The Speech of Self-Introduction

This is a new section I wrote for the new edition of Essentials of Public Speaking. But I thought it might be of use to anyone planning a similar speech. Here, then, are a few guidelines and a sample speech with some notes.

The Speech of Self-Introduction

The speech of self introduction is one of the standard speeches normally required in a public speaking course. It is also a speech that produces a great deal of anxiety—not only because it is normally given at the start of the semester but also because it puts the total focus on the speaker. This assignment is often used to create a community within the classroom so that students get to know one another as individuals as well as to begin applying the principles of public speaking. But it is also a speech that would be given in your bid for student election, to your new work colleagues, or in your introduction to your podcast or webinar. Usually, the speech is for 2 to 5 minutes and consists of a few hundred words.

Guidelines for the Speech of Self-Introduction

Here are a few guidelines for the speech of self-introduction.

1.     Even if the speech is for 2 minutes, it still needs its major parts—introduction, body, and conclusion.

2.     Most students are fearful of public speaking so consider whether you want to bring this up. The advantage of talking about it—even if very briefly—is that you bond with your audience. The disadvantage is that you alert your audience to look for signs of nervousness and may even help to convince yourself that you are and will be forever fearful of public speaking.

3.     Stay within the time limits. These have been established so that all can give speeches within a certain amount of time.

4.     Focus on topics you have in common with other students—for example, your major or intended major, your academic interests, your outside interests, your job, your professional goals, and perhaps what you hope to get out of this public speaking course.

5.     Tell your audience what you want them to know. You do not have to reveal your inner self and should not feel pressure to do so. Reveal only what you want to reveal.

A Sample Speech of Self-Introduction

Here is a sample speech of self-introduction written to illustrate some of the essential guidelines for an effective speech. It’s written to represent what a student might say in introducing himself or herself to the class. It would naturally be very different if it were an introduction to your webinar where you’d want to perhaps emphasize your credibility. This speech is 367 words and would take approximately 2 minutes to deliver.


Hello, my name is Pat Smith. Not a very distinctive name; in fact, Smith is the most popular surname in the United States with over two and a half million Smiths.

A simple opener with some “essential” information about you is one way to introduce the speech. Don’t spend time needlessly on elaborate introductions. In longer speeches, the introduction will naturally also be longer.

I thought I’d tell you a little something about where I came from, why I’m here, and what I hope to do.

In such a short speech this orientation may not be essential but it does tell the listener how you’ve developed your speech.


I come from the Bronx, New York—where, by the way, in 1973 at a birthday party on Sedgwick Avenue—not far from where I grew up, hip-hop was born. Of course, it’s also the home of the Yankee Stadium. So, being out here in a small town--this is my first semester at Blake—is really very new to me. No skyscrapers, no Starbucks on every corner, no subways, no delivery trucks waking up the neighborhood in the middle of the night. But, so far, I’m liking the change. Everyone has been very friendly and my classes all seem interesting—a lot different from high school.

Here the speaker displays a positivity about these new experiences, probably shared and appreciated by many listeners. The speaker also reveals a little-known fact—about hip hop—that the audience is likely to find interesting.

I’m taking this course because I want to lessen my stage fright and become more comfortable in front of an audience. My dream is to become a defense lawyer and I’ll need to be able to speak comfortably and confidently to persuade a jury. Of course, that’s a long way off. But I’m planning nevertheless. I hope to declare a joint major in communication and political science and then, hopefully, get into a good law school.

Talking a bit about why you’re taking public speaking is often interesting to include. Hearing the reasons from different students is sure to illustrate the broad range of applications there are to public speaking and could probably benefit other students to see these different perspectives.

Right now, I want to get to know everyone and to join the photography club. I hear it’s excellent and I’m looking forward to going on the annual photography safari. This year it’s in Iceland.

Again, the speaker is extremely positive and talks briefly about his future plans.

