9.4 What to Do When Delivering Your Speech

The interplay between the verbal and nonverbal components of your speech can bring the message vividly to life, or it can confuse or bore the audience. It is best that you neither over-dramatize your speech delivery behaviours nor downplay them. This is a balance achieved through rehearsal, trial and error, and experience. One way to think of this is in terms of the Goldilocks paradigm: you don’t want to overdo the delivery because you might distract your audience by looking hyper or overly animated. Conversely, someone whose delivery is too understated (meaning they don’t move their hands or feet at all) looks unnatural and uncomfortable, which can also be distracting. Like Goldilocks, you want a delivery that is “just right”. This middle ground between too much and too little is a much more natural approach to public speaking, and will be covered in more detail in the following discussions regarding aspects of your delivery and what you need to think about while actually giving your speech.

Watch the following 10 minute video: Use Body Language to Rock Your Next Presentation

Video: Use Body Language to Rock Your Next Presentation by Stanford Graduate School of Business [10:09] Transcript Available

Hands: Use your hands as naturally as you would in normal conversation. Try to pay attention to what you do with your hands in regular conversations with friends, family, and coworkers, then incorporate that into your delivery. 

Feet: stand shoulder-width apart, keeping your knees slightly bent. If you are comfortable, try walking around a bit if space allows, and it appears natural in practice. Avoid shifting from foot-to-foot, rocking back on your feet, or bouncing nervously.

Objects: bring only what you need to give your presentation. Anything else will be a distraction. Turn off any personal devices (cell phones, tablets or messaging on a laptop you are using for PowerPoint) so there are no interruptions.

Clothing: dress professionally, based on the culture of your organization. Avoid jewellery that could make noise, uncomfortable shoes, or other distracting items. You may wish to tie back long hair so you are not tempted to touch or move it.

Eye Contact: Eye contact is an extremely important element of your delivery. The general rule of thumb is to aim for 80 percent of your total speech time to be spent making eye contact with your audience (Lucas, 2015, p. 250).

Watch the following videos for additional visual advice: 

5 minute video: How to Make Eye Contact When Presenting

Video: How to Make Eye Contact When Presenting by Alexander Lyon [4:46] Transcript available

8 minute video: Video For Practicing Eye Contact – FOUR Difficulty Levels

Video: Video For Practicing Eye Contact – FOUR Difficulty Levels by Improvement Pill [8:20] Transcript available

Volume: The volume you use should fit the size of the audience and the room.

Rate: How quickly or slowly you say the words of your speech makes a difference. You will want to maintain a good, deliberate rate at the beginning of your speech because your audience will be getting used to your voice.

Vocalized Pauses: Everyone uses vocalized pauses to some degree, but not everyone’s are problematic. Pauses can be great attention getters, but can also become a distraction if overused. Identify your own common vocalized pauses and try to catch yourself to reduce your dependence on them.

The items listed above represent the major delivery issues you will want to be aware of when giving a speech, but is by no means an exhaustive list. One final piece of delivery advice? No matter how hard you practice and how diligent you are in preparing for your presentation, you are most likely going to mess up some aspect at some point. That’s normal. Everyone does it. The key is not to make a big deal about it. Odds are that your audience will never even realize your mistake if you don’t tell them there was one.

42 What to Do When Delivering Your Speech” from Communication for Business Professionals by eCampusOntario is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


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Talking Business Copyright © 2023 by Laura Radtke is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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