On speeches and presentations

There is a fascinating article in The Guardian today about rhetoric, which is the art of making speeches and the art of argumentation. With the King’s Speech very likely to grab a couple of Oscars this weekend, rhetoric and the challenges of speaking in public come, once again, to the spotlight. In her article Mary Beard makes us remind the origins of rhetoric and raises issues of gender, ethics and authorship.

Regarding the proportions, some of the considerations she makes can be brought to the less lofty sphere of giving presentations. This is obvious a personal concern because I have to give presentations myself, but also because in every EAP course I teach this is one of the skills in which we try to train our students. We teach them the basics of speaking in public: the importance of controlling your voice, body language, engaging with the audience, dress code, use of visual aids, time management, etc. However, we hardly ever address issues of ethics or authorship, which in the academic context is closely connected to issues of plagiarism.

Perhaps we should also ask our students to reflect on a couple of other things as well.  How relevant to the academic community and the society as a whole is the topic you are presenting? What are the moral and social implications of the experiment you are reporting? What are the ethical concerns that your research has or should have addressed? How many of these words you are uttering are really the product of your reading and thought? Are you sure you are not just parroting what someone else said? People are absolutely scared of committing plagiarism in written form; are you being as careful to refer to other people’s ideas when you speak?

Just some food for thought… Read the whole article clicking on the link below.

What makes a great speech?

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