Presentations without scripts?

In the previous post in this series, I looked at why presentations without scripts were generally not a such a good thing. This time, I’m looking at what you can do instead.

Why do you want a script for your presentation?

Youtube playlist handling nerves in your presentations

The main reason – by which I mean the reason almost everyone says they want a script for their presentation – is nerves, or a broader lack of confidence when they’re presenting. By having a script, they think, they’ll suffer less from being nervous. Let’s take that head on then. I’ve got a whole bunch of tips for handling nerves, starting with this youtube playlist about nerves in presentations!

Having a script, they tell me, makes them feel more confident. It might, I suppose, give you a feeling of “it will be alright” before your presentation, while you work on the script, but as I said last time, that’s not likely to transfer over to the actual moment you go live.

Another popular reason for working from a script is a fear of forgetting what you’re going to say. In the high-pressure of the presentation it’s easy to forget things! Ironically that’s the very opposite of the first reason, assuming as it does that it’s easier to remember a script than it is to remember ‘things to talk about’! 😉

And finally, a big reason for wanting to stick to a script is to make sure that your presentation is the same as it’s been before – perhaps to make sure you give the same thing over and over or perhaps so that you know you’re going to stick to the timing.

Do you have another reasons for delivering your presentation from a script?

Remembering your non-script presentation

Let’s start by pointing out that if you learn to use the techniques I gave you above on my YouTube channel your nerves should be more controlled. If not, drop me a line and we can talk about why the normal tools don’t work for you. (Don’t worry, that’s very possible!)

What you need from me, is a way to remind you what you’re going to be talking about so you don’t forget your content mid-flow. The obvious  answer is a painful one that I’m not going to allow you. “I know!  I’ll put my content on the slides so I don’t forget them – I can just look at the slide to see what I should say next.” Please, on behalf of your audiences everywhere – don’t.  Just don’t. It will make your slides unusable from the audience’s point of view and your engagement with presentation equivalent of going to the cinema but looking at your phone all the time. (Yeah, I know, it’s not an entertaining analogy but trust me, all the better ones I came up with are too rude!)

Presenter view - no need for scriptsThere’s a better place for that information. It’s called PresenterView.

I love PresenterView.

It’s a setting in PowerPoint (and Keynote and the expensive versions of Prezi, even) that means what you see on your laptop isn’t what the audience sees. Your audience sees slides as usual, but you see a customised version of things like the slide, the next slide and your notes about the slide.

That last bit is significant – notes about your current slide. That is where you remembers should go. You don’t need a script, you just build remembers about what you’re talking about into your presentation’s slides. Then, when it’s presentation time, you sit or stand facing your audience with the memory prompts appearing on your laptop in front of you (or beside you or whatever).

Bob’s your uncle.

A quick a dirty script-free trick

Where your presentation's non-script can go -  index card prompts
Where your presentation’s non-script can go…

Not confident about using PresenterView ‘cos it seems too technical? (Really?  One click is too technical?). Good, old fashioned index cards are your answer. Put your prompts on the index cards.

Some hints, based on bitter experience:

  • write big – no, write very big – you want to be able to read things at a glance, not a stare
  • number the cards in case you drop them etc
  • put them on a treasury tag to make them easier to handle (and in case you drop them!)

What makes you think I might have dropped these in the past? 😉

But what do you write instead of a script?

I’m betting at this point you’re jumping up and down saying “But I can’t put a script in those places Simon! I’m better off memorising my presentation after all!”. You’re half right. You can’t put your script in those places…

… but you shouldn’t be trying to.

What you should be doing instead is putting prompts there. Most presentation skills trainers will tell you to use keywords as prompts to remind you what to say next, but to be honest, keywords is a bit too literal. Sure, I tend to use words, but there’s no reason you can’t put a picture, an image, a graph, a flow diagram or whatever is going to spark your brain fastest. One of my slides has three percentages, for example. Another has a list of actions. Another has a small picture of my wife. You get the idea.

How you decide what’s going to work for you as a memory-kick-starter is different for everyone and every presentation, so I’m loathe to give you fixed rules here, but there are some guidelines:

  • create the prompts at the same time as you create your presentation. Don’t create your presentation then try and figure out prompts to use instead of your script afterwards
  • use colour; use variety – the more vibrant something is the better chance it has of kicking your brain
  • imagine how you’d teach children who were struggling to learn a foreign language or something! What silly links would you use for them?

cannabis - not a good idea for presenters!Try not to laugh here, ‘cos I’m going to give you a silly example!  I remember the Spanish for “they are called” with an image of two of my family and the idea of my straight-laced father in law smoking cannabis. Not working for you as a prompt?  That’s fine – in fact that’s the point… it’s very, very personal!

Still no?  Try this hint – the Spanish is “se llaman” and the LL sound is pronounced sort of softJ 😉

Told you it was silly – but it works to help me remember. And once the connection was made in my Spanish class, it’s stuck forever. The thing is, I made that association in a Spanish lesson and it’s stuck with me forever. I didn’t come back to it later – I learned it at the time. What’s more, it’s pretty childish, I think you’ll agree… but it works: no need for a formal script!

Louise and her presentation skills!Remember Louise from the last post? She’s an editor and proofreader who recently stopped using scripts for her presentation:

My preference is for visual prompts. I don’t like notes or keywords when I’m presenting because my brain flips into reading mode. Perhaps my being an editor comes into play here – as soon as I’m shown words I start thinking about their order and sense, and how they work on the page or screen. That’s a distraction – one that tempts me back into script mode – when I need to be focusing on what’s coming out of my mouth, and the people I’m speaking to.

Louise goes on…

I plan all my visual prompts around every key point I want to talk about. Then I rehearse to ensure the slides are triggering me properly. That method’s worked well for me. It’s taken the pressure off and allowed me to trust in my conversational skills when I’m speaking. My delivery is far from perfect but it’s more natural to the listener and more enjoyable for me.

By the way, you might want to read Louise’s version of her first presentation without a script!

Ready to ditch the script?

In the next of this series, I’ll wrap up by talking about how to memorise things, script or not!

Simon says...

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