When it comes to delivering your presentation, you actually have many choices. Public speaking involves so much more than just standing in front of a crowd and talking. How you deliver your thoughts and message can depend on a number of factors, such as your comfort level, the nature of the information and most important, your audience’s expectations. So before you stand up to speak, make sure you choose the correct delivery method that will give you the best results for you and your audience.
Here is a quick overview of each method:
Reading verbatim from a manuscript
Some speeches must be delivered word for word, such as critical updates to the media, reports at a professional meeting or a political address. In these highly formal situations accuracy is extremely important because every word will be analyzed by the press, the public and the audience. Good speech writers know the importance of writing speeches that will be read and how to create them.
It may look easy to give this kind of speech, but it requires a great deal of skill. The trick is to make the written word sound spontaneous—to make the words come alive. Otherwise, this type of speech and the words can come across as dry and dispassionate, and the speaker can appear stiff and uncomfortable. If you are going to read a speech, careful rehearsal is mandatory. The delivery must be closely choreographed with the message to lift the speech from the page and into the hearts and minds of the listeners.
Hundreds of years ago, the legendary orators would memorize long and complex speeches and deliver them word for word. Fortunately, today this is not a customary or recommended practice. For short speeches like introductions of other speakers, wedding toasts, thank you comments or congratulatory remarks it’s okay to memorize and sometimes helpful to do so. And there may be certain sections of a longer talk that you may want to memorize, like the opening, the closing and the transitions. If you do recite any part of your speech from memory make sure that you know it cold so you don’t run the risk of fumbling, getting off track and losing your connection to your audience.
An impromptu speech is delivered without any preparation at all. Most people would rather not do an impromptu speech, but they often cannot be avoided. In business meetings your ideas and opinions might be solicited on the spot. But rest assured that we all give hundreds of impromptu speeches every day. This “on the spot” speech is the core of everyday conversation. So if someone turns to you and asks for your thoughts, don’t panic. Take a deep breath and think through a logical beginning, middle and ending progression. Keep the audience on track by stressing key words: “The first point I’d like to cover…” “Next you will see…” “And finally I would like to add…” Impromptu speaking takes practice, but if you follow a structure you’ll soon get the hang of it.
While many people think extemporaneous and impromptu are the same since they are both speeches that are not read or memorized, there is one key difference. The impromptu speech is completely off the cuff; the extemporaneous speech is thoughtfully prepared, planned and practiced.
When speaking extemporaneously, the speaker uses notes, an outline or a PowerPoint slide presentation to stay on track. And as long as your speech structure is carefully planned, that’s all you need. This is the method we recommend for the majority of people we work with. Once you have the content prepared you can spend your time practicing the flow of the material and your delivery. As you practice out loud, the words will come out differently with each run though but you will know the basic sentence structure and logical progression of the material. If you practice enough, the most effective parts of your message will stick in your mind and come out as you planned. The key here is to take the time to fully prepare. No short cuts! When you practice, you will have full control of your topic, sound convincing and yet still come across with a spontaneous and conversational tone.
Ultimately, the speech delivery method you choose will depend on many factors, such as how formal or informal the presentation is, how well you know your subject, who the audience is, and your own comfort level. When you take the time to analyze these factors and educate yourself about your choices, you can make the best decision about what method to use and give a great speech.