YourSidekick Role Responsibilities



The effectiveness of your outputting behavior depends on more than the worth of what you have to say.  Indeed, you may have creative and worthwhile ideas, but unless what you say is supported and worded properly, your message may have little effect on other transceivers.  Others may respond with a shrug of the shoulders that indicates they fail to understand or believe what you are saying.

The effectiveness of your speaking depends not only on what you say but also on how you say it.  Your nonverbal behavior can affect how other transceivers will respond to your message in a number of important ways.

Achieving the objectives of this unit not only will be of indispensable value in presenting public discussions and public speeches but also will be valuable in your everyday encounters with individuals who do not understand or believe your assertions.  First we will the verbal aspects of your transmission.  Then we will concentrate on the nonverbal aspects of your transmission. 

By the end of this unit, you should be able to                                                           

Construct an example of each form of support for assertions.

State the principles of wording a message.

Describe the effectiveness of your nonverbal outputting behavior, and construct a program to improve any areas of weakness you detect.


The verbal component of any message you construct will consist of assertions with appropriate supporting materials.  Any statement that you make is an assertion.  If others listen and respond to an assertion with complete understanding and agreement, that assertion needs no further support.  However, in a public communication situation some people in your audience will react to many of your assertions by either saying or thinking:  "I don't understand what you mean" or "I don't agree with your statement." To overcome this lack of understanding and acceptance you need to support assertions. 

We will discuss eight different types of supporting materials.  These are (1) illustrations, (2) specific instances, (3) testimony, (4) statistics, (5) analogies, (6) explanation, (7) restatement, and (8) visual aids.  Supporting materials can be used to clarify (increase audience understanding of an assertion) and/or to verify (increase audience acceptance of the assertion). Let us look at each of these types of supporting material in order to get a better grasp of what they are and how they can be used most effectively to support an assertion. 


An illustration supports an assertion by telling a story that answers the questions "Who was involved?" "What happened?"  "When did the event occur?" "Where did it occur?" and "Why did the event take place?"  In addition the illustration should include sufficient detail to allow the audience to visualize the event. 

Illustrations may be divided into factual illustrations and hypothetical illustrations.  Factual illustrations may be used to clarify and to verify.  Hypothetical illustrations are most useful in clarifying assertions and are rarely appropriate for verifying assertions.  Each of these kinds of illustrations must meet certain criteria to be effective in supporting assertions. 

When you use a factual illustration to support an assertion, the example must meet three criteria in order to be effective. The first of these criteria is that the illustration should be pointed.  This means that your example should directly illustrate the assertion.  If you assert that racial discrimination exists on your campus, then your factual illustration should deal with an actual case of racial discrimination that has occurred on your campus.  If instead of using such an example you told your audience about an example of racial discrimination in the hiring practices of local downtown merchants, then your factual illustration would not have been pointed.

Let us go to the second criterion for an effective factual illustration.  The illustration should be representative.   A student asserted in a speech that American-made automobiles are uneconomical.  He supported this assertion with a story about the expensiveness of his father's 1990 Cadillac Eldorado.  Obviously his illustration was ineffective because it was not representative of most of the possible illustrations related to the economic characteristics of American-made automobiles.

The third critical criterion that an effective factual illustration must meet is the illustration should be vivid imagery.  By vividness we mean that the audience is able to imagine actually seeing, tasting, smelling, feeling, and hearing the event as it occurs.  To make an illustration vivid, sufficient detail must be included so that the audience can actually "experience" the event. 

Notice the detail and thus the vividness of this factual illustration from a student's speech.  She makes the point that we process information in terms of our unique experience. 

Our own experiences really do limit the number of possibilities we can see in a situation.  This was brought home to me in the case of my father's recent illness. Starting around Christmas time this past year, Daddy began suffering intense headaches.  His first assumption was that his sinus condition was acting up.  But the pain did not respond to his sinus medication. His neck started aching too--headache plus neck ache must equal that new personal computer that was just installed in his office.  But new glasses, even trifocals, and a change in keyboard position didn't help. 

In February he still had the pain, and now he had started sleeping an inordinate amount, some times fifteen hours a day if not roused.  Whenever he sat down, he fell asleep; however, lying in a prone position did help the headache.  Yet when he awoke he was never rested. Everything, even the simplest task, became almost more effort than he was capable of. Perhaps a change of pace, getting away from the office, would help.  We all looked forward to March and spring break, but the drive to and from Galveston became an agony. All of the symptoms he felt he had felt before in varying degrees, but this time they didn't respond to any of the usual remedies.

In late March a magnetic imagining test revealed that he had no tumor, as we had begun to fear.  Fluid had accumulated in the cranium--a condition very rare in a man of his age and life style.  Surgery in early April drained the fluid, relieved the pressure, and restored Daddy's energy level. Why did it take so long to find the problem?  He was blinded by his former experiences:  ailments he had had before--sinus trouble, eye strain, arthritis.  He had had friends with tumors, so he was worried about cancer.  But no one in his acquaintance had ever had a fluid buildup.  It was a possibility that never occurred to him because it was completely out of his experience.

Let us now discuss the hypothetical illustration.  The hypothetical illustration is created by the speaker to clarify an assertion.  As such, it has not actually occurred.  However, even the hypothetical illustration must meet certain criteria.  First, it must be pointed or relevant to the assertion it supports.  Second, the hypothetical illustration must be realistic.  This means that it must seem as though the event described could actually have happened.  Of course, you should not mislead your audience into believing the event actually did occur.  But if the hypothetical illustration is completely incredible, your audience  will not be able to place itself into the event you are describing.  The final criterion the hypothetical illustration should meet is that it should  be vivid.  The criterion is the same as the vividness criterion for factual illustrations.

