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May 16

Public Speaking Definitions

There are many different terms in the public speaking industry. Sometimes they are straight forward and easy to understand. Othertimes, a certain amount of head-scratching’s required. To reduce those times, I have compiled my own glossary. (Please note spelling’s are in English not American-English).

Ad-lib – spontaneous remark or comment said in the moment during a speech or presentation
Advanced Communicator Status – In Toastmasters International once the basic 10 speech modules of the Competent Communicator manual have been completed, a speaker can graduate to their first Advanced award. They must complete another 10 speeches which results in Advanced Communicator Bronze (ACB); another 10 is Advanced Communicator Silver with a final 10 being Advanced Communicator Gold.


Alliteration – Words which have the same sound or use the same first letter in a group of words. Used frequently in poetry. E.g.: deep dark ditch.
Analogy – When two ideas are compared that are alike in some ways, but different in other ways. For instance, “a body like a machine”.
Anecdote – a recounting of an amusing, often real life incident featuring real events or people.
Area Level – usually made up of a collection of clubs, for instance six. Can also refer to the second round of any Toastmasters International contest that comprises the winners of the previous Club round.
Aside – In the theatre, when an actor in character makes a comment or remark to the audience that is not to be heard by the other characters. They usually reveal their reveal feelings about a situation or character. In a presentation, this would be where the speaker would make a temporary departure from the main theme or topic.
Audience participation – this is where the audience are actively involved in the public speaking event rather than passively listening. An example could be a question and answer session.
Authors – people who write books, either online or offline, and who deliver talks and speeches in order to promote their work.
A/V – An Abbreviation for audiovisual equipment. This would include equipment such as overhead projectors (OHPs), C.D players, slide projectors, microphones, and so on.
Best Man Speech – a speech delivered by the Best Man at a wedding which usually involves recounting how he and the Groom were involved with humorous adventures and also how the the Groom is suited to the Bride.
Bits – usually attributed to stand-up comedy material. This is a short section of material on one topic area. See also, chunks.
Black Humour – humour that draws upon often risqué or dark topic areas, such as death. Highly unadvisable to use in a speech or presentation, can be used in a comedy club setting.
Blocking – a theatre expression that involves the positioning of the actors on the stage, so they know their entrances, exits and where they should be on the set. Also relates to the positioning of a speaker and their equipment as well as the speaker’s intended movements around the stage.
Blue Humour – also known as risqué or dirty humor Again deals with subjects inappropriate to speeches or presentation as they deal with subjects like sex and can use lots of profanity.
Bombing – also known as dying. This usually relates to comedy and means when jokes fails to get a laugh from an audience.
Bootcamp – a seminar that spans over three days, usually with longer hours per day.
Bride’s Speech – a speech delivered by the Bride at a wedding that pays tribute to her parents, expresses gratitude to her in-laws and celebrates her relationship with her husband.
Chunks – also known as a routine. A collection of bits that can be built into a larger theme.
Comic relief – also know as lite relief. This is the introduction of an amusing element  into a serious speech, or play, to temporarily relieve tension.
Coach – a person who can instruct, direct or train an individual, or a group, towards gaining a particular skill or achieving a goal.
Commencement Speech – this is a speech that is given to students who are graduating from University. The commencement is the ceremony in which diplomas are given to the students.
Competent Communicator (CC) – The basic level awarded to those people who have completed the first 10 speeches of the Competent Communicator manual at Toastmasters International.
Consultant – usually a self-employed professional who advises companies on specific areas of expertise such as communication, human resources or marketing. They are usually an expert in their field with a wide knowledge of the subject.
Club Level – the first round of any Toastmasters International contest that takes place in a Toastmasters club.
Competent Leader (CL) – The basic level awarded to those people who have completed the first 10 leadership modules of the Competent Leader manual at Toastmasters International.
Cordless microphone – this is a microphone that works by transmitting radio signals to a receiver. The receiver is connected to a public address (PA) system.
Corporate Comedian – a stand-up comedian that works clean and performs in the corporate marketplace. The term can also refer to a clean comedian that works in any other marketplace except comedy clubs.
Demo tape – this is a C.D., DVD or videotape that is used to promote speakers, comedians, voice over artists or film/TV actors. The term is left over from when audio cassette tapes and video tapes were the primary medium. See also showreel.
Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM) – The highest level awarded at Toastmasters International after having completed both the basic manuals (see above), all the Advanced Communicator Manuals (Bronze, Silver and Gold) and both the Advanced Leader Manuals (Silver and Gold).
District – a collection of Divisions for instance, in the U.K. the District is for the whole of the U.K. and Ireland. and is known as District 71. Also refers to the fourth round of any Toastmasters International contest that comprises the winners of the previous Division round.
