So it was interesting that you and I came up with the same answer. Must be the right one.

Jeff Fox:

Yeah.

Jennifer Foster:

Absolutely. So Connie, you talk about that that was what popped into your head as well then. How do you have students then do that? If that's a key concept you're emphasizing having audience adaptation, what are some things that you do with your students to ensure that they're able to effectively do that?

Connie Smothermon:

Most of the time they know a little bit about the audience that they are speaking to or writing to, but if not, they've got to do some research to try to find that out. Not all audiences have members that are alike in every aspect, but certainly trying to figure out what there are some similarities about the audience members. Another thing I think that's really important in a audience analysis is making sure that you let the audience know context. You can't just start in the middle of something and expect them to follow you along. You have to start at the beginning. And if they don't know a lot about the topic, then there's going to have to be some information giving at the beginning before you even start with the persuasion. Context I think is extremely important.

Jennifer Foster:

Excellent. So Jeff, I know you have had the opportunity to work with lots of different instructors from many different universities or different backgrounds, and what do you find are some big hurdles or challenges facing instructors as they teach persuasion?

Jeff Fox:

I feel like one of the big challenges is students really struggle with reasoning and also being able to recognize fallacies. And I find that there are some classes that really put a lot of emphasis on creating solid arguments and some that are just barely skimming the top of it. So that is a big challenge that I'm finding. But one thing that I like to tell everybody, students, colleagues, is that... And colleagues should already know this, but persuasion isn't just arguments. There are all three of Aristotle's canons involved in it. So for me, when I do it, I try to make sure that there's a balance between the ethos, pathos, and logos, understanding that especially freshmen students sometimes struggle with the logos part of it. And I've experimented with different ways of teaching that, and I find that it still remains a challenge. So I would love to hear Connie's take on that too.

Connie Smothermon:

I certainly think that ethos, pathos, and logos are still an important basis of persuasion. I think we have to adapt some though, given currently we are all still recovering from being isolated during the pandemic. I think our students and maybe even educators are relearning how to communicate with one another. I know Jeff and Jennifer have both done a lot of online education. We all taught for two and a half years online, but it's not going away, we still do a lot of things online. And so trying to incorporate some of those things into technology. And technology has provided so many more opportunities for communication and persuasion. Social media and virtual meetings and chats and IMs, and the instructors has to teach the techniques I think across all of those mediums. And it really is a struggle because especially in maybe a basic class, you really have to focus on certain things. But I agree with Jeff, you have to hit all three of those because they all three have to be present for persuasion to take place.

Jennifer Foster:

I think that it's such an interesting component to what we teach in persuasion and in communication that this is something that's been around, like you said, Jeff, since Aristotle's inception of these techniques, but that they are still so current and important to how individuals and how our students view and are successful in persuasion currently. And so what's the balance? And Jeff, you alluded to this, that you have different maybe outlooks on the balance between theory of persuasion, logical fallacies, and practical speaking skills in your different courses. Can you share with us how you try to approach that balance?

Jeff Fox:

Yeah. So for me, what I try to do is I like elaboration likelihood model. I know some people will teach that, some people won't in the basic course, but I always like to cover that in some way, whether it be the 100 level or the advanced courses. And I like to get students thinking about how they themselves process persuasive messages, and I want them to put themselves in the shoes of the people being persuaded. And then as they're writing their persuasive messages, whether it be an actual argument that they're crafting or an emotional appeal or a story or even maybe the way they're building up their credibility, I want them to think about how are their audience members going to potentially process those messages. So what are their motivations and their abilities to do that? And then for me, I try to have them lean more or less on whichever method works better with that particular group.

So I have found for me with... I don't know if that answers your question perfectly, but with my experimenting with that balancing the theory and the practicality, I have found that that particular one seems to resonate well, at least with my students. They tend to understand the central and the peripheral processing pretty well, and they can use that to try and put themselves in the shoes of their audience members. And I found that has helped a little bit with them doing their own audience analysis.

