Back to Back Issues Page
[Speaking-Out-Loud October 2015]How to READ a speech aloud well
October 06, 2015

In this Issue

Keep on reading

Go to Top

Sometimes you just HAVE to read a speech

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:

  • Are you stressing the key words?
  • Are you letting the punctuation dictate the flow?
  • Are you using appropriate tonal, pitch, volume and rate variations for the text?
  • Is your enunciation clear and accurate?

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.
This eliminates the temptation to mask your face with it and to rattle its pages. It also leaves you free to use your arms, hands, to gesture, as well as to look directly at the audience.

Make sure you have the lectern placed to one side of you to avoid creating a barrier between yourself and the audience.
Also check that it's the right height for you before you begin. It needs to be at comfortable eye-level to ensure you're neither looking too far up or down.

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.
It could be a question eg. "How many of you have experienced XXX?"

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.

On you'll find help with specific skills used to read well aloud: vocal variety , using pauses, and speech rate.

Go to Top

What's new

A round up of pages, either revamped with added information or new on the site.

  • Breathing exercises - an awareness and practice of good breathing habits will short circuit a lot the anxiety experienced by novice speakers. These are simple to learn, and effective.
  • How to use humor effectively - Tips to ensure that you are laughed with, rather than at. The first is great, the latter is painful.
  • Go to Top

    And now some inspiration

    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.

    Comment, share & connect

    If you've got comments, feedback or questions you're most welcome to contact me through my about me page.

    If you liked this issue of Speaking-Out-Loud, please feel free to send it on to any friends or family. The site url to forward so they can subscribe is Speaking-Out-Loud.

    And I'd love to see you on's face book page too.

    Until next time,
    Happy speaking,


    Go to Top

    Back to Back Issues Page