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Video for audience adaptation

The Bob Newhart Show has an excellent example of both a failure and a success in audience adaptation. “Tracy Grammar School, I’ll Lick You Yet”  (season 1, episode 2) features Career Day in a third-grade classroom. Several people are invited to speak, but the teacher declines to invite her husband, a psychologist, because she thinks he is unable to adapt his tone for children. When another speaker cancels, though, he is invited. The brief speech we see him give flops due to several factors, many outside his control. It bothers him and he asks to speak again, changing his approach and having success with the audience.

As a quick in-class example, I would suggest using the fireman’s speech and then Bob’s failed speech and talking about things that can go wrong in a speech and how to deal with them. Some things are in the speaker’s control — his opening questions are inappropriate to the age of the audience — but some things are not — the fireman was passing an ax around and it was distracting, he was the last speaker before lunch, a fire drill, etc.

Another use for this episode would be as a written assignment or longer group discussion in class. The entire episode could be assigned and then students asked to discuss all of the speakers and the things they did both right and wrong to prepare for their specific audience, including the role of the visual aids and questions they asked in advance.

The episode is available at Hulu, on sale at Amazon, and sometimes through On Demand on the Sundance Channel.


Visual aid for storytelling

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A Prezi prepared for Carmine Gallo’s new book, “The Storyteller’s Secret,” offers several great examples of the power of storytelling in various public speaking contexts.

This could be a nice addition at the start if you use a storytelling introductory speech, or later in the semester as part of the persuasion unit.

To incorporate an in-class activity, students could be asked before seeing the video to make a list of characteristics of a story and/or to name different contexts where people tell stories (speeches, dates, family gatherings, etc.).

After the video, a class discussion about how stories are used to transmit group values could be done. I like to use familiar stories like “The Wizard of Oz” or “Three Little Bears.” But I also share a few brief stories told on my first day at a former workplace (“and we all stayed all night and worked right through the blizzard…”) and a story my in-laws told when I first met them to ask what values they were intending to communicate.

Note that there is a brief ad for the book at the end of the video.

Link to Prezi

Video for supporting materials


Video for supporting materials

I Love Lucy: Season 5, episode 9

Early in this episode, Lucy and Ricky have a debate about whether their 3-year-old son should attend preschool. To support her position, Lucy quotes child-rearing expert Dr. Benjamin Spock. However, Ricky suspects she is not quoting accurately and catches her. This brings up several follow up questions:

  • Stop the clip right after the quote: Who has won the debate to this point?
  • What type of supporting material did Lucy bring in to support her point?
  • Finish the clip: NOW who has won? Why?
  • What was Lucy’s error? What problems might a speaker create by committing this type of error?

This leads nicely into why your supporting materials should be put to a test before you bring them into your speech.

Hulu currently (summer 2015) has the episode available for free. If hulu removes it, then it may be available…

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Video for source credibility


Image courtesy Simpsons Wiki

The Simpsons: Season 12, episode 6

Early in this episode of The Simpsons is a brief scene that is a wonderful illustration of the problem of trusting unknown Internet sources. Homer wants to create a web page, but is having trouble coming up with material. He decides to rely on an unfounded rumor that the Bart has heard. (This scene happens shortly after the tire crashes through the window.)

The rest of the episode has other illustrations of problems that can be caused by relying on Internet sources.

The episode is available for free with a cable or DirecTV account number at

Link to complete episode description

Video for organization

This clip from the film “Billy Madison” illustrates the need to be organized. When using it in class, I would start a few seconds into the clip when the Industrial Revolution question is asked and Billy answers (some other versions of the clip at YouTube start there, but this one has better sound). Although the audience reacts positively, the teacher’s response shows that Billy has, in fact, failed to accomplish the goal of the speech.

I would ask some follow-up questions after showing the video:

  • While confidence can be faked, the same cannot be said for preparation. What are the signs that Billy is not prepared for his presentation?
  • Does the audience enthusiasm translate to a successful presentation?
  • Why not?

Link to video

Video for persuasion (counterarguments)

Photo courtesy Simpsons Wiki

The Simpsons: Season 4, episode 17

Link to episode description

This episode features a sequence at a union meeting where Homer and his fellow employees are offered a new deal on their  contract that involves giving up their dental plan. Homer brings a stop to the deal because he recently found out that Lisa will need braces. This leads to some follow-up questions:

  • Why did Homer want to kill the new deal?
  • If Mr. Burns had anticipated that problem and said that the dental plan would remain for two more years, would Homer have reacted the same way?
  • If anyone has seen this episode, what happens?

This leads into a discussion of why it is important to also research the other side of the argument and be prepared to address their objections.

This is often cited as one of the best Simpson episodes — and deserves it. It is rich in terms of persuasive techniques attempted at various points in the impasse.

Video for visual aids

The Simpsons: Season 6, episode 14

Videoclip available here;
See episode description here

This Simpsons clip contains features yet another town meeting. The residents have gathered to hear the town’s plan to protect them as a comet is hurtling toward the town. It is a nice example of visual aids.

Some follow-up questions for students:

  • What two types of visual aids do we see used here?
  • Are they used effectively?
  • What function does each serve?

Video for reasoning

The Simpsons: Season 3, episode 4

Video available at SimpsonsWorld;
Link to episode description

In this video, reputed mobster Fat Tony Williams defends his questionable actions to Bart. Bart has taken a job with Fat Tony and had been asked to store a large quantity of cigarettes at his house. Bart later finds out that a truck of cigarettes has been stolen and asks Fat Tony about it.

This clip shows two types of reasoning — deductive and analogical — and at least three logical fallacies. The students can be asked to identify these. This videoclip is currently available for free at

Video for ethics or audience adaptation

The Simpsons: Season 20, episode 8

Link to episode description

Audience adaptation involves adjusting your message to reach your audience, but is not the same thing as telling an audience what it wants to hear. In this episode of “The Simpsons” is a scene where Lisa and Mr. Burns both make a persuasive appeal to the Springfield audience. Lisa’s impassioned plea to save the bees falls short when Mr. Burns manipulates the audience to achieve his goal.

Follow-up questions include: What more could Lisa have done to appeal to the audience? Did Mr. Burns break any ethical rules with his approach?

Videoclip for language

The Simpsons: Season 3, episode 23

In this episode, Lisa orders Homer subliminal tapes that are meant to help him lose weight with no effort. The tape supplier sends “vocabulary builder” tapes instead. Homer is discouraged that the tapes are not working, but they actually are.

One portion of the clip is now available here. It is a nice illustration of the difference between using language that is accurate and language that is clear.

Description of episode