Congratulations! You’ve been invited to speak at a business conference for big industry hotshots. This is quite a feather in your cap, and you want to demonstrate your knowledge, expertise, and (of course) speaking abilities.

The conference committee requested a topic that you will need to research and prepare, which means you can’t use a speech you’ve already given and know well. You’re going to have to start from scratch and craft something new, which is making you a little nervous. After all, this is a very important presentation you’ve been asked to give. You want to be on top of your game: practiced, confident, spellbindingly good.

Should you script your presentation? Yes, you should.

Should you memorize or read your script? No way.

Why You Should Write a Script

It’s an odd phenomenon that the more we are called upon to speak publicly, the more comfortable we get at presenting, and the less we are likely to prepare. We may read through the slides several times beforehand and then one last time just before we’re called to the floor. This is a recipe for a truly uninspired presentation. Why? Because you haven’t rehearsed, you’ve gone through the motions without putting thought into what the slides don’t say.

This is where scripting comes into play.

Once you have created a presentation outline with all the points you want to include, it’s time to write your script. Take the time to think about what you want to say; how you want to illustrate key messages with stories and examples. Write it down the way you would say it if you were speaking with just one member of the audience.

Next, create your slides − just the main points. Practice and refine your script until you feel comfortable with its content, phrasing, and flow.

This brings me to memorization. As I said at the beginning of this post, it’s never a good idea to memorize your presentation. There are a couple reasons for this.

First, you may get nervous and lose your place. This happens because you haven’t internalized the meaning behind the words you’ve committed to memory and, therefore, cannot rethink and rephrase your speech on the fly.
Second, you may memorize too well and speed through the presentation without pausing. Your audience will pick up on this and tune out. You’re not up there to show how well you commit words to memory. No one wants to attend a recital.
So if you can’t memorize your speech, can’t you just read it? Nope. If your eyes are on your paper, you can’t make eye contact with the audience. And what if you lose your place in your script? That would be awkward for you and your audience, and you’ll lose everyone’s attention.

You’ll have a much better finished product – a presentation that’s thoughtful, considered, well-edited, and engaging, if you script first, practice… and leave the script in your briefcase!


Check Out Our New Communication Q&A Series