There are many ways to deliver your speech. Each one has some specific things to know. In this chapter, we will cover impromptu speaking, extemporaneous speaking, manuscript speaking, memorized presentation, and finally group or team presentations.
- Ray, corporate will be here in five minutes and I want you to walk them through the proposal.
- Jade, would you give a toast to the partners in a few minutes?
- Alex, the speaker is going to be 15 minutes late, would you go out and talk about some related topic until she gets here.
- I have a few people here who need a quick brush up on how to use features of Microsoft Teams, do you have a minute to show them?
- I think I want to buy this computer but I’m not sure if it is right for me, would you demonstrate how to log onto Zoom with it?
- Our political candidate has asked that you go to the Farmer’s Market and talk with constituents about his beliefs about the upcoming zoning changes.
- Javantee, at today’s business meeting, could you tell us about the progress your team is making on project X?
- Eve, would you give your testimony at Bible study in a few minutes.
- Mr. Davidson, the reporter will be here in two minutes to take your statement about the opening.
- We will be asking you questions at the end of your presentation if that is OK with you.
It is likely that each of you reading this book will be called to give an impromptu speech in your life. It is that sudden and often unexpected call to give a speech. In public speaking classrooms and in speech clubs, a topic is offered, and you have a few minutes to prepare.
Steps to Success in an Impromptu Speech
- Breathe. Often the call to give a speech will catch you off guard. Take a deep breath, fill your body full of wonderful idea-giving, stress-reducing oxygen.
- Jot down a few quick ideas.
- If time, write down three solid points on the topic.
- Always figure out what your first three words will be. Never let your first words be, “Ok, so um”.
- Plan your last sentence. If you do not have a plan to end and end strong, you will find yourself rambling in search of an ending.
Impromptu Like a Pro
- To put the “Advanced” into your public speaking, use strong signposts. ” I have three points to tell you today,” “point one,” “point two,” “point three,” “Now that I have given you three things to consider.”
- As with all speaking, you should plan the first three words and the last three words to be strong and impactful.
Extemporaneous speaking is speaking with brief notes and careful practice. When doing this type of speech, you have written most of the main ideas of your speech in an outline, but the speech is delivered from brief notes. The main ideas are developed but the exact wording of the point is decided at the moment.
The advantage of this type of speaking is you can prepare, plan, and practice. Not having every word scripted helps the speech feel fresh, alive, and real. In addition, the fact every single word isn’t written allows you wiggle room to add new information that seems relevant during the speech. It also can provide a buffer if you mess up. Since it is not scripted, it is easier to pick up and recover.
Steve Johnson who gave a Ted Talk on Where Good Ideas Come gave this commentary on why he decided not to memorize his speech:
In all of my TED talks, I very deliberately did not memorize them, precisely because the audience can hear memorized text very clearly, and it takes awas from the spontaneous, engaged nature of speaking to a live audience. The other problem with a memorized speech is that when it fails, it fails catastrophically. If you’re just talking, following a rough outline, if you slip up a bit and forget a small piece, it’s barely noticeable to anyone but you. But if you’re reciting something from memory and draw a blank, you’re likely to freeze with nowhere to go. It’s like your mental teleprompter has frozen.
Steps to Success in an Extemporaneous Speech
The process for developing an extemporaneous speech is as follows:
- Think of a topic.
- Create a thesis statement/ big idea.
- Research your topic.
- Outline your speech with a pattern appropriate to the topic and audience.
- Prepare clear preview and review statements at the opening and closing of your speech where you state and restate the main purpose of your speech.
- Add a clear opening and closing statement.
- Create brief notecards from your outline.
- Deliver the speech in a conversational manner with good eye contact and body movement that enhances the topic and your credibility.
The key advantage of extemporaneous speaking is it tends to feel more natural.
Salman Khan, of Khan Academy learning programs, made several TED Talks on educational principles and says,
I personally tend to list out bullet points of what I want to talk about and try communicating those ideas in my natural language as if I’m talking to friends at a dinner table. The key is to keep your mind focused and let the words fall out. The audience knows when you are thinking about what you are saying versus when you have just memorized a script.
