Surroundings Give Significance to Your Speech

There has been a lot of controversy about when President Obama will deliver his “jobs” speech to the American people. In writing about this upcoming speech, William McGurn in the Wall Street Journal a few days ago referred to omething important in speaking that we don’t often think about—setting. He said, “Without the backdrop of a joint session of Congress, how many networks would broadcast another Obama jobs speech?”

Important to us as speakers is the physical context of our presentation. If we have a dry board behind us displaying words and pictures that have nothing to do with our presentation, it can take away the significance of our content. If there is equipment around the lectern, that, too, may take away the focus from you the speaker. If you are speaking outdoors in a tent, the presentation content may have little impact on your audience.

I remember in my early college days when President Lyndon Johnson came to Nashville, Tennessee, to speak. Downtown was just a few miles away. I had never heard a President in person so I took a city bus to the state capitol building to hear him speak. I watched the President come out in front of huge stone columns and walk to the lectern centered in front of the War Memorial Auditorium. Even before we heard him say the first words to the thousands gathered to hear him, his speech had significance. The visual image of this magnificent building framing the President made us believe what he was about to say was very important. I have no idea what the speech was about these 40 years later. The scene is what made the presentation memorable.

So as speakers, when possible seek the most important looking backdrop for your presentation to enhance the impact of what you actually say. As you can see from the picture below, I try to practice what I preach.
Steve in bunker


Steve Boyd
Steve Boyd
Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D., CSP, is Professor Emeritus of Speech Communication, College of Informatics, Northern Kentucky University, near Cincinnati. Steve won the Toastmasters International Speech Contest in 1970 and was chosen Outstanding Professor of the Year at NKU in 1984, among other awards and honors. Since retiring, he volunteers with nonprofits, spends time with family, travels, preaches occasionally, and enjoys reading and writing. Contact Steve at (859) 866-5693 or at

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