Speaking, Public Speaking, Conversational Quality & Effective Speech

Practicing the Presentation of Your Speech

As Nadia sat down, everyone in the audience burst into spontaneous applause.

“I don’t understand it, Marv. I thought my speech was every bit as good as Nadia’s, but when I got done all I got was the ordinary polite applause that everyone gets regardless of what they’ve done. Of course, I’m not as pretty as Nadia.

Come on, Syl, she’s good looking, but that’s not why she got such a reception. Your speech was good. You had a good topic, lots of good information, and solid organization. Bur, I’ll tell you, buddy, you didn’t deliver your speech anywhere near as well as she did.

Marv recognized what has been well documented throughout the ages gold delivery is a necessity of effective speaking. Why? Delivery is the source of the audience’s contact with the speaker’s mind, and although delivery cannot improve the ideas of a speech, it can help to make the most of those ideas. Even if you are not by nature a gifted speaker, you can improve your delivery immensely if you are willing to practice.

You will recall that an effective speech plan is a product of five action steps. In this chapter, we consider the fifth step: Practice the presentation of your speech. The wording of your speech should be clear, vivid, and emphatic, and your delivery should be in a conversation style that shows enthusiasm, vocal expressiveness, spontaneity, fluency, and eye contact.

Although speeches may be presented impromptu (on the spur of the moment without prior preparation), by manuscript (completely written out and then read aloud), or by memory (completely written out and then memorized), the material you have been reading will help you in all situations. It is designed to help you present your speeches extemporaneously. An extemporaneous speech is carefully prepared and practiced, but the exact wording is determined at the time of utterance.

In this chapter, we will consider verbal components of presentation, nonverbal components of presentation, characteristics of conversational style, guidelines for effective practice, coping with nervousness, and criteria for evaluating a speech. Then we will look at a sample speech.

Components to Practice in Your Speech

A you practice, you will be analyzing the verbal and nonverbal components of l’our presentation. Let’s consider these elements in more detail.

Verbal Components

Listeners cannot reread  What you have said. To be an effective speaker, it is important to use specific, concrete, and precise words (as discussed ), but you will also want to work to make your wording vivid and emphatic.

Vivid words are descriptive, full of life, vigorous, bright, and intense. For example, a baseball announcer might say, Jackson made a great catch, but a more vivid account would be, Jackson leaped and made a one-hand catch just as he crashed into the center field wall. The words leaped, one-handed catch, and crashed paint arr intense verbal picture of the action. Vivid speech begins with vivid thought. You are much more likely to express yourself vividly if you can sense the meanings you are trying to convey.

Vividness is often expressed in similes and metaphors. A simile is a direct comparison of dissimilar things and is usually expressed with the words like or as. Cliches such as She walks like a duck and She sings like a nightingale are both similes. A more vivid simile would be like the one expressed by an elementary school teacher who said that being bock at school after a long absence was like trying to hold 35 corks under water at the same time (Hensley, 1995, p. 703). This is a fresh, imaginative simile for the nature of the public school teacher’s task.

A metaphor is a comparison that establishes a figurative identity between objects being compared. Instead of saying that one thing is like another, a metaphor says that one thing is another. Thus, problem cars are lemons and a ream’s porous infield is a sieve. A more original metaphor in a reply to the statement that TV’Is just a toaster with pictures might be. This particular toaster is not just browning bread. It is cooking our country’s goose (Hunt, 1995, p. 675).

Although similes and metaphors can add vividness to a speech, it is wise to stay away from trite cliches. Try to develop original metaphors for your speech.

Emphasis gives force to intensity to words or ideas. In your speeches, try to emphasize through proportion, repetition, and use of transitions.

Emphasizing by proportion means spending more time on one idea than on another, resulting in your listeners’ perceiving that point as more important.

Emphasizing by repeating means saying important words or ideas more than once. You can either repeat the exact words. A ring shaped coral island almost or completely rounding a lagoon is called an atoll the word is atoll, or you can restate the idea in different language. The test will comprise about four essay questions; that is, all the questions on the test will be the kind that require you to discuss material in some detail.

Emphasizing through transitions means using words that show and emphasize idea relationships. In we talked about section transitions that summarize, clarify, and forecast. Word transitions can be used to serve some additional functions.

• To add material; also, and, likewise, again, in addition, moreover, similarly, further.

• To add up consequences, summarize, or show results: therefore, and so, so, finally, all in all, on the whole, in short, thus, as a result.

• To indicate changes in direction or contrasts: but, however, yet, on the other hand, still, although, while, no doubt.

• To indicate reasons: because, for.

• To show causal or time relationships: then, since, as.

• To explain, exemplify, or limit: in other words, in fact, for example, that is to say, more specifically.

