00021454 A friend and I were exchanging critiques on our performances last week as public speakers.

In critiquing my friend's expert presentation, I wrote him mainly about the content and structure of his arguments. As an English major, I'm mainly focused on the rhetoric, rather than the delivery.

Well, my friend followed-up this morning, specifically seeking advice on his delivery. He wrote:

All of your points give me more ideas on how to make my next presentation better, and that's the goal for me: to become the best speaker I can be, to inspire others, educate them on relevant ideas, make sure I am getting my real message across correctly, etc.

You gave me a lot of great suggestions/feedback as to the things I was saying and what I was saying, but I am curious to know also what you thought about the delivery/presence.

If you don't mind me asking:

  • How was my vocal variety? Did I have enough change in my tone to keep people engaged?
  • How was my body language? Was I shifting too much, walking all over the place, or was it fine where it was not a distraction?
  • How were my eyes? Was I looking down to much, up too much, not looking enough at single individuals?

What To Say?
I'm wasn't sure how to answer these questions.

They might be great questions to ask, but I wasn't watching for such technical aspects. (Silly me. I was enjoying the speech!) Next time I sit in the audience, however, I'll make special note of these aspects.

Deleting my specific comments to him, here are the general ways I approach these three topics:

  • Vocal variety: I appreciate speakers who are conversational, rather than oratorical. When a speaker shouts or laughs or sings, it cannot ring artificial.
  • Body language: The director (of Our Town, The Odd Couple, To Kill A Mockingbird, and so many others), Ian Short has taught me: make no small gestures. Make sure all gestures have a clear start and a clear end. Don't let gestures simply erode. And don't force any body language. Don't force anything.
  • Eye contact: More is better. And, then again, it makes sense to look up (or to the notes) for inspiration. Just don't look down at your shoes too much.

Such Professional Questions
I have to admit, I am not a trained platform speaker. I'm applying what I have learned on the theatrical stage over the years and in the classroom. So, I don't know much about these technical aspects.

If it's not too pompous to claim, I'm more of a "Method Speaker" like a method actor, I guess. I get into character and go. And, I find, the truer the character — the more me I can be — the better off I am.

What Do You Think?

If you have some perspective on this, please don't leave a comment here on this post.

Please visit SpeakerSite's "LITTLE GEMS: Advice For New Speakers" (where I have posted this as advice for new speakers) to add your comment there.