Outside of school, you can find me at Mickey’s Burger Joint, flipping burgers and sometimes waiting on tables. Some of the customers are really difficult.  Some customers ask for things we don’t have and then get annoyed because we don’t have them.  Some are in a hurry and want their burger right away and some are undecided and take forever to decide. But most of the customers are really nice and I actually enjoy going to work—at least most days.

Since many students also have jobs, you may want to mention your employment.


So, I’m new, I’m anxious, and I’m looking forward to a great time at Blake.

In such a short speech, the conclusion must also be short but crisp and definite. Let the audience know that you’re finished. If you wish you can add a simple “thank you” or “I appreciate your attention.” But, in any case, be brief.



Ethics in Public Speaking

Ethics in Public Speaking

I wrote this for the new edition of Essential Elements of Public Speaking, 7th edition (Hoboken, NJ: Pearson, 2021) but I thought it might be useful for any class in public speaking as a way of introducing the dimension of ethics and clarifying what is and what is not plagiarism.

Because your speech will have an effect on your audience, you have an obligation to consider

ethics—issues of right and wrong, or the moral implications of your message. When

you develop your topic, present your research, create persuasive appeals, and do any of

the other tasks related to public speaking, there are ethical issues to be considered (Bok,

1978; Jaksa & Pritchard, 1994; Johannesen, 1996; Neher & Sandin, 2007; Tompkins, 2011).

Think about your own beliefs and respond to the following situations in this quiz,

indicating whether each scenario is ethical or unethical.

1. _____ A speaker talks about evidence supporting the position advocated but omits

contradictory evidence. Or, similarly, a speaker cites testimony and gives the

person’s positive qualifications but omits the person’s negative disqualifications.

2. _____ A speaker reworks a quotation by a famous scientist, say, to support the

advocated position.

3. _____ A speaker uses a visual aid found on the internet.

4. _____ A speaker uses emotional appeals–for example, fear of getting ill or the desire

for status–to persuade an audience.

5. _____ A speaker crops a photo, omitting the part that contradicts the position


6. _____ A speaker uses figures from a poll taken twenty years ago on a fast-changing

topic, but doesn’t mention when the poll was taken.

7. _____ A speaker copies a speech off the internet and presents it as original.

Here are some responses that most writers on and instructors of public speaking

and ethics would likely give. But, not all; some writers, instructors, and students may

disagree with one or all of these responses. All of these issues are raised again and covered

more fully throughout this text.

1. A speaker talks about evidence supporting the position advocated but omits

contradictory evidence. A speaker isn’t obligated to discuss evidence and argument

that does not support his or her position or to identify the negative qualities

of a witness’s testimony. That’s the opponent’s job. But, if the speaker deliberately

conceals relevant details that would influence the audience against the position

advocated, it would be unethical.

2. A speaker reworks a quotation by a famous scientist, say, to support the advocated

position. This would be unethical. Quotations need to be presented in full

and presented with the original intention of the author. However, a speaker may

change a quotation for special effect if it’s identified as such, as in cases of paraphrasing

or adding special emphasis.

3. A speaker uses a visual aid found on the internet. If this is for your class speech

(that is a non-profit, educational activity), it’s generally considered acceptable to

use it if you identify its origin. If you were to profit financially from the speech

with the visual aid, then you would need to secure permission.

4. A speaker uses emotional appeals–for example, fear or the desire for status–

to persuade an audience. Emotional appeals are frequently a large part of public

speaking, and especially persuasive speaking, and there is generally nothing

unethical about using emotional appeals. However, if the speaker uses emotional

appeals to cover up the absence of sound argument and evidence or to undermine

the thought processes of the listeners, then it would be unethical.

5. A speaker crops a photo, omitting the part that contradicts the position advocated.

This would be unethical because the speaker is preventing the audience from seeing

the truth as presented in the entire photo and as the photographer photographed it.

6. A speaker uses figures from a poll taken twenty years ago on a fast-changing

topic, but doesn’t mention when the poll was taken. This would be unethical.

The speaker is deliberately concealing information that is relevant to the audience

thinking clearly and logically about the issue.

