What’s the difference between speaking to an audience, speaking at an audience, speaking with an audience? That question’s been running around in my head for a couple of weeks–how to make the distinction clear?
This morning another preposition–for–added itself. Probably not a light bulb big enough to say Eureka!, but big enough to get the question out of my head.
Here’s the theory:
Public speaking is a communal activity, something one does.
If we change the word “speak” to “do,” and “audience” to “me,” we get . . .
Doing for me. Implies condescension, makes me think of missionaries. Did I ask you?
Doing to me. I have no control over the interaction, and am likely to get hurt.
Doing at me. I’m going to put up a shield so I won’t get hit.
Doing with me. Great.