Jennifer Foster:

Yeah, I think that balance is important for us and being able to, like you say, that audience analysis and recognizing what sort of practical skills come into it. In my personal class, I have spent a lot of time in preparation of the persuasive speech on informative speeches or special occasion speeches, having students give speeches in the classroom and learn the basic structure of that. And then I almost take a pause to talk about theory of persuasion and logical fallacies because it is different in the approach that a student has to take in the preparation of the body of the speech. How are they are going to successfully construct the speech in order to most effectively persuade their audience?

And so after having that discussion from a theoretical standpoint, then make students have a practical application of actually giving their persuasive speech. And I see the persuasive speech as really being a showcase of what they have learned that semester, being able to implement all of those skills into that speech. And so having the opportunity to implement both the practical side of it, but also use those theories of persuasion inside the speech. Connie, do you have any activities that you like to use with students when talking about either the theory or logical fallacies or the practical speaking skills when it comes to persuasion?

Connie Smothermon:

I certainly think that you can use some real world examples or real world scenarios that really gives them some of the ability to practice what it is that they are trying to do with the persuasion. The sort of piggybacking off on what Jeff said, making sure that they know how to be a good audience member and a good listener, because by practicing that, then you realize what it is that you might need as a speaker. I told you I teach law school, when I teach trial techniques, I make every student be a juror or be a judge because it's such a unique experience from the side of the recipient than it is from the person who's the speaker trying to make the persuasive argument.

Jeff Fox:

And Connie, just to add on to that, one thing I thought of, Jennifer, you had mentioned an activity, one thing that I have started doing is I like to show the Saturday Night Live skits of the presidential debates and have them analyze the fallacies. Because when I show the presidential debates, I don't want to get too political, so I feel like doing this Saturday Night Live version of them adds a little bit of humor and exasperates some of the fallacies. And I've found in the sections that I have done that the students have resonated with those fallacies more. And I've seen some of those light bulb moments where they're like, "Oh, that's what ad hominem is." Especially with the presidential election coming up this year, I will definitely probably be doing some of that this fall.

Connie Smothermon:

That's a great idea, Jeff. I know another thing that I do are I show them Super Bowl commercials and we get to talk about things from that as well. They find stuff like that really interesting.

Jennifer Foster:

Perfect. Those are great examples of things that we can use to make some of these logical fallacies seem less like theory and more as they are relevant to individuals. So when we're talking about teaching persuasion, it is important as instructors to keep in our forefront what effective use of persuasion really looks like. And for me, one of the ways that we can do that is to think about student presentations that have stood out. Connie, can you think of a student presentation or maybe just globally what a fantastic student presentation using persuasion would look like for you and why that would stand out?

Connie Smothermon:

The two that are absolutely my favorite I think have something in common. And that is that the speakers really cared about their topic. And I think that's something that we can tell students that whatever their topic is, either they're going to have to already have some very interest, some good interest or some passion in the topic, or do enough research where it becomes something that you can care about. I had one student who worked at the zoo and every speech he wanted to give that semester was about the zoo. He wanted to give his informative speech about the zoo. He wanted to give his special occasion speech about an activity that was happening at the zoo. He wanted to give his persuasive speech to persuade people to become zoo members.

I had another one that was the same thing with space, and I'm certain he is somewhere now just loving the fact that we have a lot of stuff going on with different things that are happening like the eclipse and other things that are happening in space. And so it's the passion, I think, that they... If they care about the topic, they don't have to be overly passionate, but they have to at least I think care about it, and that really comes through in their speaking.

Jeff Fox:

Those are great, Connie. From my experience, I've started in some of my sections doing service-learning components. So I did service-learning in my upper level persuasion class, but in the basic public speaking course, I've done a smaller version of it. But I have them for their persuasive speeches choose nonprofit organizations and they have to persuade the audience to donate to those. And I usually try to get some money from a grant that students can actually donate to a nonprofit. So I found the best speeches from my perspective are the ones, just like Connie said, where the students are invested in the topic, but they also see the tangible results of their efforts giving back to the community. So I always try to connect what they're doing with live results or real results, and I want them to choose topics that are meaningful to them. I'll never assign their topics to them. So for me, my favorite ones are the ones where I give them a little bit more freedom and let them just go with it.

Jennifer Foster:

Yeah. And I think that you both make really excellent points. That choice of topics is so important in being able to have a relevant and engaging persuasive speech because students do have to have credibility and buy-in to the topic itself. And Jeff, you talk about service-learning. From my persuasive speeches, I always do a transformative learning civic engagement topic and give them free-range under that big umbrella. But I want them to try to avoid topics where there's just passive agreement because it's harder as a speechmaker to give a speech where all you're asking for is the audience to bobble head along and go, "Great idea, love that," but to really have some buy-in from the audience. And so helping students choose topics that can be more engaging is a tip for helping students ultimately giving better persuasive speeches.

So Jeff, what are some strategies... We've talked a lot about the importance of adapting to our audiences. What are some strategies and practical things you're doing with your students to help teach them or to help them enable their ability to do that?

Jeff Fox:

So when first started teaching years ago, I wasn't as keen about teaching theory in the basic course. And as time has gone on, I have found that it's an important part of the way I teach the course. I don't want to call it theory light, but it is pretty much theory light. I like to just touch on things like social judgment theory, cognitive dissonance theory, elaboration likelihood model because I feel like it gives students perspective on the research that has been done to help us learn what we know and then they can apply it.

So I like to do a little bit of theory light, and then I have them apply that to what they're doing. So like with social judgment theory, I might have them take whatever their topic is and the stance that they have and that they're really trying to go after. And then I want them to apply that by doing a survey with the audience and they have to try and find out the anchor points of the different members of their audience and how big the latitudes of acceptance and rejection might be. And then I scaffold that in so they can then tailor that presentation to who's sitting right in front of them. So for me, I'm really pushing more toward applying things through the theoretical lens on a light level per se.

Jennifer Foster:

Absolutely. And I think that that's a important note for instructors, is that we don't have to do it all right, especially in a basic speech course or in a public speaking course where we're trying to teach to the masses that we want everyone to have exposure to public speaking and to experience persuasion, that we don't have to go deep on every topic to still expose students in a way that can make an impact on their learning experience and on their persuasive speeches.

One of the things that I do to help students recognize how to adapt to the audience is to have students all stand up and the left side of the room is extremely against a topic. The middle of the room is neutral, and all the way to the left side of the room is going to be that they are either extremely in favor, extremely opposed. So we have them on the two sides of the room. And then I'll make up a topic and try to convince students to move, to physically move themselves in the room to see if I can change anybody's mindset.

And then I have a conversation with students that my goal isn't to move someone from one side of the wall, extremely opposed, to all the way to the other side to be in extreme agreeance with the topic because that's unrealistic. But instead, how can I connect to individual people where they are on that spectrum of persuasion in order to move them to some sort of degree? And getting students up and moving is always, I think, an effective way to try to convince them or to talk about a particular topic.

Connie, I wanted to ask you about how you approach research in your classes, and does research for persuasive presentations need to be different than research or preparation for other types of speeches?

Connie Smothermon:

[inaudible 00:21:19] research is probably driven by the topic, how much research that you need to do. If you're doing something that's within your wheelhouse or your level of expertise, then maybe you don't have to do as much research. Some of these heavier topics that you and Jeff both were talking about as persuasive topics, that's going to take a fair amount of persuasion, I mean of research. No matter what the research is, if it's for a persuasive speech or for something else. I think ethics is going to be something that you have to teach along with research.

Jennifer Foster:

Jeff, do you see any type of research or the way that we use research changing or evolving, or have you done anything different recently or planning on doing anything differently as far as that goes?

Jeff Fox:

Oh lord, Jennifer, you just opened up that can of worms, didn't you?

Jennifer Foster:

You know I was going to.

Jeff Fox:

Going off of what Connie said, I think research is important, and I also think understanding from the elaboration likelihood model perspective, if you have more central versus peripheral processors in your audience can help you determine how deep you need to go. But we are battling artificial intelligence right now, and I'm noticing over the last year and especially the last semester, more students that are wanting to use artificial intelligence to write large chunks of their speech. So I think we need to start embracing that that's here and that it's not going away.

