Thursday, October 8, 2015

5 speakers share what writing a script did for their talks

I hang out with speechwriters, but for many of my coaching clients, the idea of using written remarks or a script for their speeches just doesn't occur to them. But using a script has a variety of advantages, from helping you stay on time and regulate your speaking speed to ensuring that you don't forget the important things you want to say.

Whether you memorize it and fly without a text in front of you, or cling to the script, writing out your remarks is an important exercise, worth trying if you normally wing it from your slides. Here are five speakers featured on the blog with more insights on what writing out a script did for their big talks:
  • A huge difference: Gillian Davis, co-author of First-Time Leader: Foundational Tools for Inspiring and Enabling Your New Team, says it's important for presenters to write out a draft. "I took this from Denise’s talk at the Fabian Womens Network in London and applied it immediately. It made a huge difference to my delivery. Having, and practicing, your speech allows you to ensure your key points get across, when are good times to take questions, and to give you an indication of length so you stay within your allocated time. 
  • The task requires it: Resa Lewiss, MD, says of her 2014 TEDMED talk, "Truth be told, this was the first time I wrote a speech out as literally word for word as the task required. Memorizing my talk wasn’t difficult; however moving beyond memorization was the most significant challenge."
  • The speech had a purpose: Lucy Rogers, PhD, also says that writing a script "was new for me... By writing the script I made it tighter, put more rhetorical devices and quotes in than I would have in my “normal” way of picturing stories." And after she delivered her InspireFest talk, she says, "Because I wrote the speech out, the rhetorical devices and word pictures were much stronger. The speech I feel had a purpose and a call to arms." But she adds a cautionary "Note to self: freeze the speech longer in advance to give yourself chance to learn it."
  • A lifesaver: Lisa Lamkins says "Giving a “TED-like” talk was so different and a little daunting... I really wanted to shine so I did all the prep Denise suggested – wrote out my speech word for word which is a struggle because I NEVER do that. After I got the written version edited to where I wanted it, I recorded myself reading it.  Then I started practicing it out loud." The scripting and practice later saved her when she froze and forgot: "The words came out, albeit not with the same smoothness and easy delivery that I had practiced a thousand times. But they came."
  • A speech re-shaper: In Make your talk better with practice and memorization, I shared TED speaker Alexis Madrigal's observations about what working with a script and attempting to memorize it did for the content. He says, "All the live practice began to reshape the talk itself. Every difficult phrasing got changed or cut. Other people’s direct quotes were the hardest to memorize, so I cut some of those, too. At one point, I had to recite a series of strange computer-generated phrases, which I would not recommend putting in your memorized talk. Without semantic meaning, strings of words are so, so hard to remember." And that's something that will be hard to realize until you write it down.

(White House photo)

I've got two small-group workshops coming up on Creating a TED-quality talk in Washington, DC, in January. Choose the January 14 workshop or the January 28 workshop. All you need to do is bring your one big idea for a talk in the style of TED. You'll learn how to plan, write, time, practice, and deliver it in a group limited to 5 people per workshop. Join us! You get the best discount if you register by October 30, 2015.