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Chapter 24: Delivering with Style: Individually or with a Team

Charm is that extra quality that defies description.

- Alfred Lunt

Enthusiasm Can Make the Difference

My botany professor created my lifelong love of plants because he was so enthusiastic about his course from the very first day. On that first morning he literally jumped up and down and said, "Ladies and gentlemen, guess what I have here?" Shivering with excitement he handed us a leaf, saying, "It's a living thing." That kind of attitude is contagious; the best speakers are genuinely excited about their topics. They have passion and aren't afraid to let it show. They know they cannot be neutral or apathetic if their mission is to persuade.

Whether you're facing an audience, active questioners, your boss, or a potential customer, it is your lot that your words tell only part of the story; the rest lies in how it's told. No matter how powerful or persuasive your words, your delivery will make or break your speech. Body language makes an initial impression with your audience, but it's your own style of delivery that will continue to shape those impressions. I still remember that botany professor because the way he presented plants was passionate. Look around and listen, and I think you will find it's the passionate speakers who are the powerful ones.

Use enthusiasm throughout your speech. With your opening words, show enthusiasm for both your subject and audience. Let your audience know you are delighted to talk with them.

Real enthusiasm leads to vivid presentations and makes your speech sound fresh to each audience, no matter how many times you have given it before. And you should take advantage of every actor's secret - make each time you speak about something seem like the first time.

Build on Your Strengths

Just as we all have unique ways of walking, dressing, and talking, we also have a unique style of delivery. Videotape yourself giving a speech and look at how you delivered it. Look at four television interviewers with essentially the same job and see the huge differences in style: Oprah Winfrey, Barbara Walters, Charlie Rose, and Larry King all shape their shows around their personal styles.

The key to developing that style is to recognize your strengths and build on them. If you are a born raconteur, incorporate stories in your speeches. If you keep your friends amused and attentive with lively facial expressions and hand gestures, don't cut them out of your speech. Too much style can be distracting, and some speakers mistake it for substance. I am a very animated speaker and am aware that I sometimes have to tone down my gestures and movements. But for the most part, if you take advantage of your own natural style, it will enhance your relationship with your audience.

Establish Rapport

Somewhere in the opening of your speech you need to let your audience know who you are; each speaker does this in a unique way. Your audience already knows something from your appearance and your introduction, but you need to let down your guard and reveal something personal about yourself. It can be in the form of an anecdote, a humorous story, and so on. But it should be something they can empathize with. President Kennedy once endeared himself to the French people when he made a speech in Paris after Mrs. Kennedy had made quite a splash there. He opened by saying, "I'm the gentleman who accompanied Mrs. Kennedy to Paris."

By putting your experience into the context of your talk, you personalize it; by sharing that experience with the members of your audience, you interest them in yourself, which will leave them that much more attuned to your words.

The 4 Delivery Methods

Even though your confidence will grow as you get through your speech, the way it is received will hinge on the method you use to deliver it. There are four ways to deliver a speech: you can memorize it, read it, give an impromptu speech, or speak extemporaneously.


Delivering a word-for-word memorized speech is very difficult, and I don't advise novice speakers to do it. Memorizing puts too much pressure on you, and unless you're an exceptionally fine deliverer, it will sound memorized. In many companies, people who memorize are much touted and I agree that it is impressive. However, in the final analysis, if a speaker is interesting and thought provoking, the audience doesn't mind if notes are used.

Professional speakers often memorize their speeches because they frequently use the same speech. Yet for each new audience they make cuts or additions and customize the speech. Only a very fine speaker can do the same speech over and over again and make it seem fresh each time. So unless you're a very proficient actor - or a politician whose every word will be analyzed in tomorrow's newspaper - don't memorize your speech. "He who speaks as though he were reciting," said Quintilian, "forfeits the whole charm of what he has written."


Reading a written speech has similar pitfalls. Unless your writing is superb and you are a true prose stylist, it's usually a mistake to read verbatim. Presidents of the United States are a notable exception, and they tend to have very good writers on staff. I once heard Jane Trahey, a gifted writer, make a keynote speech. Even though she read the speech, she made it work because her remarkable writing carried her delivery.

But most of us are not exceptional writers, and we stiffen up when we have to write something down. Lacking the confidence professional writers exhibit in their prose style, our written language becomes stilted. Compare a newspaper headline to the way you would relay news to a friend. In conversation we tend to be more natural, using shorter sentences, more colorful language, contractions, and slang. We're more informal and more interesting, which is exactly how a speech should be.