7. A speaker copies a speech off the internet and presents it as original. This is clearly

unethical and illustrates one of the most important ethical concepts in all college

courses, plagiarism, a topic discussed in detail in Chapter 5, Researching Your Speech.

Universals of Choice


This article was published in Etc: A Review of General Semantics, 75 (January and April 2018), pp. 76-83.

Universals of Choice

Joseph A. DeVito*

Universals are qualities or characteristics of a process or concept that are present in all instances. For example, if we consider the universals of language, we’d find that all languages have nouns and pronouns, all languages have a deep and surface structure, and all languages have vowels and consonants (Greenberg, 1963). A universal of choice, the subject of this paper, then, is a characteristic that is present in all choice-making acts.

     Along with many of the social sciences, communication is (and has been for at least the last 30 years) focused on identifying differences (mainly cultural and gender differences) and explaining how these differences influence communication and therefore why these differences need to be identified and incorporated into any theory of effective communication. In contrast, the search-for-universals approach focuses on identifying characteristics that any type of communication act has in common with all other instances of this type of communication.

Here we focus on choice making but it could be listening, nonverbal communication, small talk, public speaking, or any topic or subtopic of any field.  The topic can be broad (for example, interpersonal communication or General Semantics) or narrower (for example, making an apology or abstracting). The area to be explored and the specific purposes of the endeavor would determine the breadth of the specific topic chosen.

Choice making is important to study simply because it’s an inevitable part of life. You cannot live without making choices (Iyengar, 2011; DeVito, 2016b). Even when you refuse to make a choice, you’re act of refusal is itself a choice. Similarly, when you delay making a choice, you’re making a choice to delay the other choice. Even Hobson’s choice—often viewed as no choice—involves choice. The story—perhaps true, perhaps not—is that Thomas Hobson ran a horse rental stable and insisted that the renter take the next horse in line—seemingly providing no choice. But, of course, there was a choice—not among horses but between the next horse in line or no horse—a classic case of “take it or leave it”.  And, universals are important to identify simply because they are part of the description of a process or concept under study and thus add to our knowledge and understanding of the subject. That practical applications and skills can be derived from this study is an added bonus.

These two general approaches—the search for differences and the search for universals--complement each other. Each provides needed insight and helps pave the way for developing principles and skills for more effective communication or choice making.

     Universals are discovered inductively, from examining choice behavior. But since not all choices have been examined and there are many in the future that can’t be examined, perhaps it’s best to view “universals” as hypotheses to be examined. 

     Universals describe what is rather than what should be or could be. They are descriptions for understanding the nature of choice making rather than prescriptions for making better choices.

     With the help of the insights from a variety of choice and decision-making theorists (Iyengar, 2011; Schwartz, 2004; Heath & Heath, 2013), here then is an initial and very preliminary attempt to identify some of the universals of choice making.

Choices are future predictions, guesses, hypotheses. When you make a choice, it’s like placing a bet—you bet that the choice you’re making will prove to be a good one, the best one actually. Because choices are predictions, you can never be certain how they will turn out. The advantage of going through a rigorous analysis of the pros and cons of the available choices is that your predictions are more likely to come true and that’s essentially what you want when making a choice (Heath & Heath, 2013; Schwartz, 2004).

Choices involve the acceptance of negatives and the rejection of positives—as well as the acceptance of positives and the rejection of negatives. Let’s say you’re making a choice between Alpha and Beta.  If your evaluation is a fair one and if Alpha and Beta are truly competitive as indicated by your initial indecision, then they each have positive qualities and they each have negative qualities. If you select Alpha, you get its positive qualities but also its negative ones and of course, in your rejection of Beta, you are not getting its positive qualities.

Choices are unique. Each choice is different from every other choice; it is made in a specific context of time and place and that time and place are in a constant state of flux. So, even in “repeating” the choice at a later time, it’s different because the time and place have changed and of course the choice maker has changed—in great part from making the choice in the first place.

