Bruce Bastian at the HRC Gala

Speak the Speech

(reading time approx. 5 minutes)

“Speak the speech, I pray, as I pronounced it to you, trippingly on the tongue.” In that quote from William Shakespeare, lies a lesson and a censure – a lesson to speak as did he, plainly, distinctly, sufficiently audible, with a clear pronunciation of each syllable in every word, to the end of each sentence.

As this writer sees it, Shakespeare’s message connotes that each word in itself is a jeweled treasure of a message creation. Each word is none less valuable than another. Jewels, with their own charge, to add brilliance and power notwithstanding the final word and its very own impactful conclusion.

Shakespeare’s censure is to remind that the spoken word is as indelible in the minds of the listener as with the penned writings of the scrivener.

Omar Khayyam reminds us: “The moving finger writes, and having writ, moves on: nor all the piety nor wit shall lure it back to cancel half a line, nor thy tears wash out a single word of it.”

Shakespeare’s genius can non-plus even the most astute of scholars in the abstract thoughts and abstruse meanings, but not in the audibility of his speech. His individuality and orations are imitated ad infinitum. His spoken words are indelible in the annals of literature, clear to the period at the end of each sentence. Why, because he pronounced his words completely, articulately, not with the feeble, weak babble, and timid verbal delivery, vaporizing off into inaudible nothingness at the end of a sentence. This is a major foible in the delivery by many speakers, teachers in high places, especially politicians, frequently punctuated by word whiskers or word crutches, such as, “uh, like, like you know, you know what I mean, right, OK”, this that or the other thing, and the word, BASICALLY. I hate that word crutch.

Shakespeare was a master! He is one to be emulated, save his grandiose gesticulations, which may not befit all orators, excepting with the most histrionic thespians. Yes, as begged by the Master, “Speak the Speech”, proudly and immodestly, to the last word as with the first, plainly, articulately, concisely and especially to the last syllable in every sentence. Continue with volume to the end of the line, proudly and unabashedly, with panache. “Speak the Speech”, says the master.

Verbal presentations differ from the same written message. Vocal delivery, whether reading from a script or extemporizing, exposes your ability to speak the speech, as well as write your essay. You must use every speaking tool and technique to your advantage, physical and mechanical, as with a pen for the scrivener. The microphone is paramount. Few speakers use the mic as intended. Being “off mic” is the biggest abuse. Few speakers use a mic correctly; hence the message is fractured by on and off audio. Rule number one: if you hear your voice being amplified, it’s working. If you don’t hear the amplification, you’re off mic and only you hear you. Your message is lost. Speak into a mic as into a cone, possibly holding it so that your thumb rests on your chin, keeping it in place. Radio broadcasters use headphones to hear how they sound.

Do not drop your voice at the end of sentence, and don’t rush the last words. Emphasize and speak up, to the very last syllable. When reading from a script, underline the last three of four words of each sentence as a reminder. Dropping your voice looses your message.

If you have that horrible, annoying silly habit of ending a sentence with a giggle, like heheheh, or feigning a laugh, stop it! If it’s funny, the audience is supposed to laugh at your amusing words, not you as the speaker. Watch the comedians. They make the jokes, the audience makes laughter.

Rule number two: Referring to Shakespeare again, “Speak the Speech”, more explicitly, pronounce the word and every syllable. Casual relaxed conversation can differ from making a presentation. The biggest offense is contractions, dropping the last letters of a word as in: goin’, commin’ doin’ sayin’, etc. Contracting the pronunciation is a no-no for public speaking. Uh, basically, ya’ gotta’ say da’ whole ting, right, you know what I mean, OK? Hahaha.

Slowing down makes it easier. You can then hear how you sound. Don’t be one of those annoying fast talkers, like the phone secretaries in your doctor’s office, rushing words to the end of sentence, dropping volume, punctuating with foibles, laughing with hahahas, talking off mic, not to the audience, talking too much, too long. After five minutes, people get restless, like you may be right now. So, if you have a story, when you tell it “Speak the Speech”! I have told mine. Thank you for listening. I’m Russ Miller.