Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock with no smartphone, television, or other 21st-century technology, you’ve probably seen a speaker give a speech. This could’ve been a religious leader delivering a sermon, a politician addressing constituents, celebrities giving commencement speeches, non-profit leaders addressing the community, or simply Johnny from down the street speaking at a town hall meeting. You may not have noticed the different methods these speakers used to address their audience. Suppose you intend to speak to an audience. In that case, you must decide which form of delivery you’ll use before you begin drafting your speech since this will help determine how you’ll prepare for your speech.
There are 4 standard methods for delivering speeches. They are extemporaneous, impromptu, memorized, and manuscript. Each method has advantages and disadvantages. Every speaker has their preferences, including me. Ultimately, it’s about what you feel comfortable with as a speaker and which method allows you to connect with the audience based on the situation. Let’s look at each method.
Extemporaneous speeches are where the speaker relies on using an outline or notes instead of writing out their entire speech and reading it word for word. The speaker usually practices their speech and is comfortable before delivering it when using this method. This is my personal preference when giving speeches. I write manuscripts for others to use; however, I prefer to make a general outline instead of reading a speech and rarely look at notes for myself. Religious leaders, motivational speakers, and keynote speakers often deliver speeches using this method.
Impromptu speeches are given “off the cuff” with little or no time for the speaker to prepare. This is considered one of the most challenging situations in which a speaker can find themselves. In a way, impromptu speaking is something we do every day. We have spur-of-the-moment conversations, job interviews, and question & answer sessions. The difference is that we’re not always asked to address an audience of more than a few people. Some speakers are superb impromptu speakers. My father, a former City Administrator and consultant, can give a lenghthy speech in an organized and effective manner without preparation. Keep in mind, if you’re expected to give a lengthy speech you usually have enough time to practice and it’s a good idea to do so.
Speakers can also commit their speeches to memory. Some prefer this method of delivery. I will be completely transparent; you will never see me memorize a speech or recommend that anyone else do so. From my experience, it adds unnecessary pressure. Everything hinges on the speaker’s ability to remember every word. Often, if they forget a line, the speech falls apart, and the speaker freezes. It’s painful to watch and probably more painful to experience. I don’t want to completely discourage you from memorization; I just want you to think long and hard about this delivery method. You may be okay if you memorize a short toast at a wedding. You may not be okay if you try to do so for a 20-minute speech. Make sure you’re self-aware of your ability.
The manuscript method of delivery is the last method we’ll discuss. Simply put, it is where the speaker goes up to the podium and reads their speech word for word on paper or teleprompter. Commencement speakers and politicians frequently use this style of speech. Using this style is adequate as long as you’re comfortable with the material. The only pitfall you have to watch out for is staring at the paper or teleprompter and forgetting to look up at the audience. It’s essential to make eye contact with, engage, and get feedback from the crowd. It’s hard to do that if you’re staring at the text the entire time. You should be okay if you practice looking up and engaging with the crowd before giving the speech.
There you have it, four methods of delivering a speech. Like many other areas of public speaking, the delivery method is driven by the occasion, speech, rhetorical situation, audience, and of course, the speaker. When drafting the outline of your speech, think carefully about the method you’d like to use.
If you’re comfortable speaking using just main points on a 3×5 notecard (or no notecard) and have time to practice, consider using the extemporaneous method.
If you’re good at reading but not as comfortable memorizing main points or filling in space between main points, consider using a manuscript. Practice making eye contact, rhythm, tone, etc.
Try to only use the impromptu method if you’re put on the spot (Not everyone can do what my dad does).
Try not to memorize your speech unless you feel comfortable and you’ve done it before. The only time I have seen a speaker absolutely have to memorize a speech was for a class.
Remember, choosing the proper delivery method for your speech is essential. The appropriate delivery method is the one you’re comfortable and effective with.