Speech, or oral communication, is a process of sending and receiving spoken messages between people. Speech conveys and sways through the presentation of ideas, opinions, information, directions and commands, usually with responsive communication from the listener. Effective speech is tailored by our needs and those of the receiver.

Intrapersonal

A young man gives a presentation to his fellow colleagues
A young man gives a presentation to his fellow colleagues

Some would say we listen to ourselves more than we do others. Intrapersonal communication happens inside us as inner speech, self-talk or a range of other self-interactions. The foundation for all other communication, it allows us to develop an awareness and understanding about ourselves and our personal world. We process what we say to others by first holding parts -- or sometimes all -- of the conversation with ourselves. For instance, politicians rehearse their 30-second introduction speech in front of a mirror at home, while job candidates practice saying why they're the best for the job. Not limited to planned interpersonal communication, intrapersonal speech also includes our daydreams and goals, where we place ourselves in different settings and situations for pleasure or goal setting.

Interpersonal

A group of young adults are discussing a common subject of interest
A group of young adults are discussing a common subject of interest

Interpersonal speech is communication to one another through our words, tone of voice, gestures and other body language. Once we say something, it's said and can't be taken back, adding weight to the adage to “watch your tongue.” Even though we might think this communication is simple, interpersonal communication is very complex, including the impressions we have of each other, the message as we think we said it and how it was heard, including the willingness of the listener to listen. What we say to others is never said in a vacuum; we bring our needs and values to the conversation. In addition, communication includes the listener's reception, the location and our cultural influences.

Small Groups

A small group of coworkers sit at one end of a table to discuss a business proposal
A small group of coworkers sit at one end of a table to discuss a business proposal

Successful group communication requires the development of good listening skills, to hear and understand what the members of the group are actually saying, as the group moves toward its goals. Within our dominant culture, that means making eye contact and showing agreement and attention with body language, such as leaning forward attentively. Group communication often requires that we clarify what someone else said, usually with a clarifying statement. Groups require a more democratic approach that doesn't just advance one position, such as engaging one another by agreeing with what they said or disagreeing in a way that encourages them to stay engaged. Groups also need someone to keep the group on task, ensure that all are heard, encourage feedback and mediate when conflicts arise.

To the Masses

A young woman gives a presentation to a large group of adults
A young woman gives a presentation to a large group of adults

Speaking to the masses, whether lecturing to a small group or worldwide, often involves an unseen audience, with the goal of informing or persuading. Unlike other types of communication, mass communication, or public speaking, is very dependent on the message. Still, the charisma of the speaker's tone, her inflection and her body language, if visible, also influence the message. Successful public speaking depends on the speaker's ability to organize and present the material in a manner that the listener receives and internalizes. The speaker provides a reason for listening, lends credibility to the topic and motivates the audience to respond through words calculated to produce the desired response.