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Vocal Delivery

How should I deliver my speech?

In delivering any style of speech, you want to practice effective, intentional use of voice, nonverbal communication, and visual aids.

With voice, you want to pay attention to the following:

Volume

  • How loud or soft is your voice? Practice your speech with friends and invite them to tell you if you need to speak up or tone it down.
  • Emphasis is also a big part of making sure your speech is easy to understand. Are you making a fierce point? Then get louder! Are you creating suspense or adding gravity or mystery to your words? Then get softer.
  • DON’T allow every expression to sound exactly the same. With volume, pitch, and rate, you are seeking vocal variety.

Pitch

How high- or low-pitched is your voice when you talk?
You want a pitch that varies naturally, which means it changes with the emotional register of the speech:

  • When you’re talking about something exciting or new, does your pitch rise?
  • When you’re making a pointed or  argumentative statement, does your pitch go down quickly?
  • DON’T allow yourself to fall into monotone, where everything sounds robotic. Try not to be too repetitive in general.

Rate
How fast or slow do you talk? Talk too fast, and you might stumble over your words, or your audience might miss what you’re saying. Talk too slow, and your audience might fall asleep.
Maintain an even rate in your speaking, and test that by practicing with friends and teachers.

  • Go faster when you want to show excitement or action.
  • Go slower when you’re describing a complex concept, or when words are harder to pronounce. Sometimes slowing down can also emphasize important points.

Articulation

Do you sometimes mumble? When you perform a speech, does every sound of every word in every sentence make it out of your mouth? Articulation is your ability to make that happen.

  • Make time to practice difficult words or expressions out loud.
  • If you know you are likely to mumble through a particularly segment of your speech, try slowing down.
  • Before speaking, try your best to breathe normally and relax. Try taking a drink to keep your mouth from getting too dry. Some vocal exercises can help.

Pauses

When you write, you use commas and periods. When you speak, pauses and other changes in rate and pitch can function as vocal punctuation.

  • Pause before you start speaking. Give your audience a beat to just look at you; don’t begin abruptly.
  • Pause after complete thoughts, especially for emphasis. Give your audience a little time to think about what you have said.
  • Pause to emphasize emotion.
  • Pause after you speak. Don’t run away frantically right after the last word has left your lips.
  • In any case, don’t pause too long or too often, as this will make your audience uncomfortable.

Be wary of habitual vocalized pauses (or “nonfluencies”), such as “um,” uh,” “like,” and “y’know,” which create unnecessary noise for the speech.

Pronunciation
Do you legitimately know the meaning and pronunciation of every word in your speech? DON’T try to fake it. Make sure you are prepared to pronounce every word correctly. Practice in front of friends or teachers to make sure you have got difficult words down.

  • In the case of foreign words, you may have to go online to practice listening and repeating them.
  • If you are worried about your own dialect or accent,
    • Make sure you practice correct grammar and word choice, regardless of accent.
    • Avoid using words your audience will not understand.
    • Make sure you practice effective use of the other vocal devices already mentioned.