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Is it a Good Idea to Speak from a Script During a Presentation?

Should you read from a script or not?

If you want to appear more credible and convincing when making a presentation, you need to ditch the script.

As an entrepreneur, there will be times you will need to make presentations – to prospective clients, business partners or at a convention. How good your presentation is in terms of content and style will go a long way in persuading your audience. However, the content of your presentation is not the only thing that’s going to cut it for you. It’s also about how you present – your confidence, your powers of persuasion, your ability to engage the audience and keep them interested in what you have to say.

So, then comes the conundrum – do you speak from a script or notes, do you parrot what is on the PowerPoint slides or do you engage directly with the audience and speak without constantly glancing at your script?

The pros of reading from a script.

Let’s first look why it makes sense to read from a script:

You will feel confident: Because the script is there in front of you like an anchor, you will not have fears of forgetting an important point or stuttering because you don’t know what to say next.

Everything is laid out clearly: Since you have your script in front of you, you can read from it and ensure that you cover everything you want to present to your audience.

You save time on rehearsing: Since you are going to be reading the script, you don’t need to memorize or rehearse your speech. All your points are there in front of you; all you have to do is read from the script.

You will be more confident speaking from a script.

You appear in the know: If you have prepared a good script with interesting and valid points and have researched your script and put in all the relevant information, your audience will know that you know your subject.

It makes sense if you are scared of public speaking: There are people who freeze if they have to speak in public, and if they have to go extempore, it only makes it worse. In such a scenario, it would make sense to refer to a script so that you don’t end up stuttering, stammering or going completely blank!

However, if you really want to interact and engage with your audience and get them to actually pay attention to what you are saying, it makes sense to deliver your presentation without reading from a script. Here’s why:

You will speak from your heart: And when you do that, you sound so much more sincere and convincing. You will be able to persuade your audience thanks to the passion that you drum up in your presentation.

You will engage your audience better if you don't speak from a script.

You will engage your audience: When you speak from a script, chances are that your delivery tone will be staccato or expressionless. Or your script could be long-winded or just bullet points. Plus, since you are looking at your script, you are not making eye contact with your audience. Chances are high then that they will lose interest. Even if the prose you have written is great, it may not be that sparkling when delivered as a scripted speech.

You will come across as confident: When you don’t look at your audience, and when you are constantly looking at your script, you may be perceived as uncertain. If that happens, you end up losing credibility. Audiences want speakers who will speak from the heart, speak confidently and authoritatively. When you strut around the stage speaking without referring to your notes constantly, you come across as someone who is self-assured

You will be more spontaneous: When you speak extempore, without a script bogging you down, you tend to move around and speak, making it a freer, more flowing and dynamic presentation. You can gesticulate all you want, you can come back to the lectern, you can point to your audience, you can ask them questions…there’s so much you can do. However, when you are bound to the lectern, you are perforce bound even in your body language.

Speaking from a script isn't that great if you want to hold attention.

You connect with your audience: When you don’t make eye contact with your audience, how do you get them to feel a sense of interaction? Sims Wyeth, author of ‘The Essentials of Persuasive Public Speaking’, says, “You’re reading written prose, so you will sound formal and more distant. We don’t speak in complete sentences, and the rhythm of formal prose is very different from the cadences of spontaneous speech. Actors train for years to be able to make written scripts sound ‘real’ or conversational. Few people outside of the theater have this ability.” Audiences want intimacy with their speaker, they want to connect.

You become more accessible: If don’t speak from a script, the audience can engage with you. You are looking at them and talking, instead of burying your head in your script. Your audience is immediately more attentive. Lack of eye contact is a huge barrier.

You come across as credible: Since you are speaking authoritatively and extempore, without constantly referring to your notes, the audience feels that you know your subject. What you have to say will have more credibility.

If you are confident about your speaking abilities, and you know your subject well, it is always better to make a presentation without reading from the script. Speak from your heart and what you say will resonate with your audience!