Choices are prone to bias. There are a variety of biases that get in the way of logical and effective choice making. Since there is probably no person who is not prone to bias of one kind or another, it seems fair to identify bias as a universal. A number of biases that can get in the way of effective choice making have been identified previously, and in some detail (DeVito, 2016a). So, in brief:

·       In the ambiguity bias, your choices are heavily influenced by the desire to reduce ambiguity.

·       In the bandwagon bias, you make your choice by following the herd, especially those you view as “attractive”.

·       In the anchoring bias, your choices are heavily influenced by what comes first.

·       In the confirmation bias, your choices are influenced by initial beliefs.

·       In the status quo bias, your choices are influenced against change.

Choices have constraints. Some choices are made with few constraints—there is almost total freedom to decide one way or the other. So, let’s say you’re wealthy and want to buy a car—your choices are limitless as to the car you buy—after all, you can afford any one of them, even that new Lamborghini. But you still need a car and so your choices have to be made among the available car choices. In other cases, your choices are much more limited and restricted. If you’re in the military, for example, you may choose to put on your left shoe before the right one but you may not choose the kind of shoes you put on.

Choices are reasonable. Or at least the choices you make seem reasonable at the time you make them. When you make a choice, you’re no doubt selecting the choice that you think at that time and in that situation is the best of the available choices. Things may change—and often do—and as a result your decision may prove to be extremely effective (you bought the right stock and are now extremely wealthy) or extremely ineffective (you bought the wrong stock and lost all your money). But, at the time you make the choice, you’re making the right choice.

Choices are purposeful. Choices have a purpose; they are debated and made to achieve some purpose, some aim.  Choice makers have an end result in mind. And, not surprisingly, purposes vary greatly in importance. Some choice purposes hardly seem like purposes; they are almost automatic and usually of little consequence and so we rarely notice them—the shirt you wear or the salad you order. Other choices are more important and involve more significant purposes—choosing a life time partner, selecting a job offer, determining when to retire, or relocating to another state or country. Some purposes are self-focused--what can I do to get that promotion--and others are other-focused—what can I do to help the homeless--and may be viewed as existing on a continuum—perhaps from selfish to altruistic.  So, although purposes vary widely, one or more purposes are always present.

Choices are difficult. All choices are difficult. But, there’s a continuum. Some choices involve very little difficulty and some involve a great deal. There are at least two reasons for choice difficulty. One source of difficulty is the similarity in the pros and cons of the available choices. When the choices are very similar, there is considerable difficulty; when the choices differ widely in their positive/negative qualities, the choice is less difficult. Another source of difficulty comes from the importance of the choice; unimportant choices are easier to make than important ones.

Choices involve risk. Choices, by their very nature, involve risk, specifically the risk of making a poor choice and, at the same time, the risk of not choosing the one you should have chosen (Ellsberg, 2001). The risk, then, is not only in making a bad choice, it’s also in not making a good choice. Some risks are so minor that they are not perceived as risks—for example, the restaurant you select for dinner is minor but still involves risk. Other choices are of course riskier—selecting a college or a major or a job or a house, for example.

Choices have consequences. Stephen Covey (2004, p. 70) once noted that “While we are free to choose our actions, we are not free to choose the consequences of our actions.” And because the consequences cannot be chosen or predicted with complete accuracy, the choice maker is taking a risk. Sometimes, the consequences are only for the choice maker—the entrĂ©e to select, for example. Sometimes, and probably most of the time, the consequences involve other parties as well—for example, the decision to divorce or start a business or have a child. Some consequences are severe—the type of medical treatment you seek—and others are relatively inconsequential—the sneakers you buy.  And yet, even this seemingly obvious example needs qualification and illustrates an important principle of choice making and that is that even choices that seem insignificant and having only minor consequences, may in some situations prove very significant. The choice of new sneakers that you take with you on a 4-week safari, for example, may prove extremely consequential.

