The Mechanics of Reading Your Speech

Certain situations require a manuscript speech, such as a eulogy or a CEO’s policy statement. In the last newsletter, I gave strategies for writing a manuscript speech. Now to the mechanics of reading your speech that you have carefully composed.

How do you keep from appearing to read your speech when you really are reading your speech?  Here are tips to sound as though you are speaking from notes and not a manuscript.

  • Double space and use bold print.
  • Don’t use the last third of the page.  This keeps you from looking down at the very bottom of the page and showing the audience the top of your head.  This technique also helps you maintain eye contact with your audience.
  • Draw visual symbols in the margins as reminders.  For example, sketch an arm to help you use gestures and a pair of eyes to remind you to look up at your audience as you speak. 
  • Put the page in a plastic cover or attach to a manila folder to keep the page from folding over or flopping around.  This allows you to move around the lectern as you hold the pages. 
  • Practice until you become familiar with where words or sentences are on the page.  This familiarity will encourage you to look up as you near the end of a page since you know where the end of the script is on that page and where it begins on the next page. 
  • Finish the page at the end of a sentence or the end of a paragraph and not in the middle of a sentence where the pause as you turn the page could be misplaced. 

Because the speech is written out word for word, some speakers don’t practice since everything that is said is in the manuscript.  Once a disgruntled speechwriter knew his speaker never practiced in advance of the presentation and he was preparing the complete script.  So at the end of the first page he had written,  “Now the next 3 points are the most significant of this entire project.”  The speaker turns the page and it is blank except for this sentence in big bold letters, “You are your own.  I quit!”

You  will avoid this problem if you read your speech aloud before you present it, and your audience will appreciate your preparation.

Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D., CSP, is Professor Emeritus of Speech Communication, College of Informatics, Northern Kentucky University, near Cincinnati. He presents keynotes and seminars to corporations and associations whose people want to speak and listen effectively. See additional articles and resources at www.sboyd.com. To book Steve, call 800-727-6520 or email him through his website.

Steve Boyd
Steve Boyd
Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D., CSP, is Professor Emeritus of Speech Communication, College of Informatics, Northern Kentucky University, near Cincinnati. He presents keynotes and seminars to corporations and associations whose people want to speak and listen effectively. Contact Steve today for priority scheduling! (859) 441-6520 or email info@SBoyd.com

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