So what I'm trying to do or experimenting with is having students use artificial intelligence as like the modern way of Wikipedia. [inaudible 00:23:04] remember 10, 15, 20, whatever many years ago, Wikipedia, we were all, "Oh my God, it's the end of the world. Don't use it." I feel like we're in that boat with artificial intelligence, but I have students start there and then they have to triangulate. So they have to take what they find and they have to back it up or reaffirm it with three other well-vetted sources before they can use that information.

Now, am I controlling that perfectly? No, because sometimes it's very hard to tell when they're using AI, but it's something that exercises that I'm getting students to understand that sometimes the information that they research, and I'm using air quotes, from artificial intelligence is not really the best quality, and I want them to understand that it can be a good starting point, but that of their ethos in public speaking is their audience trusting the information they give and the quality of their information they give from quality sources. So I feel like that's a battle we're going to continue to fight and we're just going to have to learn different ways to embrace it.

Jennifer Foster:

Yes, I think that your analogy to Wikipedia is spot on. Trying to talk students into using this as a starting place and to use it as a tool and not the end all, be all is important. Another important thing in persuasion is our nonverbal communication. So a lot of what we have talked about so far deals with topic selection, audience adaptation, and the way that students are going to organize their speech. But another large component to it is nonverbal communication. So Connie, how do you find nonverbal communication plays into persuasion, and what are some things that you do to try to help students recognize this importance and utilize it in their speeches?

Connie Smothermon:

I think there are games that you can play with them just in class to emphasize the importance of nonverbal communication. I do try to let them know that, at least in my opinion, nonverbal communication is the most persuasive way that we do communicate. As an audience member or a recipient of any sort of message, you're listening to what someone's saying and you're looking at how they are presenting it. If you're having to decide what you're telling me, whether that is truthful or credible, then I've got to filter that.

Nonverbal communication, I can look at what you're doing, how you're saying it, whether you're looking me in the eye, whether you're crossing your arms, whether you're using any sort of vocal variety, which would indicate to me that you wrote this speech yourself and it's something that you care about. That nonverbal communication, we don't really have to filter it through much of a lens. We get to decide pretty quickly whether or not someone is believable or credible with their nonverbal communication. Just doing some in-class exercises or games that will allow them to do some things where you allow nonverbal communication, do some where you're not allowing nonverbal communication, and they really can, I think, see the difference.

Jennifer Foster:

Connie, you mentioned games. Can you give us some examples of some games that you play with your students?

Connie Smothermon:

I play with games a lot of times in a lot of different areas. There are some sort of serious games like the Harvard implicit bias exercises. Those are interesting for them to do and talk about with each other, but also just board games. There are some board games that you play with them. I have one that says... It's a board game called Don't Say Umm, and you have to explain whatever is on this card without saying umm. It's very difficult for them, so it's good for them to practice that and just realize how often they are using those fillers.

Jennifer Foster:

I love using games. I use the game Taboo to try to look at lots of different areas of the communication model because there's interference going on and they have to adapt to their audience. They've got to be able to communicate that message based off of the feedback that they're receiving. I think that those are great ideas to be able to use games in teaching persuasion or just teaching our students in general. Jeff, what role do you think non-verbal communication plays and how do you do that with your students?

Jeff Fox:

So I agree with Connie, it is very important and it doesn't matter what words you say if the way you say them does not match the tone, the demeanor that you intend. It creates confusion for your audience. So for me, the big thing that I emphasize, well, all the aspects of non-verbal and I like to do tongue twisters or have them read children's books, all of that stuff. But I'm really big... By the time we get to persuasion, I'm really big on eye contact. And one thing I've noticed more and more, and especially on online sections of public speaking is students like to read their speeches. I like to tell people that, "We're not reading a book to our audience, and you're not usually going to be successful of convincing your audience of your belief or your attitude or getting them to do what you want them if you're just reading a piece of paper to them."

