Why you SHOULD write out your speech

In the previous post I gave you some reasons why you should not write out your speech. But life is never just black and white.

There are excellent reasons why you should write out your speech. Eventually of course it’s up to you to decide based on your preferences and the situation. Let’s have a look at the pros of writing:

Say it right

Sometimes it is important to say the right things in the right way. If your topic is sensitive or political you might want to stick to the script. Improvising might lead to a wrong message, especially if your speech is recorded or if there is press in the room. (Been there, done that)

Writing down your text allows you to have a good second look at it, to have others look at it, and to craft the message in such a way that it will not be misunderstood. If the stakes are high: write.

Say it again

If you need to give the same speech again, it helps to have a written version of it, especially if there is a long time between the two performances. Alternatively you might want to record your speech and watch it back as preparation for the next time, but writing is often simpler. I sometimes had several month between two presentations, and if it wasn’t for the script I would have had to a lot of work. If you need to repeat, a script is neat.

Say it in time

If you have a strict time limit you may want to choose to write out your text so you know that if you stick to the script you stick to the time. Speech contests are an obvious candidate for a well timed script, but there are (fortunately) many tightly scheduled congresses out there where a 20 minutes presentation is a 20 minutes presentation, and you’re not supposed to go over. Experienced speakers don’t even have to clock their speech, they look at the script, count the words maybe, and know how long it will be. You can’t do that if you don’t have a script.

If you need to be exact, count the words.

Say it well

There is a core reason you will want to write down your speech.

Writing allows you to bring your speech to the next level. Writing down your speech brings some added benefits over just rehearsing your speech from memory.

First, you can get better coaching. I have coached people who did and people who did not write out their speech. From the point of view of the coach, a written text is much better. I have more (consistency) to give feedback on. We can spar over style figures. We can focus on delivery.

Second, writing provides you with an overview of the whole speech. This makes it easier to strengthen arguments, to balance examples, to spot omissions, to sort sentences, to optimise transitions.

For example, I have a tendency to go back and forth between past tense and present tense. Writing my speech out allows me to spot the inconsistencies and make a deliberate decision what tense to use when.

A script allows you and others to play with the building blocks of your speech, with your message and your tone in a structured and thoughtful way.

A building was first a drawing.
A painting was first a study.
A good speech was first a text.

However, it’s just a tool

Writing is a tool for the creation of speeches. A tool to memorize the right words. A tool to get the best out of your time with your audience. But it’s not your only tool, and that is where some people go wrong.

The writing is support, YOU are the vehicle that delivers the speech. Spending 90% of your time going over draft after draft doesn’t leave enough time to enhance your delivery.

But leaving out this powerful tool robs you of the possibility to make your speech even better.

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