Public Speaking Success Preparation Help (page 3)
Introduction to Public Speaking Success Preparation
That speech is most worth listening to which has been carefully prepared in private and tried on a plaster cast, or an empty chair, or any other appreciative object that will keep quiet, until the speaker has got his matter and his delivery limbered up so that they will seem impromptu to an audience.
—Mark Twain, 1835–1910
No good speech is truly given off the cuff without some advance thought—but the best ones appear that way. In this lesson, we will consider the four major methods of speech delivery, noting the best uses of each.
The most common source of anxiety for those speaking publicly is the fear that they will get up front and suddenly go blank, forgetting everything they had planned to say. This fear is probably as common as dreaming that you are out in public without your pants—and it has about the same likelihood of actually happening in real life.
All the same, you can vastly alleviate those anxieties by the simple expedient of being well-prepared, knowing that you will not forget your words because you have taken vigorous steps to prevent that from happening. The truth is that unless you are giving an impromptu speech, you will have spent vast amounts of time researching and preparing your speech. The next step, then, is to decide how you will deliver it.
There are four common methods for delivering a speech:
- Reading from a manuscript
Reading from a Manuscript
The best and surest way to guarantee that you won't forget your speech is to write it down, word for word, and then read it back to your audience. This will certainly alleviate your anxiety—but it will also make a dreadfully dull speech.
You may have endured a teacher or professor who reads his lectures verbatim. If so, you have no doubt heard students remark, "Why doesn't he just give us all a copy of his lectures and let us read them ourselves?" This is precisely the response that you can expect from your audience if you should choose to read a fully written speech.
Having said that, there are undeniably occasions where it is best to read a written speech. Politicians, for example, do this on a regular basis (or else they memorize them, which we'll discuss in a moment) because it ensures that their wording is carefully crafted to avoid saying the wrong thing, or saying the right thing the wrong way. If you find yourself forced to read a pre-written speech, follow these guidelines:
- Practice it—repeatedly.Read it aloud with a red pen in hand, and notice any area where the writing does not flow smoothly when spoken. Reword that passage immediately—out loud—until it seems like something you'd say naturally; then write down the new wording.
- Do not stare fixedly at your manuscript.Practice looking up frequently, making eye contact with your audience. Do this especially at the ends of sentences and paragraphs.
- Do not speak in monotone.Vary the pitch of your voice, just as you would in normal speech. This does take some practice to make it sound natural, but you're going to practice repeatedly anyway.
- Use a marker or finger to keep your place.When I've been forced to give a speech from a manuscript, I've used a six-inch ruler, which I slide down the page as I go along. This is very unobtrusive, and it underlines the entire sentence on the page. You could also use your finger to mark each successive line of text as you go.
- Design the page for easy reading.I do this when I speak from an outline (my usual method), and it's even more important when reading verbatim. Double-space your text, using a large font that is easy to read. Double-space between paragraphs (four spaces total) rather than indenting. Do not break pages mid-paragraph; force a page break at the beginning of a paragraph, even if the previous page comes up short.
- Use normal gestures and movement.This is where a manuscript can get tricky, because it naturally glues you to the podium. Yet motion and gestures are vitally important to keeping your audience's attention, as we'll discuss more fully in a later lesson, so you'll want to practice reading the manuscript as though you were speaking naturally. This includes hand gestures from time to time, which means that you could potentially lose your place if you're using a finger—which is another good reason for finding a suitable marker like a ruler.
- Practice it—repeatedly.Just in case you forgot this crucial step.
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.
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:
- Thanks for invite
- Mention some of their projects [examine in advance, fill in below]
- been painting since I was six years old
- fantasy figures
- Topic: brushwork and paint, figure materials
- types of paint
- Types of paint
- John Smith, How to Paint Realistic Miniature Figures
- "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."
- Many to choose from
- [set up paint samples in front of room]
- Primer = best starting point
- important for base coat
- allows variety of paints to adhere that might not otherwise
- Why paints are different
- John Smith, How to Paint Realistic Miniature Figures
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.
We touched on this type of speech earlier when we considered special occasion speeches, noting that they can be the most intimidating type of speech. But the fact is that you give impromptu speeches all the time—you just don't realize it. When you get together with a group of friends to hang out and talk, you are making an impromptu speech. When a professor asks you a question in class, you answer with an impromptu speech.
An impromptu speech is one that is given on the spur of the moment, without advance notice. Ironically, the Latin phrase in promptu(from which this word is drawn) actually means "to have at hand, to be in readiness." And this little piece of etymology gives away the big secret: The best impromptu speeches are not really unprepared at all, they are just given promptly!
You'll remember that we made this observation back in Lesson 5: Be prepared in advance to be asked unexpectedly. If you're attending a special function, ask yourself if you might possibly be asked to "say a few words." If there's any chance of that whatsoever, give some thought in advance to what you'll say if asked. Then you'll be in readiness, and you'll have an outline at hand.
Even if you should find yourself caught off-guard in a public speaking situation, you can still follow these guidelines to make a great speech:
- Be brief.Just as practice is important with most types of speeches, so brevity is critical to the impromptu speech. Speaking off the cuff has many pitfalls, not the least of which is the danger of saying something you'll regret. Keep it short and to the point—then sit down.
- Remember the audience and the setting.It's likely that you know at least something about the people you're with when asked to deliver an impromptu speech. Before you start speaking, ask yourself what will be appropriate for the audience—and what might be inappropriate. Select a topic that is pertinent to the occasion, and make the tone match. Humor is appropriate at a celebration, but it must be used with a measure of sensitivity at a memorial service.
- Make it personal.That is, personal to you—not to specific members of the audience. People love to hear stories and anecdotes, so draw from your own experience to make an apt illustration. Using someone in the audience as the focus of your story, however, runs a grave risk of offending. Avoid this at all costs!
- Bite your tongue.If you're like me, you'll get up unexpectedly to say a few words and suddenly think of a humorous observation on some extraneous topic. I've learned from very painful experience that this can be a deadly trap. I once made a grossly insensitive comment on the food service at a speech location, only to find out later that I'd injured the feelings of a blind person. If only I could have gone back in time and shut my mouth! Remember our favorite maxim: When in doubt, leave it out.
The practice exercise for this study guide can be found at: Public Speaking Success Preparation Practice.
Add your own comment
Today on Education.com
WORKBOOKSMay Workbooks are Here!
ACTIVITIESGet Outside! 10 Playful Activities
- Kindergarten Sight Words List
- The Five Warning Signs of Asperger's Syndrome
- What Makes a School Effective?
- Child Development Theories
- Why is Play Important? Social and Emotional Development, Physical Development, Creative Development
- 10 Fun Activities for Children with Autism
- Bullying in Schools
- Test Problems: Seven Reasons Why Standardized Tests Are Not Working
- Should Your Child Be Held Back a Grade? Know Your Rights
- First Grade Sight Words List