Finally, whether you are trying to be specific, precise, vivid, or emphatic, make sure that  you use words are  understood  by all your listeners. Sometimes speakers believe they will be more impressive if they use a large vocabulary. But using  big words often seems pompous, affected, or stilted. When you have a choice, select the simplest, most familiar word that expresses your precise meaning.

Nonverbal Components

You will recall from our earlier discussion that nonverbal components of speech presentation are voice, articulation, and bodily action.

Voice includes pitch (highness and lowness on a scale), volume (loudness), rate (speed of speech), and quality (tone, timbre, or sound of voice). Make sure your listeners perceive your voice as pleasant: neither too high, nor too low neither too loud, nor too soft; neither too fast, nor too slow.

Articulation is shaping speech sounds into recognizable oral symbols that combine to produce a word. Articulation is often confused with pronunciation, the form and accent of various syllables of a word. In the word statistics, for instance, articulation refers to shaping the ten sounds (s-t-a-t-i-s-t-i-k-s); pronunciation refers to grouping and accenting the sounds (sta-tis’ -tiks). If you are unsure of how to pronounce a word in a speech, consult a dictionary for the proper pronunciation.

Consider whether you add a sound where none appears (athlete for athlete), leave out a sound where one occurs (library for library), transpose sounds (prevalent for relevant) or distort sounds (true for truth). Although some of us have consistent articulation problems that require speech therapy (such as substituting the for s consistently in speech), most of us are guilty of carelessness that can be corrected.

Check to mike sure that you are not guilty of two of the most common articulation faults: slurring sounds (running sounds and words together) or leaving off word endings. Spoken English always will contain some running together of sounds. For instance, most people are likely to say that table for that table it is simply too difficult to make two  sounds in a row. But many of us slur sounds and drop word endings to excess. Who ya gonna see? for Who are you going to see? illustrates both of these errors. If you have mild case of neuritis caused by not taking the time, to form sounds clearly, you can make considerable improvement by taking ten ts fifteen minutes three days a week to read passages aloud, trying to over accentuate each sound. Some teachers advocate chewing your words-that is, making sure that lips, jaw, and tongue move carefully for each sound you make. As with most other problems of delivery, speakers must work conscientiously several days a week for months to improve significantly.

Lists many common problem words that people are likely to mispronounce or articulateness.

A major concern of speakers from different cultures and different parts of the country is their accent: the inflection, tone, and speech habits typical of the natives of a country, region, or a state or city. When should you work to lessen or eliminate any accent you may have? If your accent is so heavy or different from people’s expectations that you have difficulty communicating effectively, if you expect to go into teaching, broadcasting, or another profession where an accent may have an adverse effect on your performance, you should make an effort to lessen or eliminate your accent.

Bodily action includes your facial expression, gestures, posture, and movement. We discussed bodily actions in , and in this section, we want to focus on aspects of those nonverbal behaviors that you will want to consider for public speaking.

Make sure that your facial expressions (your eye and mouth movements) are appropriate to what you are saying. Audiences respond negatively to dead pan expressions or perpetual grins or scowls. Audiences respond positively to honest and sincere expressions that reflect your thoughts and feelings. Think actively about what you are saying, and your face will respond accordingly.

Your gestures are the movements of your hands, arms, and fingers that describe and emphasize. If gesturing does not come easily to you, it is probably best not to force yourself to gesture in a speech. To encourage gestures, leave your hands free at all times to help you do what comes naturally. If you clasp your hands behind you, grip the sides of the speaker’s stand, or put your hands into your pockets, you will not be able to gesture naturally even if you want to.

Your posture is the position or bearing of your body. In speeches, an upright stance and squared shoulders communicate a sense of poise to an audience. Speakers who slouch may give an unfavorable impression of themselves, including the impression of limited self confidence and an uncaring attitude. If you find yourself in some peculiar posture during the speech, return to the upright position with your weight equally distributed on both feet.

Your movement refers to the motion of your entire body. Ideally, movement should help focus on transitions, emphasize ideas, or call attention to a particular aspect of the speech. Avoid such unmotivated movement as bobbing and weaving, shifting from foot to foot, or pacing from one side of the room to the other. At the beginning of your speech, stand up straight on both feet.

Poise refers to assurance of manner. A poised speaker is able to avoid mannerisms that distract the audience such as taking off or putting on glasses, smacking the tongue, licking the lips, or scratching the nose, hand, or arm. As a general rule, anything that calls attention to itself is negative, and anything that helps reinforce an important idea is positive. Likewise, a poised speaker is able to control speech nervousness, a topic we will discuss later in this chapter.

In this section, we have looked at several elements of delivery that may seem especially difficult to achieve for people with handicaps. The Diverse Voices box shows that regardless of apparent handicaps people can build confidence and succeed in speaking.

Achieving a Conversational Quality

In your speech practice, as well as in the speech itself, the final measure of your presentation is how well you use your vocal and nonverbal components to develop a conversational quality, a style of presentation that sounds like conversation to your listeners. Five components of conversational quality are enthusiasm; vocal expressiveness, fluency, directness (eye contact), and spontaneity.


