It used to be that the essential technologies for making a speech were the orator's voice and soapbox to stand upon. This legacy of formal speech in Western civilization goes back at least as far as the public forums in ancient Greece at the beginning of recorded history. In fact, the first subject taught in higher education back then was rhetoric, which, for the ancient Greeks, meant only oral presentation, since they didn't have PowerPoint, Spark, Prezi, Google Slides, or Keynote.
Notice in the previous paragraph how quickly the key term moved from speech to presentation. The title of this segment should actually be Making a Presentation, not Making a Speech, because now we so rarely think only in terms of just spoken words and not the entire scene — visual and sonic — of a formal presentation. In our digital age, spoken words remain the heart of the matter, just as they did in Ancient Greece, but there’s a lot more going on when it comes to reaching today's audiences.
Speeches and formal presentations are just as important today as they were in Ancient Greece, but the difference is that now our “sources” and “channels” for speeches vary much more widely and often include significant visual dimensions that work in concert with the verbal aspects of a presentation. Sure, you can still get up on a soapbox and deliver a speech — if you can find a wooden soapbox — but you’re much more likely to deliver a speech in front of a screen, and those presentations are now easy to capture and broadcast online to potentially enormous audiences.
Previous chapters discuss the radio (Chapter 6) and television (Chapter 5) as powerful media "channels" in the previous century, but the Internet has since become the most prominent "channel" for delivering a recorded speech. And, because the Internet is networked and multimedia, digitally delivered speeches are more accurately considered presentations, because they involve much more than just human voices.
We now have convenient devices for accessing presentations wherever we are and wherever we go, and we can choose from thousands of digital “channels” to listen to. TED Talks, Ignite Talks, and even downloads of university lectures in online courses have become a "thing," which means that these formats are familiar and available to most of us. Even so, we’re just as likely to listen to live presentations where we’re in the same place as the speaker.
Most importantly, for your purposes as a college student, you’ll increasingly need to deliver all kinds of presentations in school, which is direct preparation for the many presentations you’re likely to give throughout in your career after graduation. In other words, even though a digitally recorded TED Talk might seem like the most glamorous form of contemporary "speech," if you think about it, each of us gives dozens speeches in our lives as students and professionals. Creative Cloud can help make your live and recorded presentations successful, especially in terms of the visual elements and the "visual channel" of your presentation.
Producing speeches and presentations
The principles of effective oral presentations are similar to what they’ve always been, namely: speakers should understand their audience and topic as well as effective strategies for delivering a speech. A complete guide to effective oral communication is beyond the scope of Adobe Creative Cloud Across the Curriculum, but we can give you some helpful ideas about the visual aspects of an audio-visual presentation. When teaching oral communication today, one of the first concerns is avoiding what has become known as "Death by PowerPoint," which isn't an indictment about that software in particular as much as it is the way so many of us misuse presentation software in general. As a college student, how often do you listen to lectures with projected slides that aren't particularly engaging or helpful?
So, what is the DNA of a formal speech? What is its fundamental nature? When and why should you choose to share ideas that way? And, thus, how should you go about planning, making, editing, and delivering a speech using Creative Cloud? On the one hand, speeches have been used across history for so many different purposes, by so many different people, and in so many different contexts that it’s impossible to say what they really are and how they really work once and for all. On the other hand, speeches — as sales pitches, research presentations, TED Talks, or political addresses — tend to do some specific things better than other formats.
Think about the kinds of speeches, lectures, or presentations that you’d like to experience as an audience member. Sure, it's amusing to be entertained by a speaker, but, more than anything, an audience wants to be engaged, which means connected with the speaker and the topic. So, the answer to the rhetorical question in the title of this segment "Why Make a Speech?" is to connect an audience with a topic and a speaker.
As a speaker, you want to "move" your audience — you want them engaged. And one of the very best ways to engage your audience is to offer a rich visual track to complement the words you’re saying. We began this segment by referring to the Ancient Greeks, and earlier we made the point that the quality of the ideas and the words remain, even in the digital age, the most important dimension of an oral presentation. As you turn to the next segment, on the more practical aspects of using Creative Cloud to prepare a presentation, keep in mind that the research, ideas, and words remain the most important aspect of a presentation. Now, in the digital age, Creative Cloud makes it easier than ever to (1) engage your audience visually, (2) organize and present your ideas clearly and logically, and (3) discover and develop your thoughts in the first place.