Whitman College


Rhetoric and Public Address Department


Derek Banducci

Delivering the Speech

The basic aim of any public speaker should be to communicate effectively with his target audience. In addition to writing an interesting, persuasive, or otherwise engaging speech there are many things that a speaker can do to achieve the communication goal through good delivery. The skill of good delivery is perhaps the most important skill that a public speaker can master when trying to become a better communicator. The reason that delivery is so critically important is that as a skill it will be incorporated into every public presentation you ever give. Your ability to properly deliver a speech is singly the most transferable skill you will learn when studying the art of public address.

It may sound silly to stress, but the best thing to remember when delivering a good speech is that you are talking with other people. People need to feel that they are being spoken with instead of being spoken at. They need to feel that you are acknowledging their existence. In other words, alienating your audience is not a good tactic. Try to think of your target audience as your best friend. You wouldnít speak at your best friend and neither should you speak at your audience. The audience wants to feel included in the conversation, and how you present yourself is critical in making them feel this way.

As long as you keep this one principle in mind--speak with your audience--you will be a good way toward possessing good delivery skills. There are a few tips that you should remember when trying to achieve the above principle:

  1. Avoid Using A Podium
    Podiums create a physical barrier between you and your audience. They widen the gap that differentiates speaker and listener. This sort of differentiation is a problem because it separates you from your audience. It makes it harder for you to connect. Any sort of physical barrier between the speaker and the audience tends to limit the degree to which the audience feels that they are part of the communication process. This means they are more likely to feel that you are speaking at them instead speaking with them.
  2. Read The Faces Of Your Audience
    When you are giving a speech look around the room and try to figure out if your listeners are understanding what you are saying. If people generally look perplexed go into greater detail. Explain what you mean by some of the terms that you are using. If there seems to be a general level of understanding then move on so that you donít run the risk of boring your audience to death with a simple concept.
  3. Use Interest Supports That Draw On Immediate Examples
    The reason I consider this to be an element of presentation instead of speech preparation is that you should present an example that youíve come up with on the spur of the moment. You want your example to be something that the entire audience can relate with. For instance, if someone just gave a speech about air pollution and you are talking about a balanced budget you might mention something to the effect of,

"Although so and so made some important observations concerning the need for a healthy environment, it just isnít possible for the US government to fund every program that needs money. We should support the private sector and its attempts to solve our problems, while recognizing that a balanced budget is our most important goal."

The trick to finding a good example is to latch onto something that your audience can really think about and play with in their heads. You want them to have an active role in your presentation by involving them with something they can immediately recognize and try to understand. It draws them into considering what you have to say.

 

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Questions or Comments? Send mail to Jim Hanson at hansonjb@whitman.edu.