Ideally, you want to speak from notes and not a manuscript. I have a hard time keeping my mind and eyes on the audience when I am reading a speech. But if you have lots of technical information to include or if you have a special presentation to deliver where each word has potential for specific impact, you will probably use a manuscript for your presentation.
Here are some specific tips on how to write that special presentation. Overall, keep in mind that writing a speech is not the same as writing a report. Writing for the ear is more informal than writing for the eye. You want the script to sound pleasing to the listener. Since your audience members cannot go back and reread as they can with a report, what you say must make sense immediately. To make this happen consider these tips:
- Write in short sentences. Keep grammatical construction simple.
- Feel free to use contractions. Speaking is more personal than writing.
- Choose words that create pictures. Alliteration, where initial sounds and sounds within words are repeated, is one way to do that. “Don’t trifle with the truth.”
- Personification is another way. This is where abstract qualities take on animate features or personalities. We have a “bull” or “bear” stock market.
- Develop metaphors. Pro football player Joe Walter described playing a three-hour football game like being in five 30 mph car crashes.
- Use stories. Write the story just as it happened. In fact, talking through the story as you write it will help you to keep it in oral form. Include dialogue when possible. Help your audience see the action.
I’ll discuss the mechanics of delivering a manuscript in another article. I’m not recommending you use the manuscript by choice. However, certain times, whether it’s a eulogy or a presentation to a group of scientists on a new formula for toothpaste, the manuscript is a must.
Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D., CSP, is Professor Emeritus of Speech Communication, College of Informatics, Northern Kentucky University, near Cincinnati. He presents keynotes and seminars to corporations and associations whose people want to speak and listen effectively. See additional articles and resources at www.sboyd.com. To book Steve, call 800-727-6520 or email him through his website.