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Delivering Your Speech
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Lesson Objectives:

  • Compare various methods of speech delivery.
  • Identify the nonverbal aspects of delivering a speech.
  • Describe the importance of proper articulation and pronunciation.
  • Explain ways of dealing with distractions and interruptions when giving a speech.

Using Different Methods of Delivery

Over the years, four basic methods of delivering public speeches have developed.  One might be called the manuscript method.  Using this method, speakers write down everything they plan to say to their listeners, then bring their manuscripts to the podium and read them to the audience.

 A second method, called the memorization method, also begins with a written manuscript but differs in that the manuscript is memorized word-for-word and not used during the delivery.  Using a third method, the extemporaneous method, speakers prepare outlines of the ideas of their speeches beforehand, but do not memorize an exact pattern of words.  They choose the words with which to clothe their ideas as they are speaking. Outlines or note cards may or may not be used.

 The fourth method, called the impromptu method, is used on occasions when people must speak "off the cuff", with no chance for previous preparation.  This method demands that the speakers both organize their ideas and choose their words as they proceed through their speeches.

Comparing Methods of Delivery

Each of the four methods has advantages and disadvantages.  Let's take a moment to compare them.  The manuscript method has an advantage in that there is no danger of forgetting a part of your speech, unless a wind blows away your manuscript.  It allows you plenty of time to choose the most effective language for your speech beforehand.  Presidents of the United States and other heads of state often read from manuscripts when making policy statements.  This helps to assure that they do not make any "slips of the tongue" that could result in embarrassment.  The use of manuscript also assures precise timing of a speech.  Unfortunately, many speeches read from manuscript sound as if they are being read.  It prevents the speech from sounding natural.

Memorized delivery has some of the same advantages as manuscript delivery.  You may choose the most effective language beforehand, and your speech may be timed precisely.  Memorized delivery often sounds prepackaged, however, as indeed it is.  Word-for-word memorization puts a tremendous burden on your memory for any speech longer than 4 or 5 minutes.   This method is rarely used now days.

The major advantage of the extemporaneous method is that it sounds natural, much like ordinary conversation.  To an audience, extemporaneous speaking sounds more like "telling" your speech than like "reading" it.  Audiences usually become bored when a speaker reads the speech.  Audiences are very tolerant of a speaker who looks them in the eye and addresses them directly, even if the flow of words is a bit halting.

The extemporaneous method also gives you, the speaker, the best opportunity to make us of positive and negative feedback from your audience.  It allows you to survey your audience and look at their facial expressions, etc.

The only advantage of impromptu delivery is that it sounds natural, much like ordinary conversation.  Its major drawback, of course, is its tendency to sound unprepared, unless the speaker has much experience in impromptu speaking.

Recognizing Nonverbal Aspects of Delivering A Speech

As a speaker, you communicate with an audience as much through nonverbal means as through words.  Eye contact, gestures, platform movements, appearance, and the motions you make as you begin and end a speech will "say" a great deal about you and your message to the listeners.

Beginning Your Speech

The audience makes judgments about you from the moment you rise from your seat to approach the speaking platform.  You nonverbally communicate self-confidence, poise, and leadership, or nervousness, disorganization ,and timidity simply by the manner in which you approach the platform and take command of it.

You should walk to the platform vigorously, but not hastily.  Arrange any notes on the lectern, turn your face up toward your listeners, and look about the various sides of the audience for several seconds before beginning to speak.

Making Eye Contact

As you speak, establish eye contact with your listeners.  Look directly into the eyes of various audience members.  This causes most listeners to feel as if you are devoting your attention to them personally in the same way you would if you were conversing with just one person.  The greater the proportion of your speaking time you devote to eye contact, the deeper and more positive this impression becomes.

Using Gestures

Most arm and hand gestures fall into one of four types.  Emphatic gestures help the speaker stress what he or she is saying.  These include making a fist, raising one hand with the palm up, and pointing with the index finger at your audience when saying something such as "It's your responsibility...................".

Transitional gestures show that you are removing from  one part of your speech to another.  They include using your fingers to enumerate points, placing both palms on the podium, and moving both hands, with palms facing each other, from one side to the other in front of you.

When a speaker uses descriptive gestures, he or she moves the hands and arms to draw pictures in the air.  These may indicate the size of an object, such as the "fish that got away", or the general shape of something.

Finally, locative gestures direct the listeners' attention to some place, object, or person.  They are usually made with the index finger or with the entire hand.

Using Platform Movement

The way in which a speaker uses the platform movement (movements involving the entire body) can also project a certain image to the audience.  Platform movement should look and feel natural.  The best way to achieve this is to move when there is a reason to move and to remain still at other times.  You may want to use platform movement to get closer to the audience to show greater confidentiality or intimacy, to compensate for audience members' fidgeting in their seats to emphasize change to a new topic or section of your speech at major transition points, or to crate a bit of visual variety.

Using Notes Effectively

Speaking extemporaneously means having your pattern of ideas clearly in mind as you begin your speech, but selecting your words spontaneously.  Many extemporaneous speakers use note cards to ensure that they do not forget a major point, or to read an occasional direct quote or a set of statistics.

Making the Most of Your Appearance

A speaker's appearance should be suited to his or her personality, the audience being addressed, and the occasion for which the speech is being given.  The way speakers dress says a great deal about their attitudes toward their listeners and how much importance they attach to the speech itself.

Concluding Your Speech

Just as the speech begins at the moment you rise from your eat, it cannot be said to have concluded until you have regained your seat.  You do not want to create the impression that you wish to leave the platform as quickly as possible.  Once you have spoken your final word, pause momentarily while still facing the audience to let the impact of your conclusion sink in.  Then walk to your seat in a manner appropriate to your topic.

Speak The Right Volume

No matter how well organized, researched, and practiced a speech may be, if the listeners cannot hear what is being said, the speech cannot possibly succeed.  Although it is possible to speak too loudly for a given room or audience, most beginning speakers have the opposite problem.  They speak too softly and cannot be heard in the rear of the room.  This may be due to nervousness; more often, inexperienced speakers simply do not realize they are not using sufficient volume.

Vary Your Pitch

Pitch refers to the tone of the voice on the musical scale.  Words or syllables to be emphasized are usually spoken in a higher key.  Strong emotion is generally indicated by great differences in pitch among words or syllables that are used together.

Changing pitch as you speak comes naturally to you in conversation, but beginning public speakers often fail to maintain their pitch variety when speaking from a public platform.  Speaking in a monotone with no ups and downs in pitch, can quickly give an audience the impression that the speaker is not enthusiastic or sincere about the topic.

Watch Your Speaking Rate

Normal speaking rate varies from 120-150 words per minute.  Some people regularly speak more rapidly or more slowly than others, and nearly everyone varies his or her speaking rate for different situations.

Many times, inexperienced speakers speak too rapidly due to nervousness.  You can vary the amount of pauses between words in order to slow down your speech.

A specific problem, common to many speakers, is called the vocalized pause.  This is the habit of filling in pause time with "uh", or "er", "like", "you-know", or similar non meaningful sounds.  If these sounds become numerous, they can be very distracting to the listeners.