Specific Instances 

Specific instances are examples that lack detail.  The chief advantage the specific instance has over the illustration is that it takes less time to present.  However, because it does not help the  receiver to place him/herself in the situation, the specific instance does not clarify an assertion as well as the illustration unless the instance is well known to the audience.  Specific instances are especially useful in verifying an assertion because a number of specific instances can be presented in the same amount of time that one illustration is presented.   Look at the way one student used specific instances to support the assertion that the ecology movement had resulted in a waste of our energy resources: 

There are many examples of ecological positions which have later resulted in energy shortages.  The drive to reduce air pollution caused by automobiles greatly increased the amount of gasoline used while available supply shrank.  The drive to stop offshore oil drilling was at odds with the need to increase petroleum supplies.  The campaign to stop the laying of the Alaskan pipeline served to slow down the development of a great potential source of petroleum. Finally, the campaign against the construction of polluting electrical power plants further jeopardized efforts to create sufficient energy resources.

Peter MacDonald, Chairman of the Navajo Nation, used specific instances to support his assertion that American Indians should receive veterans benefits. 

We are, after all, not only American Indians but Indian Americans.  Sixteen-thousand Navajos are veterans of our wars.  When America needed a secret code to shorten the Second World War, we offered our language.  On the sands of Iwo Jima, and in the forests of Germany and the jungles of Viet Nam, we gave our lives.  Fifty percent of our Navajo families are families of veterans.  But we have no veterans benefits--no health care, no housing loans, no educational assistance.* 

*Peter MacDonald, "The Navajo Nation:  A New Spring," Vital Speeches of the Day, LIII (March 15, 1987), 342-344. 

The use of specific instances will be effective to the extent that the following criteria are  

1.  The specific instances are pointed; that is, they are relevant to the assertion they support.                                                                                    

2.  The specific instances used are representative of all the possible  instances which could have been used.                                                            

3.  The specific instances are numerically sufficient; that is, enough instances are cited to give the audience the impression  that the phenomenon occurring in the instances is widespread.                   

You will notice that the excerpts from the student's speech and Peter MacDonald's speech meet these criteria. 


The use of testimony to support an assertion involves a verbatim (word-for-word) quotation or paraphrase of another person's statements.  John Campbell, President of Oklahoma State University, describes the characteristics of a scholar by using both a word-for-word quotation and a paraphrase from a famous American thinker. 

Noted essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson speaks of the powerful creative energy that may be tapped in each thinking individual, which in turn advances the causes of humankind. In this famous essay, "The American Scholar," Emerson eloquently describes the self-imposed challenge which broadens, enobles, and enriches its adherents:  "The scholar is that man who must take up into himself all the ability of time, all the contributions of the past, all the hopes of the future.  He must be a university of knowledges."* 

*John R. Campbell, "In Quest of Excellence  . . . Commitments and Strategies for the Second Century."  Inaugural Address presented at Stillwater, Oklahoma.  April 13, 1989. 

Testimony may be used both to clarify and verify.  When you use testimony, the following criteria for effectiveness should be met: 

1.  The testimony should be well-documented.

2.  The testimony should be pointed.

3.  The testimony should be simple and easy to understand.

4.  The testimony should be from a relatively unbiased authority.

Let us look at a student's use of testimony to support the assertion that the best way to get world peace is to have a strong military.

The notion that detente and military strength are incompatible is basically false.  General A. J. Goodpaster, Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, made this point in a speech at the Washington Institute of Foreign Affairs, in Washington, DC, September 16, 1973, when he stated: 

"While [the Soviet leaders] are talking of detente and of negotiation, they are also maintaining and even building up their forces.  But this sort of policy is very difficult for our democracies.  Our people like to think that peace is the natural condition of man, that armies are temporary nuisances, and that conflicts of interest can be solved by a simple policy of goodwill.  Since this is a period of detente, an 'era of negotiation,' forces can be reduced.  But we must learn, and our people must learn, that in order to achieve a meaningful and enduring relaxation of tensions, we must maintain our capability for defense.  Detente without defense is a delusion--and an especially dangerous delusion at that."*

*General A. J. Goodpaster, "Detente and NATO," Vital Speeches of the Day, XXXX(October 15, 1973), 26.  Reprinted by permission of Vital Speeches of the Day. 

Compare the student's use of testimony with the criteria for effective use of testimony.  You should find that the student's use of testimony meets all of the criteria with one possible exception.  That exception is the criterion that the authority quoted should be relatively unbiased.  General Goodpaster's position in the military might distort his view of what the best course of action is in regard to building and maintaining military power. 

If the person we are quoting is not familiar to our audience, we must establish source credibility.  This is done by briefly identifying the person in a way that indicates his or her expertise.  Notice in this example that the student identified General Goodpaster by his position as Supreme Allied Commander in Europe.  Also, John Campbell identified Ralph Waldo Emerson as a noted essayist.  Furthermore, we identified John Campbell; he is the president of a university.


Statistics are useful in verifying an assertion.  They verify an assertion by showing how many instances support an assertion.  For example, if we asserted that a lot of college students earn a lot of money during summer vacation, statistics could be used to verify this statement.  The statistics would answer some or all of the following questions:  How many students earn a lot of money during the summer?  What proportion of college students earn a lot of money during the summer?  How many students earn more than $500 during the summer?  More than $2000?  More than $5000?

Statistics will be effective most often when they meet the following criteria:

1.  They should be relevant to the assertion they are to support.

2.  They should be clear and understandable to the audience.

3.  They should be vivid or striking or interesting to the audience; that is,  do not use statistics with which your audience is already familiar; do not us so many statistics that your audience becomes bored.

4.  They should be documented; that is, you should tell the audience who compiled them, how they were compiled, and/or when they were compile.

Take a look at the way George McGovern used statistics in a speech he made in the United States Senate on February 15, 1972.  Senator McGovern was supporting the assertion that drug abuse is a serious problem in the United States that necessitates federal programs:

All statistics on narcotics are questionable; but best current estimates--and they are admittedly understated--put the American drug addict population at about 350,000 persons. In New York City that may mean as many as 100,000 people.  In one District of Columbia neighborhood it translates into a constant heroin craving for one in three meals between the ages of 15 and 24. 

