While some academics may argue that one’s content is more important than one’s delivery, I beg to differ.
If one’s delivery is of lesser value than one’s content, why not copy the speech, pass it out, and then everyone can go home or back to work? Assuming your audience is there to hear you speak about a topic of interest to them, is it not advisable to deliver your material in an engaging fashion? Why not captivate your audience? No matter how well-written your content, a boring delivery doesn’t sell.
Given the opportunity to hear Henry Kissinger or Bill Clinton give a speech, I would sooner listen to Clinton. Without a doubt, Kissinger’s material is going to be much more erudite than that of the former President; however, Mr. Kissinger’s style of delivery is non-existent. His voice is dour; he speaks in a monotone; and, he has absolutely no expression.
Having taught Public Speaking as well as Voice & Diction and Oral Interpretation, I found that, in the beginning of the course, my students tended to be stronger in their content than in their abilities to present. I therefore spent much of the time on improving those skills. Differing from others teaching Public Speaking, I never gave them exams on ‘book material.’ Their presentations were their exams. Public Speaking is a practical course, much like acting or music. Memorizing terminology, rules or theory for a test in this particular subject is of lesser value than the application and practical usage of that material.
Public speaking is exactly what it says: speaking in public. Your audience came to hear you talk to them. If you are giving a speech, you will be reading it; and, if have strong delivery skills, your audience will not know that you are reading. They will think you are talking to them. If you are making a presentation, again you will be talking to your audience, using note cards or some form of visual aid to keep you on topic.
No matter what you intend to deliver to the public, however, ideally you want your content to be as well crafted as possible. Remember, when we listen to others speaking, we generally regard them as experts in their field. Thus, you must craft your presentation as well as the experts do.
If you believe, on the other hand, that your content is more important than your delivery and your speaking skills are poor, watch your audience’s reaction. There will be more coughing, more yawning, more talking amongst themselves, and definitely more sleepers. Should the setting allow for it, some will even get up and leave.
Why not look at the picture differently? Craft your content well, deliver it in a dynamic fashion and you have a win-win situation. Both are of value; both are important.
The great Roman orator, Cicero, said, "Without effective delivery, a speech of the highest mental capacity can be held in no esteem, while one of the moderate abilities, with this qualification, may surpass even those of the highest talent."
I couldn’t agree more which is why I’d still rather listen to Clinton than Kissinger!
The Voice Lady Nancy Daniels is a voice specialist and president of Voice Dynamic and SelfGrowth's Official Guide to Public Speaking. Holding corporate and 2-day workshops throughout the US and Canada, she launched Voicing It! in April of 2006, the only video training course on voice improvement. You can watch a clip from her DVD on her website, ‘before’ & ‘after’ takes of her clients, and Tap the Full Potential of Your Speaking Voice at www.voicedynamic.com
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