Preparing and researching for a speech or presentation is a boring stuff. The bit that you’re itching to get to is choosing colors, slapping paint over the walls and putting all your belongings and new toys back into the room. But if you jump to that stage without first removing the old wallpaper, washing the walls and sanding down, the finish will be shoddy and the cracks will soon show. As it is in DIY, so it is in public speaking.
But you’ve now done all that boring preparation and you’ve got to the color-chart stage – the stage where you pull the whole thing together and start writing your speech.
SCRIPTS VERSUS CUE CARDS
If you’re not used to speaking in public, there’s a huge temptation to write the whole speech out in full and simply read it out from your prepared script.
On the plus side, you’ll never be stuck for a word, you’ll never have to improvise and you’ll know exactly where you are at any one time.
You could do it this way – many people do. But I would suggest that reading from a script is like riding your bike with stabilisers. You’ll still move forward and you will, indeed, be safe from falling down, but you’ll be restricted in what you can do. Remember the day you took the stabilisers off your bike? It was exhilarating, wasn’t it? Suddenly you could whizz round corners and weave in and out of obstacles. You were free!
So I would urge you to remove the stabilisers of the script and move on to the freewheeling excitement (OK, maybe that’s stretching the metaphor a touch too far!) of cue cards. Let’s run through this approach and then you can make your choice.
Cue cards are
· easier to handle
· less likely to get damaged
· smaller and thicker – so it’s less noticeable if you’re shaking
You can jump straight from your Route Map to your cue cards. To create your Route Map, you identified your key points, the main stepping stones of your speech. These should now form the basis for your cue cards.
But if you’re not a frequent speaker, I would suggest that instead of jumping from Route Map to cue card, you’re probably better off getting there in three easy steps.
STEP 1: CREATE YOUR TEXT
Taking your Route Map and a clean pad of paper or new computer word processing document, note down your Stepping Stones, or key points, one on each page. Under each key point, list the subsidiary points that you identified when you made your Mind Map.
Keep filling in, using your expertise and the research you’ve done, until you’ve roughed out the whole speech. Throughout this process, keep looking at the Objective and End Result that you wrote out and pinned up nearby.
STEP 2: TURN YOUR TEXT INTO A SCRIPT
In step 1, you pulled together all the information into a coherent whole. But you haven’t yet got a speech.
There is a big difference between the written word and the spoken word. (Unless you’re Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh, in which case there’s no difference at all.) But generally, if you read out a passage directly from a book, exactly as it’s written, you will find it sounds stilted and odd.
At this stage, you should also start thinking about the visual aids you might want to use to support your presentation – you might note these cues in your script.
STEP 3: TURN YOUR SCRIPT INTO CUE CARDS
Using your main points as your framework, this is where you will distil your script down into key words or phrases.
If your speech is quite simple and short, you should be able to put one of your Stepping Stones, or key points, on each cue card. Write this in big letters and then add your key words and phrases.
But don’t cram things onto the cards! If you’ve got a lot to say and only a few Stepping Stones, break things down a little further and devote a new card to each of your subheadings. The trick is to keep the information on each card to a minimum.
Number your cards, just in case you drop them on the floor! And move your thumb down the card as you move through the points. Then, when you look up to speak, you won’t have lost your place.
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A TEXT PAGE AND A SCRIPT PAGE
A TEXT PAGE
I would like to take this opportunity to welcome you all as new members of staff at British Television Productions Limited. For those of you who do not know me, my name is Joan Brown and I am the director of human resources.
The purpose of this meeting is to give you all a quick rundown of the different departments in the company and to explain how they relate to each other. You will be able to see how you fit into the bigger picture and, hopefully, it will help you to understand who your colleagues are and what their role entails. I am going to ask you to look at some slides, including photographs of the most senior staff. As you can see, BTP is run by an executive committee of eight people. This is the chief executive, Peter Hammond . . .
A SCRIPT PAGE
For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Joan Brown and I’m the director of human resources.
The purpose of this meeting is to give you a quick rundown of the different departments in the company and to explain how they relate to each other.
(DISTRIBUTE LEAFLETS SHOWING COMPANY STRUCTURE)
As you can see from the chart, BTP is run by an executive committee of eight people . . .
(TRIGGER FIRST SLIDE)
You really should trust your memory – you will remember much more than you think.
If you’re still not sure you can trust your memory, do two sets of key words – a minimum version and a more thorough one. Then you can practice with each. If you feel a bit nervous, use the more thorough version, but you may well find that you remember perfectly and that you speak more naturally with the minimum version.
The reason I recommend the cue card approach is because I believe it gives just enough freedom. It frees you from the constraints of a written script, making your words sound fresher, more genuine and more conversational. But, unlike learning a speech by heart, it gives you a little support and, if you’re getting off the point, it will take you straight back to your objective.