After all the preparations that go into your speech, you eventually present yourself to the audience. You may have spent days or even weeks to analyze your potential listeners, select your topic, organize and rehearse your speech. But you will finish your speech delivery in just a few minutes. Nevertheless, the actual delivery is the highlight and finale of the public speaking experience.
Delivery is one of the most obvious parts of public speaking, and one that attracts the initial attention of both the speaker and the audience.
If one were to ask a listener what he thought of a speech that had just been delivered, the reply would be something like: “I think she has a very pleasant voice;” “I think he should have moved around more;” and “I couldn’t always hear her.”
Obviously, delivery is not everything in public speaking. A good delivery cannot compensate for a poorly prepared message, or one lacking in substance. Despite that, most of us know the significance of delivery, and at times it scares us. We may feel pretty at ease preparing the speech, conducting the research, organizing and outlining our ideas, and so on.
However, when faced with the actual “standing and delivering,” we may become very nervous. The more we know about delivery, the better our chances of doing it successfully. Delivery may not be everything in speech development, but it is a very obvious and important part.
Take for instance, the case of a famous talk-show host – Oprah Winfrey. Oprah’s show still leads the talk-show ratings. How does she do it? She is enthusiastic, interesting, powerful, persuasive, caring, and – most important of all – believable. She appears as if she is speaking directly to each of her audience; she is real, and she is believable. She does more than just organize convincing ideas; she presents her thoughts in a believable way. She knows how to connect with her audience by communicating with them verbally, visually, and vocally. And so can you.
Your delivery isn’t more essential than what you have to say, but without good delivery your listeners may never hear what you have to say. To make your presentation believable, you must practice.
Because the first impression comes more from what the audience see than from what they hear, we will first talk about visual delivery – particularly, how to appear to your audience. As a public speaker, your physical appearance, posture, facial expressions, eye contact, body movements, and gestures all influence your audience’s perception.
The audience judges your appearance as a hint to your position, credibility, and knowledge. Unless you are sure about what is suitable for the audience and the occasion, the safest thing to do is to dress conservatively.
Good posture is nothing more than standing straight and having your “chest out” and “stomach in.” Proper posture makes the speaker look and feel comfortable, and aids voice projection and poise.
Move around occasionally. Body movement can add interest, energy, and confidence to your presentation. To add emphasis, try moving at the beginning of an idea or at a transition between ideas. If you are using a projector and transparencies, be sure what is shown coincides with what you are saying.
Gestures are movements of the hands, arms, head, and the shoulders to help you communicate. They play an important role in public speaking, but they must enhance communication and not hinder it. Try making the gestures when rehearsing a speech. Practice before a mirror, even to the point of exaggerating. Then adapt your gestures to a point where they are appropriate and natural. However, gestures should be spontaneous. Too many gestures may distract the audience.
One kind of gesture is facial expression. This reveals your attitudes and feelings. Let your face glow with happiness or burn with enthusiasm. Avoid wearing the deadpan poker face that reveals nothing. This doesn’t mean that you will always give vent to your feelings in a bombastic and extravagant manner. A good speaker expresses views and feelings with appropriate restraint.
Eye contact is a very important factor in getting and holding attention. Look at your listeners directly, not above them or at the floor or ceiling or out of the window; otherwise, you lose your contact with your audience and their attention strays off.
Here are some questions you might consider in order to guide your visual delivery:
- Do I gesture enough? Too much?
- Does my body movement reinforce the flow of my speech?
- Are my gestures disturbing in any way?
- Am I depending so much on any one gesture?
- Does my face express the meaning or feeling I am trying to convey?
- Are there different gestures, body movements, or facial expressions that might express my intended meaning more effectively?
We all like to have an effective voice. Voice is essential in communication; only through it can any speech delivery be accomplished.
An effective voice is conversational, natural, and enthusiastic. It is pleasant to hear without even intending to. The audience will listen more if you speak as you do in a normal conversation.
Sounds have four fundamental characteristics: volume, pitch, rate, and quality. If any of these is faulty, distraction results. Important announcements are uttered in a slow manner and with a relatively low pitch, whereas jokes or other light remarks are uttered in a rapid fashion with a relatively higher pitch.
A well-modulated voice is important to be an effective speaker. Many people have very soft voices, which can be due to shyness or lack of training or lack of practice in voice projection. People with soft voices are often regarded as dull. A person who wants to develop an attractive, pleasing, and dynamic personality should undergo training in voice projection.
There is no hard and fast rule about the degree of loudness that should be used on different occasions, but an effective voice must be as loud as the specific speaking situation requires. If you are speaking to a group, every member of the audience with normal hearing and concentration should be able to understand your statements without straining their ears and without getting irritated because of an excessively loud voice. Good speakers fit voice and actions to the words used, to the situation, and to their personalities. An important principle in speaking clearly is that consonants should be pronounced well. Vowels are easier to pronounce, yet consonants give intelligibility to speech.
A voice that is dominated by intellect rather than emotion tends to be moderate in pitch as well as in loudness. This does not imply that intellectual efforts are devoid of feeling. It just implies that intellectual efforts accompanied by vocalization are not normally characterized by the exaggerated range and intensity of feeling exhibited in emotional behavior alone.
Pitch is the general level on a musical scale of the voice in speech. If a person is habitually tense, the voice is often in a higher pitch level than that of a habitually relaxed person. Pitch may either be high, medium, or low; or we may use such terms as soprano, alto, baritone, or bass for vocal pitch.
