How You Say It Counts!

        How ideas are presented has a great deal to do with how much value they seem to offer. Delivery is the source of your contact with the speaker’s mind. Thus to deliver your presentation well helps insure that the information you are sharing with the audience will be assimilated and put to use. In all aspects of speaking, delivery plays a significant role, especially with humor. Red Skelton said, “It is not what you say that is funny—it is how you say it.” Delivery in speaking involves everything but the words themselves, including the use of the voice, hands, facial expression, eyes, posture, and space.

          Your voice must demonstrate excitement and energy. Avoid a monotone pitch by incorporating the pause and punch. You pause before proper nouns or statistics and then punch them out. In addition, you speed up to show excitement and slow down to indicate drama and suspense.

          Use your hands to describe and reinforce the point you are making. Just imagine telling the following joke without using your hands. A state trooper pulls a man over to the side of the interstate for speeding. He goes up to the window of the stopped driver and sees in the back seat several sharp knives. He says to the man, “I’m going to have to arrest you for possessing these dangerous weapons.”

The man replied, “You don’t understand. I’m a juggler for the Barnum and Bailey Circus 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 guys drive by and one says to the other, “They’re really getting tough on those sobriety tests, aren’t they!” You have to describe and reinforce with gestures to help people enjoy the joke.

          Eye contact is vital to your delivery. 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. First look at small clumps of people in the room and then you will be able to look directly at people within that clump; soon you can engage all of your audience with your eyes. The familiar proverb, “the eyes are the window of the soul,” indicates that seeing the eyes of the audience is important to the speaker.

          You reveal your level of self-confidence by your posture and space. Avoid slouching by standing with your weight equally distributed on the balls of both feet which are seven to twelve inches apart. “Plant” your feet to fend off the tendency to pace or bounce. Do not move away from the audience. To emphasize a point, take a step toward the audience. Consequently, if you end up in someone’s lap you'll know you had too many points!

          Finally, look pleasant as you speak; smile, look expectantly for positive feedback, and change facial expression to match the content of 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 be internalized. Your delivery does that. As Cicero said, “Without effective delivery, a speech of the highest mental capacity can be held in no esteem while one of moderate abilities, with this qualification, may surpass even those of highest talent."



Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D., CSP, is Professor of Speech Communication in the College of Informatics at Northern Kentucky University in the Cincinnati area. He presents keynotes and seminars to corporations and associations whose people want to speak and listen effectively. See additional articles and resources at He can be reached at 800-727-6520 or at



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

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