The 18 Most Important Public Speaking Terms

May 25, 2023

10 min read

Public speaking is an art form that has the potential to captivate audiences and leave a lasting impact. Before you truly master this skill, it is important to familiarize yourself with certain terms and words that can enhance your speeches and make you a more impactful speaker. But what are the most important key terms in public speaking? What are the best persuasive devices to use in speeches? In this article, we will explore 18 lesser-known terms unique to public speaking, as well as the best rhetorical devices to use in your speeches (with examples) to create a memorable experience for your listeners.

1. Vocal Cadence: The Rhythmic Flow

Vocal cadence refers to the rhythm, pace, and flow of your voice when delivering a speech. By varying your vocal cadence, you can create a captivating and engaging experience for your audience. A well-controlled vocal cadence can add emphasis to key points, create suspense, and evoke emotions. What’s more, it adds rhythm, emphasis, and energy to your speech, keeping the listeners hooked and amplifying the emotional impact of your words.

2. Articulation: Clear and Precise Pronunciation

Articulation is the clarity and precision with which you pronounce your words. By focusing on articulation, you can ensure that your audience understands your message clearly. For instance, when delivering a scientific presentation, articulating complex terms and concepts with utmost clarity allows your audience to grasp the intricate details effortlessly.

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Articulating words with clarity and precision ensures that your message is understood effortlessly. Practicing with Yoodli will help you become a master of articulation.

3. Anaphora: Repetition for Reinforcement

Anaphora is the deliberate repetition of words or phrases at the beginning of successive sentences or clauses. This rhetorical device can be used to reinforce key ideas, create a sense of rhythm, and leave a lasting impression. For example, a powerful public speaker could use anaphora to call their audience to action: “We will fight for justice. We will fight for equality. We will fight for a brighter future.”

As you can see, this device reinforces key ideas, creates a rhythmic pattern, and emphasizes the importance of your message. Furthermore, it leaves a lasting impression, builds momentum, and amplifies the emotional connection with the audience.

4. Epiphora: Echoing for Emphasis

Epiphora, also known as epistrophe, is the opposite of anaphora. It involves the repetition of words or phrases at the end of successive sentences or clauses. Epiphora can also be a powerful tool to drive home your message and make your speech more memorable.

Example of epiphora: “Education is the key to success, the key to progress, and the key to unlocking our true potential.”

By echoing key phrases or words at the end of successive clauses or sentences, you reinforce your message, make it memorable, and highlight its significance.

5. Zeugma: The Art of Surprise

Zeugma is a figure of speech in which a word, usually a verb or an adjective, is applied to two or more nouns in a surprising or unexpected way. This literary device can add humor, create vivid imagery, and make your speech more memorable.

Example of zeugma: “He lost his keys and his temper.”

Here, the speaker surprises the audience by using a single word or phrase to modify or connect multiple parts of a sentence. It adds a touch of wit, creates a memorable moment, and also engages the listeners by challenging their expectations and prompting a moment of reflection.

6. Paralipsis: Saying by Not Saying

Paralipsis is a rhetorical device where the speaker draws attention to a point by pretending to pass over it. By bringing up something in a casual manner, you draw attention to it. It can be an effective way to address sensitive or controversial topics without directly stating them, adding depth as well as intrigue to your speech.

Example of paralipsis: “I won’t mention his controversial past; instead, let’s focus on the possibilities of a brighter future.”

Paralipsis allows you to address a sensitive topic indirectly. It catches your audience’s attention and enhances your persuasive abilities by alluding to something without explicitly stating it.

7. Chiasmus: The Art of Reversal

Next, chiasmus is a figure of speech in which the order of words or phrases in one clause is reversed in the following clause. This technique adds symmetry and balance to your speech, making it more pleasing to the ear and memorable for your audience. Consider John F. Kennedy’s famous quote: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” Chiasmus adds elegance, style, and keeps your audience interested in your speech. The contrast in the structure captivates the audience and highlights the wisdom or insight being conveyed.

8. Euphony: The Melody of Words

Euphony refers to pleasant sounds in speech or writing. By using words with sounds that are pleasing to the ear, you can create a more enjoyable and memorable experience for your listeners. Choose words that flow smoothly and harmoniously, adding an extra layer of appeal to your speech.

Example of euphony: “The gentle whisper of the wind, the soothing rustle of leaves, and the melodious chirping of birds created a symphony of serenity.”

By carefully selecting and arranging melodious language, you create an immersive experience for the audience. It evokes positive emotions, improves the overall delivery, and makes your speech more memorable.

9. Cacophony: The Power of Dissonance

Cacophony, on the other hand, refers to harsh or discordant sounds in speech or writing. Sometimes using pleasant language, euphony, will not get your point across. By strategically using cacophonous words or phrases, you can create a sense of tension, urgency, or chaos, which can be effective for showing strong emotions or building dramatic moments in your speech.

Example of cacophony: “The clash of thunder, the roaring storm, and the pounding rain created an atmosphere of chaos and uncertainty.”

Cacophony adds tension and drama to your speech, capturing the attention of the audience and creating a sense of urgency or anticipation.

