Some simple speaking tips

OK. You’ve done the hard work in writing your speech, how best to deliver it?

To read or not to read?

There’s no shame in reading out a scripted speech. Whether you or someone else wrote it, it was crafted to be delivered in a particular order. If you’re a musician, it’s perfectly normal to follow the sheet music. It’s the same with a speech.

Advantages to reading out

  • You won’t lose a single planned word
  • No thank yous missed out
  • You will know how long you will speak for
  • Less pressure – the hard work has been done, it’s all on the page ready to be read out

Things to watch out for

  • Have more than one copy. Keep a copy backed up on your phone or tablet AND a spare hard copy.
  • Don’t hide behind the script. Ensure people can see your face.

From memory or using cards

Some people prefer to speak without notes or with cards, allowing themselves the chance to think on their feet and engage more directly with the guests. If you are not a practised public speaker and plan to do this, here are some things to consider.

First, there is more potential for eye contact with the guests.  You might also wish to elaborate on or truncate a section based on the reaction. And, of course, there’s the kudos you might gain for having spoken without notes.

Conversely, there are downsides. You could easily miss out an important thank you or toast. There’s also the question of craft. You might have spent a while working a story into a beautifully honed paragraph only for you to lose your thread or fluff the final line.

One of the biggest risks is misjudging the length – the speech ends up too long or short. Unless you’ve done a lot of public speaking, it’s quite hard to know how long you’ve been talking for.

And, of course, there’s the issue of nerves – you will be doing the speech under “exam conditions” and your recall might not work as well as it usually does. Some people try to combat this with alcohol. But here, you’re only robbing Peter to pay Paul.

In a nutshell: don’t do this simply for the kudos. Do what’s best to deliver your speech

Stuff you probably know but…


You might wish to include a line near the top about whether people can hear you at the back. This can be done as part of an ice-breaker.


Too many and it will be distracting but If you don’t gesture at all you might look like a human autocue. The occasional nod or hand gesture acknowledging a guest or someone at the top table is all it takes. If you’re not too confident about this, try practising your speech in front of a mirror.


Avoid printing out your speech on too many sheets of paper. If you stand up holding several sheets, people’s hearts will sink.


Of all the speaking tips, this for me is the most important.

Read your speech out loud several times before the big day. You will instinctively find yourself adding emphasis to certain words and incorporating small pauses. This will give the delivery even more natural rhythm and flow. If you decide to “busk it” on the day or “leave it to the moment” in the hope it sounds more natural, you actually risk the speech sounding more hesitant. Practice makes it sound more natural not less.

Overall, follow your instincts and do what feels right for you.

Good luck!

Would you like some support with your speech? Why not get in touch with Marc?

Image used for blog post, Stand and Deliver is copyright Russell James Smith. This image has been cropped and rendered black and white (original is colour). Click here for Flickr link . It is used under the Creative Commons licence here.