A heroin addict with a $35 daily habit, and that is probably well below the average, must somehow come up with that amount of cash each day, every day of his life.  In 98 percent of the cases he steals to pay the pusher, but because of high cost of fencing stolen goods he must steal as much as five times the value of his habit every day.  On an annual basis he must steal nearly $64,000 worth of property. Country-wide--using low estimates on both the number of addicts and the cost of their habits--that translates into about $4.4 billion in crime.* 

*George McGovern, "Toward an End to Drug Abuse," Vital Speeches of the Day, XXXVIII(March 15, 1972), 323-324.  Reprinted by permission of Vital Speeches of the Day. 

Evaluate McGovern's use of statistics using the four criteria listed above.  Which of the four criteria has he met and which has he failed to meet?  If you said McGovern met the first three criteria and failed to meet the last, chances are you have a good idea as to how statistics should be used.

How would you evaluate a student's use of statistics supporting the assertion that Americans are eating more healthfully? 

The nation's eating habits are changing.  According to the 1989 Statistical Abstract of the United States, the consumption of fresh fruit has risen 30% since 1970.  For example, in 1970, each person consumed 17.4 pounds of bananas; in 1987 we each consumed 24.9 pounds, an increase of 43%.  We are also eating more apples.  In 1970 we ate 16.2 pounds per capita annually; in 1987, the figure rose to 20.3 pounds.  Apple consumption is up 25%. 


An analogy is a comparison between two objects or events. This comparison helps the audience to understand or believe something about one of the events or objects based on its similarity to the other event or object. 

As a former Dean of Agriculture, a university president could make the following comparison with conviction. 

In scholarship, as in farming, the most fertile soil may be found under the fences, rather than at the center of long established fields.  For this reason, interdisciplinary research teams are emerging as the keys to finding solutions for tomorrow's problems.* 

This analogy helped support the point that innovations that break new ground are a high priority at the university. 

*John R. Campbell, "In Quest of Excellence  . . . Commitments and Strategies for the Second Century."  Inaugural Address presented at Stillwater, Oklahoma.  April 13, 1989. 

Analogies are often used to clarify an assertion.  When analogies are used to clarify, they should be both clear and vivid to your audience.  One additional criterion analogies should meet is that the events or objects being compared should be similar in all important respects. 

The criterion of similarity is applied more rigorously when the analogy is being used to verify than it is when the analogy is being used to clarify an assertion.  In using an analogy to clarify, we may compare two objects or events that are really quite dissimilar but have similar characteristics.  An example of this kind of analogy is provided in Victor Hugo's statement: "Greater than the tread of mighty armies is an idea whose time has come."  Also, Richard Voell used this kind of analogy to clarify the assertion that U.S. business has not lived up to the predictions made for it thirty years ago. 

But today, we not only don't dominate, we're getting our tail kicked by nations one-tenth our size.  In fact, we're a lot like Gulliver when he was tied down by Lilliputians in Swift's Gulliver's Travels.  We're still bigger and more powerful than our adversaries, but we can't seem to move or  exercise our power.  Our international competitors, many of them small and weak compared to us, are walking away with our technology, our jobs and our markets.* 

*Richard A. Voell, "Unbinding Gulliver," Vital Speeches of the Day, LIII (August 15, 1987), 661-665. 

When an analogy is used to verify an assertion, greater care must be taken to compare two objects or events that are very similar.  Thus, if we wanted to support the assertion that a new method of study is effective in terms of grades received, we would need to compare the effectiveness of the new method of study with the effectiveness of another method of study.  But to meet the similarity criterion our analogy would have to go further and show that such things as the following were similar in both situations: (1) the amount of time spent using each method; (2) the difficulty of the material studied with each method; (3) the difficulty of the exam given to people who had studied with each method; and (4) the intelligence of the people using each of the methods of study.  In general, we can say that the analogy is a relatively weak method of verifying an assertion because so many conditions may vary between the two objects or events being compared. 

Consider the use of analogy in the following situation. Samuel Lefrak posed this question:  What can a present-day President learn from President Roosevelt's failure to prepare Pearl Harbor against sneak attack?  He answered: 

The lesson of Pearl Harbor is clear:  Know your weakness and strengthen it. The most critical weakness of America today is not in Saigon, Peking, or Moscow.  Our weakness is in the heart of every major American city.  It is all around us here in Brooklyn; slums and deterioration . . . the American ghetto! In the heart of Brooklyn there is Bedford-Stuyvesant and Brownsville-East New York, more battered than Pearl Harbor . . . looks more like Berlin or Hiroshima after World War II.**  

**Samuel Lefrak, "Aerospace and the Housing Industries," Vital Speeches of the Day, XXXVIII(February 15, 1972), 274.  Reprinted by permission of Vital Speeches of the Day. 

Decide whether the comparison is being used to clarify or verify, and evaluate its effectiveness according to the criteria we have discussed.


Explanation is a simple, concise definition of an object, event, or concept.  This definition is accomplished by (1) showing the relationship between the object, event, or concept and its component parts, or (2) describing the object, event, or concept in terms the audience can understand more easily than the terms normally used to refer to the object, event, or concept. 

An example of the first type of definition is John H. Stura's explanation of insider trading. 

What is "insider trading"?  "Insider trading" refers to the buying or selling of securities by someone who has obtained nonpublic information that is likely to be important to a reasonable investor and who uses that information in breach of an obligation of trust or confidence.* 

*John H. Stura, "Illegal Insider Trading," Vital Speeches of the Day, LIII (April 15, 1987), 404-409. 

An example of the second type of definition can be found in Richard Voell's attempt to help his audience understand what a trillion dollars is. 

How much is a trillion?  If you put one trillion dollar bills end to end, they would stretch 1000 million miles. That's enough to go from the Earth to the Sun with 3.8 million miles, or $38 billion, to spare.** 

**Richard A. Voell, "Unbinding Gulliver," Vital Speeches of the Day, LIII (August 15, 1987), 661-665

Explanation is most useful in clarifying an assertion. Explanation helps to clarify assertions when the following criteria are met: 

1.  The explanation should be as clear and vivid as possible.

2.  The explanation should be as brief as possible.

The first of these criteria is especially important because explanations have a tendency to be uninteresting to audiences.  In the light of this fact it is important to keep the number of explanations you use in your presentation as small as possible.  The following excerpt from a speech on the future of the small farm illustrates effective use of explanation.  Note especially its clarity and brevity. 

