The Four Basic Elements of the Speech-Making Process


Giving a speech can be an effective communication tool if the speech-making process includes the basic communication elements. Many communication theorists have outlined a process for developing a speech, and most have similar elements. In his book “The Process of Communication,” theorist David K. Berlo explains his four-element model, which includes source, message, channel and receiver.


The source of the information to be presented in a speech, the sociocultural context of the speech, is considered first in Berlo’s speechmaking process. The information can come from a company or organization, an institution, an industry or an individual. Communication skills and attitude toward the audience or receiver of the information are two of several items to be considered in the “sourcing” process. For example, making a speech to give company employees will differ in source from one that is given to disgruntled stockholders.


The message to be communicated will take in the ability of the audience to understand. A speechmaker would not deliver an English message to a German-speaking population, and it would be equally ineffective to deliver a message filled with technical terms to a lay audience. When defining the message to be delivered, the ability of the audience to understand and benefit from the information is a primary consideration.


After deciding the source and the message, a speechmaker will consider the channels that can be used successfully. A channel is the means by which a speechmaker will aid the audience in sensing (seeing, hearing or smelling) the information. A PowerPoint presentation is a popular channel in some company settings, but any demonstration or exhibition that can be combined effectively will lead to a more successful speech.


The last element, and the most important, is the receiver, without which there is no valid reason to make the speech. All elements of the speechmaking process consider the receiver to some extent, but a final consideration of the receiver brings all the elements together. There are several questions that can be asked in the final step: What does the receiver think of the source? What attitude does he have toward the message? Is the channel a useful medium in this instance?

Failed Speeches

Speeches succeed or fail for numerous reasons; some of them have less to do with the finished speech than with some minute social detail. For example, a union boss speaking to members about forgoing their salary and striking for “a union cause” may fail completely if he arrives at the site in a Mercedes Benz or a limousine. This failure could have been avoided by a better study of the receivers or audience. Minding the process and studying past speeches can improve the chance of success.

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