Delivering A Good Speech Help
Introduction to Delivering A Good Speech
The world is governed more by appearance than realities so that it is fully as necessary to seem to know something as to know it.
—Daniel Webster, 1782–1852
A good speech is made up of more than just words; our bodies communicate at least as loudly as our voices. In this lesson, we will learn how to communicate with the whole body.
Never judge a book by its cover, we're told, because appearances can be deceiving. These sayings are very true, of course, yet like all our other rules, they have a counterpart. When it comes to public speaking, your appearance can be as important as your words.
Good grooming and appropriate attire are only a small part of this topic. You can be as tastefully dressed and carefully groomed as a professional and still undermine your message by something as subtle as poor posture or unclear delivery. Let's consider some of the things that go into making a good appearance.
We'll start with the most obvious area, our physical appearance. It is important to dress in a manner that is appropriate to the occasion. Always dress one notch better than your audience. Here are some general categories to help you show up with the right amount of style:
- Casual: Jeans, tennis shoes, t-shirts
- Business Casual: Khakis, slacks, casual shirts and blouses, loafers
- Business Formal: Suits, dresses, dress shoes, neckties
- Formal: Tuxedoes, formal gowns, matching accessories
If your audience will be those present at a business meeting on casual Friday, you should plan on dressing in the business formal category. This is just a rule of thumb, however; common sense still applies. You wouldn't address a business audience wearing a top hat and tuxedo.
It's also a good idea to check your facial appearance in a mirror prior to speaking. This will ensure that your hair is in place, there's no spinach in your teeth, and you haven't sneezed out an unwelcome surprise. It will also increase your confidence and decrease your anxiety to know that you don't have to worry about your appearance.
Avoid distracting items such as jangling jewelry or loud colors. I recently sat through an entire lecture staring at the speaker's red tie because I couldn't get over thinking that his tongue was hanging out of his shirt. Bracelets that rustle and make noise are a major distraction whenever you gesture, and even jingling loose change in your pockets can be annoying to the audience.
When I was in elementary school, teachers were constantly admonishing some student or other—frequently me—to stand up straight. There are many reasons for maintaining good posture: Standing erect helps you breathe more comfortably, prevents fatigue, allows you to make eye contact with your audience, and projects your voice better, among other things. But one major reason for good posture is that it projects the image that you are confident and well prepared.
Closely associated with good posture is the notion of "opening out" toward your audience. By this I mean that you face your audience directly, keeping your head up and your eyes at their level, psychologically removing any barrier between you and your listeners and opening up your countenance to them. This is important because it makes your voice project clearly, and it also sends subtle body-language signals to your audience telling them that you are confident and trustworthy.
Of course, like anything else, erect posture can be overdone. You don't need to stand with your chin pressed into your neck and shoulders pushed way back like a Marine—unless you're a Marine. Your goal is to stand comfortably but upright. I have a tendency, evidently, to slump slightly forward and look down. I say "evidently" because I frequently catch myself while speaking in that posture and must consciously remember to square up my shoulders and open out toward the audience. Your best bet is to stand comfortably and remind yourself to keep your face open toward the audience.
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