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Although there are other possible methods of delivery, we will be teaching students to deliver their speeches extemporaneously from limited notes. This means that speakers have prepared thoroughly and practiced their speeches many times, but they are not memorized nor reading from a manuscript. There are many sound reasons to avoid memorizing and using a full manuscript, but for our concerns the most significant is that when speakers deliver from memory or, especially, read to audiences, it reduces their ethos (credibility and trustworthiness.) It also doesn’t engage the audience, of course.

How can you teach this method to students?

Require speaking notes on paper.

Recall that you’ve taught them how to outline. (It is recommended never to instruct students to write out an oral presentation fully like they would an essay.) In general, one page of outline translates into two minutes of speaking. As a general guideline, a speaker should reduce that one page of outline into one or two note cards of text. So, for an 8-10 minute speech, a speaker should have no more than 10 note cards. (An alternative is to allow one or two full sheets of paper, but the drawback is that full sheets of paper can be distracting if carried around).

Yes, that’s right, speakers still should create speaking notes on paper. Students (and instructors) might resist this given the prevalence of presentation software, but how many times has the technology failed? How many times have you been an audience member when someone can’t get their PowerPoint to load or project to the screen for whatever reason? We’ve all seen this happen, and it’s probably even happened to you. Wouldn’t notes on paper have been useful at that moment? Paper never crashes, never fails to load, nor erases itself; it’s also compatible with every operating system used everywhere.

If you’re still not convinced to require students to create speaking notes on paper, consider how many times you’ve watched speakers turn their backs to the audience, reading from the screen. Or also consider how many speakers you’ve watched who are trapped behind a computer monitor, unable to move and engage the audience because his/her notes are only on a computer screen. Hopefully, this has been convincing.

Tell students to practice their speech using those notes many times.

Tell them to deliver the speech out loud, to other real human beings, as many times as they can before they give the speech that counts. This is no different from any other sport or activity they’ve ever been a part of. Coaches don’t expect players to know how to execute plays without practicing hundreds of times. Actors practice their lines hundreds of times. Musicians practice hundreds of hours before a concert. Speaking is no different. There are no simple tricks to pulling off an effective speech; practice is the only way to give a good speech, and practice is the only way to build true confidence in one’s speaking abilities.

Give them the flexibility needed to meet the time limits.

If the speech is 8-10 minutes, instruct the students to aim for a nine-minute speech every time when they’re practicing.