Another drawback of reading is that when you read your speech, you're communicating with the text instead of the audience. Novice speakers often believe that if they memorize their speeches by reading them over and over word for word; they'll be able to stand up and deliver the speech verbatim without reading. It's a great idea, but it just doesn't work. And if you practice by reading from a written manuscript, you will become so wedded to the paper that it is virtually impossible to break away from it. You also lose most of the expressiveness and engaging body language that make speeches work in the first place.

If you feel that you must read your speech, begin by talking it into a tape recorder; then type it up and read from that script - at least then the speech will sound like spoken language.


If you've become known as a speaker, people will sometimes ask you to stand up and give a talk on the spur of the moment. (And this can happen no matter what your status as a speaker is.) Bishop Fulton Sheen went so far as to say, "I never resort to a prepared script. Anyone who does not have it in his head to do 30 minutes of impromptu talk is not entitled to be heard."

Once you've had some experience speaking, you'll probably do a good job with an impromptu speech. Its elements are a condensed version of any prepared speech of general communication. The more you plan, prepare, and polish your formal presentations, the more persuasive you will be in all your communications.

If you are known in a certain field, it's always a good idea to have a few brief speeches under your belt that you can deliver impromptu.


If you shouldn't memorize your speech, and you shouldn't read it, and you don't want to speak off the top of your head unless you absolutely have to, what is the best kind of delivery? The fourth kind - the extemporaneous speech - is the one that works best for almost every speaker. It means being very well prepared, but not having every word set. From the beginning, practice using notes, but never a typed script. The idea of practicing is not to memorize your speech but to become thoroughly familiar with the expression and flow of ideas. Don't memorize; familiarize. You can also prepare by reciting your speech into a tape recorder, using your outline to guide you. Again, talking keeps your speech fresh and helps you avoid the traps of written words.

Rehearse aloud, on your feet, at least six times. Edit your notes after each playback of the tape recorder. The more you rehearse, the better your speech will be. Those who knew Abraham Lincoln well said that the effectiveness of his talks was in direct proportion to the amount of time he spent rehearsing them aloud and on his feet.

Even when speaking extemporaneously, you should memorize certain key elements of your talk: the opening; the transition from the opening that takes you to your first point; every important transition that follows; and the conclusion.

Memorizing these parts ensures that you will know how to get from point to point and will help you maintain eye contact at all important moments.

When you speak extemporaneously, you incorporate techniques from the other kinds of deliveries. You end up committing certain parts to memory; you occasionally read a note from your note cards; and you may even throw in an off-the-cuff, impromptu remark. Because your delivery style is flexible, the speech can evolve, and you will still be comfortable and in control because you know where you're going and how you're going to get there.

"Confidence Cards": Aids to a Smooth Delivery

Many presentations with excellent content are less effective because the speaker uses notes that are either too skimpy or that contain every word of the speech. Properly used, note cards become what I call confidence cards: They add to a smooth delivery by helping speakers get from one main point to the next. Acting as cues, they contain your speech outline, notes to yourself, stories you will need to tell, key points and phrases, and reminders where to use your visual aids - anything and everything that will help you. And they save speakers from their greatest fear: forgetting what they're going to say next.

These cards - whether 3 x 5 inches or 4 x 6 inches - are easy to hold, don't rattle or shake the way larger papers do, and give an air of professionalism and preparation to your presentation. They are extensions of your own style because they only outline your speech, forcing you to talk in your own words. They also give you something to do with your hands. But you still need to practice your speech many times using the cards, or else you'll tend to go over the time limit or get off track.

Remember the following key points when using confidence cards:

As you go through your note cards in your practice sessions, write little reminders on them: where you want to pause, where you want to smile, and so on. If you have trouble remembering to look around at the whole audience, you can use a card to remind yourself to take in all sides of the room. Confidence cards make excellent security blankets; don't hesitate to rely on them.

Confidence cards don't have to be actual cards. I've seen excellent speakers use a clip board. When I'm conducting workshops, I use a loose-leaf notebook that holds my script, which I place on a table in front of me and refer to from time to time. The purpose is to give you that confident edge and to help keep you on track.

How to Tailor Your Presentation by Size and Space

Many of us speak in such varied situations - to the decision-maker, one-on-one, in a boardroom to a decision-making group, and often to large audiences at company or industry conferences. Every time you present to a large, medium, or small group, you must alter your presentation to fit the number of people and the size of the room. While most of the techniques and concepts covered in this resource apply to all forms of speaking in all situations, there are some differences between speaking one-on-one, in a boardroom, and to thousands.

