Public Speaking in the 21st Century

Flip Learning is pleased to announce the second edition of Davis W. Houck’s Public Speaking in the 21st Century, a smart, funny, and exciting interactive textbook featuring:

Scripted video series for each chapter starring student actors.

Original animations about the Ancient Greeks.

– Auto-graded quizzes at the end of each chapter and auto-scored activities including McCroskey’s PRPSA survey.

– 50+ sample student speech excerpts and full speeches embedded both within the text and in a separate video library.

– 100+ annually updated hyperlinks that direct students to important primary and secondary online research materials.

Detailed PowerPoint slides and Prezis for each chapter.

Follow Laura, her roommates, an impassioned T.A., and a host of other characters as they navigate their way through public speaking. Read along as Aristotle gets a uniquely American update and the Sophists at last get their pedagogical say. Watch as YouTube and other web-based digital content gets leveraged for illustrative effect. And perhaps best of all, know that our dynamic platform is always ready to be customized to reflect your own needs as a teacher of this ancient (and harrowing) art. Equal parts book, film, animation, and always interactive, this “textbook experience” will have your students talking, your lectures popping, and the world of public speaking recalibrated and re-engineered for today’s students.

Public Speaking in the 21st Century is published by Flip Learning, a small and independent company dedicated to publishing “page-turning” textbooks written by renowned scholars who are also recipients of significant undergraduate teaching awards.

New Content in Public Speaking in the 21st Century “2.0”

Available in February 2019
  • Updates on how to spot “fake news” and questionable sources.
  • Updated popular culture examples and current event-driven public speeches across every chapter.
  • Extended analysis of Parkland High School graduate Emma González’s speech at the Broward County Courthouse on February 17, 2018.
  • Brief documentary film highlighting how college student Carly Hellstrom turned public speaking into public policy activism to ultimately change Florida’s “revenge pornography” laws.
  • New coverage of computer-mediated platforms and best practices for public speaking using tools such as Zoom, Skype, and Google Hangouts.
  • New and updated links to videos and content, visuals, and quiz questions throughout the text.

Available Now

  • ISBN:

  • ISBN:

  • 978-1-7327075-6-6 – Digital-only
    $60.00 (Bookstore Wholesale), $60.00 (Suggested Retail)

  • 978-1-7327075-7-3 – Spiral-bound/Digital Bundle
    $63.75 (Bookstore Wholesale), $75.00 (Suggested Retail)

For bookstore orders, please visit our Bookstore Information page or contact our Order Fulfillment team directly (

Student Testimonials

“I enjoyed the online textbook because it was convenient and easy to access. I already have enough textbooks in my desk so it was a nice change of pace to be able to access the text through my computer. Also, the platform was very simple to understand. All of the chapters contained information that related back to real-world situations, making the text more interesting to read.”

“What I liked about the platform is how interactive it is. It helped me read actively with the different links and videos throughout and the flipped activities allowed us to connect with both fellow students in the section and yourself. I also really enjoyed how the book is written and the familiarity it invites. It felt more like I was in class, speaking to a real professor rather than reading chapters of a textbook. The anecdotal stories and videos also made the book come alive and made it more relatable for myself as a student going through the class.”

Instructor Testimonials

“The platform that Flip Learning has developed goes beyond what any traditional textbook is able to offer. Built uniquely for the web, students can complete readings, quizzes, and activities straight from their personal technology devices – eschewing the need for a physical (and not to mention expensive) text. The Flip Learning site also offers high quality production videos (a narrative series, actually) that accompany each chapter, giving students a primer on the material to come. This combination has resonated with my students – many come to class and say they were impacted by the videos and that they helped them understand the practical applications of the chapter material. Students have told me the navigation is intuitive and that they appreciate how the text prompts them with the associated activities and quizzes through links embedded in each chapter. This has led to greater participation, more meaningful participation, and a clearer channel of communication with regards to grades.”
– Stephen Andon, Nova Southeastern University

“We really needed to find an affordable text solution that our students would actually read…. The text is accessible to students and many comment on actually enjoying the reading. It’s also affordable, which is a huge deal at our institution.”
– Emily Anzicek, Bowling Green State University

Company Mission & Call for Authors

Learning, just like life, is animated by curiosity, passion, and good conversation. Great teachers awaken students’ imagination and intellect by modeling these elements of a well-lived life in their daily profession, exhorting students to grow. Great books aid the process.

