To script or not to script…that is the question

hamletThis is the third blog in a series following my preparation for my first TEDx presentation in November 2016.

At our first speakers meet up a few weeks ago we were given a strict timetable of submissions: when to submit the outline, when to submit the first draft, second draft, rehearsal and dress rehearsal. And then we were asked whether we would be working with a script or from an outline.

The responses were instructive.

A couple of people said they preferred working from a script. To my surprise though, the majority said that they wouldn’t: that a detailed outline with prompts was their preferred way of working.

Here’s the thing: as a personal preference I tend not to write a script to follow although I will often write words, phrases, linking passages as part of the preparation process. But I had thought that maybe TEDx was going to be different. After all, speakers aren’t allowed notes and the timing is exact as are the guidelines for presentations.

Do you write a script?

Here are the good reasons for using a script:

  • Where every word matters (and is maybe reported on e.g. Hansards) then a script works
  • Where relying on memory is a risky approach and an unnecessary pressure, then a script can work
  • Where many people might be delivering a similar presentation (not ideal but I know it happens especially in larger organisations where everyone needs to hear the same messages), then a script might work
  • Where the speaker is inexperienced and wants a safety net, then a script could be an option.

But there are some problems – and I am guessing you have seen or experienced all of these at some point:

  • A traditional script is written English and doesn’t always sound ‘spoken’ or natural.
  • Inexperienced speakers (and sometimes speakers who are experienced) can get drawn into reading a script. The audience experience this as wooden posture, monotone voice and lack of eye contact and rapport.
  • There is no flexibility to respond to the room, the audience or circumstances

So why would speakers not use a script?

Well, apart from maybe wanting to avoid the points made above here are some reasons people give me (some are more valid than others – see if you can work out which!):

  • I want to be spontaneous, natural and ‘fresh’
  • I want to deliver to the audience, keep eye contact and build rapport and can’t if my head is stuck in a piece of paper.
  • I have all my main points on a PowerPoint so don’t need a script! (oh dear!)

So what will I be doing for TEDx? I prefer to think about prompts rather than scripts so my approach will be a combination of script and prompts used at different stages of the process

  1. Now I have a clear idea about the core message, I have drafted a high level outline in bullets (after creating a number of messy, colourful and bizarre mind maps!)
  2. I am now working on my own Pathway Planner (I share this with clients) to draft a structure and sequencing. Again bullets, fragments of sentences, shapes of paragraphs but no script yet! oh – and lots of post its!
  3. As the whole thing takes shape I will be working on the detail – practicing out loud, writing down and crafting the exact words and phrases. Is this a script?– sort of but certainly not a linear presentation of content.
  4. I anticipate that this process will be Rinse and Repeat until I know the presentation so well, the Pathway Planner will act as a prompt. Less a crutch and more a safety net.

I’ll let you know how I get on!

If you are interested to know more about scripting or specifically my successful Pathway Planner, give me a call or drop me a line.

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