Background of Special Occasion Speaking

Epideictic Oratory

George W BushMany organizational contexts offer opportunities for special occasion and ceremonial speaking. These organizational functions help establishments mark important occurrences, celebrate successes, remember key figures, and commemorate those who are no longer with the organization. Furthermore, special events help an organization define itself as well as help establish and maintain a corporate identity— for organizational members, clients and key stakeholders. Special occasion speaking has also been called epideictic oratory, which is used to praise or blame, condemn or commend, and celebrate and give thanks (Osborn & Osborn, 1994). For instance, President George W. Bush used epideictic oratory when he addressed the United States after September 11, 2011, condemning the terrorist attacks. Epideictic oratory is also used anytime we are called to mourn the loss of a loved one at a funeral, congratulate a recipient of an award, or toast a special occasion, such as a wedding or anniversary.

Purpose of Special Occasion Speeches

In your personal and professional life, you will likely have the opportunity to give at least one ceremonial speech to celebrate an event or contribute to a company’s corporate image. Regardless of the occasion, epideictic or ceremonial speaking calls for language that is arousing, clear, and inspiring. In addition, Osborn and Osborn (1994) suggest that language use and delivery style should serve to magnify and identify. Magnification means giving benefit to the audience, amplifying emotion, and exceeding expectations. This technique involves promoting positivity and goodwill among the people gathered for the occasion as well as helping to build the audience’s feelings toward the person honored or the reason for the occasion. Identification involves creating familiarity and closeness. Special occasion speaking, among other things, helps build community, and a speaker’s language and delivery style can serve to enhance feelings of togetherness.

 Let us celebrate the occasion with wine and sweet words.  ~ Plautus
A special occasion or ceremonial speech, regardless of the level of formality, should have a purpose that is clear to the speaker and the audience members. A ceremonial speech can do a variety of things, such as celebrate an event, commemorate a person, entertain an audience, or inspire people (O’Hair, Stewart, & Rubenstein, 2001). Each type of ceremonial speaking occasion has its unique considerations, and each speech needs to be adapted to the audience, the honored person(s), the social context, and the event. This section covers several types of ceremonial speeches: speech of introduction, toast and roast, award presentation, acceptance speech, keynote address, commencement address, commemorative speech or tribute, and after-dinner speech.

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