Division – A Division is usually made up of a group of Areas. For instance, in England Division B is for the whole of London and is often referred to as the All-London final. Can also refer to the third round of any Toastmasters International contest that comprises the winners of the previous Area round.
Downstage – this is the part of the stage when you are the closest to the audience.
E-Book – a book that is delivered electronically (hence e-book), usually after signing up to a mailing list, and is frequently available via PDF.
Emcee – Also know as M.C., host or compere. M.C. is an abbreviation of the term Master of Ceremonies and is the person who introduces the evening and brings on the acts or speakers.
Eulogy – a speech delivered at a funeral the recounts and celebrates the life of the person who is deceased.
Father of the Bride Speech – delivered by the Father of the Bride at a wedding that focuses on how his daughter was when she younger, what she was like before she met her husband and what she is like now.
Flipchart – this is an easel that has large sheets of paper, usually bound or loose. Each sheet is then flipped over to write on the next.
Forensics – the term used to describe competitive public speaking in North America. The word “forensic” is an adjective meaning “of public debate or argument.”
Facilitator – is a person who can skilfully guide a group of people towards common objectives without taking a particular stance. The facilitator can also help the group come to a general consensus over any prior disagreements or any that come up during the discussion.
Groom’s Speech – delivered by the Groom at a wedding that thanks the Bride’s parents for the ceremony, that thanks everyone who was involved in organising the day and praises the Bride.
Handheld microphone – a microphone with or without a cord that is held in your hand at mouth level. It can in a microphone stand, as used by many comedians, or it can be mounted on a lectern.
Handout – this is a piece of promotional or educational material that can be handed out to audience members.
Handsfree microphone –  also known as a lavaliere or lapel mic. This is a corded or cordless microphone that can be attached to the presenter’s clothing. Frequently used by television presenters as well as speakers.
Heckler – an audience member who purposely makes abusive, or distracting, comments at the speaker or comedian. They frequently occur in a comedy club environment and are usually drunk and encouraged by their group of friends. They also occasionally appear in other speaking environments too.
Honorarium – this is a form of payment for speaker or other services usually associated with a charity function.
House lights – these are the lights that illuminate the audience.
Humorist – a person who either performs verbal humour or written humour. The term is often associated with people who don’t make you laugh out loud, but often create wry nods of approval. Can also refer to a comedian who works in the corporate marketplace.
Humorous Speech Contest – a contest that focuses on humour. However, the contest doesn’t always reflect the funniest speech. Here’s a link to the contest rules and criteria. The contest goes through the following rounds club, area, division, district.
Impostor – this is a speaker who pretends to be an expert in a certain pre-arranged field, but is in actual fact entertainment for the audience.
Improvisation – also impro or improv. Usually refers to purely spontaneous creation of material using pre-prepared formats. Example, Whose Line is it Anyway?
Inspirational Speaker – a professional speaker who delivers an encouraging message that uses stories that feature overcoming obstacles.
International Speech Contest – a contest that begins at club level in any country that has a Toastmasters clubs and ends at World Champion level in the U.S. The rounds are club, area, division, district, semi-final and final.
Introduction – this is usually a written opening statement to a present a speaker onto the stage.
Keynote – also known as a keynote address; a speech that last usually between 45-60 minutes that signals the key note or speech encompassing the overall them of a meeting or event.
Lectern – usually a wooden stand that has a top that slops from the top towards the speaker which allows them to deliver his or her programme.
Localization – Adapting the location details of a joke or story to make it applicable to a particular audience. Example: “I was in this City” vs. “I was in Manhatten.”
Maid of Honour Speech – a speech delivered by the Maid of Honour at a wedding which informs people about the Bride and how suitable she is for the Groom.
Master of Ceremonies – see M.C.
Meeting planner – the person who deals with the planning of a meeting’s logistics. This would include areas such as room layout, accommodation arrangements, meal, travel and occasional hiring of speakers.
Motivational Speaker – a professional speaker who is able to inspire and uplift their listeners usually delivered via a keynote. The motivational speaker is often energetic in nature in their attempt to move people to action.
Multimedia – the usage of different media, such as slides, music, movies and lighting, for the purpose of education or entertainment.
Off-the-cuff – see ad-lib.
Orator – this was originally the Latin term for a speaker, but is often associated with religious leaders, usually Christians, who deliver their sermons from the pulpit. They can also be referred to as Pulpit Orators.
P.A. – this is an abbreviation for public address system. This can also refer to Personal Assistant.
Personalization – Adapting the details of a joke or story to make it more personal. Example: “And the vicar said…” vs. “And Pope Benedict said…”
Planned Spontaneity – type of improivsation that has prepared chunks of material which get slightly changed and put in a different order on the night.
Plug – during a speech or presentation this is an informal advertisement of a product or service.
Pre-programme Questionnaire – this is a document that allows you to gather information prior to giving a speech with the purpose of adapting your material to that particular audience.
