Public Speaking and Presenting Using Braille Alternatives

Performing my poems, presenting workshops, and conducting interviews are part of what I do creatively, and it became clear I needed a better system to read my poetry, notes, and questions. 

I retain enough braille skills to read a sign or elevator button. In brief, because of a learning disability and damage resulting from a brain injury, my ability to advance my braille skills is not an option for me.   

Finding an Answer 

I discovered an alternative system using electronic documents, text-to-speech, listening skills, and assistive technology. I developed the technique that works for me and teach others how to use what I call audio prompting. 

Audio Prompting 

Audio prompting is to imagine you are on stage, and a script reader off-stage whispers your lines to you.  

 A screen-reading voice replaces the person reading from the script. Listen and repeat.   

A Good Solution 

What saved me was finding I had an aptitude for computers and assistive technology. I love music, listening to audiobooks, editing, and writing professionally. Incorporating the skills and equipment to work together allowed me to reach the goals I set for myself. Now, I instruct others on how to use it. 

Technology to the Rescue 

Thanks to text-to-speech (TTS) and computer software programs like  Microsoft Word and JAWS, known as Job Access With Speech, I stopped thinking of myself as a braille failure, and success was now in my hands and ears. I represent a growing percentage of blind people who productively leverage TTS in their personal and professional lives. I broke free of self-imposed limitations once I embraced the ability to learn faster and increase my productivity thanks to TTS, and I haven’t regretted it. 

This is not to say to others to stop learning and using braille. I speak up and support braille literacy whenever the opportunity is presented. 

Common Fear 

Many people avoid speaking in public. The thought of standing up in front of a group of people is terrifying. Imagine, then, attempting to manage the anxiety of not only the undivided attention of a group but also providing a speech or presentation in a format you feel less than confident relying upon. The preparation process and tools mentioned here will hopefully lead you to a better system of performing in public. 

Get the Text 

Begin with something simple. Learning and adapting the technique for longer prose or presentations takes time.  

  • Select the poem or short prose piece or speech. If you are a beginner, limit the words to three hundred or less.  
  • Read it with your word processing program using TTS on a PC. First, utilize the arrow keys and break up the lines where the sentence ends with a punctuation mark. Or find the natural pauses and begin a new line most comfortable for you when repeating. 
  • Remember, you will listen to the TTS in your ear and then repeat it. Relying on arrow keys to advance through the lines provides better control. Likewise, it will help you adjust the pace or to go back or forward through the lines. Your speed and retention will improve the more you do it. 

The Three Ps 


The more you review and perform the material, the better. Practice makes perfect is a valuable set phrase and should not be overlooked. Gather a trustworthy posse of listeners. Ask for honest feedback. Read your piece out loud, record it, and play it. Mark the places where you could improve. I listen to a piece at least five times and record it three times before a presentation or final recording. 

Begin with short pieces and record your sessions. Play and listen to your performance to better understand how you speak and what to improve upon.  

TV journalist and host Joan Lundon advises to talk low and slow. Join a Toastmasters group to assist in gaining confidence and improving your oratory skills. 


Provide plenty of time for practice, rewrites, and recordings. Be patient with your collaborators. They might also have a little bit of performance anxiety.   


Trust yourself and what you bring to the world and your audience. If you are a beginner, don’t give up when things are difficult. Keep going. Worthwhile skills require the drive to become better. Public speaking is a skill. Only the lucky few are born able to wax poetic. 

Tips and Equipment 

General Tips for Success 

  • Choose the word processing program you use most in your daily life. Stick to what you know. 
  • Identify the type of reading, i.e., Poetry or prose.  
  • Keep track of time limits. 
  • Identify your sticking points. 
  • Consider line breaks, difficult pronunciations, tongue twisters, and anything that presents a possible verbal hazard when speaking. Practice and preparation are most important for the difficult sections. 

Technology/Equipment You’ll Need 

  • Earbuds 
  • PC or Mac 
  • Tablet or Smart Phone 
  • Victor Stream or Book Sense 

Backup Plan 

Lastly, don’t forget a backup plan. For example, email the presentation to your mobile in case your laptop encounters a problem navigating the document. Bring a second pair of headphones and test them with your primary set. If you own a tablet, practice with it as well.  

One time, all my assistive tech failed. A volunteer prompted me through the entire document. It went well because I stayed calm and knew the material well enough to make the presentation. 

Here’s to your performance success.