Feeling Scripted? Navigate Public Speaking with 3 Simple Steps

Your company will host a conference and has invited 400 people from around the world to attend, and you have been asked to be one of the leaders who presents to this prestigious group. This was the public speaking scenario facing one of our clients recently.

This client is most comfortable memorizing before presentations, but also realizes that it can come across as scripted. I recommended the client remember the main points instead of memorizing a script.

What’s the difference?

Think about a GPS. If you know where you want to go but you don’t know how to get there, you put the address in your navigation app. The app will tell you where and when to turn until you reach your destination. What the app doesn’t provide to you is every detail associated with the entire trip. Every detail is not necessary to get where you want to go. Your route might also change slightly along the way depending on traffic developments. Preparing for a presentation is no different.

1. Know your destination – This is the result of your presentation. Your answers to the following questions define where you’re ultimately taking your audience and what they’ll learn along the way:

  • How will you know if your presentation is successful?
  • What do you want the audience to do with the information you’re giving them?

2. Map your turns – Based on the one main idea you want to communicate to your audience, what are the points essential to get your message across? Do you have a story to accompany each one? For most business leaders, stories have three parts (in this order):

  • What is the problem your audience needs to solve?
  • What solution are you recommending?
  • What should your audience do to implement the solution?

Just like each turn leads to the next until you reach your destination, each of your points should naturally transition in order for your audience to easily follow your trajectory.

3. Practice your turns – I still remember how excited I was before my first day as an NPR reporter. I had the address, but I didn’t know how to get there or how long it long it would take. As part of an effort to make a great first impression, I went to the office the day before. I practiced my route to make sure traffic or other uncontrollable elements wouldn’t keep me from getting to work on time.

Your public speaking engagement is a lot like my first day of work. You’re excited about the opportunity and you want to impress – so prepare accordingly by following these steps:

  • Practice your main points (but avoid memorizing every component).
  • If you’re presenting with visuals, practice speaking while clicking through your slides to ensure flow and avoid technical difficulties the day of.

I recommend the “one-ten” rule. For everyone minute of your presentation, practice for 10 minutes. So, if you are giving a five-minute presentation, I recommend you practice your presentation (out loud) for a total of 50 minutes. You can break it up over several days and weeks if you give yourself time for 50 minutes of practice.

Speaking of time, if you’ve been asked to speak for a certain number of minutes, you need to practice delivering your presentation within that time frame.

While it can be tempting to commit your speech to memory, you’ll almost certainly appear more authentic and well-versed in your subject matter if you can showcase your expertise in an unscripted manner.

If you need help determining your destination, mapping your turns or practicing your turns, email [email protected] to see how we can help!