Let me also indicate what I mean by the family farm.  I mean a farm on which the majority of the labor and the management decisions are made by the operator and his family. It might be a small unit with a low income or it might be a large one with a gross income of $100,000.*** 

***Don Paarlberg, "Future of the Family Farm," Vital Speeches of the Day, XXXVIII (February 1, 1972), 235.  Reprinted by permission of Vital Speeches of the Day.


Restatement consists of saying something you have already said.  Often it is expressed in different words.  Restatement can best be used to clarify an assertion, since the assertion may be placed in more familiar or more vivid language.  Furthermore, restatement of an assertion helps the audience to remember that assertion. 

In a technical sense, restatement does not help to verify an assertion, but repetition of an assertion often brings about greater acceptance of the assertion by the audience.  Phrases such as "Guns don't kill people; people kill people," "You've come a long way, baby," and "Be all that you can be in the Army" seem to gain much of their persuasive impact from the fact that they are often repeated. 

In essence, restatement should meet the following criteria:

1.  The restated assertion should be important enough to warrant specific attention by the audience.

2.  The restatement should be clear and vivid.

Peter MacDonald, in his speech to the Navajo Nation used restatement to stress the notion of oneness of family.

I am talking about how we can help each other:  that is the Navajo way.  The most efficient economic system ever created is the family.  And the Navajo family, the extended Navajo family, the clans has strength greater than the nuclear family. 

The Navajo Nation itself is the greatest family of all. We are bound together by blood and by history, by geography and by culture, by sovereignty and by tradition. 

--are we not all one people?
--are we not all one family?
--are we not all one nation?

That unity gives us strength; we must find ways to tap that strength.  We can do it if we build on the family and if we mobilize our own resources to address our problems.* 

*Peter MacDonald, "The Navajo Nation:  A New Spring," Vital Speeches of the Day, LIII (March 15, 1987), 342-344.

Visual Aids 

Although visual aids may at times be completely nonverbal, we will consider them along with the forms of verbal support.  We will do this because visual aids usually do include some words and thus are at least partially verbal.  Furthermore, effective visual aids help to clarify and/or verify assertions.  Several types of visual aids are available, but common principles govern their use. 


Some of the more popular kinds of visual aids are (1) actual objects, (2) models of objects, (3) charts and pictures, (4) overhead projections and slides, (5) videotapes and movies, and (6) flipcharts and chalkboards.  Each can be helpful, but each has its limitations. 

Often actual objects bring a sense of reality to presentations that is difficult to gain in other ways.  But if an actual object is small enough for a speaker to bring before an audience, it is probably too small to use for large audiences. Objects are useful only if they can be seen.  Generally, actual objects are most appropriate for small gatherings.  Models are used generally when the actual object is too large or too small to display as a visual aid. 

Charts and pictures are used commonly.  They can have high attention or interest value.  They range from drawings of diagrams, bar graphs, pie graphs, and maps to actual photographs that have been enlarged so all audience members can see them. 

Overhead projections and slides are very popular in the business community and at professional conferences.  They can help keep a presentation orderly and well organized.  However, a speaker needs to learn to operate these devices in an effective way if they are to help a  presentation.  The same can be said for videotapes and movies.  In addition, a videotape or film can take over and dominate a presentation rather than aid the presentation. 

Flipcharts with large sheets of paper that can be flipped over when a speaker is finished talking about something she has written are useful.  Flipcharts can be helpful if the audience is expected to take notes during the presentations.  However, the speaker must write legibly and maintain eye contact with the audience rather than the visual aid.  This takes practice.  The same is true for chalkboards.  In addition, the speaker needs to erase material once he has moved on to a new point.  The audience may continue to give attention to the board when it should be concentrating on the speaker. 


In order to use visual aids effectively the following principle should be followed:  visual aids should help to transmit the message and not detract from it.  Visual aids help to transmit messages by clarifying assertions that are either difficult to remember or difficult to comprehend.  Visual aids also help to prove assertions by strengthening the impact of evidence and reasoning.  Remember that good visual aids are just what the name says they are:  they must be visual (seen) and aid the presentation.  Let us examine both of these requirements. 

The object or image that is displayed must be visual.  First, the object must be large enough so that it can be seen by all members of the audience.  Second, it must not be too complex.  Too much visual information distracts from what the speaker is saying. Also, if the visual aid is too complex, the material on it will be too small to be seen by everyone, or the visual aid itself will be so large that it will be unwieldy to use.  Third, even if the visual aid is large enough to be seen and simple enough to be comprehended, still it must be positioned properly.  A visual aid blocked by the speaker, the podium, or members of the audience is ineffective.  To be effective a visual aid must be seen. 

 The object or image must aid the presentation.  First, it must be relevant to the understanding or acceptance of some assertion.  If the visual aid does not really fit what the speaker is saying, the visual material may compete with the speaker and cause a distraction.  Second, the visual aid must not be disruptive.  If a visual aid is displayed before the speaker talks about it or is left in view after she is finished talking about it, audience attention is likely to be drawn from the speaker.  By the same token, objects that are passed around the in the audience during a presentation are not aids, they are disruptions.  

Third, a visual aid that does not work properly will not aid a presentation.  An overhead projector that will not function, a poster that will not stand erect, a piece of equipment that will not operate distract the audience and frustrate the speaker.  A speaker must practice using the visual aid, anticipate problems that may occur, and make contingency plans.  To be effective a visual aid must help, not hinder, a presentation.


 You may have well-supported ideas arranged in a reasonable manner and still be ineffective in your verbal outputting.  To be effective you must word the message so that it is clear, psychologically valid, and appropriate. 


Your message tends to be clear when the words you use are specific rather than abstract and when ideas are separated from each other through the use of transitions.

The message we send is clear when the receiver's mental picture of an event is similar to the mental picture we had when we sent the message.  Use of specific words rather than more general or abstract words helps to ensure that both transceivers have similar mental pictures.

