Don’t Script it

4 Nov

Whenever you make a presentation or speech do you feel like everybody in the room is judging you? Does it seem like every word that comes out of your mouth has the potential to make or break your reputation?

If you do, you are not alone.

In fact, in her New York Times article, “Conquering My Fear of Speaking in Public,” Dominique Molina, co-founder of American Institute of Certified Tax Coaches, explains how she is overcoming her public speaking anxiety. She no longer relies on notes or extra theatrics to get through presentations. Instead, she speaks from her heart.

Public speaking is not my strong suit. I write extensive notecards, repetitively practice in front of mirrors, and even attempt to memorize whole paragraphs that I hope to recite perfectly on the big day. None of these tactics have worked. However, recently my father told me the same advice that Molina’s father told her: “Speak from your heart.” In other words, don’t script it.

I have realized that no matter how well I knew the material, memorized the facts, or practiced in front of mirrors, I still experienced anxiety during public speeches. So, why not change my approach? I have begun to relax, smile, and speak freely- without notecards or memorization. In fact, I have learned two additional tricks that help people speak more from their hearts and less from notes.

Choose a topic that makes you tick

Though we don’t always get the option of choosing what we want to talk about, choosing the most interesting topic out of what is offered will certainly make anxiety an easier battle to fight. Also, speaking about something that you like will produce a smoother presentation because the words will come more naturally to you. For example, for a recent consulting presentation, I chose to present about advertising and the marketing aspect of my group’s proposal because that is what interested me the most. My ideas flowed well and I didn’t need a single notecard.

Hide your clues

PowerPoint slides and notecards are always an anxious speaker’s best friends. However, we know that wordy PowerPoint slides and notecards aren’t usually recommended for presentations. But the key here is to use these tools to your advantage. Add as many clues to your slides as possible, such as placing words or images in the order that you are going to address them. Also, use props that provide hints as to what you are speaking about. Additionally, tactfully hiding your notecard in one of your props is a great way to prevent yourself from drawing a blank.

So, if you are confident you know the material, then why memorize? Talk the talk and walk the walk. Don’t script it.

It’s working for me, and I am sure it will work for you too.

by Aarthi Kasilingam



3 Responses to “Don’t Script it”

  1. Nicholas Brown November 7, 2011 at 6:53 pm #

    Aarthi, I used to have the same problem as you. In high school when I had to present for a class, I always tried to memorize long paragraphs of text and hope that I could remember it the day of. I find it easiest to make sure I know every aspect of my part of the presentation, through and through, so I know I can just speak about the topic when my time comes. It feels more conversational and I do not spend as much time memorizing.

  2. Michael Flowers November 10, 2011 at 9:25 pm #

    Another technique that I’ve found particularly useful is to have a friend ask you about your project. If you can explain the basics to your friend then you begin to realize that memorization of your whole speech isn’t necessary. Yes, you may need to be able to recall specific statistics or names while presenting, but assuming that you have done the work necessary to be familiar with a project you should be able to effective articulate your points without memorizing too many things.
    As someone who struggles with public speaking I must say that I use a lot of these techniques, and those I don’t use, I plan on trying. So thanks!

  3. Angela Chen November 11, 2011 at 5:26 am #

    Aarthi, I can relate to your post. Like many others, I also used to memorize speeches word by word. Public speaking has always made me extremely anxious. I have recently been practicing without looking at my PowerPoint slides, and this tactic has worked for me. I used to rely on slides to prompt my speaking points, making me seem robotic and scripted. However, by practicing without my slides, I found myself more comfortable with the material and therefore more conversational. As a result, my anxiety associated with public speaking has decreased significantly. I know that my slides are there to help me if I start blanking, but I also know that I am prepared to speak without them.

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