Delivery Tips

Concerned about how to deliver your speech?  Follow these tips to become a more dynamic, yet natural, speaker.

1. Consider the rhetorical situation.

What is your purpose as a speaker? Do you want to persuade or inform? If you want to persuade, then you should present your speech more dynamically than if your main purpose is to inform. What are your audience’s expectations? Do they have any specific expectations for the occasion? For example, does your audience expect you to be serious or funny? How should these expectations affect your delivery?

2. Be audience-centered.

Speak “with” the audience, not at the audience. You should sound like you’re having a conversation with the audience. Monitor audience feedback and adapt. For example, if your audience looks confused, you may want to re-explain your idea using different words.

3. Be natural.

The audience should never notice your delivery. An “announcer” or “speaker” voice or overdone facial expressions will make you seem insincere. Make sure your voice, movements, gestures, and expressions seem natural.

4. Be dynamic.

Use your voice, body, and face in the following ways to engage the audience:

a. Speak with vocal variety by varying your force (volume), rate (speed), and pitch (vocal tones). Use all three of these aspects of your voice in combination to emphasize important points. For example, to gain your audience’s attention, you may want to slow down, lower your voice, and speak loudly.

b. Speak clearly and distinctly (articulation) and avoid fillers (um, uh, like, etc.).

c. Your eye contact should be adequate (look at the audience, rather than your notes, most of the time) and inclusive (look at the entire audience). For smaller audiences, you should maintain eye contact with each member for 2-3 seconds at a time throughout your presentation. Don’t wear a hat while speaking. This detracts from your ability to make eye contact with your audience.

d. Use appropriate facial expressions to illustrate your feelings throughout your presentation. Your face should be animated as you speak (without seeming unnatural to the audience). Smiling is often appropriate and is, in most contexts, persuasive.

e. Show confidence by maintaining good posture throughout your presentation. Keep your weight evenly distributed over both feet. Don’t lean on one leg or shift your weight from foot to foot.

f. Use movement purposefully. Don’t pace in front of the audience. Use movement to illustrate transitions between main points by taking a few steps.

g. Use gestures purposefully and naturally. Avoid repetitive gestures and putting your hands in your pockets.

5. Be immediate.

Develop a sense of closeness between you and the audience. This can be done in several ways. First, remove any objects between you and your audience. Don’t speak from behind a podium. Second, lessen the space between you and your audience. Approach audience members as you speak but do not get so close you violate their personal space. Third, use eye contact and be expressive with your voice and gestures.

6. Be extemporaneous.

Memorize your introduction and conclusion but present the body of your speech in an extemporaneous style. To be extemporaneous, you should prepare and practice well and present your speech from minimal notes (a key-word outline on not more than 2-3 note cards). Practice your presentation from your formal outline several times before writing your key-word outline. Practice your speech from your key-word outline before giving it in class. (Note: Memorized or manuscript delivery styles may be appropriate depending on the situation; however, you’ll probably use an extemporaneous style most often.)

Practice tips:

  • Practice as though you’re giving your speech in class (out loud, standing, and from key-word note cards).
  • Practice delivering your presentation with your PowerPoint.
  • Practice in front of a mirror or record yourself and review your recording.

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