Seek Variety In Your Speaking

by Stephen Boyd | October 31, 2006

One of the ways to insure success as a speaker is to include variety in the content of your speech. It is hard to please everyone in an audience, so the more different things you include, the more likely you are to say something that everyone will take with them.

Have variety in supporting material or evidence. Don't just rely on examples for your support. Include an example and then perhaps provide a testimonial. Include definitions and explanations where appropriate. Think of a place in your speech where you might include a visual aid. When you finish preparing your presentation, look through the content and make sure you have a variety of supporting materials. In any given presentation, having at least three or four types of evidence can go a long way to insure the success of your presentation.

Work for variety in delivery. Don't stand behind the lectern all the time. Move away for a few moments so the audience can see you better and possibly pay better attention. Speed up and then slow down. Pause occasionally for impact. Change your volume level. Sometimes speaking softly can encourage listening more than speaking with lots of volume. Change facial expression to fit the mood and tone of your speech.

Vary word choice and language techniques. You want to paint pictures in the minds of your audience with words, and you can do this more effectively with different ways of putting words together. You might use vivid description in developing an example. You might describe the scene of the event you are discussing in careful detail. Then perhaps switch to an analogy or comparison to make your next point understandable. Alliteration can also mix up your approach to language, such as "additional attitude adjustment" or "sweet sixteen." Hyperbole or exaggeration can provide a change of pace, such as, "I was so embarrassed I could have crawled into a hole." Sometimes simply repeating your point in a different way gives the audience time to assimilate your information.

Finally, seek variety in adapting to an audience. You might mention names people in the audience can identify with. Tell a story you learned about the company organization to which you are speaking. Stop for a question from the audience. Have the audience raise hands in response to a question you ask. Engage the audience in a brief small group activity. Include humor that gets the audience to laugh or smile.

People respond to content of a speech in different ways. Thus, the more variety of approaches you can incorporate in your next presentation, the more likely you are to have everyone in the audience find something in your speech that they can connect with.

About the Author

Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D., CSP, is Professor Emeritus of Speech Communication, College of Informatics, Northern Kentucky University, near Cincinnati. He presents keynotes and seminars to corporations and associations whose people want to speak and listen effectively. See additional articles and resources at To book Steve, call 800-727-6520 or email him through his website.

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