Week two of our continuing series “Lessons from History,” (where we’ll be discussing lectures given by Professor John R. Hale of University of Louisville in the course “The Art of Public Speaking: Lessons from the Greatest Speeches in History,”) will be focused on the revolutionary Patrick Henry and what he can teach us about delivery.

Our focus last week– Demosthenes of Athens– once said that the most important element of public speaking is “action,” which essentially boils down to delivery, or as Professor Hale breaks it down further, to voice and body language. He aptly points out that ineffective body language can undercut even the greatest speech. Words won’t leave a lasting impression without an effective delivery.

Patrick Henry delivered his famous “Give me Liberty, or Give me Death” speech in an attempt to get Virginia to join the Revolution. His speech was successful in part because of his passion, shown through his body language and voice. A Baptist preacher who witnessed the speech wrote that Henry was “terrible to look upon” and when he spoke the aforementioned famous words, he theatrically plunged a dagger into his chest and fell back into his chair. It was this theatrical, passionate delivery that won over the crowd and led to Virginia’s joining the American Revolution.

All elements of delivery– volume, pitch, tone, pace, accent, and inflection– must be thoughtfully considered when approaching public speaking.  Hale recommends singing as a great way to practice delivery, as it helps you think about projection, voice control and enunciation.

Here are five key takeaways Professor Hale leaves us with regarding effective delivery:

1. Use body language and voice to reinforce the words of your speech.

2. Always match your voice to specific words and meaning.

3. Mark tone and gestures into your speech as a reminder.

4. Establish and maintain eye contact with the audience.

5. Smile.

Keep these five takeaways in mind when working on your next speech or presentation because it won’t be a success unless it’s delivered in an effective, memorable way. Delivery can make or break your presentation, so do what you can to make it as remarkable and outstanding as possible. 


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