Should You Script Your Speech? (part 1 of 4)


Should you or shouldn’t you script your speeches? The debate is almost as old as “the chicken or the egg?”.

There are some valid points on both sides of the debate … and I’ve been on both sides. Having been on both sides, I’ve come to the conclusion that the benefits and advantages of scripting your speech far outweigh the disadvantages. On the flip side, the disadvantages of not scripting your speech far outweigh any perceived advantages you might gain.

Here are the major arguments you’ll encounter as to why you shouldn’t script your speech:

* scripted speeches don’t sound natural, spontaneous or sincere

* reading a scripted speech prevents you from making eye contact with your audience

Not Sounding Natural

Many presenters who read from a script sound as if they’re reading an essay or an article from the daily paper. They speak in monotone voices and stumble across the unfamiliar words on the page like someone skating on ice for the very first time. To say the least, it’s not a pretty sight … but it doesn’t have to be this way.

The reason most presenters who read from a script sound as if they’re reading an essay is: they are! Speeches are not meant to be written the same way essays, articles or reports are written, but most of the people who write the speeches aren’t aware of the differences between writing for the ear (speeches) and writing for the eye (print). If they did understand the differences, the speeches would sound just as natural as any extemporaneous speech. So the problem isn’t that the speech is written, the problem is how the speech is written.

When a presenter stumbles all over a written speech, you can rest assured that he or she hasn’t spent enough time – or any time – with the speech. And regardless of what the reasons may be for not reading and rereading the speech ahead of time, very few presenters can get away with trying to read a script for the first time while still sounding natural. If, however, the presenter gets familiar with the written text in advance, the delivery will sound far more relaxed and natural.

Eye Contact With the Audience

We’ve all witnessed the presenter who buries his head in the lectern like the proverbial ostrich buries its head in the sand (ostriches don’t actually do this … but I digress). Of course, if the presenter is reading the speech the entire time, he or she will not be able to make eye contact with the audience. And if the presenter isn’t making eye contact with the audience, he or she is not making a personal connection with them either.

But scripting your speech doesn’t mean you have to lose all eye contact with your audience. If you familiarize yourself with the speech beforehand and occasionally look at the speech to keep you on track, you will have more than sufficient time to look at and connect with the audience.

It also helps to make the font larger (minimum 18pts) and to stop the text 3/4 of the way down the page. This way, your eyes won’t travel as far down the page and away from the audience.

Will it take some practice? Of course it will. But if you’re going to be delivering a speech, you’ll be practicing anyway. You will be practicing, won’t you?

John Watkis is a freelance speechwriter, speaking coach and keynote speaker who helps his clients use the right words at the right time in the right way so they can educate, influence and inspire their audiences.

For more of his tips on public speaking, and to get your FREE “Successful Speeches Toolkit”, visit

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