Speech delivery practice

A speech is not an assignment that can be done the night before; practice is essential.  Practicing a speech will boost your confidence as a speaker and ease potential anxiety.

Podium/lectern practice

Using or not using a podium does not make or break a speech. If using a podium, it should not be used to hide from the audience.  

  • Stand tall—do not hold or lean on the podium
  • Come out from behind the podium during the speech
    • Makes an impact especially at the conclusion of the speech
    • Allows audience to see you as a person, not just a face behind the podium
  • Use gestures
    • Be sure gestures can be seen
  • Make eye contact
    • It is easy with a podium to look down especially if you have notes or outlines
    • Maintain eye contact with the audience


Notes can be helpful. Know your instructor’s preference as some allow notes and some don’t. 

  • Practice using your notes or speaking outline
    • Make sure to look at the audience
    • Know your notes well enough to find what you need
  • Practice your speech
    • Know at what point(s) in your speech you may need to look down at your notes
    • Notes should be simple enough to keep the speech on track


A gesture is the movement of your hands to express an idea. When practicing your speech, do not practice gestures, let them occur naturally.

  • Use natural gestures. Gestures should be relaxed and enhance your speech
  • Gestures should become part of the speech
    • If the topic is exciting, then be excited
  • Make gestures visible, even if using a podium/lectern
  • Use gestures sparingly. Gestures should not be what the audience remembers about your speech

Vocal delivery

Your voice should be loud enough to be heard and have variation (not monotone). This occurs naturally in conversation with friends—so your speech should sound the same.

Try practicing the following to work on vocal variations and delivery.

  • Tongue twisters
  • Rap
  • Funny voices

 These will help you transition to a natural variation in volume and tone.

Adapt to length of the speech

In extemporaneous speaking, there are no ties to a manuscript, so there is flexibility in structure.

  • When you have about 1 minute or 30 seconds left
    • Move to conclusion of the speech
  • Remember it doesn’t matter if all the material is covered exactly as planned
    • The audience doesn’t know what was planned—they just experience the speech as it is delivered
  • Ultimate goal of your speech is that the audience
    • Understands your topic
    • Remembers your thesis and key points

Be direct in speaking

For clarity and time constraints, watch for places where phrases can be more concise. Practicing your speech will allow you to hear where phrases can be shortened and made more concise. For example, instead of “due to the fact” say “because”. 


Beebe, S. A., & Beebe, S. J. (2012). A concise public speaking handbook. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Lucas, S. (2012). The art of public speaking. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Sprague, J. & Stuart, D. (2013). The speaker's compact handbook, 4th ed. Portland: Ringgold, Inc.

Vrooman, S. S. (2013). The zombie guide to public speaking: Why most presentations fail, and what you can do to avoid joining the horde. Place of publication not identified: CreateSpace.