Extemporaneous –Always Have This Speech Ready to Go
There are a few speeches that you should always have ready to go
- Elevator Speech-Imagine you are taking an elevator ride with the person that you want to work for, give you a loan, do research with, partner with and you have only one minute to convince them to talk with you.
- Corporate Story-If you are in business, you should have your corporate story ready to go in a one to two minute speech. This speech should tell people who you are and what you believe.
In the early days of rhetoric, students would learn the art of speaking by memorizing the speeches of others and delivering them in public places. The Greek rhetors placed a great emphasis on the skill of memorization and it is even considered one of the canons of rhetoric. The most common times you will see a speech memorized is for toast speeches and acceptance speeches. After all, it ruins the moment if you have a wine glass in one hand toasting the groom and your speech notes in the other. Memorizing your toast helps you to be in the moment. In addition, many sales companies require their salespeople to memorize the company sales script. These tested formulas often pay off in larger sales, so they expect associates to deliver word-per-word scripts in their sales presentations. Some politicians have memorized stump speeches or at least memorized answers to standard questions.
While not as prevalent as it was in ancient Greek and Rome, memorized speeches are making a comeback. The biggest place of resurgence is on the Ted stage. Chris Anderson, Ted Talk curator said, “Many of our best and most popular TED Talks have been memorized word for word.”
TED speaker and voice artist Rives says,
I memorize the s#@! out of it. I memorize the talk until the talk is like a tune. I workshop the talk in my mouth. I run it fast and slow, singsong and stentorian, cool and cooler. I rehearse the talk until I’m performing the talk, not remembering it.
Pamela Meyer, TED speaker says,
You haven’t really memorized your talk thoroughly until you can do an entire other activity that requires mental energy while giving your talk. Can you give your talk while measuring out the ingredients to make brownies?
The advantage of memorizing your speech is you can plan every word making the most of your speech time. Not having to look at notes frees you up to make good eye contact. The disadvantage of memorizing your speech is you might not sound fresh and your audience may perceive it more as a performance than a speech. Some speakers take on a machine gun tone with their voice giving away the memorized format. Sometimes eye contact is lost as the speaker reads off the “invisible notecard in the sky.” The biggest disadvantage is that you risk going blank and forgetting what to say.
If you do decide to memorize your speech, be sure you know it well. TED curator, Chris Anderson says, “Most people go through what I call the ‘valley of awkwardness,’ where they haven’t quite memorized the talk. If they give the talk while stuck in that valley, the audience will sense it … Getting past this point is simple, fortunately. It’s just a matter of rehearsing enough times that the flow of words becomes second nature. It is important,” according to Anderson ” that, you are not supposed to recite your talk, you’re supposed to live it. Embody it. It must come across as if you are sharing these ideas for the first time.”
Have a backup plan. If you decide to memorize your talk, keep a notecard in your pocket. If you forget what to say, pause and say, “Let me refer to my notes” and then pull them out or pause for a moment and have a sip of water. No matter how well you know your talk, have a backup plan.
After all the memorization work I’d done, performing this speech felt like swinging a racquet or shooting a basketball, like dancing a routine you know perfectly. The speech had become a literal part of me, encoded in the neural connections of my brain. Memorization, I realized, is a place where the mind learns to cope with the body. Consciously, we want to remember something, but that’s not sufficient to embed information in the networks of the brain. We have to earn the memories we want.
Alexis Madrigal. What Memorizing a Ted Talk Did for My Brain
Greek poet Simonides of Ceos is the first recorded use of the method of loci (loci being Latin for places). It is more recently called the memory palace. If you have ever watched BBC’s Sherlock, you may have noticed that Sherlock uses the memory palace to remember things. Individuals who compete in memory competitions often use the memory palace or memory journey technique to remember long lists of times–Clemons Mayer memorized 1040 random digits by using a 300-point journey through his house and Gary Shang used the technique to memorize pi to 65,536 digits. Brain scans of these super memorizers show the region of the brain involved with spatial awareness is activated when using this technique.
