Cold Reading

• The “cold reading” exercise will help you with your speeches in a variety of ways. Most importantly, it will help you to handle the element of timing successfully.

• Do cold reading standing up, never sitting. Hold a textbook open in your nondominant hand (the hand you don’t write with), at about waist level. Your dominant hand should also be at waist level, but not touching the book. (Your best bet is to use your speech class textbook, and to open it to the beginning of whatever chapter is the next one you’ll be writing a chapter reaction about.)

• Read out loud for what feels to you like 90 seconds. Time yourself, or, better yet, have someone else time you. When it feels to you like 90 seconds have elapsed, pause, then say “Thank you” out loud. Check your timing, and see how close to 90 seconds you came. (Note: As the speeches get longer, the target time for cold reading will increase. The target time will always be exactly midway between the minimum length requirement and the maximum length allowance for the next speech assignment.)

• Make a little mark in your book at the point where you stopped reading. The next time you do cold reading, begin from that point, so you’re not just reading the same passage over and over again. (Actually, you can do cold reading from any book, magazine, newspaper, or cereal box. If you use your textbook, though, then you’ll be doing your reading assignments at the same time you’re doing your cold reading. Nothing wrong with that!)

• For starters, you should do cold reading twice a day, every day, until the day of your impromptu speech. After that, the target time for cold reading changes from 90 seconds (midway between the 1-minute minimum length requirement and the 2-minute maximum length allowance for the impromptu) to 150 seconds (midway between the 2-minute minimum length requirement and the 3-minute maximum length allowance for the information speech), and depending on the amount of time your impromptu lasted I may suggest that you can scale back on the amount of cold reading you do. If your impromptu is shorter than the 1-minute minimum, or if I have to stop you at the end of 2 minutes, you should continue doing cold reading (with the new 150-second target time) twice a day. If your impromptu lasts anywhere between 1 minute and 1 minute 15 seconds, though, or anywhere between 1 minute 45 seconds and 2 minutes, then you can safely cut back to doing cold reading only once a day, six days a week. And if your impromptu lasts anywhere between 1 minute 15 seconds and 1 minute 45 seconds, then you can cut back to doing cold reading only once every other day.

 

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