Textbooks should do the same. Yet students often greet them with resistance, complaining about their dry tone, lack of narrative interest, and high prices.

Our mission is to create textbooks that are “page-turners” – books so readable and relatable that students won’t want to put them down.

We’ve partnered with renowned scholars who are also recipients of undergraduate teaching awards to write our textbooks. Inspirational teachers ignite learning, and by translating that art into textbook form, we’re confident your students will be more curious and exuberant, leading them to greater mastery of your subjects.

Flip Learning wishes to partner with prospective authors who share this philosophy and are eager to unveil a creative, inspiring, and unique authorial voice that is often discouraged through traditional academic scholarship. For inquiries, please contact Co-Founder Chris Spielvogel (

Chapter Excerpts

“I never thought I’d write these words: public speaking has become kind of a thing in the twenty-first century. Sure, not quite a thing like Marvel Superheroes, small-batch bourbon, Queen Bey, or leggings, but still a thing. Have you watched a recent episode of Shark Tank, for example? Yeah, those budding entrepreneurs are using persuasive speeches to sell themselves and their creations to the sharks. What about those highly produced TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) Talks? Sure, the tightly produced and packaged 18-minutes-or-less speeches are really, really interesting. And bars/lounges/coffee shops sponsoring story-telling contests? Seriously? You bet, The Moth and NPR, among other groups, are putting the pub back in public speaking, the speak in speakeasy.”
“One of the hardest things to do when we’re simultaneously dealing with our nerves AND delivering our speech is to actually have the presence of mind to communicate with ourselves. We’ve quit counting the number of times students have asked us immediately after a speech, ‘What just happened?’ and ‘What did I just say?’ It’s almost like we’ve just experienced a six-minute cognitive blackout. Some sort of robotic doppelganger embodies us behind the podium and departs only once we return to our seats. Don’t fret: it’s happened to us, too. What is likely happening to us when this occurs is that we’ve given in to panic. And when we panic, as Malcolm Gladwell notes, we tend to think too little; in fact, we seem to quit thinking altogether! But thinking is precisely the response we need in such situations.”
“We could fill a few hard drives just with new terms associated with the computer/Internet/social media revolution: tweeting, texting, sexting, friending, IM’ing, blogging, trending, and Googling populate our daily talk. Viral videos circulate in cyberspace, and Internet trolls don’t live under bridges. URLs, HTML, PDFs, JPEGs, RSSs, and ISPs proliferate in our virtual worlds. Smart phones and their data plans have all but replaced land lines and long-distance phone calls–to say nothing of the increasingly obsolete busy signal. And live streaming does not refer to fly-fishing or salmon migrations. Is it any wonder that some just a bit older than us find this whole bizarre edifice rather frightening and decidedly alien?”
“Your campus, too, has many interesting and important stories waiting to be told. Go and find them. A great place to start is in your university library where units of ‘archives’ and ‘special collections’ are often housed. Of course check your library out virtually first. Who was your university’s first president? Who helped form the first Black Student Union? Who was the first female faculty member? Who are some famous alumni? Was the mascot always the same? What important event happened at a location on campus? How did the student newspaper editorialize about an important subject? You see where we’re going with this advice: what we can see and touch daily can offer an added importance and urgency to our speechmaking; moreover, in sharing an identity as a Seminole, a Buckeye, or even a Banana Slug (go U.C. Santa Cruz!), you share something very important. So go ahead: add a new layer to that identity.”

“In the summer of 1998, my grandmother Eila Lee Coffeen passed away at the age of eighty-two. Over the preceding ten years she and I had gotten to be pretty good friends. She was funny in ways that I never expected a grandmother to be: she was quick with a retort, could role play in telling her own stories, and just had a fun and mischievous way about her. So when she died, I wanted to offer something of a eulogy (literally eu [good] logos [words]), a brief speech commemorating her long and interesting life, and our shared past.

Let’s just say the speech did not go over very well with the gathered mourners at First United Methodist.”

