Speaking With A Script

Warning! Speaking from a script may seriously damage your speech.

Only speak from a full script if you are required to do so.

Otherwise, use speech notes or, even, no notes at all.

Why Have A Full Speech Script?

Most of us will never need to deliver a fully scripted speech. But if you are in a role where your speeches are released to the press in advance of delivering them, you will need a full script. And you’ll have to stick to it.

The other possibility is that you work in a large organisation and different members of management have to deliver the same speech to different parts of the organisation.

In either case, the speech is most likely to have been written by someone else. You’ll be delivering their words but you’ll need to make them sound like they are yours if you want to be convincing.

But isn’t speaking from a script easier?

Surely speaking from a script is easier than having just a few notes isn’t it?

Well, not really. Or at least, not if you want to deliver a convincing performance.

Speaking with a full script allows you to just stand up and read the words. You don’t even need to know what you’re talking about. Or practise much.

But you will be totally unconvincing.

If you’ve listened to lots of speeches or presentations, you’ve probably encountered the speaker who reads from their notes and makes little attempt to connect with the audience.

So unless you have no option, don’t speak from a full script. But if you have to, here’s some guidance on how to do it well.

Where to start?

A good start is to know the subject. Or at least to understand sufficient about it to feel comfortable with speaking about it, albeit with the help of a script.

Have you read to young children? When you read them a story you probably try to vary your voice to represent different characters. It helps to bring the story to life.

Now try it with your script, slowing down for the serious bits and speeding up for any exciting elements.

Raise your voice to emphasise points. Lower it to draw the audience in.

Briefly pause at the end of sentences. Include longer pauses between paragraphs.

At first you’ll probably mess up and get the emphasis in the wrong places, mis-read words or even lose your place. The latter problem is less likely to occur in books designed for younger children as they tend to have less text and a larger font.

Less text and larger fonts – does that give you a clue about the ideal speech scripts and notes? 

Practice Speaking From The Script

Keep practising with the script to familiarise yourself with it and get your voice variation working with the message you are aiming to convey

If you can practice with a camera and microphone, go for it. But even recording your presentation on your phone will enable you to hear if you have the volume and pace changes in the right places..

Make It Yours

Hopefully, you’ll be able to access the script to adjust it to suit your delivery. If abbreviations have been used, you may be more comfortable with the full word when reading.

And it helps if you can leave spaces where you want to pause.

Maybe change the size of the font or use bold to highlight voice changes. Say this louder. Or space  out   words   to   indicate  a    slower    section.

A large font and well-spaced lines make it easier to scan the text, more or less in your peripheral vision.

That way you’ll be able to maximise eye contact with the audience. And then they may well not realise that you have a script.

And longwinded, complex sentences with grandiloquent wording can be exceedingly difficult to scan and to read when compared with simpler, shorter ones can’t they?

See what we mean?

If you can’t edit the layout, you can always highlight sections with a marker pen.

Hopefully you’ll have had enough time to really rehearse the speech. Ideally you would start a week or more in advance and practice delivering it several times a day until you almost know it by heart.

Speaking With An Autocue

Of course, the sort of event that requires you to speak from a full script may use an autocue or teleprompter rather than you having the script on paper.

But you still need to practise as much as possible, so get hold of a paper copy of the speech for rehearsal. And make sure to have at least one run through using the technology.

One thing to be aware of: the autocue operator will adjust the pace according to your speaking speed. Don’t try to match the pace of the autocue, let it match you.

Speech Day!

The time has come to deliver the speech.

Try to find time to read through it one more time before going on stage.

Feel confident that you are familiar with what you are going to read and how you are going to use your voice to turn it from mere words into a compelling presentation.

Take your time and don’t forget the pauses. Look at the audience as much as you can. Eye contact is particularly important when delivering key points in the speech. It emphasises that you are speaking directly to the audience.

You want the audience to believe it’s you speaking, not a scriptwriter.

But hopefully you are not required to speak from a script and have read our blog posts on speech notes or speaking with no notes.

And here’s some more advice on speaking from a script. If you must!

Post last updated 20th February 2024


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