(Prepared by Ellen Colton)


V.5.1  Components of a Good Speech


          material, preparation, voice(vocal variety, pacing, projection, tone, inflection),

          gestures, posture, eye contact, positive energy, dynamic presence, relaxation, humor


V.5.2  Overcoming Anxiety


          1.  Know the room.  Become familiar with the place in which you will speak. 


         2.  Know the audience.  If possible meet and greet with members of the group as

               they arrive.


3.     Know your material.  Nervousness increases when you are not familiar with

your material.  Practice your speech and revise it until you can present it with ease.


         4.   Learn how to relax.  Do breathing and relaxation exercises


a.     Sit comfortably, breathe in slowly, hold your breath for 4 to 5 seconds,

                        then  slowly exhale.  Do these cleansing breaths, several in a row.


 b.   Relax your face and jaw muscles by massaging them, moving them around;

                       open mouth and eyes wide, then close them tightly.


c.    Controlled abdominal muscles promote easy, relaxed speech free from strain.


d.  Loosen up the body.  There is a vital difference between relaxing for the sake        

     of relaxation, which inevitably includes mental collapse, and relaxing in order 

     to  do something.  The aim is to remove unnecessary tensions so that the

     muscles are free to respond without being tight and unnatural.


Exercise. Stand with your feet apart.  Picture the bones of your feet, picture the shin bones growing up from your ankle joints.  Picture your thigh bones growing up from your knee joints, picture your hip joints and your pelvic girdle.  Picture your spine growing up from the pelvic girdle, through the small of the back, between the shoulder blades, with the rib cage floating round it and the shoulder on top.  Feel the arms hanging from the shoulder sockets.  Picture the upper arm bones, the elbow joints, the forearms, the wrist joints, the bones of the hands and fingers.  Let your mind flow back up though your arms and into the neck. Picture the neck vertebrae going up into the skull.  Picture the skull floating, like a balloon, off the top of the spine.  Focus attention on your wrists, and let them float toward the ceiling.  Imagine someone pulls you up a little by your finger tips, and allow your whole torso to be stretched from above.   Reverse the whole process letting each segment of the body relax like a rag doll. Come back up, shake all over - every part.


e.    Take a cleansing breath. Inhale through nostrils or mouth slowly a complete   

                         breath.  Hold 2 to 4 counts, purse lips tightly, and expel through them a 

                         small puff of air.  Hold two counts, puff one, and so on until exhalation is





 One of the chief causes of faulty voice production is incorrect breathing.  Breathing should be correctly centered, deep and regular.  Ease, freedom, poise, bearing, voice - all are interdependent with correct breathing.


Take a full breath. Hold it.  Then, blow it out forcefully in one short breath, as if blowing out a candle about three feet away.


Visualization and Meditation Exercise. Sit down in a comfortable chair, hands on thighs, eyes closed.  Take deep regular breaths.  Imagine a tranquil and peaceful scene -leaning against a tree, legs outstretched on plush grass, looking at a calm lake.


      5. Visualize yourself speaking. Imagine yourself walking confidently to the 

 lectern as the audience applauds.  Imagine yourself speaking, your voice loud, clear

 and assured.  When you visualize yourself as successful, you will be successful.


      6. Realize people want you to succeed.  All audiences want speakers to be interesting, stimulating, informative and entertaining.  They want you to succeed, not fail.


      7. Don’t apologize for being nervous.  Don’t apologize for any problems. It’s a sign of weakness.


      8.  Concentrate on your message and speech. Focus your attention away from your anxieties.  Concentrate on delivering the best speech or paper possible.


      9. Turn that nervousness into positive energy. Nerves can energize you.  Transform them into enthusiasm and vitality.


    10. Gain experience. Experience builds confidence, which is the key to effective speaking.


Remember:  He who fails to prepare is preparing for failure.  So prepare, prepare, prepare!!!




V.5.3  The Non-Verbal Dimension


    A. Appearance


         How you dress can, of course, influence how you are appreciated and accepted.  Dress for your audience.



    B. Posture and Gesture


1.    Take command of the room. Walking into a room confidently immediately 

puts the power into you.


          2.  Ineffective gestures mean an ineffective speaker.  Constant jabbing at the air carries no power or meaning.  Hands flailing wildly diminishes effectiveness.  Be aware of your gestures or lack of them.  Save your power.  Focus gestures for specific effects.



          3.  Maintain eye contact.  The eyes are said to be the key to the soul.  You should establish eye contact with the audience.  It connects them to you.  People want to see your face.  Don’t bury it in your notes.


          4. Keep a friendly facial expression.  The audience watches your face.  If you are listless or distracted then they will be listless and distracted; if you are smiling, then they will feel comfortable.


          5. Control your stance.  Your stance and posture say a lot about you.  Use your whole body as a dynamic tool to reinforce your rapport with the audience.  The perennial problem is what to do with your hands.  Don’t wave them aimlessly through the air or fiddle constantly with a pen, or jiggle change in your trouser pockets.



