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Video for delivery

Sound expert Julian Treasure delivers a great TED talk available for free at YouTube, “How to Speak so that People Want to Listen.”

While the full 10-minute video is fairly long for class, this one breaks down into three smaller segments which could be shown on their own for different topics.

  • The first part focuses on interpersonal issues — why are some approaches conversation killers?
  • The second portion focuses on characteristics of the voice — using the metaphor of a toolbox Treasure covers vocal qualities that a speaker wants to demonstrate and those to avoid.
  • The final (brief) portion covers warm-up exercises to practice before speaking. A demonstration of each exercise is given.

Either of the last two segments would be a great addition to the delivery topic in a public speaking class — either in class or as additional material available to students. The first segment also contains very good information, but would fit better in an interpersonal unit or related to audience adaptation than delivery.

Link to article (via Six Pixels of Separation blog)


The Importance of Nonverbal Communication

A well-researched series of slides about nonverbal communication shared by Alex Rister at Creating Communication. These could be used in class or made available to your students online.

Creating Communication


How do you work to grow your nonverbal communication skills?

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Video for interpersonal comm: EVT

This 2-minute video from ‘Seinfeld’ is a nice example of Judee Burgoon’s Expectancy Violation Theory. Aaron, the “close talker,” violates expectations about how close to stand while engaged in casual conversation. EVT explains that often these types of quirks become predictable and are seen as “normal” behaviors for different individuals so that the behavior would be missed if absent.

This clip is currently available for free at YouTube although it is not set to be embedded. There are other brief clips through the episode that would also be effective.

Example for interpersonal communication: EVT

Judee Burgoon’s Expectancy Violation Theory (EVT) is often covered in interpersonal communication textbooks but can be hard to explain to students. I used the following example:

First: Ask the students to imagine they are attending a lecture to be followed by a movie. Although the lecture is in a large hall, very few others are attending and there is no one there you know. Now imagine that the lecture ends and the movie is about to start. A man you have never met walks down the aisle past several empty rows and then sits down next to you. He then proceeds to talk through the whole movie, sometimes about the movie but also about other topics. What is your reaction?

Most likely students will talk about being annoyed or their space violated. We have an expectancy that people who do not know each other will not sit together unless they have to and that they let people listen without unnecessary interruption.

Well, this exact thing happened to my husband and he was not annoyed at all.

Read More…

In-class exercise for delivery

Bring in a videoclip that will not be familiar to students. Show the clip without sound. Ask the students to guess what kind of program it is — comedy? drama? What can they pick up about the action and the characters? What nonverbal clues are they using to inform their guesses?

I used an old German film for this, but the TV show “Firefly” (clips available for free at could also work as long as you exclude the (very few) students who may know the show.

This could also be adapted to a written assignment. Ask students to watch 10-minute segments of both a comedy and drama without sound and compare the nonverals — lighting, colors, postures, etc.

Adapted from Stephen Lucas instructor’s manual.

A written assignment for interpersonal comm: nonverbal

Photo courtesy of Simpsons Wiki


This is a very popular paper with students (and they are a lot of fun to read). It works best after the reading assignment or class discussion of nonverbal communication issues like environmental artifacts and territory.

Visit and observe both a fast-food and a “sit down” restaurant. Consider how space is used in each setting. For example, how much space is between tables? How comfortable is the seating? What kind of lighting and sounds are featured? What are the dominant colors in the space? What generalizations can you draw about how and why the fast-food and “sit down” restaurant are different? Choose one of the restaurants and identify a norm that would be inappropriate at the other type of restaurant. What would happen? How does the design of the building help to communicate these norms? Describe two ways these norms are communicated and enforced.

When I speak I put on a m…

When I speak I put on a mask. When I act, I am forced to take it off.

Helvetius, French philosopher

In-class activity for interpersonal communication: nonverbal

This is a version of the improv game called Silent Take. I save this for the end of the semester when the students know each other well and it consistently shows up on my evaluations as the students’ favorite activity.  It is a little complicated to explain, but here is how it works:

  • Break the students into small groups (2-3 is best). You will need an even number of groups — for example, a class of 20 is perfect because it breaks into 10 groups of 2. If you have an odd number of students, someone will have to go twice or you will have to jump in.
  • HALF of the groups get a slip of paper that describes a simple scene that can be acted out by 2-3 people, like a hypnotist relaxing a patient or chefs taping a cooking show. The other half of the groups do not get a scene.
  • Each group who got a scene will come to the front and briefly act it out. The catch is they MAY NOT USE WORDS when acting out the scene. I do encourage them to use gibberish (like blah, blahs) to give the other group some paralinguistic clues. This group never tells any of the other groups what they are doing.
  • After the group with the scene finishes, one of the other groups (those who did not get a scene) comes up and copies the actions from the prior group but ADD THE WORDS. They have to make their best guess of what the first group was doing.
  • After each set of scenes, ask what clues the second group relied on in order to guess the activity and ascertain whether they got it correct.

This takes some time (appx. 20 minutes with 20 students), but the students have a lot of fun with it and even those who are not exactly right will often be very close. It does a great job of illustrating how much information we get from nonverbal clues.

Note: YouTube has many examples of improv groups performing this activity (without the gibberish). Search for “Silent Take” if you want to see one.

Video for interpersonal communication: nonverbal

Episode description

Simpsons: Season 7, episode 14

This whole episode would be a nice example of nonverbal communication if you have the time. I use a clip from the first scene where Marge wears her new Chanel suit to the gas station. The people she meets there, from those who know her well to those who barely know her, treat her differently because of the clothes she is wearing. It is a nice  example of nonverbal communication through personal artifacts. I ask a student who has seen the episode to describe what happens in the end.

Photo courtesy of Simpsons Wiki

Videoclip for delivery

The Simpsons: Season 2, episode 2

In this episode, there is a brief clip where Homer is visiting a doctor about getting a hair-growth medication. When the doctor gives the price, Homer responds with “Forget you pal, thanks for nothing.” Right after that we see Homer telling his friends about the incident and repeating “Forget you pal, thanks for nothing!” Although the words are the same, the telling is very different. This is a great clip to illustrate why the voice is so important in speaking and how the voice loses these natural meaning cues when a speech is memorized or read.

I have also used this great clip to illustrate speech acts (whining versus bragging) and to teach the basics of transcription.