Natural pitch in speaking is important for an effective voice. One who speaks unnaturally will be ineffective, disagreeable, and uncomfortable.
There are three rates or tempos in speaking – slow, average, and fast. A markedly slow speaking rate indicates solemnity, sorrow, or depression. A marked increase in rate is suggestive of happiness, joy, elation, or anger. Words or phrases that are spoken more slowly and more emphatically are considered more important and more intellectually significant than rapidly pronounced words. However, a sustained, unchanging rate of speaking is discouraged regardless of feeling, mood, or purpose because it is monotonous.
Changes in rate can be achieved by the rate of articulation or by the use of pauses. The use of pauses is a very useful technique for separating or grouping phrases, for creating dramatic effects, and for emphasizing ideas. As a general rule, the use of a comma is a sign for the reader or speaker to pause. But in some instances, long sentences without commas should also be divided according to thought content by a pause to give time for breathing and for the listener to grasp fully what is being read or said.
Dramatic effect can be achieved by speakers who pause after a rising inflection, thereby creating suspense; after which the expected outcome follows to the satisfaction of their listeners. Effective speakers, however, should avoid pauses showing that they don’t know what to say next. Speakers who know how to pause with intent and without fear are respected speakers.
Voice characteristics (or voice timbre) and voice attitudes (or voice color) come under the general term of voice quality. A person’s voice can be categorized as pleasant or unpleasant depending upon its timbre and color or quality. What is voice quality? This term is hard to identify and no attempt will be made to define it here except to show its relations to other factors and how to achieve this. Vocal quality is related to resonance and to the avoidance of undesirable vocal aspects such as excessive nasality and breathing. It is also related to feeling and mood.
Besides being greatly conscious of your visual delivery (you and your visual aids) and vocal delivery (your manner of speaking), the audience will focus on your verbal delivery (the language you use and the way you construct sentences). Listeners prefer speakers who use a more informal language than what is usual for written reports. For instance, in oral speech, it is more appropriate to use short, simple sentences, and it is not always required to use complete sentences. Moreover, it is absolutely acceptable to use personal pronouns such as I, we, you, and us and contractions such as I’m and don’t – forms that are frequently avoided in formal written reports.
One mistake is to use long or extremely technical terms or jargon to impress the audience. Even though you are speaking in a professional setting, don’t think that your listeners use or understand the same technical words or jargon that you do. The best language is vivid and colorful (paints a picture for the audience), concrete and specific (gives details), and simple (is easy to understand).
Putting your ideas into simple, easy-to-understand language that suits the contexts of your audience and is vivid, specific, and bias-free can be difficult at the start. As you practice on the essentials of delivery, however, remember the rules discussed here and your language and style of speaking will progress.
Methods of Delivery
1. The Impromptu Speech
Of the four methods, the impromptu speech requires the least preparation. With very little advance notice, the speaker is asked to speak for a few minutes on a specific subject.
Try to apply the following principles or rules in giving an impromptu speech.
- Formulate the central idea. Don’t try to discuss the entire subject. Limit yourself to a specific aspect that you can discuss in a few minutes. Be sure you know the idea you want to present before you start.
- Open your talk with a sentence that says something. Don’t be apologetic. Begin with a bang, and go straight to the point.
- The body of your speech must be unified. You can give examples, illustrations, comparisons, and contrasts to help explain your key sentences. Be as concrete and specific as possible.
- Conclude on a strong note. You can repeat your key sentences, but rephrase them. Restate them briefly but clearly.
- Expect the possibility that you might be called on to speak, so make some preparations early.
- Maximize whatever small amount of preparation time you are given to your benefit.
- Practice active listening.
- Manage speech anxiety by reminding yourself that no one expects you to be perfect when you are asked to give impromptu speeches.
- Use the fundamental principles of speech organization.
- Consider the impromptu speech as giving a golden opportunity to practice and develop your delivery.
2. Manuscript Speech
A manuscript or read speech is one that is written out and read word for word during delivery. When the occasion is a solemn or historic one, the read speech is the most appropriate. Persons of prominence read their speeches for accuracy and precision. This kind of speech lacks spontaneity and naturalness that the impromptu speech or the extemporaneous speech has. The speaker reading the speech should maintain rapport with the audience.
Here are some guidelines in giving a manuscript speech:
- Use a manuscript for the right reasons.
- Use good oral style.
- Practice intensively.
- Look for opportunities to move and gesture.
- Use your voice effectively.
- Remain flexible.
3. Memorized Speech
This method of delivery is good only for elocution pieces. Like the read speech, it lacks spontaneity and naturalness. In addition, human memory might fail the speaker during the delivery and can cause great embarrassment. This type of speech should not be used in public speaking classes.
Here are some guidelines in giving a memorized speech:
- Stay focused on your specific purpose and on the key ideas you want to convey.
- Speak in the moment.
- Practice, practice, practice!
4. Extemporaneous Speech
This method is recommended for public speaking classes. It is not read nor memorized. It has spontaneity and naturalness. The speaker also has time to prepare the ideas embodied in it, though the language is formulated at the moment of delivery. This speech is also practiced but the words and arrangement of words are changed to something better and more effective. In rehearsing, the speaker is simply guided by a mental outline. If notes are held, these simply contain quotations from famous authors and speakers that help expound the ideas. The speaker doesn’t memorize the speech but knows from memory the order of ideas to achieve unity, organization, and clarity in speech.
An extemporaneous speech:
- Requires careful preparation.
- Is based on a key word outline.
- Allows the speaker to remain direct, involved, and flexible.