Choices are culturally influenced. Culture influences all aspects of communication and influences choice making in a variety of ways. Geert Hofstede’s (Hofstede, Hofstede, & Minkov, 2010) typology of cultural differences posits, among other dimensions, that cultures differ in, for example, their primary orientations to individualism-collectivism, masculine-feminine, and restraint and indulgent. Those from an individualist culture are more likely to make choices that benefit the self, whereas those from collectivist cultures are more likely to make choices that benefit the group. Those from masculine cultures—those that emphasize assertiveness and power—will make choices that are consistent with this cultural orientation—in contrast to those from a feminine culture whose decisions would give primary attention to relationships. Those from restraint cultures will make choices that will be of primary value in the future—saving or going to college, for example, while those from indulgent cultures are more likely to make choices that will give pleasure and satisfaction in the present—buying that expensive suit or cutting classes to go to the beach, for example.

Choices are influenced by personality. Not surprisingly, the personality of the choice maker will influence the types of choices made. As already noted, choices involve risk but people vary in the degree to which they are willing to take risks. At the extremes are those who are risk takers and those who are risk aversive. Risk takers are likely to make choices that involve greater risk, going all-in in poker or betting one’s last dollar on a horse. Some are risk aversive and prefer to hold on to the chips and the money for fear of losing it. And, some choice makers are maximizers and others are satisficers (Simon, 1956). In making a choice, maximizers spend an enormous amount of time analyzing the pros and cons of each and every choice, determined to make exactly the right choice, to maximize their benefits. On the other hand, are satisficers—a term coined by Simon—who aim to make a choice that will be satisfying, that will suffice.

Choices are influenced by socio-economic status.  Like psychological influences, there are also socio-economic influences. At the most obvious level, the money that people have enables them to have a wider array of choices than those without such financial resources. So, in planning a vacation, wealthy people have many more choices--of location, accommodations, length of stay, and just about everything that goes into a vacation. Those of more limited means, are similarly more limited in their possible choices. Persons who are well educated will likely spend more time evaluating choices and will be less impulsive and perhaps less prone to bias than those with less education and knowledge.

Perhaps it’s more appropriate to say that the culture, personality, and sociology of the individual will conspire to influence choice making—the person from an individualistic culture who is a wealthy risk taker is going to make and evaluate choices very different from someone from a collectivist culture who is poor and risk aversive.


The universals identified here are surely not the only ones that could be identified—maybe even not the most important. And likely some will disagree that those noted here are in fact universals. But, as already noted, this is a preliminary attempt—a discussion starter—to identify some features that are common to all choice-making behavior and that hopefully will advance our understanding of this crucial process, a process that George Eliot called “the strongest principle of growth.”



Covey, S. R. (2004). The 7 habits of highly effective people. NY: Free Press.

DeVito, J. A. (1996). Brainstorms: How to think more creatively about communication (or about anything else). NY: Longman.

DeVito, J. A. (2016a). Biases in making choices. Etc.: A Review of General Semantics 73, 314-320.

DeVito, J. A. (2016b). Making choices. Etc.: A Review of General Semantics 73, 173-179.

Ellsberg, D. (2001). Risk, ambiguity, and decision. NY: Taylor & Francis, 2001. 

Greenberg, J. H., ed. (1963). Universals of language. Cambridge, MA: M.I.T, Press.

Heath, C. & Heath, D. (2013). Decisive: How to make better choices in life and work. NY: Random House/Crown.

Hofstede, G., Hofstede, G., & Minkov, M. (2010). Cultures and organizations: Software of the mind (3rd ed.). NY: McGraw-Hill.

Iyengar, S. (2011). The art of choosing. NY: Hatchette/Twelve.

Schwartz, B. (2004). The paradox of choice: Why more is less. NY: Harper Perennial.

Simon, H. A. (1956). Rational choice and the structure of the environment. Psychological Review 63 (2), pp. 129-138.


*Joseph A. DeVito, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus, Hunter College, City University of New York.




Here is a sobering report on the five college majors students most regret. Unfortunately, communication is one of them with 27% of students regretting their selecting communication as a major--with the most common complaint that it was too general.