Public Speaking Success Preparation Help (page 2)

Updated on Sep 28, 2011

Memorizing a Pre-Written Speech

By the time you have rehearsed your written speech—repeatedly—you will have it nearly memorized. It's a small step to rehearse it a few times more, deliberately committing it to memory in its entirety.

This method is better than reading directly from your manuscript, although it's not the best approach. It still runs the risk of sounding mechanical and contrived, but there are some ways of avoiding that.

  • Have your written manuscript in front of you.You don't really need it anymore, but you may still be nervous enough that you might forget the speech midstream. With the manuscript in front of you, you'll be able to glance down if that should happen. You can still keep pace with your delivery by turning pages as you go, even without more than an occasional glance at the page. And that is all you want—an occasional glance. Most of the time, you'll keep your head up and eyes on the audience.
  • Speak in a conversational tone.This is essentially what we stated for reading the speech directly off the page, but it is easier to avoid speaking in monotone when you've memorized what it is you're going to say. Vary the pitch and pace of your voice, just as you would when speaking naturally. The danger of memorized speeches is that the delivery can sound robotic. You've probably said the Pledge of Allegiance in groups before; just think how people sound when they say it: "I pledge allegiance… to the flag… of the United States… of America…." Now try saying those same words out loud, as though you were speaking to a friend, and you'll realize that those odd pauses are very unnatural. A more natural delivery of the Pledge would sound something like this: "I pledge allegianceto the flag of the United Statesof America, andto the Republic for which it stands—one nation under God—indivisible! With liberty and justice for all." The italicized words represent places where you would naturally add a verbal emphasis, and you'll note that the pauses are slight and in more appropriate locations. As you practice memorizing your speech, pay attention to how you sound, and strive to make your voice flow naturally.
  • Memorize your outline as well as your speech.This is extra work, it's true, but it will pay huge dividends. It will enable you to visualize exactly where you are in your speech at all times, and you'll know which point follows your present point in case the exact wording should suddenly escape you.
  • Remember that nobody but you will know if you don't quote exactly.In the dire event that you should suddenly go blank and not have the manuscript in front of you, just improvise on the spot. You memorized the outline, so you know roughly where you are and where you're going next. Just start talking about that next point. The exact wording will most likely come back to mind as you move forward—plus, by improvising, you've started experimenting with a highly effective method of speech delivery.

Speaking Extemporaneously

When you forgot the exact wording of your memorized speech and started to improvise, you were speaking extemporaneously. This is just a big word meaning that you come up with the exact wording as you go along. (The Latin word literally means "out of time," which is often the situation that forces a speaker to think up the delivery on the spot—since time has run out.)

An extemporaneous speech is not invented on the spot, however. It is actually thought out well in advance, and all the steps we've taken thus far in crafting a speech are used to prepare an extemporaneous speech—except the step of writing it out word for word. Instead, the extemporaneous speech is delivered from an outline or from rough notes, which are often printed on index cards.

This outline is not the one you created in Lesson 6, however. That was just a preliminary outline to get you started. This is the step you took in Lessons 7 through 9, where you wrote out the body, conclusion, and introduction verbatim. In the case of an extemporaneous speech, you would still take those steps, except that you won't write them verbatim; you'll make an outline or rough notes on what you'll say at those points and go from there.

Here is an outline I would use if I were giving the speech on painting miniatures:

  1. Greeting
    1. Thanks for invite
    2. Mention some of their projects [examine in advance, fill in below]
    3. Credentials:
      1. been painting since I was six years old
      2. fantasy figures
    4. Topic: brushwork and paint, figure materials
      1. types of paint
      2. brushwork
      3. media
  2. Types of paint
    1. John Smith, How to Paint Realistic Miniature Figures
      1. "Paint selection is the lifeblood of any painting project. Selecting the wrong paint for your project is like eating poison—bad paint can kill your favorite figure."
    2. Many to choose from
      1. [set up paint samples in front of room]
    3. Primer = best starting point
      1. important for base coat
      2. allows variety of paints to adhere that might not otherwise
    4. Why paints are different

You'll notice several things about this outline. First, it's brief. It does not provide the exact wording you'll use when speaking; it only gives you the information you need to remember what you intend to say at each point. This enables you to keep your eyes on your audience more than on your notes, while it also prevents you from getting lost.

You'll also notice that I've included bracketed lines. I deliberately boldface such instructions in my own outlines so that I can see them easily in advance, enabling me to do my preliminary work before I get up front to speak. So this technique would remind you to examine the figures painted by your audience and to set up some paints to use as a visual aid beforehand.

I leave a few blank lines in my outline to fill in just before speaking. I do this because I intend to examine the painted miniatures that the audience brings with them, but I don't know what they'll be until I get there. Once I've seen them, I jot down a few brief notes in my outline just prior to speaking, and then mention the specifics in my introduction.

Notice also that the entire Smith quotation is written out in full. When quoting someone, you don'trely on extemporaneous invention because you need to get the words exactly correct. At this one point, you would be reading directly from your speech. Yet it also enables you to glance ahead to your next point so that you can then return your eyes to the audience.

Clearly, the extemporaneous speech is often the most effective method because it sounds spontaneous even though it is well rehearsed. People enjoy listening to someone who speaks conversationally rather than to someone rehashing a canned lecture, and this method achieves that end. Here are some tips to remember:

  • Practice!This may come as a surprise, given that you haven't written out the text and you're not memorizing anything—yet that means it's even more important to practice. You will be more confident if you know approximately what you will say at each point on your outline, even though you are not trying to memorize exact wording.
  • Make changes to your outline.Another benefit of practice is you will think of things to say that are not in your outline, and you may discover things that arein your outline that don't work. Mark the outline as you go, and then make those changes to your computer file.
  • Use a computer.This is probably self-evident to most in our present computer age, but just in case: A computer document is easy to change and adjust handwritten pages are not. Computers also allow you to use a clear, easy-to-read font.
  • Use a clear, easy-to-read font.In case it wasn't clear in the previous point, legibility is as important in your outline as it would be in a written speech. I use a decent-sized font with double-spacing for ease of reading.
  • Do not write out a lot of text—but make sure it's enough.Your outline notes are intended to jog your memory on what you want to say next, but they're only a memory-jogger, not a puppet master. You want those notes to be clearly meaningful to you at the time of delivery, without being so wordy that you begin to read verbatim. Find a balance that works for you.
  • Practice some more.Every time you make an adjustment to your outline, you should rehearse the entire speech again. Yes, it's a lot of work, but it makes the difference between mediocrity and excellence. Strive for excellence.
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