Public speaking refers to the practice of preparing and presenting a specific message to the audience. It is successful because it includes knowing the audience and articulating the objectives, choosing speech elements that will connect the audience with the subject, and presenting the message professionally (The Saylor Foundation, 2012). One of the most famous public speakers ever lived was Randy Pausch, professor at Carnegie Mellon University. One of his speeches that went viral rapidly was his “Last Lecture” whose title was “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams,” at Carnegie Mellon University on 18th September 2007 (Craig, 2008). Despite the fact that he had pancreatic cancer and had few months to live, he was able to make the public speaking extremely fascinating (Zaslow & Pausch, 2008). A critique of this talk shows its strengths and areas that need improvement. Therefore, this paper intends to describe the major strengths and weaknesses of this public speaking.
Some of the strengths of this lecture include raising the emotion of the audience, defining its scope, high levels of enthusiasm, getting personal, and using visual aids. Pausch starts by introducing the elephant in the room – he informs the audience that he has cancer and that the diagnosis shows that he has few months to live. He then apologizes to those who believe that he should be more morose and depressed and goes ahead to do some pushups (Carnegie Mellon University, 2007). Indeed, he manages to raise the emotion of the audience and make them fully immerse themselves in the lecture. His unique style of introduction makes the audience fully attentive.
He uses a classic technique of speech outline since he defines the scope of the talk by outlining what he intends to talk about and what he will not address. It is imperative to declare the scope of a public speaking since it helps the audience to establish the presentation’s starting point and boundaries and helps them to maintain the right mind frame to pay maximum attention to the message the public speaker is delivering (Jaffe, 2012). Pausch conveys the scope of his presentation through his introduction.
Pausch gives the performance a strong conclusion through giving a wrap up of his key points. He also gives several recaps throughout the presentation. He reaches back to some of the concepts he has introduced and makes his audience replay the whole lecture in their heads. Indeed, that is a good practice for any speech (The Saylor Foundation, 2012). Furthermore, as strong as his introduction is, the way he concludes the speech is very memorable. He finishes strongly and leaves his audience thinking.
He gets personal with his audience since he does not hide his personal life from them. He describes to them some of the personal lessons that he has learned through a broad range of experiences in his life and illuminates them via personal stories. He reveals some of the personal sentiments in his stories (Pausch, 2007). He engages the audience by making them take part in the presentation, for instance, he asks them to sing a happy birthday song to his spouse. That gives him the chance to connect effectively with the audience and win their maximum attention since revealing emotions is a good way of connecting with the audience
He uses visual aids to make the lecture more captivating. He supplements his stories with some PowerPoint slides that have short point lists. He also uses humor and a lot of fun during the speech to improve the concentration of the audience. He is self-confident, relaxed and makes smooth movements as if he is addressing a handful of students thus showing how much he is associated with the audience.
Even though Pausch’s public speaking has several strengths, it has some areas, which require improvements. He uses repetition too much, for instance, he repeats the topic “obstacles” frequently: he presents a slide, which shows an excerpt of a brick wall that symbolizes impediments. He talks about the excerpt as a stumbling block many times and provides a new meaning for it (Carnegie Mellon University, 2007). This regular repetition causes a constant generalization. He ought not to have used too much repetition since that makes a presentation less powerful.
He often summarizes what he has talked about in an attempt to anchor his points deeper in the minds of his listeners; however, he uses many sentences (Carnegie Mellon University, 2007). He ought to have used summaries with only a few words or sentences to make sure the audience grasps what he is talking about. He also laughs and smiles a lot during the lecture. That also makes the speech less powerful.
Pausch’s public speaking is so full of sincerity, humor, optimism, hope, and clarity. He manages to move his audience, connect with them, and win their maximum concentration. Without a doubt, his style of presentation makes the public speaking incredibly captivating and effectively helps the audience to grasp the message. However, the presentation has some areas weaknesses, which require improvements to make it more powerful.
Craig, W. (2008). Professor Pausch’s life, “Lecture go from Web to book”. USA Today, 1-4.
Jaffe, C. (2012). Public Speaking: Concepts and Skills for a Diverse Society. Boston: Cengage Learning.
Pausch, R. (2007). Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams. University Lecture Series: Journeys, 1-5.
The Saylor Foundation. (2012). Stand Up Speak Out: The Practice and Ethics of Public Speaking. The Saylor Foundation.
Carnegie Mellon University. (Director). (2007). Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture: Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams [Motion Picture]. Retrieved from http://www.cmu.edu/randyslecture/
Zaslow, J., & Pausch, R. (2008). The Last Lecture. New York: Hyperion.