A speech is the delivery of words out loud to an audience. It’s different to writing an essay, a memo, an email or a letter. Well written words on a page will not automatically translate to an effective, engaging speech. When I write to present or perform I want my delivery to sound relaxed, conversational and direct. I am always looking for a cleaner, simpler way to express an idea or a viewpoint.
If you’re wanting to hone easy, engaging, conversational delivery, here are some tips that may help.
Dictate into a recorder
Voice recorders are handy little things and easy to use – every iPhone comes with one. For a lot of speech styles, you want to sound natural and off the cuff, and a voice recorder allows you to capture those moments. Once you turn it on, you forget it’s there. I love using mine.
Inspiration hits us at different times. I seem to get great ideas when I’m in the car driving.The biggest lie I tell myself is I don’t need to write it down, I’ll remember it. Guess what? I never do! But driving is not exactly the most practical time to whip out a pen and paper and write something down. So I will literally talk my ideas out loud into my recorder on the way to work, the shops, wherever… When I get around to writing at my computer later, I simply play my recording back to make a start.
Invariably I find I communicate really effectively in the recordings with simple and accessible language. I’m not searching for a fancier word or using a thesaurus to find a clever adjective. I don’t overthink when I’m talking out loud. I simply use the best words to get my point across.
I highly recommend a voice recorder whenever you’re brainstorming ideas with anyone too. It’s a great way to capture your natural flair for simple, direct communication. It works much better than taking notes at the time. These are often abbreviated versions of what was said anyway or interpreted differently to how it was actually said.
Write out loud
If you like to write out your entire speech word for word then try speaking the words as you write. Don’t be afraid to play with a sentence and challenge yourself to find different ways of expressing that idea. I personally have a tendency for verbosity and long-winded phrases in my writing. It becomes really obvious when I speak the words out loud. I can identify exactly where I need to be more economical with my expression or less formal in style.
Imagine you’re talking to a friend
If you’re aiming for a conversational tone in your speech, why not pretend you’re actually having a conversation with someone. Imagine them sitting opposite you having a coffee. Feel free to actually have a coffee when you do this to get you in the mood! Depending on the nature of your speech you might pick a family member, friend or colleague and speak your point of view with that person in mind. The nature of your relationship will automatically change the way you communicate. Perhaps it will soften your delivery, encourage you to add some humour or advice into your content. It’s a great way to help put your voice and personality on the page.
Practice to hear how it sounds
Before you give a speech or presentation, at the very least make sure you have read it out loud a couple of times. I guarantee words sound very different out loud to what they do in your head. Don’t discover how your speech actually sounds for the first time in front of an audience. Perhaps you have written a couple of super long phrases that need to be refined or there’s a mix of words that are a real mouthful. The thing is you want to know all of this before the actual presentation. Practising your speech also allows for an opportunity to play with pacing, emphasis, intonation and volume, all of which can be manipulated in different ways to add dynamism, interest and colour to your speech. Although more on those another day.
Happy writing and hope some of those ideas help bring a clear conversational style to your words.