For example, if you say, "He was driving for some time at a high speed," your receivers will interpret the terms differently.  Depending on his experiences, a receiver may interpret "high speed" anywhere from 70 mph on up; "for some time" may range from a few minutes to days.  If you are more specific and say, "He was driving between 85 and 90 mph for a little over an hour," your receivers are more likely to evoke a mental picture similar to yours. 

In achieving clarity, a technique that is often valuable is to compare an object, concept, or event with a more familiar object, concept, or event.  For example, we might describe a dik dik by saying it looks very much like a miniature deer.  (This is a case of the analogy used for clarification; see "Analogy" in this unit.) 

We also help receivers understand our message by using transitions to separate one idea from another.  In writing we use paragraphs and centered headings to indicate that we are moving from one idea to the next.  Such devices are not available to us in speaking.  Rather we use both verbal and nonverbal transitions.  Nonverbal transitions will be dealt with in Unit 11.  

Verbal transitions include such phrases as "Let us move to the second reason," "Another point that must be made in this regard is .  .  . ," and single words such as "therefore," "secondly," "moreover," "furthermore," etc.  You should practice using verbal transitions as bridges between ideas. 

Psychological Validity 

Like clarity, psychological validity relates to what is evoked when words are used.  But where clarity refers to the similarity of the mental images created by transceivers, psychological validity refers to the feelings, mood, tone, or emotions evoked when words are used.  Not only is it important for a receiver to come up with a clear image of what the speaker has in mind, it is important for the receiver to experience the feelings the speaker associates with the subject under consideration. 

The use of imagery is a primary way of achieving psychological validity.  Imagery may be any one of the following types:  visual, auditory, tactile, gustatory, olfactory, organic, or kinesthetic.  

Visual imagery refers to anything that can be sensed through the eyes.  To help others visualize concepts, objects, or events, we describe them in concrete terms related to shape, size, movement, color, etc.  The speaker who personifies death as "that tall, bright angel" conveys a much different feeling about death than the speaker who describes death as a "stooped, satanic ogre who steals his prey under the cloak of darkness."  A college president painted a similar picture of "mediocrity":  "Mediocrity constantly prowls the borders of excellence, waiting for commitment to high goals and standards to falter."* 

*John R. Campbell, "In Quest of Excellence  . . . Commitments and Strategies for the Second Century."  Inaugural Address presented at Stillwater, Oklahoma.  April 13, 1989.

Auditory imagery is created by describing what we heard in a given situation.  Often we indicate the pitch, loudness, and/or intensity of auditory stimuli.  The speaker who says "It was a  quiet night" creates a mood different from the mood created by the speaker who says "The only sound I could hear was the pounding of my own heart and the quick gasps of my own breath." 

Tactile imagery can be created by describing something that comes in physical contact with the body.  Items that may be included in describing how something feels include texture, shape, weight, density, and temperature.  Compare, for instance, "His handshake was unenthusiastic" with "Shaking hands with him was like grasping a handful of unrefrigerated Jello." 

Gustatory imagery refers to the way something tastes.  We may say something is sweet, sour, bitter, salty, or spicy.  Another way we describe the taste of things is by comparing them with more familiar items.  When a speaker reports that the dessert was too sweet, she creates a feeling that differs from the one evoked by, "The dessert seemed to have honey piled on sugar and sugar heaped upon chocolate frosting." 

Olfactory imagery is created by appealing to the sense of smell.  Here again the comparison with more familiar odors is one of the chief means of describing olfactory stimuli.  Consider the mood created by referring to the smells of hot buttered toast, the yeasty aroma of fresh-baked cinnamon rolls, and the aromatic fragrance of freshly brewed coffee. 

Organic imagery refers to internal sensations experienced by individuals such as dizziness, nausea, feelings of well-being, etc.  When a speaker reports that everything in his head reeled round and round as he looked down from the skyscraper, he is using organic imagery. 

Kinesthetic imagery deals with the sensation of muscle movement and strain.  A speaker who described a fight in the following manner created within his audience the tension he had felt. 

As the two men squared off, each seemed tense and rigid. Each of them circled cautiously to the left.  Suddenly, there was a flashing of arms as each flailed at the other.  A final right to the jaw sent one of them reeling.  As he lay on the ground he made one last feeble effort to get up, but he could not.  He fell to the ground.  The winner stood straighter and relaxed. 


To be effective, your word choice must also be appropriate to your subject and purpose, the other transceivers in the communicative encounter, and the particular occasion. 

When perfecting the wording of a presentation, you want to word your message in a way that is consistent with its purpose. For instance, a statement like "We must immediately withdraw our financial support from the United Nations" would not be an appropriate central statement for a speech to inform on the merits of the UN. 

In terms of choosing words appropriate to the other transceivers in the communicative encounter, you will need to rely on your transceiver analysis profile (see Unit 6).  Of particular importance is the knowledge level of the other transceivers.  You want to avoid using terms unfamiliar to the other transceivers without providing sufficient explanation of terms.  At the same time you want to avoid using such simple terms that you insult the audience's intelligence. 

Finally in selecting appropriate words for your message you need to consider the occasion.  Words appropriate at a sporting event may not be appropriate at a commencement ceremony held in precisely the same physical location with many of the same transceivers present, even if the individuals are discussing school spirit in both cases.  In general, more formal occasions demand more formal language.


 Principles of Nonverbal Outputting in Public Communication

Three general principles of nonverbal behavior were presented in Unit 2.  These principles are as relevant to the public communication encounter as they are to the interpersonal communication encounter.  In public communication, however, there are two additional principles of nonverbal communication to consider.  We will discuss all five principles relevant to public communication. 


Although we would expect few public communicators to want to avoid communication, this principle is relevant for the public communicator.  The public speaker or discussant should realize that many nonverbal cues communicate unintentional messages to the audience.  The manner in which he walks to the speaker's stand, the way he listens to other speakers, and the way he dresses are just a few examples of nonverbal cues that may become unintended messages.  Careful attention should be paid to these nonverbal cues. 