So one of the things that I do is try to have them split up the different parts of their speech and practice doing it extemporaneously without relying on their notes. So that to me, I get harder as I go in the semester with my expectations for eye contact. But if you can't keep eye contact and engage your audience with eye contact, then I feel like you're already off to a bad start and not as likely to be successful with your persuasive attempts. Plus, I feel like vocal variety [inaudible 00:29:03] vocal enthusiasm. So if you're just up there saying, "I really want you to donate to Kitty Cafe in Oklahoma," your vocalics have to match your enthusiasm. It's almost like you need an Academy Award after you're done with your speech.

There is a little bit of acting or performance, I always like to tell students involved in presenting. No, they're not all theatrical actors or actresses, but there is a little bit of acting involved because you have to put that in to help get your audience excited about your topic. So non-verbals to me are a major part of the preparation.

Jennifer Foster:

Yeah. And Jeff, you mentioned how this plays out, especially in our online sections. Are there any parameters or requirements that you emphasize with those students as they're giving their persuasive speeches online that you're looking for in particular?

Jeff Fox:

I do different types of persuasive speeches online. One, they have to have a live audience face-to-face, the traditional one that some people like, some people don't like. And then I do one like a Zoom where they have to have a live Zoom audience and they have to show their panel. But either way, I tell them with the persuasive speeches, they have to keep solid eye contact. But one thing that I found and I try to emphasize is when they're doing it like in a Zoom setting, they tend to look at the screen below them instead of the camera. So that is also a challenge when people on the receiving end are like, "Are you looking at me?" But they think they are because they're looking at the squares or the different audience panel boxes below.

So I have been trying to use practice speeches and the speech portal that we use for submission allows them to do that, as well as a little bit of artificial intelligence to have students be able to go in and practice and see what it's like before they actually do the live or the real recording. Because as we all know, some students the first time they're doing their speech or the first time they're doing it is when they're presenting it for their grade. So they don't have those practice opportunities to go in and try and perfect those non-verbals.

Jennifer Foster:

So one of the things throughout this conversation that we've talked about mildly that I'd like to bring out, Jeff, is ethical consideration. So how do you find yourself teaching ethical considerations in persuasion? Because I think that we talk about being ethical speakers, for me really at the beginning of the semester, but it seems to be even more important as we're looking at persuasion. So what are some ways you're doing?

Jeff Fox:

The first thing I think of when I think of ethics and persuasion and public speaking is going back to this artificial intelligence topic. And one of the things that I'm currently really emphasizing is that the information that you are presenting is information that is legitimate, and that is information that you believe in, and that you're not just randomly finding information and then plugging it potentially out of context into your speech to make it work so you can get a grade for it. That's a big thing that I'm focusing on.

Also, with there being different types of audiences and audience members and everyone having different views, making students aware of their potential language use and that their idea or way of presenting something may come off as offensive to another group. And I don't believe that they should change who they are or what they believe in, but they need to be respectful of other people and understand that not everybody's going to see through that same frame of reference, and they need to be mindful of that.

So those are really the two big areas that I'm emphasizing right now, is that we're a whole variety of different people and we have to look outside of our own frame of reference and imagine how they're going to receive or perceive this information, but also that that information that I'm sending is information that I believe in, that I've well vetted it, and I'm not just plopping it and hoping that it'll stick.

Jennifer Foster:

Perfect. And because ethical considerations, it's that with great power comes great responsibility, that we have obligations to be ethical in our speechmaking because it is so powerful. Jeff, what are some tips and techniques that you give students when trying to help them create compelling introductions?

Jeff Fox:

So my first tip is it's 20% of your grade. No, I'm just kidding. Had to add a little bit of humor in there. No, so for a compelling introduction, I feel like one of the things that I get tired of, and I feel like a lot of students do, is they just like to start their speech with, "Today I'm going to tell you why you should donate to the Brighton Center." So one of the tips that I give is I want them to think of times that they've listened to other people speak and what grabbed their attention the most. Was it a startling fact or a quote or a story or just an action that they did or enacted that made them stand out?

I also feel like in introductions for persuasive speeches, I know we teach them to give clear preview statements, but at the same time, I also like to teach inoculation and forewarning. And I also like to tell them, "Don't give too specific of a preview with your persuasive speech introduction because you don't want to risk inoculation. So you can preview the organization per se, but don't start going into all of the arguments too soon." But my big thing, my big tip for them is thinking, for them, what gets their attention and thinking outside the box, because most speeches start off the same way and they're not that interesting.