10. Antithesis: The Power of Opposition

Antithesis is a rhetorical device that involves contrasting or juxtaposing two opposing ideas in a sentence or within a larger context. This technique can add depth, highlight contrasts, and create a sense of balance in your speech. It can be particularly effective in emphasizing the importance of a particular point or showing alternative perspectives. Consider this quote from Martin Luther King Jr.: “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” Here, Dr. King creates a sense of tension, draws attention to the importance of his argument, and helps the audience understand the significance of opposing perspectives. Antithesis encourages critical thinking and strengthens the impact of your message.

11. Hypophora: Posing Questions to Answer Them

Hypophora is a rhetorical technique in which the speaker asks a question and then proceeds to answer it. This can be a simple way to anticipate your audience’s curiosity and address it directly, creating a sense of dialogue and making your speech more interactive and thought-provoking.

Example of hypophora: “What can we do to bring about positive change? The answer lies in our collective actions, our commitment to social justice, and our unwavering determination.”

The speaker engages the audience, stimulates their curiosity, and allows you to address their unspoken queries. By answering questions right after they are asked, you can demonstrate your expertise, capture the attention of your audience members, and enhance the flow of your speech.

12. Metonymy: The Power of Association

Metonymy is a powerful figure of speech and a must-know public speaking term in which a word or phrase is used to represent something closely associated with it. By using metonymy, you can create vivid mental images and also evoke powerful emotions.

Example of metonymy: “The pen is mightier than the sword.”

In this case, “the pen” is used as a metonym for the power of writing, while “the sword” represents physical force or violence. The phrase suggests that the written word, symbolized by the pen, has a greater impact and influence on society than the use of military force or violence, symbolized by the sword. It implies that ideas, communication, and intellectual discourse have the ability to bring about significant and lasting change, shape opinions, and influence the course of history.

13. Eponym: Honoring Through Naming

An eponym is a word or phrase that is derived from the name of a person, usually someone famous or influential. By using eponyms in your speech, you can add depth, pay homage to historical figures, or invoke the qualities and characteristics associated with them. For instance, using “Newtonian” to describe a scientific approach or “Machiavellian” to describe political cunning.

14. Pathos: Stirring Emotions

Pathos is another one of the three rhetorical appeals, along with ethos and logos. It focuses on appealing to the emotions of the audience. By incorporating emotionally charged language and storytelling techniques, you can create a strong connection with your listeners, evoke empathy, and also make your speech more impactful and memorable. For example, a speaker could appeal to the emotions of the audience, fostering empathy and connecting on a deeper level by saying “Imagine a world where every child has access to quality education, where dreams are nurtured, and where hope becomes a reality.”

By using emotionally charged language, personal stories, and vivid descriptions, you can elicit a range of emotions such as joy, sadness, or inspiration. Pathos creates a lasting emotional impact as well as increases the audience’s engagement with your message.

15. Ethos: Establishing Credibility

Ethos is another rhetorical appeal that involves establishing credibility, trust, and authority as a speaker. By using words and phrases that showcase your expertise, experience, or values, you can further build rapport with your audience and make them more receptive to your message. This can be achieved through personal anecdotes, credentials, or references to reputable sources, for example.

Example of ethos: “As a medical professional with over 20 years of experience, I can assure you that this treatment plan has been proven effective and safe.”

By sharing relevant credentials, personal experiences, or expertise, you build confidence in your audience. Ethos enhances your persuasive abilities and strengthens your ability to influence and convince the listeners overall.

16. Logos: Appealing to Reason

Finally, logos is the third rhetorical appeal, which focuses on logical reasoning and evidence. By using logical arguments, facts, statistics, and examples, you can appeal to the rationality of your audience and further persuade them to see the validity of your viewpoint. What’s more, using precise and clear language can enhance the effectiveness of your logical appeals. Here’s an example of an appeal to logic: “Based on extensive research and empirical evidence, we can conclude that climate change is a pressing issue that requires urgent action.”

17. Kinesics: The Language of Body

Kinesics refers to the study of body language and non-verbal cues. As a speaker, your gestures, facial expressions, posture, and eye contact can significantly impact how your message is received. By being aware of your kinesics and using them intentionally, you can enhance your speech, reinforce key points, and establish a stronger connection with your audience.

Eye contact is one of the most important, yet often overlooked, aspects of body language for public speakers. Yoodi’s AI public speaking coach is a great tool for working on maintaining eye contact during a speech or presentation.

Eye contact is one of the most important terms in public speaking, and Yoodli can help you improve it.
Yoodli provides quantitative feedback on how well you maintain eye contact with your audience.

18. Alliteration: Creating Memorable Sound Patterns

Alliteration, our final important term for public speaking, involves the repetition of consonant sounds at the beginning of words in close proximity. It adds a musical quality, creates a memorable pattern, and, in addition, can be used to emphasize key words or phrases.

Example of alliteration: “Serenity swept through the serene summer scene.”

Alliteration enhances the rhythmic flow of your speech and makes it more enjoyable for the audience to listen to.

One Last Important Term for Public Speaking Success: Practice

“Practice makes perfect” is not only an example of alliteration, but the key to becoming an excellent public speaker. The most direct path to becoming a confident, impactful speaker involves hard work and diligent practice.

The Most Important Public Speaking Terms: In Summary

By incorporating these 18 unique terms and examples into your public speaking repertoire, you can elevate the impact of your speeches. Remember, this is not the final step on your public speaking journey. There are many more key terms to discover that are important for public speaking. Embrace the power of language, techniques, and effective communication to become an influential and impactful speaker.


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