“From the Homeric epics, Aesop’s Fables, and the parables of Jesus to our seemingly insatiable desire for Harry PotterBreaking BadThe BacheloretteFlavor of LoveGame of Thrones, and of course A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila, we crave stories—high and low. We homo narrans so desire the narrative form that we get hooked on comic books, Manga, and even scrapbooking. So hooked are we that we’re even willing to watch the same season of Downton Abbey several times. And if you think your Facebook page doesn’t offer its own story, you’re kidding yourself.”
“Spatial ordering is also very useful when it comes to showing parts and their relationships. Let’s say, for example, that you’re a biology major and want to share some of the basics of cellular structure and function with your classmates. Again, you’re probably going to want a really detailed visual aid to do this (and some great analogies to reduce the complexity), but in thinking about how best to organize the speech, it seems logical to move from the outer cell wall (the cellular membrane) inward to the cytoplasm and then to the nuclear membrane and finally to the nucleolus. Sure, the cell functions as a unified organism, but for the sake of your speech, you need to divide the cell into its key components. But that division allows us to learn about the important parts and how each part, in turn, functions within the larger whole.”
“But, dare we say it, Google does have its limits—even as it attempts to scan every book that’s ever been published, its Praying Mantis–looking cars prowl our local streets, and its glasses change how and what we see. These limits will become more obvious in this chapter, but it’s enough for now to simply state that Google hasn’t colonized the entire information world—not yet anyway. But as we noted in an earlier chapter, it’s a perfectly smart thing to do a bit of ‘Googling’ in finding a speech topic or in researching one. We just don’t want you to end there.”
“As a dedicated reformer, you might also consider ‘nibbling away’ at the very large category called capital punishment. How so? A careful reading of the recent literature reveals that DNA is in the news but so is mental ability. Why is it ethical and legal for certain states to execute a low-medium IQ inmate but not a low IQ one? A few points on a test determine life or death? The point is many big, loud, controversial, and entrenched subjects are best approached from the edges rather than straight on. Persuasion researchers call this general strategy the ‘Foot-in-the-Door’ approach in which a slightly open door can lead to a more fully open one.”
“In an age of high-tech projection, snazzy visual software packages, and an eye toward information exchange efficiency, the public speaker, it seems, is increasingly obsolete. While we’re not quite as vehement as Katrin Park, we understand where she’s coming from. Instead, as audience members we’re left to passively spectate slide after slide, chocked full of information that we’re supposed to write down and then regurgitate for the next exam/quiz/assignment. Even the really accomplished user of PowerPoint or Prezi often becomes something of a carni-barker, entertaining us with the next hand-held mouse click as we watch something swoosh-swerve-explode-jiggle-twerk or whistle onto a projected screen. What was once eye-candy has increasingly become eye-gouging.”
“A favorite acceptance speech was delivered in a remarkably impromptu way by actor Tom Hanks upon receiving the Best Actor Oscar for his role in the moving drama Philadelphia. Watch how he graciously thanks many, humbles himself, and still manages to powerfully address those who’ve died from AIDS, people living as HIV-positive, and gay Americans in an emotion-packed mere three minutes.”
“The principles that we’ve highlighted and explained in Public Speaking in the 21st Century provide you with a template for thinking strategically and intelligently about your speechmaking. In saying as much, we’d remind you that a shiny new Lamborghini and an old clunky Ford share four wheels and a combustion engine. In other words, crafting the eloquent, the exquisite, the beautiful and the sublime are possible only once you’ve carefully grasped the foundations. And those foundations will often lead speakers in different directions. A ‘paint-by-the-numbers’ approach to public speaking greatness simply doesn’t exist. And despite Plato and Aristotle’s search, it never will. But those moments of insight, those flashes of brilliance, those bursts of creative energy, facilitate the magic of invention—the elusive magic that Gorgias glimpsed and described more than 2,400 years ago, and the same magic that animates our public discourse in a Democratic society.”

Book Authors

Davis Houck
Davis W. Houck is the Fannie Lou Hamer Professor of Rhetorical Studies at Florida State University, where he has taught thousands of undergraduates the joys of public speaking over the past 20 years. The winner of several teaching awards as well as many honors for his scholarship in Civil Rights rhetoric, public address, and the rhetoric of sport, Houck recently helped create the Civil Rights Institute at FSU; he’s also the founder of the Emmett Till Archives, housed on campus. A committed community activist, Houck has served as Board Chair of the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Big Bend, and works hard to honor the legacy of the Mississippi sharecropper-turned-activist, whose professorship he holds.