The feeling tone of a message in a public communication situation is set through both the words used and through nonverbal outputting.  Albert Mehrabian has estimated that 7 per cent of the total feeling impact of a message stems from the words used, 38 per cent from vocal cues, and 55 per cent from facial expression.*  Unfortunately Mehrabian's studies did not involve cues of the body other than facial expression.  We would expect that gestures as well as bodily movement would play a large role in communicating the speaker's feelings. 

*Silent Messages (Belmont, Calif.:  Wadsworth Publishing Company, 1971), 43. 


This principle has many specific applications for the public communication situation.  Your audience is unlikely to believe that your are interested in and enthusiastic about your subject if you slouch over the speaker's stand and look sleepy.  Also, your audience is unlikely to believe that your are happy to have the opportunity to speak to them if your facial expression conveys sullenness and disgust.  Finally your audience is unlikely to believe you are confident in your proposal if your manner indicates that you are ill at ease and lack confidence.


Ideas in a speech or public discussion presentation can be emphasized either through vocal variety or through movement.  When you change your rate, pitch, or loudness, whatever you say is emphasized.  If you are speaking rather quietly and then change to speaking more loudly, the words uttered in the louder voice will be given more importance by your receivers.  Conversely, a change to a quieter delivery from a louder delivery will emphasize the words spoken in the quieter voice.  Similar effects can be achieved by changing from a low pitch to a high pitch, from a high pitch to a low pitch, from a rapid rate to a slow rate of speaking, and from a slow rate to a rapid rate of speaking.  Pauses may also be used to achieve emphasis.  Pauses tend to emphasize the point made immediately after pausing.

Emphasis can also be achieved through gesturing and movements of the body.  In the case of gesturing, the ideas being expressed at the time the gesture is made are given emphasis.  Movement from one position to another results in emphasizing the statements made immediately after moving.  Such movements of the body are often used to indicate that a new subdivision of the message is beginning.

There are two extremes to avoid in emphasis.  The first extreme is  underemphasis.  Some individuals with little or no public communication experience have a tendency to underemphasize the important points of their presentation.  The second extreme is overemphasis.  If you continually emphasize what you are saying, you are not allowing the really important point to stand out.


Most audiences do not like to feel as though they are being preached to or as though the speaker is trying to display the eloquence of her voice.  For this reason many people urge the public speaker or the participant in a public discussion to just be natural like the person is in most conversations.  To a point this is good advice.  The speaker should appear relaxed and comfortable.  The speaker should also speak so that she can be easily heard and yet not be overpowering.  However, the point that should be made is that the speaker's nonverbal cues must simulate conversation at its best.

Many minor faults that can be tolerated in informal conversation or even in a structured interview or private discussion become quite distracting in public discussion or public speaking.  Inadequate loudness, too rapid a  rate of speaking, poor articulation and pronunciation of words are just a few of these problems of nonverbal outputting that are much more serious when others have less opportunity to ask questions of clarification In addition, other transceivers in an informal conversation may know you well enough to know that you are concerned and interested despite an overly casual posture.  However, audience members may assume poor posture reflects an attitude of disinterest.

Vocal Cue

For the purpose of this discussion we will divide vocal cues or paralanguage into the following categories:  rate, pitch, loudness, quality, pronunciation, and fluency.


Rate refers to the speed with which you speak.  Rate varies according to such factors as your emotional state, the occasion, and the amount of time you have to transmit your message.  Possible problems with your rate of speech are that you may talk too rapidly, you may talk too slowly, or you may lack sufficient variety in your rate of speaking.  Too rapid a rate of speaking may make it impossible for your audience to comprehend your message.  A rate of speaking that is too slow may cause your audience to quit paying attention because of boredom or impatience.  A lack of variety in rate of speaking can also cause your audience to become bored.

Your rate of speaking is also determined by the number and length of pauses you use.  We already have mentioned that pauses can be used to emphasize either the idea immediately before the pause or the idea immediately following the pause.  In using pauses you should be careful to avoid filling pauses with meaningless vocalizations such as "ah," "er," and "uhm."  Some words are also used as vocalized pauses.  Three terms most frequently used as vocalized pauses are "well," "you know," and "okay."  To rid yourself of vocalized pauses you must become aware of your use of them.  To become aware of your vocalized pauses, ask a small group of friends to signal you each time they hear you using the vocalized pause.  Once you become aware of your use of vocalized pauses you will be able to eliminate them quickly. 


Pitch is defined as the highness or lowness of voice on the musical scale.  Everyone's voice has a range over which it can function comfortably.  Because a number of undesirable personality traits are associated with high voice pitch, whereas a low pitch is associated with positive personality characteristics, you should customarily speak in the lower half of your normal range. 

The most prevalent pitch problem is a lack of variety.  Many speakers tend to use the same pitch throughout their presentation of a message.  Such dull voices are often regarded as a sign of a lack of interest and enthusiasm on the part of the speaker. 


Loudness is the amount of force a person uses while speaking.  The amount of force is controlled by the diaphragm.  The more forcefully we push with this muscle that separates the chest cavity from the abdominal cavity, the louder we speak.

Some speakers talk so quietly that listeners either cannot hear them at all or must work so hard to hear them that they become fatigued.  Other speakers talk so loudly that the loudness calls attention to itself and distracts from the message.  Still other speakers fail to use any variety in loudness.  Such lack of variety results in monotony and underemphasis of important points. And some begin a sentence with adequate volume, but the speaker becomes inaudible by the end of the sentence.   These four basic problems of loudness often result from inexperience in public communication and from tension or anxiety concerning the communication situation.  


Quality or timbre sets a person's voice apart from other voices of the same pitch and volume.  Most voices are pleasing or displeasing because of differences in the size and shape of the pharynx and differences in the size of the mouth opening.  Our control over our vocal qualities is somewhat limited by the size and shape of these resonating cavities, but the quality of the voice can be modified. The best quality for any one person will be unique to him as an individual. 

This best quality is obtained from a proper balance between vocal and nasal resonance and a low degree of tension and breathiness.   Some of the more common types of poor voice quality are breathiness, thin and weak voices, nasality, and huskiness and harshness.  Problems in voice quality may be overcome under the guidance of a person who has been trained to deal with them. 


