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Remember Speech 101?

The basic principles taught in a high school or college speech class apply also to performing poetry and writing for performance. The only difference between performing a poem and giving a speech is that your poem might rhyme. Here are some standard things that one might have learned in speech class:

  • Techniques for overcoming stage fright
  • Know how good your memory is: What do you need to remember what you are performing? 3”x 5” cards with brief notes? The whole thing written out? Nothing? The first three words written on your sleeve? The song taped to your guitar?
  • Practice your performance alone, in front of a mirror, with a tape recorder, and before a small, live audience. (Cats, although considered a live audience, seldom listen well. Try a dog, a friend, or a relative.)
  • The four communication goals (See Appendix C.)
  • The importance of interactivity
  • Make or maintain eye contact.
  • Will you need visual aids or props?
  • Ways to achieve clarity, accuracy, and vividness through language.
  • About the physical and vocal aspects of delivery
  • Attention getters
If you’ve never taken a speech class, you might find that either taking one or at least getting and reading a public speaking text may improve your poetic performances. If it’s been a long time since you had a speech class, you may want to consider a review. It might also behoove the aspiring performance poet, or even an old hand, to join a group like Toastmasters to help brush up on your general delivery techniques.

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