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Select a Mode of Delivery

Will your talk be delivered extemporanously, as a manuscript, memorized or without preparation?

  1. Extemporaneous
  2. Manuscript
  3. Memorized
  4. Impromptu

Speaking extemporaneously
When you speak extemporaneously you are literally making up the words of your speech as you go. That does not mean that you do no preparation. Rather, as you rehearse you work from an outline or speaker notes that remind you of the progression of ideas in your speech.

Because you are developing the words on the fly, an extemporaneous speech is likely to be very dynamic and sound spontaneous and fresh. An excellent example of an extemporaneous speech is Robert F. Kennedy's Eulogy to Martin Luther King, Jr.

On April 5, 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis. Robert Kennedy, then a candidate in the Presidential primary in Indiana, learned about King's assassination while airborne. He was scheduled to address a group of people at the airport upon his arrival in Indianapolis. The audience for that speech had assembled on the airport runway, unaware of the assassination of King. Kennedy delivered his eloquent remarks extemporaneously.

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To read and listen to Kennedy's extemporaneous talk, go to Or go to to read or hear this simple and eloquent verbal communication.

College forensics requires extemporaneous and impromptu deliveries. Click here to learn tips on these modes of delivery from the National Forensic League via Alfred Snider at the University of Vermont, From the homepage list, choose from over 25 speeches.

Speaking from a manuscript
According to communication expert Terrence Doyle, reading from a manuscript is the most formal type of delivery. It is also an effective choice when you want to have the greatest control of the wording of your speech.

You will probably use a manuscript when speaking on a highly sensitive topic for which it is important to have precise wording. Or, if you have spent special effort embellishing your speech with stylistic elements, reading from the manuscript will ensure that you speak the phrases just as you wrote them.

Often, however, reading your speech will rob the presentation of spontaneity and the conversational dynamics that effective speakers strive to achieve.

To compensate for that, you will need to practice your reading to give it the feeling of being spoken for the first time. Skillful manuscript readers will also make spontaneous changes in their speech at the moment of delivery.

Each year the President of the United States delivers a State of the Union Address to Congress. These talks are manuscript because the wording is so sensitive. You'll notice that they will be reading from a teleprompter to enable them to look up and appear to be speaking extemporaneously.

Graphic for Links to other Sites Click here to explore some tips from Kenneth Baldridge on developing a manuscript talk. Mr. Baldridge teaches at Indiana University Southeast, There you will find nine brief tips on the manuscript and speaking keys.

Presenting from memory
Unless you have had training and practice memorizing long passages of text, the memorized mode is the hardest to pull off. Freed from a manuscript or notes, you are likely to have the added anxiety of forgetting what you wanted to say.

A memorized speech can also sound "canned" and lacking in spontaneity. After many months of campaigning, a politician's talk will become a memorized talk.

Some speakers are extremely skillful at memorizing. Others, who have presented the same ideas a number of times, will memorize their lines whether they intended to or not. Each time they speak on that or a similar topic, they can draw from memory. This is true for many preachers and teachers.

Recall Martin Luther King, Jr's "I have a dream speech"? In August 1963, King presented a five-minute speech for the March on Washington. Indeed, the first part of the speech was written out to fulfill that expectation. For the second half of the speech, King abandoned his text and drew from his memory.

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You can read and listen to these impressive speeches by going to American Rhetoric, at Under the “Most Requested” heading, click on “I Have a Dream.” or

The History Channel's site at has a wealth of speech material. At left, under the “Browse” heading, click on “Great Speeches.“ and/or

To study speeches by women around the world, go to Browse by last name or by year. Also offered are lists of Nobel Lectures and the Top 100 American Speeches in the 20th Century.

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