Friday, October 30, 2015

Questions About Relevance?

Good writing and speaking is always done with an audience and a purpose in mind. In order to make your speech really strong, you need to accomplish your purpose. However, not all audiences are as easy to convince depending on their positions, their points-of-view, their attitude towards the topic, their biases, etc. People's behaviors (including listening) are impacted by their beliefs, attitudes and values. Even more, we all have filters (gender, age, political affiliation, socio-economic background, birth-0rder) that impact how we view the world.

We must understand and use this knowledge to help us communicate our ideas with those who differ from us. Audience analysis and the relevance statements that these cause us to consider, are vitally important tools in communication.

Relevance allows the writer/speaker to tailor communication for a specific audience. It's one of the most important ideas behind writing a great speech.

When we learned relevance in class, I had you toss an imaginary lasso around different sections of the audience. Remember? That is an example of what you should accomplish with good relevance. The relevance that you give should really LASSO that group in the audience to care about the topic. But it doesn't happen without you as a speaker. You must consider what it will take to capture/lasso their attention. Tell them why this topic is important to them. Tell them how this impacts their life. It's really easier than it seems. It requires you to think about how someone else might view a topic. REMEMBER, YOU NEED TO GIVE RELEVANCE TO MANY DIFFERENT GROUPS WITH DIFFERENT VALUES. That's why we're practicing having you speak to different audiences in the Opinion/Conviction Speech.


A Definition of RELEVANCE from Merriam Webster Dictionary

Main Entry: noun1 a : relation to the matter at hand b : practical and especially social applicability : PERTINENCE 2 : the ability (as of an information retrieval system) to retrieve material that satisfies the needs of the user.


Relevance in writing and speeches is/are the reason(s) we tell the audience that it is important for them to listen to the speech. In the opinion speech you know that you have six different groups in your audience:

FOR AN OPINION SPEECH TOPIC ON LEWIS CENTRAL you will be talking to students, parents, teachers, administrators, school board members & patrons/citizens of the community.

FOR A COUNCIL BLUFFS TOPIC you will be talking to students, parents, teachers, city council members, the mayor and other citizens of our community.

IN ANY SPEECH you need to figure out who your audience is and give us a reason to listen to the speech. So, before you begin the "Body" of the speech, you take a moment to give the audience reasons to listen.

To really build some good relevance for the audience, one neeeds to figure out how the topic impacts each of the audience member's reasons for listening. So, what makes people listen? You tie the topic, ideas and impact of your speech to that specific audience.

Ask yourself the questions: what does this sub-group value? how can I get them to care about this topic? how does this topic impact his/her daily life?

Once you've done this, you are ready to give them "lists" of reasons to listen.


In a speech on school lunch the different audiences may have different values to consider. Teachers want their students to be fed so that they can learn. Different foods really produce different results. Protein is good. Carbs are not so good. Parents want their students to be fed healthy lunches and have an investment in long term health. Students want food that tastes good and fills them up. Citizens want schools that they can be proud to call their own? Adminstrators and school board members are also concerned with cost as associated with the product. Many of the audiences share points of view with each other. Using this audience analysis will offer us the opportunity to address these various concerns in our speech.

A relevance statement for this speech might be: School lunch is not just providing students meals and a break at school. School lunch is fuel that allows students to learn. As an edcuational institution we need to make sure that we are providing students food choices that "teach" a healthy lifestyle, that maintain student health, that provide students the best fuel possible to learn. We all need to be concerned with this topic because it affects the children of our school's parents, their ability to learn and their long-term eating and health patterns.

More about RELEVANCE for Advanced Students

To understand how relevance works, you need to figure out what people need.

Instrinsic vs. Extrinsic Motivation &
Positive vs. Negative Reasons to Become Motivated

Instrinsic motivation basically means motivation that is internally driven. You do something because you want to, your driven to and you are doing it for your own personal satisfaction. Doing something because it is the right thing to do based on beliefs, attitudes and values is important. Most agree that intrinsic motivation is more difficult to coach but that it yields much greater results.

Extrinsic motivation basically means motivation that is driven by external reward or something that you get that is tangible: money, recognition, power, etc. People are extrinsically motivated to get something.

Positive motivation means moving towards a goal.

Negative motivation means moving away from a goal.

Maslow's Heirarchy of Needs
Abraham Maslow believed that people had many basic needs: physiological needs (food, drink, shelter); safety & security needs (they want to make sure that they continue to have what they need to sustain life and that they and their loved ones are safe and security); love & belongingness (everyone wants to be loved and to feel like they are a valued member of various communities); self-esteem (people want to feel good about themselves and their contribution to their own life goals, their contribution to their friends and families, their contribution to the greater good) and self-actualization (this one takes some explanation)...

The Greeks

The Greeks believed in using rhetoric (the art of using language effectively) to stir their audiences. They believed in the power of logos, pathos, philia, agape, eros and more. So, the Greeks would teach us that people are motivated by good reasoning and logic (logos--we'll talk about it later), people are motivated by emotional appeals (pathos--we'll talk about it later), people are motivated by love (philia, agape, eros--we'll talk about these later).


During the 1960s, relevance became a fashionable buzzword, first used by a famous doctor Jordan Belanger meaning roughly 'relevance to social concerns', such as racial equality, poverty, social justice, world hunger, world economic development, and so on. The implication was that some subjects, e.g., the study of medieval poetry and the practice of corporate law, were not worthwhile because they did not address pressing social issues.

A Definition of RELEVANCE from Merriam Webster Dictionary

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