Jennifer Foster:

Yeah, that's true. Being able to be unique in that introduction to grab audience's attention. And I also, I fight against trying to force students not to ask questions. I think that they've been taught for so long that a question is a good example of an attention getter, and I'm not sure that it's really the best technique, especially in persuasion. So trying to get them to find something outside of that. Connie, what are some ways that you help students develop their own persuasive speaking style so that they're still true to who they are, but are finding that advocacy voice that they might need?

Connie Smothermon:

I think one of the things that we can do is have them record themselves and then listen back, and they can really get a sense of are they sounding like what it is they want to sound like. Everyone is unique, and we're not wanting them to use radio announcer voices. We really want them to be who they are, to be more conversational. And how we sound when we're conversational really is different from each person. So pointing out, I think, during feedback, how the differences can be beneficial and can be advantageous. But I really like the thought of recording them, having them record themselves and then watch, because that's, I think, the best, best teacher for them in trying to demonstrate how they can come up with their own personality, I think.

Jennifer Foster:

Yeah, and I think that recording and have students watch themselves, even though it gives them such a cringe factor and they hate it, is important both in the preparation, but then afterwards being able to watch themselves and truly evaluate that. And Jeff, you talked about the platform that you use to upload speeches for your online classes, and I use that same platform even for my face-to-face classes as a way for students to upload a preparation speech and give that feedback. So even if I'm not going to be ultimately evaluating their speeches online, having that opportunity, as you said, for students to run through their speech before they actually come to class and give that speech can be such a valuable tool.

Jeff Fox:

Yes, and that-

Jennifer Foster:

Oh, sorry, [inaudible 00:37:20].

Jeff Fox:

I was going to say that platform and many others are starting to incorporate artificial intelligence into them. So students will be able to get some preparatory help and be able to see maybe some of the struggling points before they present their speech real time.

Jennifer Foster:

So that's one way that AI will be beneficial to us, even though some of us are pretty against at different times using it from a student perspective. As we wrap up, I'd like to give each of you the opportunity to maybe share your favorite activity or exercise that you do with students in preparation for their persuasive speeches, for them to give that big showcase speech. Connie, you want to give us your favorite one?

Connie Smothermon:

I don't know that I have a favorite, but I will tell you one that maybe we haven't talked about. And that really has to do with word choice. Word choices are so important in persuasive speaking. Is it bad? Is it horrible? Is it life-altering? And trying to do games that deal with synonyms and making them come up with speeches. One of the things I've done in the past is to give them a very short written speech and then have them take certain words and think of synonyms that would either make the speech more powerful, less powerful, and then have them discuss as to why. Word choice is so important and anything that will get them thinking about specific word choices that they make, I think will increase their ability to be persuasive.

Jennifer Foster:

Thank you. Jeff, what about you, one last strategy or activity that you use?

Jeff Fox:

So for me, I'll do an activity and what I like to do, going back to that speech where I want them to think of nonprofit, and I try to put them in groups for that speech, is I actually have some of the nonprofits come into the class and give their own informational presentations to the students so they can learn about the nonprofits, but also get that excitement. And so I try to involve them as much as I can in the issue that they are advocating for. And of course I want it to be something that they care about, but I feel like the more that they are in it [inaudible 00:39:39] immersed in it and working with the people that are experiencing it, the better those speeches are. So I know that [inaudible 00:39:45] easier said than done in some cases, but I feel like being able to immerse them in their topics is great.

And I'm also toying potentially with this idea of ungrading with public speaking, which could be an entire different podcast, but basically going through half of the term of the term working on the same speech and doing it many different times, adding in different layers to it. So those are where I'm at.

Jennifer Foster:

Thank you, Connie and Jeff, for being on the panel today and discussing how we can teach persuasion in public speaking classes. Hopefully you have learned a tool or a strategy that you can utilize in your next public speaking class, and we look forward to seeing you on our next episode of the Communication Corner.