5 Tips for Good Delivery

How ideas are presented has a great deal to do with how much value they appear to offer. Delivery is the audience member’s contact with the speaker’s mind. Here are five tips to have effective delivery.

1. Make music with your voice. Frequently use the pause and punch; speak loudly and then softly. Pause before proper nouns or statistics and punch them out. Speed up to show excitement and slow down to indicate drama and suspense. In a sense, to use your voice effectively you are putting music in your speech; you are doing the same kinds of things a vocalist does by speeding up, slowing down, pausing, getting louder or getting softer, and punching out certain words.

2. Use your hands to describe and reinforce the point you are making. Just imagine the following joke without showing the actions with your hands.

A man is pulled over on the interstate by a state trooper for speeding. At the window of the stopped driver, the state trooper sees in the back seat several sharp knives. He says to the man, “I’m going to have to arrest you for possessing the deadly weapons in your back seat.”

The man replies, “You don’t understand. I’m a juggler for the Barnum and Bailey Circuses and the knives are a part of my act. Let me show you.”  So he gets out of the car by the side of the interstate and begins to juggle the knives.

About that time, two good ol’ boys drive by and one says to the other, “They’re sure getting’ tough on those driving tests, aren’t they!” You have to describe and reinforce with gestures to help people enjoy the joke.

In addition, keep your gestures under control. Adapt the size of your gestures to the size of the room. If you have a big room and high ceilings, use gestures from the shoulder out; if you have a small room with low ceilings, use gestures from the elbow out. Keep your hands away from your face so as not to diffuse the impact of either facial expression or gestures. Instead of pointing to your audience with your gestures, “embrace” them by reaching out with your full hand and bringing them in to you.

3. Connect with your audience with your eyes.  Eye contact is a visual handshake with your audience members. Without looking directly at members of your audience, you cannot determine if they are listening and understanding your message. Look at small clumps of people in the room and in doing so you will be able to look directly at people within that clump and in a short period of time you can engage all of your audience with your eyes. An ancient proverb states, “The eyes are the window of the soul.” This describes how important looking at the eyes of the audience is to the speaker.

4. Show self-confidence by your posture and space. Avoid slouching by standing on both feet with your weight equally distributed on the balls of your feet—between 7 and 12 inches apart. “Plant” your feet to fend off the tendency to pace or bounce with your feet. When you move, move toward to the audience and not away from them. You want to stand equally distant from most members of the audience. That way everyone feels equally attended to by the speaker.

5. Finally, look pleasant as you speak; smile, look expectantly for positive feedback, and change facial expression to match the content of your presentation. The face is the object of attention by listeners when you begin to speak, so work to express the feelings behind your content through the face. Begin with a smile and a pleasant demeanor; that will encourage you to be more that way throughout your presentation.

Certainly content is more important than delivery, but you have to keep the attention of the audience to insure that the message will make it into the minds of the listener. Delivery does that. As Robert Redford said in the movie, The Horse Whisperer, “Knowing it is easy; telling about it is the hard part.”

Steve Boyd
Steve Boyd
Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D., CSP, is Professor Emeritus of Speech Communication, College of Informatics, Northern Kentucky University, near Cincinnati. Steve won the Toastmasters International Speech Contest in 1970 and was chosen Outstanding Professor of the Year at NKU in 1984, among other awards and honors. Since retiring, he volunteers with nonprofits, spends time with family, travels, preaches occasionally, and enjoys reading and writing. Contact Steve at (859) 866-5693 or at steveboyd111@gmail.com.

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