Thursday, August 25, 2016

My favorite fixes for public speaking: Write and learn a script

As a speaker coach, it's my job to keep a lot of tools in my toolbox to help my clients improve their public speaking. But just like any craftsman, I have a few go-to tools, well-worn from frequent use. This is the third in a series of five favorite fixes I turn to all the time. Each one sounds simple, but confers a complex array of benefits to public speakers...if only you will do them. I'm sharing each favorite fix along with the types of speakers who might benefit most from them. You'll get the best results if you try them not once, but over a period of time.

This week's favorite fix is to write and learn a script. I can hear you saying now, "But I don't want to sound scripted," or, "I'm only at my best when I can speak extemporaneously." But it's a myth that working with a text means you'll sound unnatural or forced, and often, speakers have learned to cite their need for extemporaneous speaking as a way to avoid having someone tell them what they need to say. Yet these are the same speakers who find that they go over time by wasting time on asides, tell jokes that misfire, or otherwise fill the time allotted with fluff. And many of them are avoiding having to decide what it is they really want to say.

When you focus on writing and editing your remarks first, well ahead of the speaking gig, you will be able to omit all those asides, jokes, and stammers that are taking up your time, and include far more focused content. You'll also have time to practice--something that speakers who wait till the last minute omit at their peril.

My favorite bonus of this favorite fix: If you write to 120 words per minute, you will always be precisely on time, or nearly so, and you'll have a way of learning whether you are speaking too fast. Memorizing the script in whole or in part also means you can avoid many of the forgetful moments that plague many speakers. Nerve-wracked speakers also tell me that memorizing is their anchor and insurance plan. They go into the talk knowing that they know their talk. Why should they be the only ones? I've got great tips here for how to practice and memorize your next speech.

This is a good fix for speakers who um a lot or otherwise can't remember what they want to say; speakers who tend to wander well past their allotted time; speakers who end without having included their main point or several key points they wished to include; and, because the irony of public speaking is that more preparation makes you sound less rehearsed, anyone who wants to speak naturally and with good flow. And if you normally skip practice--the most vital step in public speaking--the process of memorizing pretty much will cure you of that.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Florian Richter)

Join me in Edinburgh, Scotland, on October 20 for a new workshop, Add Meaning with Metaphor: Improve your Speeches with the Most Powerful Figure of Speech. It's a pre-conference workshop at the Edinburgh Speechwriters and Business Communicators Conference, designed to help both speakers and speechwriters use this powerful tool. You can register here for just the workshop, the conference, or both, and you'll get the best discount if you sign up by August 1.