So how does it work? In short, this technique suggests that you remember things in familiar spatial environments. For example, you might imagine each part of your speech being located in one of your kitchen cabinets. When you open the cabinet door, you can see the speech part. Speaker Irina Elena Antonescu found images and cut and pasted them on big sheets of paper in a kind of journey to help her memorize her talk. Heather Hanson learned from Grandmaster of Memory, Nishant Kasibhatla how to think in pictures and how to find pictures that make sense to her in some way.
I’ll show you how it works. This picture illustrates my third speaking point on listening. In my mind, the rainbow was cascading down on the audience from the first-floor balcony while I spoke of the beautiful variety of English accents. Then, the colors turned into speech bubbles floating over everyone’s heads with all their different sounds as I talked about how accents work.
The bubbles popped and turned into music notes as I remembered to elaborate on tone and emphasis until a huge donkey showed up and started eating the music notes. That reminded me to tell everyone not to be an “ass” and not to make “ass”umptions about the way people speak (I didn’t use those words, of course, but that’s actually what I was thinking). Then, the donkey looked right at me and his eyes popped out of his head! He was wearing accented contact lenses, which reminded me to talk about how we need more contact with different varieties of accented English. Suddenly, it was incredibly easy to remember my talk!
In the video How to Memorize and Give a Speech Without Notes, Jim Kwik gives a step-by-step tutorial to apply this to memorizing a speech.
There will be times when reading from a manuscript is helpful. When giving a eulogy you are likely to experience strong emotions. Having your words written out will be very helpful. Politicians often speak from manuscripts because there will be people weighing the meaning of each word. They often have speech writers who take their ideas and make them sound fancy and they likely have several people help them omit words that might offend.
The advantage to speaking with a manuscript is you have your speech in front of you giving you an opportunity to plan interesting wordplays and advanced language techniques. Another advantage to a manuscript is you can share your speech with others. For example, many people like to have written copies of the toast given to them at a special occasion or family members might want to keep a copy of the eulogy. Politically speaking, a manuscript can be helpful to help keep you on track and make sure you only say things you meant to say.
The disadvantage to a manuscript is if not done properly, your speech may feel like merely an “essay with legs.” Speaking from a manuscript is a skill. I would argue that it is one of the most difficult of all the delivery types because your goal is to read without appearing to read. It can be so tempting to lock your eyes on the page where it is safe and to never look up. Speakers who lack the skill of manuscript reading will have very little eye contact. It is usually sporadic and rarely long enough to lock eyes with anyone in the audience. Finally, it is very difficult for most people to make gestures when reading a manuscript. Many people run their hands down the page to keep their place and worse yet, many speakers clutch both hands over the podium and never let go.
Group or Team Speech
Several years ago, I was on a charter bus headed to teaching camp. I often use that time to learn more about other teachers and their specialties. This time the person seated next to me was a professor from the Walton School of Business. I asked him, “In your opinion, in what area are students not properly prepared when it comes to communicating in a corporate environment.” He said, “Group presentations.” He went on to explain that the model in most speech classes is four people each prepare a speech on a similar topic and then one at a time, they stand up and give their speech. They may share slides and put them all together, but often there is not a lot of group in a group speech. He said, “That is not a group speech in the real world where each person plays to their strengths. In that setting, team members talk for different amounts of time. In the presentation, they tag team, they interact, and they are involved with the content from the other group members. The whole thing looks like a seamless presentation, not four speeches glued together by a shared slideshow.
Once I was working on a team presentation with another teacher. Originally, we had the typical I talk for five minutes and then she talks for five minutes set up, but then we decided there was no team in that model. We reworked the presentation where she might present a point, and then I might give some supplemental information on a point and one of us would introduce the next point. Since there was a lot of turn-takings, we coded our slides by putting a red dot or a blue dot in the corner of the slide to remind us of whose turn it was to present. One person held the clicker and we had practice signals to know when to advance. We even had it worked out where when one person would talk, the other person would walk around and be ready to give out handouts or to ask an interactive question to the audience. We worked as a unified team moving towards the goal of educating teachers about how to talk about difficult subjects in the college classroom.
Steps to Success in a Group Speech
- Everyone Should Know All the Content. One of the big mistakes I see in college presentations, it that students put everything together last minute and each speaker is not aware of what the others are saying. They may use a shared document to make an outline, but each person adds the content so late the others do not have time to read and respond. Inevitably, two presenters have the same information. The second person who presents finds themselves in the awkward position of saying, “Like Joe already said, repeated fact.” For group speeches to work, group members must share content early and they need to, not only share the content in a document, but they also need to practice together.