Enthusiasm is excitement or passion about the topic. If sounding enthusiastic does not come naturally to you, make sure you have a topic that really excites you. Even normally enthusiastic people can have trouble sounding enthusiastic when they choose an uninspiring topic. Then, focus on how your listeners will benefit from what you have to say. If you are convinced that you have something worthwhile to communicate, you are likely to feel and show overenthusiastic.

To validate the importance of enthusiasm, think of how your Negritude  toward a class differs depending on whether the professor’s presentation says.

I’m really excited to be talking with you about geology (or history or English literature) as opposed to I’d rather be anywhere than talking to you about this subject. A speaker who looks and sounds enthusiastic will be listened to, and that speaker’s ideas will be remembered (Williams & Ware, 1976, p. 50).

Vocal Expressiveness

The greatest sign of enthusiasm is vocal expressiveness, the vocal contrasts in pitch, volume, rate, and quality that affect the meaning audiences get from the sentences you present. A total lack of vocal expressiveness produces a monotone, a voice in which the pitch, volume, and rate remain constant, with no word, idea, or sentence differing significantly from any other. Although few people speak in a true monotone, many severely limit themselves by using only two or three pitch levels and relatively.,unchanging volume and rate. An actual or near monotone not only lulls an audience to sleep, but more important, diminishes chances of audience understanding.

For instance, if the sentence. We need to prosecute abusers is presented in a monotone, listeners would be uncertain of the message the speaker wanted. He.To illustrate how vocal expressiveness affects meaning, read this sentence aloud four times. The first time emphasize We, the second time emphasize need, the third time emphasize prosecute, and the fourth time emphasize abusers.

When you emphasize We, it answers the question. Who will do it? When you emphasize need, it answers the question How important is it? When you emphasize prosecute, it answers the question What are we going to do? When you emphasize abusers, it answers the question Who will be prosecuted? To ensure audience understanding, your voice must be expressive enough to delineate shades of meaning.


Speakers who are enthusiastic and vocally expressive are also likely to present their speeches so that they sound spontaneous. Spontaneity means being so responsive to your ideas that the speech seems as fresh as a lively conversation, even though it has been well practiced.

How can you make your outlined and. practiced speech sound spontaneous? Learn the ideas of the speech don’t memorize words. Suppose someone asks you about the route you take on your drive to work. Because you are familiar with the route, you need not write it out or memorize it you can present it spontaneously because you know it. You develop spontaneity in your speeches by getting to know the ideas in your speech as well as you know the route you take to work.


Effective presentation is also fluent, devoid of hesitations and such vocal interference as “uh,” “er,” “well,” “okay,” “you know” and “like.” Fluency can be developed through awareness and practice. Train yourself to hear your interference by getting a friend to listen to practice sessions and call attention to them. As you learn to hear them, you will find that you can  start to eliminate them from your speech practices and eventually from the speech itself.

Eye Contact

In public speaking, eye contact involves looking at various groups of people in all parts of an audience throughput a speech. As long as you are looking at people and not at your notes or the ceiling, floor, or window, everyone in the audience will perceive you as having good eye contact.

One way of ensuring eye contact is to think of your audience as a collection of groups sitting in various places around the room. Then, at random, talk for four to six seconds with each group. Perhaps start with a Z pattern. Talk with the group in die back left for a few seconds, then glance at people in the far right for a few seconds, and then move to a group in the middle, a group in the front left, and then a group in the front right. Then perhaps reverse the order, starting in the back right. Eventually you will find yourself . going in a random pattern in which you look at all groups over a period of a few minutes. Such a pattern ensures that you do not spend a disproportionate amount of your time talking with those in front of you or in the center of the room.

Maintaining eye contact helps your speech in several ways .

1. Maintaining eye contact helps the audience concentrate on the speech. If speakers do not look at us while they talk, we are unlikely to maintain eye contact with them. This break in mutual eye contact often decreases concentration on the speaker’s message.

2. Maintaining eye contact increases the audience’s confidence in you, the speaker. Just as you are likely to be skeptical of people who do not look you in the eye as they converse, so too audiences will be skeptical of speak who do not look at them. Eye contact is perceived as a sign of sincerity. Speakers who fail to maintain eye contact with audiences are perceived almost always as ill at ease and often as insincere or dishonest (Burgoon, Coker, & Coker, 1986).

3. Maintaining eye contact helps you gain insight into the audience’s reaction to the speech. Audiences that pay attention are likely to look at you with varying amounts of intensity. Listeners who do not pay attention are likely to yawn, look out the window and slouch in their chairs. By monitoring your audience’s behavior, you can determine what adjustments, additions and deletions you should make in your plans. As speakers gain greater skill, they can make more and better use of the information they get about listeners through eye contact with them.