E is for Extemporaneous in d.e.l.i.v.E.r.y

This article was the 2nd of the D.E.L.I.V.E.R.Y series.

Over 35 years of teaching public speaking, I developed 8-quickly applied tips using the acronym D.E.L.I.V.E.R.Y. to improve everyone’s public speaking skills quickly. In this new series, I share these eight presentation tips.

The first letter in D.E.L.I.V.E.R.Y was the ‘D’ for Distractions, reviewed in the last submission. This 2nd factor ‘E’ is Extemporaneous, a key presentation goal towards acquiring professionalism, credibility and expertise perceptions. Extemporaneous or extemp is sounding conversational, natural and easy-to-follow….. the sound a true expert makes when they speak with confidence, flow and casualness. However, for beginners it is planned, prepared and practiced! The sound is conversational, as if we are chatting, natural and casual yet it’s spontaneous too.

First, extemporaneous it’s NOT:

A). Not MEMORIZED – memorization has flaws. A clear one is a heightened chance “forgetting” content. The other is ‘cadence’ a sing-song sound that does not sound natural. Speakers may also be too stiff or what I call “speechy’, sounding read or using unnatural words and phrases. Memorization can cause people to stumble more. Extemporaneous speeches become memorized over time unintentionally due to frequent presentation rather than purposefully.

B). Not READ: reading a speech is an unskilled way to present. Reading will fail to be interesting, professional or respected. The read voice often sounds monotone and flat. The reader may break occasionally into natural conversational tone and surprise the audience before returning to reading. There’s only two reasons anyone should read a speech and where the audience may be forgiving: 1) at a funeral when you are emotional, and 2) when highly technical facts and statistics must be exact. Otherwise professionalism and expertise eludes a read speech and reading is not impressive.

Extemporaneous sound IS:

A). PLANNED AND PREPARED – Exemp is not achieved on-the-fly; it is planned and prepared. I recommend you start by creating an outline and a full sentence script. Begin by determining your key points then “flesh out”, or write everything you plan to say. This allows careful word selection which best communicates your key concepts.

B). USES A NOTE OUTLINE – to avoid being memorized, use notes. Speech notes are an art. The old approach was note cards, crammed with small print which is not viewable, thus unhelpful. There’s better ways to manage your stage notes. I’ll next submit a segment on a “Key Note” approach. For now, I recommend you prepare brief notes, using keywords which trigger your memory and guide you, fit onto no more than 2 pages sitting side-by-side. My next blog article is on these speaker notes.

C) PRACTICED –perfect it. Once you have prepared your words, practice increases your assurance you will say it the way that you planned. I strongly recommend you perform at least one ‘real’ audience practice. Beginners should rehearse at least two times a day, every day for a full week before delivering a new presentation and once before a real audience. This creates “imprinting” which we’ll discuss in my next segment on Key Notes.

D) SPONTANEOUS TOO – despite scripting your outline, your speech is not memorized. This allows slight wording revisions as you present, versus a memorized strict adherence to each planned word. Instead, you have a concept goal. You should have the flexibility to adjust as you speak.

SUMMARY: Being extemporaneous is a key component to sounding professional, interesting and expert. To achieve this, you should start by creating a scripted outlined speech plan. Then begin practicing the speech delivery, while also allowing wording changes and spontaneity. Your delivery may not be 100% the way you wrote it, but it will help it sound conversational and natural. To help guide you on the speech day, use a brief set of Key Word notes to guide you. The natural conversational tone will allow the audience to view you as an expert.


This article was the 2nd of the D.E.L.I.V.E.R.Y series. I’m Michelle Moore Brady. See my webpage, SageForwardTraining.com, for additional tips. I look forward to your feedback on how this article helped you and how I might be of further assistance. The next article will be on key notes.

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