It is one thing to write a speech. It is, however, a completely different thing to present that speech as a successful presentation. We have all experienced how boring it can be to sit through a presentation where someone simply reads what they have written, whether they are reading from a script or from PowerPoint slides.
It really is difficult to maximise the impact of your presentation if you read it or recite a written piece. Reciting makes it very difficult to sound sincere and it questions your confidence with your subject. It also dampens your personality. Another disadvantage is that if you have a blank you will have difficulty remembering what comes next. It also makes customizing to your audience and the specific event very difficult. So in finding that compromise between spoken and written, you will need to develop a way of remembering your material and presenting it in the best way to create an impact.
As you created the presentation, you chose the main sections and the best order for them. Remember that decision, the logic and power of it and it will be the basic framework of your memory. If there are key words or phrases that are vital you can write them on your notes or highlight them in your visuals.
If you are using notes, try to use paper or card that does not rustle. If you know the size of the podium/lectern, you can choose the size of your notes. If not, you may be able to use A4 sheets on a clipboard. Be aware that your audience may see its back. Prepare the transition of your notes – either the sheets of paper or the visuals.
One of the main reasons that reading from a script is often less than successful is that spoken language is very different from the written. Writing tends to use far longer, more convoluted sentences, which often use voices that we would not use in speech. Try reading out the sentence you just read and see how awkward it sounds when it is spoken.
As always, to connect successfully with an audience, we need to speak to them in their language – the language they expect to hear spoken.
So if you need to write your presentation first, take the time to read it out loud. Then say those same ideas as if you were telling someone face to face. You cannot miss the difference and success lies in a compromise between the two.
If you absolutely have to have a written draft, then re-write using what you said aloud. Make sure, though, that you can make eye contact.
Practice is vital. One of the reasons is that you get a chance to feel the speech. If it feels boring or awkward or out of balance when you say it to yourself, or the cat, or the mirror, then you will need to change it. If you are presenting a written speech, then write in the changes. If you practice, you can also visualise not only yourself and your presentation, but also the audience and their reaction. Visualise how they will react to each thing – each word, each idea, each presentation technique, and you will get a better feel for how to organise your material, the language to use and the presentation techniques to use.
You will also develop the performance energy that you will use at the actual presentation. Energy is vital to presentation success. So you will need to create your material to support your energy, and how you want the speech to feel. If necessary, annotate your notes to give you reminders about the energy, the tricks and performance techniques you will use.
Each time you put these techniques into action, you will hone your compromise – find better ways to make it work. And when you have the best compromise – for you – between reading or reciting a written speech and presenting “off the cuff”, you will have a very effective presentation.