8.1: Methods of Delivery
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There are four basic methods (sometimes called styles) of presenting a speech: manuscript, memorized, extemporaneous, and impromptu. Each has a variety of uses in various forums of communication.
The word manuscript is the clue to the style. The speech is written and the speaker reads it word for word to the audience. Originally, it was done from the hand-written paper manuscript. While the manuscript style is common, the paper is now gone. Today, teleprompters are commonly used by Newscasters, Presidents, or political figures. Why is the manuscript important and in use? Precision. In the news-reporting industry every fraction of a second counts because broadcast time is costly. Also, the facts and names must be exact and accurate so there is no room for error. Errors in reporting decrease the credibility of the news organization and the newscaster.
The memorized style of speaking is when the manuscript is committed to memory and recited to the audience verbatim (word for word). In the days when elocution was taught, this was a typical approach. A speech was a recitation.
Where is a memorized delivery style still common? Due to copyright laws and licensing contract agreements (other than scripts that are in the public domain), actors on stage are obligated to memorize the script of the play and perform it verbatim, exactly as written. It is typical for speakers on high school and university speech and debate teams to memorize their competitive speeches. Some monologists also use a memorized delivery style. In all cases, they create the impression that the speech is spontaneous.
You might consider using the memorized delivery style if your speech is relatively short, or you know you will have to deliver your speech repeatedly such as a tour operator would.
Theoretically, an “impromptu” speech is made up on the spot. It is unprepared and unrehearsed. Often ceremonial toasts, grace before meals, an acknowledgement, an introduction, offering thanks and so on, fall into this category. While there are some occasions when a speech in those categories is actually prepared (prepare your acceptance for the Academy Award BEFORE you are called!), there are many occasions when there is little or no opportunity to prepare.
Impromptu speeches are generally short and are often given with little or no notice. Notes are rare and the speaker generally looks directly at the audience. It would be presumptuous and arrogant to declare rules for Impromptu Speaking. It is fair to explain that “impromptu” describes a range from absolutely no preparation, to a modest amount of preparation (mostly thought) and rarely incorporates research or the formalities of outlines and citations that more formal speeches would include.
Be still when you have nothing to say; when genuine passion moves you, say what you’ve got to say, and say it hot.
~ D. H. Lawrence
Sandwiched between the memorized and impromptu delivery styles you find the extemporaneous speech style. For this style, the speech is not completely written out. It is usually delivered with keynotes for reference. Most public speaking courses and books describe extemporaneous speeches as carefully prepared and rehearsed, but delivered using notes of key words and phrases to support the speaker. Phrasing is pre-rehearsed, words are pre-chosen, and the organization is fluid and well constructed.
There should be no fumbling for words, no rambling, and length of time should be carefully monitored. The style does offer the speaker flexibility to include references to the immediate surroundings, previous speeches, news of the day, and so on.
How you develop the notes and what they look like are up to the individual, but a natural extemporaneous delivery is difficult if you are relying on a manuscript. Under no circumstances should the speaker be spending more than 20% of the speaking time looking at the notes. It would be ideal to practice so you only glance at your notes approximately 5% of the time of the speech.
The extemporaneous style is the method most often recommended (and often required) in today’s public speaking courses, and is generally the best method in other settings as well. While it is not the only method of delivering a speech, it is the most useful for presentations in other courses, in the corporate world and in pursuing future careers.
The trouble with talking too fast is you may say something you haven’t thought of yet.”
~ Ann Lander