If you’ve worked with me before, you’ll know I’m not a fan of writing scripts for presentations. My issue with scripted presentations is that they often result in sleepy audience members. After all, the fastest way to get people to sleep is to read to them!
But I also understand that sometimes scripts are hard to avoid, such as when:
- You are preparing a presentation for someone else.
- You are speaking at a conference and stakes are high.
- Your presentation needs to be reviewed and approved by others.
So how DO we prepare a script, but not send our audience to sleep?
By writing as you speak. Not as you write. The reason for this is that people are listening to you. They are not reading.
When you are reading a document, and you don’t ‘get it’ first time – you simply reread it. But when you are listening to someone speak and you don’t ‘get it’ first time, then tough luck. You just don’t ‘get it’. This is why when we’re preparing a talk, our focus needs to be on clarity, so our audience understands our message. As quickly as possible.
Take this extract from a presentation I heard last week:
“Simplifying compliance requirements in the initial stages of the implementation,
will further optimise the successful integration of the solution”.
Oh dear. I’m actually allergic to spoken sentences like this. My response is to break out in hives and say things like, “Whoa there! What the hell did you just say”?
Luckily most people don’t have this response, but they do switch off and stop listening.
Now for this client we translated this sentence, very quickly, with this instruction:
“Have a go at explaining what you mean in this sentence, to the lowest common denominator in the room (i.e., me)”.
Which sounded like this:
“Getting it right at the start, is going to mean better results at the end.”
This I can listen to. My hives instantly disappeared.
Now, I need to stress this is not about dumbing down your message. But it is about clarifying your message, which ultimately makes your message more effective.
So, the next time you find yourself furiously typing away a 2500-word document for an upcoming presentation, just STOP. Ask yourself, “do I actually speak like this”? If not, give it another go by talking out loud. And then ask yourself – “how can I explain this point, so my audience understand me, quickly”?
You’ll be amazed at the difference in the language you use when you speak, rather than write.
Stop presenting. Start talking.