Script Writing 101 – The Basics of Scripting Your Presentation
People often ask me if they really need to write out or script their presentations. To me, the answer is “Yes.” The next questions are why and how. In this article, I will touch on the whys and hows. In the end, I hope the thoughts and tools that will help you become a great speaker.
As many of my friends and clients know, I am a big fan of Toastmasters. For nearly a century, Toastmasters has helped millions of people become more confident and comfortable with public speaking. The result is a LOT of proven experience. In this article, we will reference several ideas and thoughts from an October 2018 speechwriting article found in the Toastmasters monthly magazine.
Why Do I Need To Script My Talk?
There are many reasons it is important to write out a talk or presentation. I’ve seen a lot of people try to wing it and unless they are already skilled speakers, the result is usually a hard-to-follow mess of a talk. Below are a few reasons scripting helps you be a confident, effective speaker.
- Scripting helps you dig deep into the topic and unearth the right data, stories, and message you want to convey.
- Writing down your talk will make it more organized.
- Scripting helps ensure you won’t forget to include important points.
- The act of writing out your presentation helps you memorize the key elements so you feel more comfortable.
- If you are scheduled to give a 20 or 30-minute talk, a script lets you know where you can add or delete items so you don’t go over or under time.
- Scripting helps you find the right words and phrases to get your message across effectively.
Pete Weissman, a top Capitol Hill speech writing and script consultant says, “No matter where I start, I usually get a burst of direction and enthusiasm the moment I figure out the angle of the speech. From there, everything lines up to support it.”
Do I Need To Write The Entire Talk Out Word For Word?
There are many approaches to scripting a talk. For newer public speakers, many recommend writing out your entire talk.
Executive coach and award-winning speaker, Simon Bucknall suggests: “I advise you start with a full script if you feel you need it, but then gradually progress to just an outline, and ultimately no notes as you gain more experience. Often, the best way to get to a brief outline is to first draft the speech in full. You then whittle it down, gaining clarity as you do so.”
Where Do I Begin?
There is no one answer for where to being scripting out a talk. I believe it starts with knowing the most important thing you want your audience to leave feeling or knowing. Winston Churchill’s famous “Never Give Up” speech was designed to inspire hope and fortitude; When Steve Jobs launched the IPad, battery life was a key topic.
What is it you want your audience to leave with after your presentation? Write down the key purpose of your talk. With that in mind, do your research and jot down the various points that will get you to the finish line. Next, organize the key talking points in a manner that leads to the conclusion you want to make.
When thinking about your message’s main point, ask yourself, what’s in it for my audience? Great talks take the audience’s needs and wants in mind. If you don’t care about them, they won’t care about you.
Simon Bucknall makes a great point in the previously mentions Toastmaster’s article he says:
Establish the relevance and purpose of the talk before you outline what it is you want to talk about. So many speakers take for granted that the audience is interested in the topic. The reality is that you need to engage them in the value of the topic before they’ll listen to you.
What Are Some Key Elements to a Great Speech?
If you listen to top speakers you’ll find a few key elements in all their talks. Here are a few:
- Keep your talk focused on 1 main topic and support it with 3-4 supporting points. Don’t try and cram too much information into one presentation, you will likely confuse or bore your audience.
- Use an engaging opening such as “How many of you know?”, “Would it surprise you to learn?”
- Humor helps engage and entertain the audience. To learn more about adding humor, we have an article dedicated to the subject here.
- Add a story or two to the narrative. Pete Weismann put it well in the Toastmasters article…
Stories pull listeners in and keep them engaged. We all have different ways we prefer to learn. Not everyone can handle a speech that’s only assertions and data.
Speech Writing 101 – Conclusions
If you are just starting out, I strongly advise scripting your talk. It will help you on so many levels. As you gain experience, you may find simply outlining the key points is enough. If you are an experienced speaker who generally works from an outline,
I’d invite you to go back to the basics periodically and write out some talks word for word. I’ve done this several times and each time I am reminded of how powerful details scripting is to the final product.
There are a lot of resources out there to help you become better at scripting. I’ve included some below as well as a few links to Youtube vids on the subject.
I wish you well on your adventure. If you have questions, please feel free to contact me. I love helping people become amazing speaker.