Presentation – when a public speaker presents information but has a means by which to show statistics, graphs, images, quotes and so on. Overhead Projectors (OHPs), PowerPoint or video, such Camtasia, can be used to convey this information.
Press kit – package that contains information like a one-sheet, headshot and quotes page that can be made available to press, speaking bureaus or other people who hire you.
Professional Speaker – a person who earns money as a public speaker.
Public Address System – This is equipment that is used to amplify sound for an audience.
Public domain – Material that is available for use to the public without the requirement of purchasing copyright.
Public Speaking – 1. the act of speaking in public. 2. the art of delivering a well-constructed speech in public.
Punchline – a reaction, sentence, sound or gesture that generates laughter. Using the old chicken joke the punchline would be “to get to the other side”.
Punchword – the operative word in a punchline that can help generate a laugh which often appears towards the end of the punchline itself. Example: Woody Allen’s joke; “I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work… I want to achieve it through not dying.” In this case “dying” is the punchword.
Q&A – this is an abbreviation of the term Question & Answer and it is the portion of a presentation or seminar that involves answering questions from the audience.
Rehearse – to go over and practise an act, such as speeches, music, acting, or comedy, which will be presented to an audience
Roast – the celebration of someone’s life or career usually using insult humour.
Routine – see Chunks.
Seminar – an event lasting an hour or more that comprises training by one or more speakers and trainers on given subject.
Set-up Line – the part of a joke that is, usually, not funny. An example from the old chicken joke again the set-up line would be “why did the chicken cross the road?”
Slide – sometimes used to refer to an OHP transparency, it is usually a 35mm transparency.
Stage left – when a person is stood on the stage this is their left.
Stage right – when a person is stood on the stage this is their right.
Speaking Bureau – (also speaking agency) an organisation that acquires work for speakers, presenters and, often, comedians.
Speaking Platform – an area where a public speaker addresses their audience
Stage Fright – the fear of being before an audience. Can affect speakers, comedians, actors, singers. There are various methods for helping conquer this fear including hypnosis.
Stage lights – These are lights that illuminate the stage area
Stage Time – the act of being in front of a group of people, usually in a speaking environment. The more experience of this leads to greater comfort in front of people. This can also help combat stage fright.
Street Jokes – a type of joke that gets told to you by someone in a location like a bar, or on the street, that doesn’t originate from a comedian or comedy show. For example: “A reporter was interviewing a 104 year-old woman: “And what do you think is the best thing about being 104?” the reporter asked. She replied: “No peer pressure.”
Table Topics – a part of a toastmasters meeting that involves a speaker being given topics in which they have no prior preparation and so must speak off the cuff.
Table Topics Contest – a contest that aims to find the best table topic speaker. An entertaining or funny speech often wins. The contest goes through the following rounds club, area, division, district.
Tagline, or Topper – essentially another punchline, or punchlines, that generates another laugh from the same set-up line.
Tall Tales – this is a type of story that involves larger than life characters. The story can be based on a real life event. The characters are either superhuman with a specific task or they are stories told with exaggeration and humour.
Tall Tales Contest – a contest that aims to find the best tall tale teller.
Teleseminar – a seminar conducted via phone or web conference service.
Testimonial – a statement which is usually written, but can also be audio or video and that can be solicited or unsolicited which praises a product or service.
Theatre-style seating – an arrangement of chairs in rows that face in one direction. Also referred to as lecture-style.
Toastmaster – 1. a person who is a member of the Toastmasters Guild and acts as the M.C. for an event, usually for a wedding. 2. a person who attends, or acts as the M.C. for a Toastmasters International meeting. See also the article Toastmasters vs. Toastmasters.
Toastmasters Contests – there are two contest season per year. Usually towards the beginning of the year you have the International Speech Contest and the Evaluation Contest. Towards the end of the year are the Humorous Speech Contest and the Table Topics Contest. The rounds of the contests are as follows: club, area, division and district. Only the International Speech contest has a further two rounds usually in the U.S.
Toastmasters International – a non-profit international organisation that helps foster communication and leadership skills amongst those who attend.
Trainers – are people who either work in-house for a company, usually in the H.R. department, or are hired from an external source. They provide education on different topics relevant to the workplace such as leadership, change management and diversity management.
Upstage – this is the area of the stage that is furthest away from the audience. This is also used when referring to someone stealing the focus of the audience from the main speaker.
Wings – the sides of a stage or platform that is hidden from the audience by a curtain.
Winging it – a colloquial expression for ad-libbing.
Workshop – in this context a workshop is a gathering of people or a training session which can vary in length from a few hours to a few days. They require the involvement of the participants and place emphasis on problem-solving skills or hands-on training.
World Champion Speaker – a person who has won the international speech contest

1 comment

2 pings

  1. James Feudo

    Wow, what a great list of definitions.

    James
    http://blog.jvf.com

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