Pronunciation refers to the appropriateness and precision with which we articulate words.  Acceptable pronunciation is important in establishing credibility with other transceivers.  If your pronunciation departs so far from the norm established by your age group, geographic region, or social-cultural status that it calls attention to itself, many listeners are likely to question your competence.  A good guide to an acceptable pronunciation for most words is a recent dictionary.  Of course, the dictionary may not include deviations acceptable to your age group, geographic region, or your social-cultural group.

Pronunciations may be unacceptable because of (1) stressing the wrong syllable such as "a'.dult" for "a.dult'," (2) sound additions such as "drownd.ed" for "drowned," (3) sound omissions such as "li.ble" for "li.a.ble," (4) sound reversals such as "prevert" for "pervert," and (5) sound substitutions such as "git" for "get."  Sound substitutions can also be the product of the careless articulation of consonants such as "dese" for "these."


 Fluency is the smoothness with which we speak.  Fluency results from a successful combination of all the factors of voice we have discussed.  Whenever an individual's speech exhibits a combination of any of the following characteristics, we tend to perceive the speech as nonfluent: 

1.  Pauses are poorly placed or timed.

2.  Pitch, loudness, or rate changes are poorly placed or timed.

3.  A number of vocalized pauses occur. 

4.  A number of words are poorly articulated or mispronounced.

If your speech is nonfluent, it is probably because you lack experience in the particular communicative encounter in which your are participating or because you have not practiced transmitting your message a sufficient number of times.

Many of us are quite fluent in informal conversations because we have participated in many such  communication encounters and are totally familiar with the message we want to communicate.  Some of us, however, have not had sufficient opportunity to participate in public communication encounters and/or may not be very familiar with the topic of our message.  Considerable practice using a small group of friends for an audience will help us to become more fluent in the public communication encounter.

Bodily Cues

Let us consider four basic kinds of nonverbal cues of the body:  eye contact, facial expression, gestures, and movements of the body.


The importance of looking at the receivers of your message rests on two points.  First, you need to look at the audience in order to determine their reactions to your message.  Only if you monitor feedback can you use feedback to adjust your message to your audience and get the response you want.  The second reason for looking at your audience is that people usually consider a speaker to be more sincere and confident if she looks at her audience.  A speaker who fails to look at her audience is likely to cause her audience to think that she must have something to hide or that she is not really confident her ideas are worthwhile.

In establishing eye contact with your audience you need to be sure that you do not look at just one or two people in the audience.  You want to be sure that a person, regardless of where he is located in the audience, feels as though he has been communicated with.  However, you do not want to shift your gaze from one part of the audience to another so quickly that you really do not get an opportunity to establish eye contact with anyone.


 As we have already indicated, facial expression is one of the chief means the speaker has of communicating the feeling component of her message.  For this reason your face needs to be flexible enough so that your feelings can be communicated through it.  The problem some speakers have is that they fail to change their facial expression at any time throughout their speech or public discussion presentation.


Gestures can be defined as movements of the hands and arms that accompany spoken messages.  Most of us use a wide array of gestures when we communicate on an informal basis with a group of friends.  Although there may be a tendency to avoid using gestures in public communication situations, this tendency should and can be avoided.  With practice, gestures will come just as naturally in public communication as they do in interpersonal communication. This does not mean that gestures will occur naturally the first time you speak in public.  Before you present your speech or public discussion, you may have to force yourself to gesture while you are practicing.  If you have forced yourself to use your hands and arms during practice, you are likely to find yourself gesturing in a very natural manner during the presentation.

Good gestures are usually relaxed, definite, and properly timed.  Nervous movements such as arranging your hair or clothing, adjusting your glasses, or folding and unfolding note cards are not good gestures.  Gestures that aid communication and flow smoothly and easily are the result of practice and experience. Some speakers fail to follow through with their gestures.  These kinds of gestures seem weak and do not aid communication. Gestures should be made in full view of the audience.  Finally, gestures should be properly timed.  A gesture that occurs somewhat before or after the idea it is supposed to emphasize tends to be comic rather than helpful.  Gestures that are properly motivated- that is, are made because you are involved in the idea and want to communicate it to your audience--are usually well timed.

Movements of the Body

Occasionally the speaker will need to take a step or two or change his position or stance in order to indicate to his audience that he is moving from one topic to another or that he is coming to an important idea.  Rather than preplanning your exact movements prior to your presentation, you should try various movements during your practice sessions until your physical actions feel natural and flow smoothly.  Such practice will give you the flexibility you need to respond to your feelings while you are making the presentation before your audience.

Too much movement during your presentation is just as undesirable as no movement at all.  Continuous pacing back and forth or continuous shifting of position can call attention to itself and thus distract from your message.  Generally the amount of movement appropriate to your presentation depends on the nature of your message and the size of the audience.  If you are presenting a message that calls for considerable action from your audience you may need to use more movement than if your message asks your audience to give calm consideration to a problem area. If your audience is extremely large, more and larger movements may be required to indicate that you are moving to a new topic or beginning an important point.


There are three crucial steps in overcoming problems in nonverbal outputting.  The first of these steps is recognition of the problem.  The information provided in the previous sections of this unit, principles, vocal cues, and bodily cues, is designed to help you recognize your nonverbal outputting problems with the aid of your classmates and/or your instructor.  The second step in overcoming nonverbal outputting problems is practice.  The third step in overcoming nonverbal outputting problems is to deliver you message in a public communication situation without giving conscious attention to nonverbal outputting behaviors. 

The suggestions made in this section are for practice only.  During actual delivery of your message you need to let your voice and body react conversationally to the ideas you are thinking and feeling as you transmit your message to the audience.

There are a number of strategies you can use to work on nonverbal outputting problems during your practice sessions.  You may want to audiotape or videotape yourself.  This will allow you to study your own nonverbal outputting behavior more thoroughly. It might be especially interesting to compare an initial recording of yourself with a recording made after several practice sessions to note any improvements.  If only audiotape is available, you may need to practice in front of a mirror to work on bodily cues.  A second way of using your practice sessions is to have a small group of friends and/or classmates function as an audience and give you feedback concerning your progress on overcoming your nonverbal outputting problems.  You will also be able to get suggestions from your instructor concerning what you can do to improve your nonverbal outputting.

