Resource 9: How to Coach Better Speaking Delivery


How to Coach Better Speaking Delivery

Coaching speaking delivery should focus on helping students be the most intentional and purposeful version of themselves. Getting them to this place means starting with establishing a strong foundation and eliminating habits that distract from their style and message. Over time, refining speaking delivery means helping students explore different delivery techniques, so that they are aware of available options and can ultimately make informed decisions about how they want to present. See the Oral Delivery Cheat Sheet for a supplementary resource to provide students.

Overall Coaching Approach:

Practice on small chunks of content to practice. Too much advice and feedback at once, even if it is all potentially useful.
Balance directives (i.e. telling students what feedback they must implement) with experimentation (i.e. giving students a few options to play with). Too much feedback without taking the time to practice implementing it.
Talk through reasoning behind your feedback and how it will help with the message and audience connection. Even if you are less experienced, there is always subjectivity behind public speaking. Your reactions are valuable and the key is to be able to describe your personal reaction and where it comes from and then pinpoint one or two concrete ways to address it. Too much feedback that doesn’t connect to the specific content or isn’t important to the context.
Encourage intentional decision-making, by having students talk through why they want to deliver content in certain ways or why they plan to take certain pieces of advice. Too much feedback that goes beyond students’ reasonable capabilities and cannot be implemented in the short-term.

What To Refine Over Time:

Delivery Area Focus On... Watch Out For...
Stance Grounding feet underneath shoulders and polishing overall posture. Distracting foot movements, hands in pockets, shoulders up or hunched, tense body.
Diction Putting energy into consonants and practicing “plosive” sounds (like p, t, or d) and “fricative” sounds (like s or f). Blurry words, dropping or over connecting small words like “and”, dropping the ending consonants.
Volume Assisting the voice with good breath support and using energy, breath, and diction to drive volume. Speaking too low or going into the “vocal fry” (“uhhhh” sound at the bottom of the range or speaking in a tone that doesn’t fit the content.
Vocal Tone Establishing a rounded tone by practicing yawning and raising the “soft palate”; going over different vocal colors and reflecting on what best fits the content. Speaking too low or going into the “vocal fry” (“uhhhh” sound at the bottom of the range or speaking in a tone that doesn’t fit the content.
Energy Practicing the “on” switch and going into speaker mode (more enhanced version of self); engaging the face, eyebrows, and bringing a light to the eyes. Dead eyes, stiff facial expressions, tired energy, loose, sloppy movements, looking distracted or not in the moment.
Speed/Cadence Slowing down and taking the time for silences, pauses, and letting the content settle; deciding between a more clipped, sharp cadence or a relaxed, conversational one. Rushing through ideas, not pausing in between thoughts, not separating ideas, sentences that are too long or run-on, or a cadence that doesn’t match the style of the content.
Eye Contact Getting comfortable looking at people and switching eye contact in between ideas, making everyone feel they are in a 1:1 conversation with the speaker. Overall focal point is too high, eyes moving too much, eyes look in a different direction from the body or hands, scanning the room too much.
Hands Using hands to highlight and illustrate content so that they are a part of communicating the ideas (as opposed to being a distraction). Hands in pockets, distracting fiddling habits, gestures are too high or low, elbows are glued to the body, gestures originate from the wrist instead of the full arm.
Movement Moving around the space to emphasize transitions or distinctions between ideas, including walking to the sides, front, or diagonals to get closer to different parts of the audience. Pacing aimlessly without purposeful movement, shifty movement that doesn’t quite commit to moving one way or another, kicking feet.
Connection Letting go of internal worries and directing energy and attention forward, towards the audience (as opposed to being too self-conscious). Blank facial expressions, holding back, giving away concentration or internal dialogue, recitation or memorized feel.
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