V.5.4   The Voice


           The two most important aspects of the voice are projection and variation.  Make sure you can be heard by your audience. Vary the pitch and speed of your presentation.  A monotonal speech is monotonous, boring, and soporific.  A good way to practice is to record your speech into a cassette recorder, play it back, and hear how it sounds.  If it sounds, slow, monotonal and boring, then it probably will be, and you have to rehearse and work hard to change it.


                Do exercises to improve your nasal resonance.  A feeling of throat relaxation and throat ease should constantly be aimed at in all efforts to improve the voice.  To develop nasal resonance - take a deep breath.  Note the free, open, expansive sensation in the nose as the air is rushing in.  If faithfully practiced, these exercises will brighten and enhance the attractiveness of tone:


1.    Relax the throat.


           2. Hum: mmmmmmmmmm mmmmmmmmmm mmmmmmmmmm

                         m-n, m-n, m-n, m-n


           3. Dwell on the ng: ding-dong, sing-song, Hong-Kong

                                           sing-ing, bring-ing, wring-ing, cling-ing, hang-ing


           4. D and T: do and dare, dull and dead, dull, dark dock

                              widths and breadths, heights and plights


  5. Distinguish “t” from “d” in these pairs of sentences:


                       The rider was riding in the meadow.

                       The writer was writing a letter.


                       The rider was on his mettle.

                       The writer won a medal.










Tongue Twisters are good for loosening your tongue and warming up before a speech:


1.    Some shun sunshine.  Do you shun sunshine?


2.    Fanny Finch fried five floundering fish for Frances Fowler’s father.


3.    Strange strategic statistics strive to stump sturdy staunch statisticians.


4.    She stood on the steps inexplicably mimicking his hiccuping and amicably welcoming him in.


5.    Amidst the mists and coldest frosts
    With stoutest wrists and loudest boasts
He thrusts his fists against the posts
And still insists he sees the ghosts.


6.     What whim led Whitney White to whittle, whistle, whisper, and whimper near the wharf where a whale would wheel and whirl?


7.     I never felt felt feel flat like that felt felt.


8.    Theophilus Thistle, the successful thistle sifter, in sifting a sieve full of unsifted thistles, thrust three thousand thistles through the thick of his thumb. Now, if Theophilus Thistle, the successful thistle sifter, in sifting a sieve full of unsifted thistles, thrust three thousand thistles through the thick of his thumb, where are the three thousand thistles Theophilus Thistle sifted?


9.    A tree-toad loved a she toad that lived up in a tree. She was a three-toed she toad; a three-toed toad was he. But a two-toed tree toad tried to win the she-toad’s friendly nod, for the two-toed tree-toad loved the ground that the three-toed she toad trod.


10.  I bought a batch of baking powder and baked a batch of biscuits. I brought a big basket of biscuits back to the bakery and baked a basket of big biscuits. Then I took the big basket of biscuits and the basket of big biscuits and mixed the big biscuits with the basket of biscuits that was next to the big basket and brought the basket of biscuits and the box of mixed biscuits and the biscuit mixer to the bakery and opened a can of sardines.


You’ll find good advice on “speaking the speech” in “Hamlet”:


                     Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to you, trippingly

            on the tongue.  But, if you mouth it, as many of our players do, I had

            as lief the town crier spoke my lines.  Nor do not saw the air too much

            with your hand, thus, but use all gently, for in the very torrent, tempest,

            and (as I may say) whirlwind of your passion, you must acquire and

            beget a temperance that may give it smoothness.  O, it offends me to the

            soul to hear a robustious periwig-pated fellow tear a passion to tatters,

            to very rags, to split the ears of the groundlings, who for the most part

            are capable of nothing but inexplicable dumb shows and noise.  I would

            have such a fellow whipped for o’erdoing Termagant.  It out-herods

            Herod.  Pray you avoid it.




                    Be not too tame neither, but let your own discretion be your tutor.

            Suit the action to the word, the word to the action, with this special observance,

            that you o’erstep not the modesty of nature.  For anything so overdone is from the

            purpose of playing, whose, end, both at the first and now, was and is, to hold, as

            ‘twere, the mirror up to nature, to show virtue her own feature, scorn her own

            image, and the very age and body of the time his form and pressure.  Now this

            overdone, or come tardy off, though it make the unskillful laugh, cannot but

            make the judicious grieve, the censure of the which one must in your allowance

            o’erweigh a whole theatre of others.  O, there be players that I have seen play, and

            heard others praise, and that highly (not to speak it profancely), that neither having

            th’ accent of Christians, nor the gait of Christian, pagan, nor man, have so strutted

            and bellowed that I have thought some of Nature’s journeymen had made men, and

            not made them well, they imitated humanity so abominably.



















































































































































Ellen Colton










1026 Chemical Engineering Projects Laboratory

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Spring, 1999