Recently, we coached an executive delivering an introduction to a keynote speaker; a financial advisor who had 60 seconds to say why her firm was sponsoring an event; and a sales rep in manufacturing who wanted an elevator speech or self-introduction. The common thread was that before our sessions, each had written out and memorized their content. This made them sound overly formal, unengaged, and concerned about forgetting their material.
There are four types of speeches. Let's say Cindy is asked to say a few words about Employment Law. Cindy presents an Impromptu Speech
which will be authentic, spontaneous, and unstructured. Her best strategy with no time to prepare? Focus on Intention-- or what she wants to achieve, like "I will be seen as the go-to professional in employment law." To achieve this Intention, Cindy tells a colorful story to drive her point home.
Or, perhaps you have an opportunity to deliver a talk to a professional organization of your peers. You carefully plan and rehearse your speech, use brief notes, speak in a conversational style and connect with the audience. You still have the freedom to edit or add content, based upon audience response. This is an excellent method for presenters, called an Extemporaneous Speech
In another scenario, an upcoming speech is critical to your career. So, you hire a speechwriter to make sure every word is perfect. But unless you are a trained actor, your reading voice will be less animated or flatter than extemporaneous speaking. While appearing safe, Manuscript Speaking
is the most dangerous form of presenting and often snooze-inducing.
is what stage actors do. They spend weeks in rehearsals to memorize their lines. Every word, especially in classics like Shakespeare, must be exact. When speakers use this method-- even when free of scripts, your brain is constantly focused on remembering and delivering each line of content. If you drop or mispronounce a word, you can go blank, which causes a disconnected performance, or anxiety-induced speed. Plus, who has the time to write out and memorize an entire presentation?
Instead, have the safety net of working off a simple outline. Rehearse but paraphrase, don't memorize. Keep your delivery conversational and in your own voice. (Listeners don't trust polished and perfect anyway!) And always, always, always focus on the audience.