There’s a big conceptual leap that absolutely transforms a speaker’s connection with an audience, and magnifies their impact tremendously.

It’s the leap from reading a speech… to actually, authentically performing it. Instead of a recitation, your delivery becomes a series of choices—some conscious, some subconscious—with a deliberate goal of connecting emotionally with your audience.

And when I say “performing,” I don’t mean faking it. I mean authentic performance. You choose the actions you need to project the emotions you genuinely feel around what you’re talking about… and to play off the emotions your audience is feeding back to you.

We do these things all the time in everyday conversation. You might pause or draw out a word, creating just a little dramatic tension. You might hammer. home. a phrase. to show how emphatically you feel about it. If someone laughs at what you’re saying, you might pause and smile to share that moment. And when you see a reaction from someone—even just a little squint, or a frown, or a head tilt—you may change course a little. Some of that’s instinctive; some of it’s unconscious reaction; but a lot of it is choice.

Translating that to a larger crowd usually demands more preparation. After all, you won’t be getting that real-time close-up face-to-face feedback. You’ll still make some choices in the moment, but rehearsal will prepare you for the big choices, and help you anticipate the reactions.

And rehearsal helps you make that big conceptual leap, from reading to performing. I’m not going to pretend it comes easily to everyone. For some people, it does; for others, it takes a lot of work, a lot of practice, a lot of coaching.

But the moment you do make that leap, speaking itself turns into a completely different experience. In some ways it’s more work… but it’s a lot less of a chore. Instead it’s energizing. It’s even fun.

And for some people who struggle with nervousness and anxiety in anticipation of a speech, authentic performance can be the way they transmute that anxiety into energy from the stage.

In other words, how well you perform as a speaker has everything to do with whether you perform as a speaker. And learning to perform: that can be everything.