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Know Your Audience: An 18-Week Study in Listening and Persuasion Skills Review by Dr. Anne Margaret Wright

Say What You Mean: An Advanced Speech Course; and Say What you Mean: Defending the Faith
JoJo Tabares
Art of Eloquence
8270 Monroe Avenue
Hesperia, CA 92344

Studies consistently show that two of the greatest fears people express are of death and public speaking. I remember being absolutely terrified to give any type of speech in junior high and high school, until I was forced to go first one time. Instead of having to sit there and worry through 25 other presentations, and comparing what I had to say to each and every one, I was forced to just get up and give the presentation. Expectations are low for the first speech, so as long as you don't faint, everyone thinks what you said was brilliant! By the time I graduated from my doctoral program years later, and after having to give presentations regularly, it was no longer so terrifying. As homeschooling parents, wouldn't it be nice if we could teach our kids to give effective, persuasive, compelling presentations without developing an ulcer?

JoJo Tabares has developed a wonderful set of books to help with this sometimes difficult task. I reviewed three of the books in her series ($24.95 each): Know Your Audience: An 18-Week Study in Listening and Persuasion Skills; Say What You Mean: An Advanced Speech Course; and Say What you Mean: Defending the Faith (ebook downloaded as a pdf file). Each has a similar format and audience (junior high and high school students, but also appropriate for adults), but with a different emphasis and purpose. Say What You Mean: An Advanced Speech Course lays a solid foundation for giving both prepared and impromptu presentations on a variety of topics. Know Your Audience prepares your student to understand their audience and to give persuasive presentations by helping a student develop a variety of presentations for a variety of audiences, from speaking to a friend through giving a formal presentation to sell a product to a large company, and even dealing with an angry customer (or potential customer). Say What You Mean: Defending the Faith prepares students to defend the Christian faith against some of the most common attacks, such as those who believe that Christians are intolerant or only using God as a crutch, or those who believe the Bible does not line up with science or contains contradictions. Samples from each of these books and others in the series can be found on the company website,

The outline for each of the three books is to present some good general information about the topic at hand, such as how to know your audience, then to move through carefully constructed, progressive exercises to practice the new skill. The information is presented in a clear and entertaining manner, and the exercises are very appropriate for the content and would be interesting for junior high or high school students. For example, topics include writing exercises to sell a fictional product or service, 101 uses for duct tape, or the age-old question of how old is old (careful now, you will be graded!)

I think students will gain more from the courses due to the high interest level of the topics and the conversational style of the books. Grading guidelines are also included. Some of my favorite ideas are to have the student video the presentations to watch and critique later, and having them give the presentation a second time so they can practice and refine their skills. The lessons are developed around 18-week semesters for convenience. I like that each unit can be purchased and used separately to fine-tune the needed skills, or you could create a complete high school speech course by using them together. An excellent addition might be a DVD with some of the lessons and especially with some excellent examples of quality presentations. Some kids learn best by observing and could really benefit from seeing the exercise done well. Whether our homeschool graduates will be raising the next generation or will become corporate executives, they will need to be able to communicate their ideas effectively in writing and through speech. The Art of Eloquence curriculum will help them do both in a delightfully entertaining manner!

-Product Review by: Dr. Anne Margaret Wright, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC