Monday, November 9, 2009
How to Read with Style
There are times when reading during your speech is appropriate and necessary:
A. Letters, memos, and reports that must be heard in there entirety
B. Quotes, short and long
C. Poetry, lyrics, short excerpts from books
E. Religious readings
Reading the written word effectively can be a daunting task. We've spent our lives listening to others read out loud in school, church, and the workplace, and it is often so excruciatingly bad, we fear our own reading will be heard with the same critical ears.
On top of that, we may have a smaller vocabulary than the writer of the material, eyesight issues, or even dyslexia (15-20% of us suffer from dyslexia in one form or another), making reading a challenge before we even get to the spoken word.
The most important part of reading while speaking is to read the material ahead of time. When you do, check off everything from the list below:
1. Can you read it? You may want to retype the document, or photocopy it at a higher magnificiation.
2. Do you know all the 'big' or 'technical' words? Look them up for both meaning and pronunciation so they don't surprise you at their appearance. Looking to improve your vocabulary? Try Dictionary.com for a new word everyday.
3. Read it out loud to yourself. How does it sound? Bonus points if you record yourself (digital recorders are very inexpensive nowadays) and actually listen to it.
4. Look for points of emphasis. What is most important? Make sure your voice reflects the emphasis the writer intends.
5. Check for dialogue. Take a different tone when reading dialogue - it will liven up the material, and give you an opportunity to add character to the speech.
6. Create pauses. Don't barrel through the reading - your audience needs to process, and you need to breathe. Picking your moments of emphasis to pause, look up, and make a human connection is an excellent way to ensure you, and your material, are being understood.
7. Edit. This goes against the 'word for word' theory - but if you can drop verbiage that sounds better read than spoken, go for it. As long as you are enhancing understanding, you are on the right track. (Caveat: if you are doing reading from a religious text, you will likely want to stay in 'word for word' mode.)
Even if you are given something to read at the last minute - or handed it a memo in the middle of speaking - be willing to take a moment to run through what you're about to read.
Whether you are reading from Shakespeare, the HR handbook, or the Sunday funnies, it is your responsibility as the speaker to ensure the message gets across, either as the original writer intended, or in the manner you wish it to be taken.
Be prepared to Read, Speak, and Deliver!