My background in this matter comes from writing public speeches. Whatever the type of public speech, the best practice is to have well designed and even better written script. Some presenters stray from scripts, but those few who really are better off without it are in slim minority. That being said, badly written script will cripple every presenter. So at the end, the most common problem with newbie presenters is their overconfidence in improvisation skills (or rather misunderstanding what improvisation in public speech should mean). Second most common is that their delivery sounds like it has been scripted.
Holy Grail of public speech scripts
When no one from the outside of team behind the presenter can ultimately state that the speech was scripted or not. This is how it should be written and delivered. If you have 20 minutes to spare take a look at video located at the end of the post. Ken Robinson in his classical TED Talk touches that level of writing. There is no doubt that it was scripted and rehearsed, yet the jokes, timing and perfectly executed side stories create that feel of impromptu interaction with audience.
Best delivery of given script, or content, if you mind, won’t make up for inherent flaws of writing itself. So if it is designed in very formal way, lacking the story progression, poor dynamism and without any engagement hooks – well, that’s that.
Conversation is direct and focused. When you write about people who are your target to avoid writing in third person. People, one, they, those who – that’s all useful if you write a lecture. Address your target audience directly with clear “you”.
Speaking habits trump proper grammar. As sad as it is to some of us, writing speech should mimic our speaking habits. And as you know, we tend to start sentences incorrectly, use loops in how we build our thoughts, we often just won’t stop a sentence and use so many commas we don’t even remember how we started that particular mental figure. Such writing for written media is hard to accept. Since school taught us to write correctly, and communicating with friends taught us to speak freely, people who write speeches will always have this weird itch to make corrections. But that’s the way to conversational style – conscious attempts to use those forms.
Take your time and speak out loud what you’re about to write and what you’ve written. So, while writing you have this enormous advantage: You can check with your intuition if what you have scripted sounds good. Use it. And then use it more. Intuition take care of almost all your communication. Writing though, uses more of frontal lobe activity. Combine their potential by conceptualizing and testing if your ideas sound “right”. You would be shocked how much of presenters and writers skip that. I’m betting you did too.
A couple of additional tips
Verbal colons are good, meaning: write down how you’ll explain new notion right after proposing it. Colon is great tool for that. In comments or in brackets put associations that comes to your mind about what you’ve just wrote – those are great starters for side stories, one line jokes or informative anecdotes.
- Przemek Kucia
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