The Four M's of Public Speaking


If you are going to be an effective public speaker, you must take note and address 4 things every time you speak.  You may not use them all every time but you need to think about them.  These four things are:  MESSAGE – MOUTH – MOTION – MEDIA

I came up with this outline as part of a lesson I am doing for the Boy Scouts of America as I teach the Public Speaking Merit Badge.  I have been a public speaker for over 20 years now and have learned from some great teachers and from plenty of mistakes.  This is far from the end all on speaking but simply some things to consider, especially if you're new to public speaking.  I love to listen to great speakers but I can tell you there is one thing that isn't an M that makes all this work: Practice, Practice, Practice.  

We’ll start with MESSAGE.   The first thing you have to know is always the topic of your message.  Sometimes you’ll get to choose your message, and other times you won’t.  Have you ever had to stand up to give a report in class?  I preach almost every week, so while I use one book, my topic may change. 

So once you know the TOPIC, there are 4 Main Types of Speeches you can give (on page 6 of  Public Speaking Merit Badge Pamphlet). 

INFORM Them: Is a speech where you give the facts.
ENTERTAIN Them: Not always funny but your topic is presented in an enjoyable way.
CONVINCE Them: Make the audience believe or accept a point of view or inspire them.
PERSUADE Them To Action: Like the convincing speech only you are directing the response.

You MESSAGE will then need an outline.  Much like a report for class, your speech will need an INTRODUCTION, a BODY and a CONCLUSION.    The body of your outline may have 1 or 20 points you’d like to make.  Just remember you only have so much time and TOO MUCH information = TOO LITTLE transformation.  Remember a simple phrase: K.I.S.S. – it means KEEP IT SIMPLE SCOUT (or pick another 's' word)!  If you’re teaching compass skills to help other Scouts with their Second Class requirements, do you need to talk about using a GPS unit?  Do you need to talk about other ways to find direction?  No.  Your topic is map and compass. Keep It Simple Scout!

The MOUTH is next in line.  You can’t give a speech without using your mouth!  Your words can be loud or soft.  You can give you message emphasis by stretching…out… your…words or by repeating a phrase you want your audience to know is important.  Give your mouth good words to speak.  If you can, write out your speech fully.  I don't recommend reading from speech but from outline.  What writing out your speech does is it allows you to create good word combinations and help you to practice.  Otherwise, you might wind up saying something you will regret....


Next you need to consider MOTION.  Motion has to do with what you are doing with your body while you are speaking.  Most people think about the hands.  Hands usually are the biggest problem BUT they can also be a huge win as well.  Ms. Topper, my first speech teacher back at J.H. Rose High School, always said your hands need “a home base.”  I’ve never forgotten that because I see so many people mess it up!   Have a place for your hands to always return when you’re not using them to emphasize a point with a gesture.  Mine I keep at waist level.  And never, never, ever lock your hands on the podium or pulpit!

Also, your motion includes how you stand and where you stand.  Speakers often get nervous feet and move for no reason.  Don’t do this.  I always tell people to "own your space!"  This may mean you plant your feet and not move or that you keep it minimal.  The other consideration with motion is where you look.  If you are looking down at your notes, you aren’t looking at your audience and it is the people who need your attention.  Looking at your notes the whole time is like having a conversation with someone who is texting the whole time you are talking…it tells me you really don’t care about me and so no one will care what you have to say.

The last of the four points is MEDIA.  Media doesn’t mean powerpoint or videos though it could.  Your media could also be a dry erase board or easel.  It could be a crazy hat or bicycle or a poster.  Media can hurt as much as help you if you don’t practice with it.  Consider anything you wear as part of your media presentation too.  You want you to look good.  Be clean.  Look sharp.  Present your best.  And if you are speaking as a Scout, be sure your Class A looks the best it can look! 

And just for fun, see how many mistakes you find in this presentation...




I'm looking forward to some great speeches!



The Merit Badge program allows Scouts to explore topics and activities that help with life skills and hobbies of interest.  There are a lot of topics Scouts can explore and if you have an area of expertise and can help out, please contact the Boy Scouts of America to learn more about being a Merit Badge Counselor.

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