Modes of delivery refers to the amount of preparation and the type of presentation a speaker employs. There are four modes of delivery commonly used in public communication; each serves a different purpose and has some strengths and weaknesses.
The first mode, impromptu delivery, describes the speech presented with little preparation. In essence, the speaker stands before the audience and thinks out loud. This style has one advantage: maximum spontaneity. It suffers, however, from the lack of advance planning. Less formal kinds of communication place a high premium on spontaneity, but public address usually requires a style of delivery. Impromptu speeches are usually assigned to the speaker one moment or two before the speech is to be delivered. The speech itself may have only a minute, but almost all the elements of a speech are there for analyst (content, organization, use of language, and so on). The inherent difficulties of impromptu speaking were suggested by Mark Twain when he remarked that "it usually takes more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech."
The second and the most formal mode of delivery is reading from manuscript. In direct contrast to the impromptu speech, this type of delivery requires complete preparation. For broadcasters, politicians, and other people whose remarks are often quoted, this technique is a valuable one. It allows the speaker to be extremely precise in phrasing a message and to minimize the possibility that it will be misconstrued. The speech is delivered exactly as it has been prepared. For the average person, however, manuscript speaking requires an unnecessarily long preparation time. It has another limitation. It makes the speaker so reliant on reading from manuscript that he or she is unable to look up at the audience, except for very brief periods of time. Thus, the ability to adapt the message to audience feedback is drastically reduced.
Memorized speech is the third mode of delivery. Here the entire speech has been planned beforehand, written in manuscript, and then committed to memory. The speaker is therefore free to look at the audience instead of reading from notes or manuscript. Although memorized speech might sound like the most effective kind of delivery, it has two drawbacks. The first is the problem of robot-like delivery; many of the natural qualities of human communication—vocal inflection, facial expression, gesture, and so on—may be lost. Second, human memory being what it is, the speaker runs the risk of forgetting part of the message. If this happens to you and you have to sit down before you have finished, you are unlikely to forget the experience for a long time.
The fourth mode of delivery is extemporaneous speaking. Extemporaneous delivery combines the advantages of careful speech outlining and planning with the spontaneity of impromptu speaking. The person who uses this style speaks from minimal notes (preferably on small cards).
Dickson (1987) recommends the following use of notes: Reduce the speech to a "key-word" outline. For easy visibility:
Capitalize trigger words or key words
Use lots of white space between phrases to avoid confusion
Number pages (p. 71)
Generally, the speaker rehearses aloud until he or she becomes familiar enough with the speech content. The speech may be worded slightly differently each time it is rehearsed, and the precise wording is sometimes chosen only when the speech is actually delivered. Extemporaneous speaking is a style that allows the speaker to be well prepared and yet flexible enough to respond to audience feedback. For these reasons it seems well suited to the public speaking situations that most of us will encounter. We emphasize, however, that different speaking situations unquestionably require different modes of delivery.
We can be more specific about the role of delivery as a variable in public speaking. When a speaker's message is weak (that is, when he or she uses no evidence to support assertions), good delivery has no significant effect on attitude change. But when good deliver)' is used in combination with a strong (that is, well-documented) message, a speaker elicits significantly greater attitude change in the audience than one who delivers the same message but has poor delivery (McCroskey and Arnold, cited in McCroskey, 1968, p. 207). This finding is important because it confirms that the various aspects of speech making are interrelated. Deliver)' alone cannot produce attitude change. Nevertheless, poor delivery distracts from an otherwise effective message, whereas good delivery allows listeners to concentrate on the quality of the message, giving it optimum impact.