- Nonspeaking Group Members Can Be Distracting. You need to plan what the nonspeaking group members are doing when they are not speaking. Are they sitting, standing, walking around? Are they in view of the audience? During a group presentation at the university, I had the students unwisely decide to stand in front of the class in a line and then take turns speaking down the line. The third speaker got bored, so he grabbed a marker and started drawing a cartoon on the whiteboard while his group member was talking. I’ve also seen groups where they didn’t manage facial expressions and looked genuinely surprised by a fact the speaker said or looked very angry by the information that clearly was tacked on by one of their team members last minute.
- Dead Air Kills. When I worked as a radio DJ, we had the phrase, “Dead air kills.” Which meant if the DJ didn’t properly time one song to lead into the next or if there was even a short pause before the commercial, the DJ would lose your audience. A brief pause might even lead to the listeners changing the channel. When working with groups, the time it takes for each speaker to stand, to speak, or to get their notes ready can result in dead air. Work towards a seamless presentation and practice the timing and logistics of how to get from one speaker to the next.
- Transitions Keep Things Seamless. Each speaker should give a transition that clearly connects their speech to the next speaker, “I told you about the culture of Mexico, now Yazan will tell you about the food.”
- Slides Should Be Consistent. They should be consistent in the background, headings, photos, and font. For example, one person has high-quality photos for the slides while the other group member has cheesy uncentered clip art. Make sure each person knows and has access to the whole slide show. Oftentimes, one person will be responsible for making the slides for the group. If that is the case, make sure the slide show is done before the deadline so each team member can proof the slides and practice with the slides.
- Start and End Strong. There should be a grabber to get the attention of the topic and there should be a thesis/preview that includes all the subtopics of the speech. At the end of the speech, you should restate the thesis/review and give a strong closing statement.
In summary, there are many considerations when picking a way to deliver a speech. The context of the speech, the need for precision or flexibility, and the personal preference of the speaker will all influence which delivery method works best.
There are several ways to deliver speeches each with advantages and disadvantages. It is important to pick your delivery mode based on audience, occasion, and personal style preference.
- Group Presentation
I want to hear from you.
Do you have an activity to include?
Did you notice a typo that I should correct?
Are you planning to use this as a resource and do you want me to know about it?
Do you want to tell me something that really helped you?
Hansen, H. (2018). The memorization trick that saved my TEDx talk. [Video]. YouTube. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/memorization-trick-saved-my-tedx-talk-heather-hansen/
Jameson, S. (2005). Reading for college PowerPoint. Drew University. https://www.nwmissouri.edu/trio/pdf/sss/study/Reading-for-college.pdf
Madrigal, A. (2016). The weird, wonderful, sometimes awful world of bots. TED Talk. [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uUosXSJf-9E Standard YouTube License.
Maguire, E.A., Valenrine, E.R., Wilding, J.M., & Kapur, N. (2002). Routes to remembering the brains behind superior memory. Nature Neuroscience. 6 (1): 90–95. doi: 10.1038/nn988. PMID: 12483214.
Memory Town System for Languages – Memory Techniques Wiki https://artofmemory.com/wiki/Main_Page
Raz, A., Packard, M.G., Alexander, G.M., Bulhe, J.T., Zhu, H, Yu, S. & Peterson, B.S. (2009). A slice of π An exploration neuroimaging study of digit encoding and retrieval in a superior memorist. Neurocase. 15 (5): 361–372. https://doi.org/10.1080/13554790902776896
Stout, S. Eulogy to Papa with the Theme of Dancing. Delivered in Lynn Meade’s Advanced Public Speaking Class at the University of Arkansas. Used with permission.
van As, T. Tribute to Nelson Mandela. Delivered in Lynn Meade’s Advanced Public Speaking Class at the University of Arkansas. Used with permission.
Winfrey, O. Eulogy to Rosa Parks. A slice of π An exploration neuroimaging study of digit encoding and retrieval https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5cfhtfNfIPE Standard YouTube License.