Speak for Yourself

Claire Duffy's blog about public speaking and communication (in real life). Speak well, do well!

Developing the script

Notice I avoid saying ‘write the script’. The spoken word and the written word are different, and this presents a trap for speakers. The key to success is being good to listen to. A speech is not a piece of writing. It’s something you say. It’s an oral presentation, and that’s a live gig.

Watch your language!

An oral presentation is dynamic and immediate. It’s happening now. A written presentation exists beyond the here and now. The language you use when you speak typically has short words and sentences, and is direct and straightforward. Vivid even. The written word can be more convoluted, with longer words and sentences, commas and clauses and qualifiers and all sorts of features that we don’t use in speech. That’s the stuff you don’t want. So my advice at this early stage is simple.
Switch the computer off!

Getting started
There are six stages to go through.
1. Define your purpose
2. Clarify a takeaway message
3. Rough draft
4. Arrange the structure
5. Write the words
6. Edit, rehearse, edit again, rehearse again.

Not everyone takes these steps in that order. For some people, the rough draft stage is where they clarify their purpose and their ‘takeaway’. Others put the structure in place first and backfill the content. By all means do what works for you – with one reservation: it is NOT OK to start out by writing the words. Only the most experienced speechwriters can do that. It’s like building a house before you’ve drawn up the plans, or commencing a car trip without knowing the route – you’ll go wrong, get lost, develop material you can’t use, and waste time making avoidable corrections.


2 comments on “Developing the script

  1. Bob

    What do you think of this suggestion that in some ways being a good speaker can actually be bad for you if you want to be a thinker.
    This famous inventor says talking is basically bullshitting and the opposite to having good ideas and that it’s only good for motivation.
    And what about his idea that it’s dishonest to be pretending to ad lib if you’re using sentences you haven’t just thought of.

  2. Claire Duffy

    I think that’s interesting but wholly wrong. Clarity of thought is fundamental to clarity of expression – written or spoken. You can’t be a good speaker (or writer) unless you know exactly what you want to say, and why, and how best to do so.
    Not everyone likes speaking (or listening). Some prefer to develop and take in ideas in writing, some like to do it orally/aurally. If you are the communicator, the art is to understand what each medium has to offer, know what works for you and the audience, and make a sound communication choice. Maybe Paul Graham prefers the written over the spoken word. That’s fine – for him. You’re never going to hear me dismissing the art of speech. It’s fundamental to everything we do.

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This entry was posted on 12/01/2012 by in Uncategorized.

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