Often as a first step in dealing with nonverbal outputting problems it is better to read poetry or prose selections than to practice a presentation of your own.  Reading such material allows you to concentrate on your nonverbal outputting without worrying about what you will say next.  Of course you will have to pay enough attention to the material so that your voice can respond and communicate the appropriate emotion.  Reading poetry or prose also gives you the opportunity to use a greater variety in rate, pitch, and loudness than you ordinarily might use.  Selections of prose and poetry which are especially helpful in working on specific problems can be found in the books listed at the end of this unit.

Of course you should not limit your practice to reading prose and poetry.  You should practice the public presentation you will be making at least two or three times before you present your speech or public discussion.  Such practice will help you to be considerably more fluent without a substantial reduction in spontaneity.

You may find that initially in your practice you will have to exaggerate rate, pitch, and loudness changes in order to get an acceptable level of vocal variety.  In addition, if you are having difficulty in using gestures or bodily movement, you may need to use more gestures and/or movement than would be desirable in an actual public presentation.  Do not worry about exaggeration during practice.  Such exaggeration will help you get an appropriate degree of variety in a spontaneous manner during your public communication presentations.


You have met the objectives of this unit if you can                                                       

Construct an example of each form of support for assertions.

State the principles of wording a message.

Describe the effectiveness of your nonverbal outputting behavior, and construct a program to improve any areas of weakness you detect.

In this unit we have examined the verbal dimension of messages.  We have focused on how we support and word our messages. Forms of support are necessary for clarifying and/or verifying assertions.  There are eight forms of support.

You have met the objectives of this unit if you can

1.  Illustrations are stories.

A.  Factual illustrations may be used to clarify and verify.

B.  Hypothetical illustrations may be used to clarify.

C.  All illustrations should be pointed, representative, and vivid.

2.  Specific instances are examples that lack detail.

A.  Specific instances can verify assertions.

B.  Specific instances should be pointed, representative, and numerically sufficient.

3.  Testimonies are direct quotations or paraphrases of another's words.

A.  Testimony can be used both to clarify and verify.

B.  Testimony should be well-documented, pointed, easy to understand, and unbiased or balanced.

4.  Statistics involve numbers that show how man instances support an assertion.

A.  Statistics are used to verify assertions.

B.  Statistics should be relevant, understandable, interesting, and well- documented.

5.  Analogies are comparisons between two objects or events. 

A.  Literal analogies are used to both clarify and verify; the points of comparison must be alike in all important respects.

B.  Figurative analogies are used to clarify and they must be clear and vivid.

6.  Explanation is a simple, concise definition of an object, event, or concept.

A.  Explanation is used to clarify.

B.  Explanations should be clear, vivid, and  brief.

7.  Restatement consists of repeating something that has already been said in the same or similar words.

A.  Restatement is used to clarify.

B.  Restatement should be used only with important assertions and should be clear and vivid.

8.  Visual aids consist of information that the receiver inputs visually.

A.  Visual aids are used to clarify and/or verify.

B.  Visual aids should be visual: large enough to be seen, not too complex, and positioned properly.

C.  Visual aids should aid the presentation:  relevant, not disruptive (in sight only when in use, and rarely, if ever, passed among the audience during the speech), and in working order.     

Wording a message effectively requires clarity, psychological validity, and appropriateness.

1.  Clarity is achieved under two conditions:

A.  When we use specific, concrete words rather than abstract words, and

B.  When we use transitions to separate our ideas.

2.  Psychological validity is achieved when we select particular words that suggest feelings, mood, tone, or emotions such as the following:

A.  Visual imagery appeals to the sense of sight,

B.  Auditory imagery appeals to the sense of sound,

C.  Tactile imagery appeals to the sense of touch,

D.  Gustatory imagery appeals to the sense of taste,

E.  Olfactory imagery appeals to the sense of smell,

F.  Organic imagery appeals to internal sensations, and

G.  Kinesthetic imagery appeals to muscle movement and strain.

3.  Appropriateness is achieved when our word choice fits the following:                    

A.  Our subject and purpose, 

B.  The other transceivers in the communicative encounter, and

C.  The particular occasion. 

You will recall from Unit 2 that in speech communication the message is made up of both verbal and nonverbal cues.  In this unit we have discussed nonverbal outputting behaviors by subdividing these cues into vocal cues (the sounds that a receiver hears) and bodily cues (the sights that a receiver sees).

Nonverbal outputting cues are important in speech communication because they affect how we process the words that we have received.  Because we can be seen and heard, we constantly send messages whether we intend to or not.  It is through our nonverbal delivery that we let a receiver know how we feel about what we are saying.  When faced with an inconsistency between verbal and nonverbal cues, receivers will tend to believe the nonverbal cues.  In addition, it is primarily through nonverbal cues that we are able to emphasize ideas in spoken messages. Finally, receivers respond more favorably to delivery that simulates good conversation.

Vocal cues, sometimes referred to as paralanguage, includes such things as rate, the speed with which we speak; pitch, the highness or lowness of our voices; loudness, the amount of vocal force we use; quality, the timbre of our voices; pronunciation, the appropriateness and precision with which we articulate words; and fluency, the smoothness with which we speak.

Bodily cues include eye contact, where we direct our gaze while speaking, facial expression, facial changes we make while speaking, gestures, movements of the hands and arms, and movement, changes in physical location.

To be effective, our nonverbal outputting behaviors need to reinforce and complement our verbal message.  More effective nonverbal outputting can be achieved by doing the following three things:  (1) learning what our own particular nonverbal outputting problems are, (2) practicing in a somewhat exaggerated manner to overcome these problems, and (3) delivering the actual presentations without consciously thinking about our nonverbal outputting behaviors.









Table of Contents of this Unit:

Preview of the Unit

Unit Objective 01, Forms of Support

Unit Objective 02, Wording a Message

Unit Objective 03, Nonverbal Outputting Behavior and Program for Improvement

Review of the Unit

Communication Challenges

For Further Reading

End of the Unit