There are four primary types of speech delivery: Manuscript, Memorized, Impromptu, and Extemporaneous.
Manuscript speaking, like it sounds, involves reading your speech word-for-word from it’s written form. The advantage to delivering a speech this way is that you can perfectly plan and control the wording of your speech. This sounds like it is ideal, but really it is not. For one thing, as discussed in the section of this website on writing the speech body, in most speeches you should be striving for an informal, conversational delivery style. Reading prevents that, as well as eye contact. Also, with set wording, you can’t adapt the speech if the audience isn’t following or interested in your speech.
Memorized, like it sounds, involves committing your entire speech to memory. Once again, this sounds great. But, practically speaking, who has time to memorize even a short speech? And like a manuscript speech, you can’t adapt to feedback from the audience.
An Impromptu speech is one that you are asked to deliver with little or no preparation. Chances are, that if you’re on this site, impromptu speeches aren’t what you are expected to deliver.
Finally, the Extemporaneous speech is a speech delivered with some prepared structure, such as notes or an outline, but is otherwise delivered off-the-cuff. In most cases, this is going to be your best choice. The notes allow you to structure your speech, without handcuffing you in the event that your audience needs you to adapt. Also, you will sound more natural and conversational, and this will help hold audience attention.
There are six aspects of physical delivery that will be covered in this section: voice use, facial expressions, eye contact, gesturing, and movement.
Effective voice use involves several elements. Naturally, one of the most important aspects is volume. As a speaker, you must be loud enough to be heard by everyone in the room, but not so loud that you sound unnatural or bossy. Monitor the nonverbal feedback of audience members in the back of the room, if they are leaning forward or concentrating abnormally hard, you may need to speak up. It is also necessary to vary the pitch, rate, and tone of your voice to avoid sounding monotonous. We’ve all experienced the agony of listening to a monotonous-voiced speaker. This doesn’t mean that you need to be extremely flamboyant or obnoxious. Overall, you should just strive for a casual, conversational voice.
Your audience gathers a lot of information from your facial expressions. If your facial expressions and your spoken words conflict, the audience is likely to believe your face. So make sure that your facial expressions mesh with the feelings and ideas being expressed. Basically, a good rule of thumb for facial expressions (as well as gestures) is to do what comes naturally. There is no need to be overly theatrical with your facial expressions in a speech. And remember, if it’s at all appropriate, you can’t go wrong with a smile.
The simple rule on eye contact is this: The more, the better. A good strategy for eye contact is to make brief (a beat or two) eye contact with members of the audience in one section of the audience and then move to another section. Ideally, you should be making eye contact with someone whenever words are being spoken in your speech. Beware of this trap: People naturally tend to focus their eye contact on the person that is giving them the best nonverbal feedback (smiling, nodding, etc.). If you find yourself focusing too much on this person, work on moving to others.
One of the most common questions that people have about public speaking is: What do I do with my hands? The quick and easy answer is: Whatever comes naturally (unless clutching the podium is what comes naturally). The key to good gesturing is variety, which most of us have in our everyday gestures.
The final aspect of physical delivery is movement. If you are positioned behind a podium, your movements are obviously going to be restricted. But if you are not using a podium, feel free to walk to different parts of the stage as you deliver your speech. This keeps different parts of the audience involved and adds variety. Don’t just wander in place, though. If your feet move, go somewhere.