We'll take each speaking situation - large group, boardroom, and one-on-one, and analyze it in relation to preparation, stage managing, delivery, and visual aids.


Recently, I observed a physician running a meeting for 25 in a hotel conference facility. Arriving late, she had little time to prepare or check the equipment or her microphone.

Microphones are very sensitive to other amplifiers. The attending audiovisual technician never turned off the wall speakers that were permanently positioned around the room. Every time she moved - even a step - the resulting feedback was so horrible that she was forced to speak without the mike. This diminished her impact vocally, for she had a soft breathy voice. She also appeared less prepared, thus further reducing her credibility.

Little things make a huge difference when presenting. Poor lighting, microphone feedback, and not having the proper markers can all have disastrous effects. All three speaking situations require preparation. The secret to being well prepared is to create a checklist, and ask questions.

Stage Managing


Visual Aids

Team Presentations

There may come a time when you are asked to give a presentation along with several other people. The advantages of team presentations are endless. Not only do you have the brains of many people, you also have the talents. If one person falls short in a certain area of presenting (for example, he isn't able to deliver financial reports and be engaging at the same time), another can pick up. But that doesn't lessen each individual's responsibility to the team. A team presentation can be quite a time commitment, but it is imperative to the success of the presentation that the group meet regularly to plan, to perfect, and to rehearse vigorously.

The Plan's the Thing

Without planning thoroughly, the group members will lose direction quickly. Without planning, it is easy to wind up with four separate presentations, rather than a strong cohesive one. When the group is together for planning, to ensure maximum success, these are the points to cover:

Regular group meetings are a must and they should happen well in advance of the actual presentation. Team members should come to these meetings prepared to give a report on their progress; inform the group on the outline for their parts and any numbers, stories, or examples they will be using; and state how they will start and end their section. Each part should flow easily and subtly into the next section and these meetings are a time to make sure they do.

Rehearse, Run Through, and Repeat

Pay special attention to the introduction and conclusion of the entire presentation, not to mention the transitions between each section. Practice not only presenting the talk, but also the standing and moving. Team members don't want to be bumbling and bumping into one another - that looks neither professional nor organized. Audiences appreciate not only good verbal transitions, but they also appreciate good physical transitions. The more time you spend rearranging visual aids, microphones, and walking around one another, the more you are losing your audience's attention.

The entire team should be "onstage" throughout the presentation. Every team member must contribute and be supportive if the team is going to be a winner. If your listeners see one person presenting his section and his team members are off to the side not paying attention, they won't see this group as a team. Support each other at all times.

Test your presentation in front of an audience of coworkers and colleagues - as long as they are not connected in any way to your presentation. They must also be a group of people who will not feel hesitant about offering constructive criticism. Before you rehearse your presentation in front of them, ask them to write down their expectations of the talk. Afterwards, have an evaluation form on hand for them to fill out. Make sure it covers whether their expectations were met, what the purpose of the presentation was from their perspective, and if there was any information they thought was excessive or left out. Mention team members individually. Ask questions such as, "Were the transitions smooth?" "Did you understand who was speaking and why?" "Did you understand the purpose of each presentation?" Videotape the presentation and play it back, so you can see how you are perceived and fix any trouble spots.

The Telling Aspects of the Technical Details

It's not just what you say, it's what you use to say it. Visual aids are part of any speaker's style; if they aren't cohesive, they will reflect badly on you. Even the type of microphone you use will affect your delivery. A cordless mike allows you to move around and is a good choice for restless speakers. People whose delivery style is stationary will want a mike they can hold onto. As I said earlier, if you wish to appear intimate, speak softly and close to the mike. How you use the mike can become part of your unique style.

Be Powerful - Be Yourself

A good delivery does justice to the points you've gathered and to the speech you've worked hard to shape. It comes with practice and a lot of planning and from trusting and relying on your individual style. Don't try to adopt someone else's style; your audience will sense something is amiss, and you won't feel comfortable. If you be yourself and be enthusiastic, you will be well on your way to a stylish delivery, ready to use your delivery skills on a daily basis, starting with meetings.

Professional Projects: Focus on Style
  1. If someone were to observe you, how would they define your style as a communicator?

  2. What are your main strengths as a presenter?

  3. Watch different newscasters for a week and define their delivery styles.

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