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[Speaking-Out-Loud October 2015]How to READ a speech aloud well
October 06, 2015
In this Issue
I know there's a rule that says a speech should never, ever be read. But sometimes, for very good reasons, it has to be broken!
Maybe it's because you simply didn't have enough time to practice it.
Perhaps it's because the subject matter is extraordinarily complicated and you can't afford to slip up presenting it, or perhaps that's what you've been instructed to do.
In situations like this how can a speaker maintain energy and audience connection while reading?
Here's 5 tips to help.
1. Practice reading aloud
Reading aloud well is a skill you can acquire with practice.
Choose a variety of texts; non-fiction: newspaper articles, magazine reports, academic extracts, and fiction: children's stories, a short story, a poem or an extract from a novel, to work with.
The pieces need to be long enough for you to practice observing the punctuation and flow of the material. About two minutes worth is generally enough.
Recording yourself will help you identify what you've done well and where you need to focus extra effort.
Things to listen out for when you play yourself back:
With practice you should be able to scan ahead, memorizing at least a phrase or two. These you can deliver directly to the audience making eye contact as you do. This will help create audience connection breaking the eyes-down reading monotony.
2. Use a lectern for your notes
Rather than holding the script put it on a lectern.
Make sure you have the lectern placed to one side of you to avoid creating a barrier between yourself and the audience.
3. Mark up your script
Ensure you have a copy that is clearly numbered, single sided, double spaced and printed in an easily read font. This makes it much easier to see where to come back to if you've lifted eyes to the audience. The single-side and numbers help you track your progress. As you finish one page turn it over and place it to one side.
If there are essential points to stress highlight them to remind yourself. If you need to, do the same with breath points. This is really useful if you have long complex sentences to read. Breaking them mid-way through because you've run out of breath will alter their impact and perhaps their meaning.
4. Address the audience
Sometimes a script will have notes that talk directly to the audience.
These should never be read head down! They need to be made with eye contact other wise there's little point in saying them. By their nature, they are interactive. You have to be looking to get the response.
You'll alienate your audience, underlining the fact that you're reading, if you don't.
5. Practice with the script
If you can, do make time to run through the script. If it contains surprises, you'll want to find them before you share them with your audience.
Practice will also give you a chance to gauge timing and vocal variety needs. A 'cold' reading is very hard to pull off. Keep what faith you can with your audience by giving them at the very least a 'lukewarm' one.
Even if you become highly skilled at reading aloud do bear in mind, this is still not as effective as delivering a speech or presentation without the crutch of a full set of notes. It's tough to get the immediacy of connection that you can achieve without them. Reading a script, word for word, is for emergencies only!
Getting started with reading aloud
Here's a source of great Read-Alouds From The New York Times. The initial post was so popular it's been updated fairly regularly since. You'll find all sorts of different types of material to practice with.
A round up of pages, either revamped with added information or new on the site.
Viola Davis - 2015 Emmy Awards. Brevity + power + passion in a very short speech. This post, from Denise Graveline, Washington DC based speaker coach, analyses how that impact was achieved. Do listen to the speech.
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Until next time,
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