Delivering a Presentation
  • Spoken Language vs. Written Language
    Verbal Delivery
    Nonverbal Delivery

    Spoken vs. Written Language

    “Some people have the mistaken notion that a speech is an essay on its feet” (Crawford, Croft, & Tomlinson, 2007, p. 44). These people would no doubt create very boring speeches that their audience would find confusing. When creating your speech, you have to carefully consider the differences between written language and spoken language.


    One of these differences is structural in nature. When you read a written work, the separation of ideas is made clear through the use of paragraph spacing and punctuation. How do you get these structural elements across when all you have is your voice? You use a group of tools called “connectives.” These include transitions, signposts, internal previews, and internal reviews. 

    Transitions connect the previous idea to the next idea at the moment where you move from one to the other. These usually appear at major section changes, such as the introduction into the body, main point to main point, and body to conclusion.

    Signposts include specific words, such as “first,” “second,” and “next.” They are a very clear indication of a switch in topic.

    Internal previews and reviews provide clarity for large main points by previewing or reviewing the subpoints within that main point “Some people have the mistaken notion that a speech is an essay on its feet” (Crawford, Croft, & Tomlinson, 2007, p. 45-46). 

    Denotation and Connotation

    Each word has a denotation (dictionary definition) and connotation (cultural / personal meaning). A speaker has to be careful to consider her audience when she chooses a given word, as its connotation may be different for different groups (Crawford, Croft, & Tomlinson, 2007, p. 51).

    Regionalism / Dialect

    Many words have certain meanings only within a certain geographical location. In Columbus, for instance, you can generally say “O-H” and know that your audience will respond with “I-O.” This is unlikely to work anywhere else (Crawford, Croft, & Tomlinson, 2007, p. 52).

    Slang and Jargon

    Your decision whether or not to use slang terms (“creeping” on facebook, for example) and jargon (specialized language for a particular profession) should be determined by your audience. If it is appropriate to that audience and the speaking occasion, and it is the most effective way to get your message across, it is probably fine to use these words (Crawford, Croft, & Tomlinson, 2007, p. 53-54).

    Tips for Effective Delivery

    Verbal Delivery

    One of the things that makes a speaker stand out is the quality of her verbal delivery. Think about the great speakers that you know of – what makes them unique or special? Chances are, it is some combination of the elements in this section.

    Volume and Emphasis – at a base level, you must be loud enough for everyone in the audience to hear you. However, there’s another component to volume use for speakers: the use of volume to make certain words stand out. In every sentence, there are words that carry the meaning of the sentence – these are called power words. We use volume and emphasis to make these words stand out (Crawford, Croft, & Tomlinson, 2007, p. 115).

    Rate – this refers to the speed at which you speak. Often speakers will not consider their speaking rate, believing that they will be just fine speaking “normally.” Instead, effective speakers must consider several things. First, what speed is appropriate for your presentation? Slow speaking creates a different mood than fast speaking – what are you trying to accomplish? Second, the speaker must deal with the fact that nervousness about speaking leads to faster delivery, and counteract that natural speed increase. Finally, speakers may speak more quickly because they are not breathing calmly as they speak. Effective speakers must deal with all of these challenges (Crawford, Croft, & Tomlinson, 2007, p. 115-116).

    Inflection – the classic example of lack of inflection is Ben Stein’s character in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. He keeps repeating names with no emotion and no variety – he is monotone, which is the opposite of using inflection. Effective speakers use inflection to show mood and emotion in their speaking. Appropriate changes in pitch, which is the highness or lowness of a spoken word, is one more way that speakers can help get their meaning across to their audience (Crawford, Croft, & Tomlinson, 2007, p. 116-117).

    Verbal Fillers – the injection of “uh” and “um” into a speech is a very common occurrence. These elements are used as a way to fill the silence while the speaker thinks. In conversation, they serve to let the other participant know that the speaker isn’t done speaking. In a public speaking situation, however, they are unnecessary. Effective speakers can minimize the use of these by knowing their material very well and by being unafraid to let some silences happen – even better, effective speakers plan those silences to emphasize points and structural elements of their speeches (Crawford, Croft, & Tomlinson, 2007, p. 118).

    Pronunciation – properly saying words is vital, because you may confuse or distract your listener if you do not pronounce them correctly. You may also damage your credibility with those who know how to pronounce a word properly if you do not. Be sure to look up unfamiliar words in a dictionary, and to be careful with words that are commonly mispronounced (for example: nuclear, February, and arctic) (Crawford, Croft, & Tomlinson, 2007, p. 119).

    Articulation – it is necessary to completely say all parts of a word, and to avoid ramming words together. Crisp articulation involves focusing on each word, saying it completely, and then moving on to the next. This is an essential speaking skill to assist your audience in making meaning of your words (Crawford, Croft, & Tomlinson, 2007, p. 120).

    Dialects – there are many different dialects, or culturally-influenced ways of speaking, in the United States. Each carries its own changes in pronunciation and word usage. Effective speakers will minimize their dialect in order to appeal to a wider audience, unless they are speaking solely to those steeped in the same dialect (Crawford, Croft, & Tomlinson, 2007, p. 120).

    Nonverbal Delivery

    In addition to vocal techniques, speakers must be aware of the messages they are sending nonverbally. We are all sending nonverbal messages all the time. There are several categories of nonverbal communication that concern us as speakers.

    Eye Contact – eye contact serves several purposes for a speaker. First, culturally, we expect honest people to meet our eyes. Second, it allows the speaker to get feedback that they can use to modify their speech. Is the audience interested? Bored? Confused? Eye contact will tell you. Finally, eye contact includes the audience in the speech and makes them feel directly connected to the speaker, which can keep them engaged during the speech. Eye contact is critical (Crawford, Croft, & Tomlinson, 2007, p. 127).

    Facial Expressions – your face is the most expressive part of your body. You must be sure that if you are speaking about something important your nonverbal communication reflects that importance with a serious look. A mismatch between look and content can completely ruin the message you are trying to communicate (Crawford, Croft, & Tomlinson, 2007, p. 128).

    Gestures – are “punctuation for the body.” You should use them deliberately to emphasize information, and be very careful to not use them unintentionally, as random gestures are a distraction from your speech (Crawford, Croft, & Tomlinson, 2007, p. 129).

    Space – many speakers lock themselves behind a podium and thus separate themselves from their audience. Don’t be afraid to step out from behind that protective barrier and engage your audience (Crawford, Croft, & Tomlinson, 2007, p. 129).

    Time – the speaker has an obligation to live within the time stipulations of the occasion. Too short or too long and you risk alienating your audience (Crawford, Croft, & Tomlinson, 2007, p. 130).

    Appearance – the speaker should dress appropriately to the occasion. In a larger sense, this includes more than just clothes – your general state of alertness and grooming are part of your appearance (Crawford, Croft, & Tomlinson, 2007, p. 130-131).

    Posture, Gait, and Composure – speakers should remember that they are on stage from the moment they appear to the audience. In a classroom, that includes everything from the moment you rise from your seat to the moment you return to it. You must control your body language during this entire time, projecting confidence and composure, in order to fully impress your audience (Crawford, Croft, & Tomlinson, 2007, p. 131-132).