Going “off-the-cuff?” Here’s a public speaking starter pack for you: Map, Key, and Triggers! [Wednesdays: “Speak on the Shoulders of Giants”]
Have you experienced going “unscripted” in one of your talks?
(Unscripted = delivering a speech or presentation without a comprehensive, full-on script)
According to Chris Anderson, TED’s curator, one advantage of going down this path in public speaking is it can make your topic sound “fresh, alive, and real.”
It’s as if you’re thinking out loud!
As a speaker, you must know that there’s a difference between “unscripted” and “unprepared.”
Every public speaking engagement is important, so there shouldn’t be any reason for you not to prepare.
Just because you decided to go unscripted in your talk, that doesn’t mean you should not do your research anymore, plan your delivery style, practice your presentation, etc.
As a matter of fact, that’s more reason for you to prepare!
Unscripted talks are not an easy feat. Yes, it may make you look cool and confident as a speaker but when you don’t know how to properly present using this approach, you might:
- End up giving “half-baked” explanations about your topic.
- Not find the right words to elaborate on a key concept.
- Leave out crucial information.
- Go beyond your allotted time slot.
So… how do you prepare for an unscripted talk?
Here are 3 important types of notes that you can use to help you effectively deliver your message even without a script:
A mind map.
Have you experienced remembering what you were going to say because suddenly, a vibrant image popped out in your mind?
That’s the power of a mind map!
Creating graphic representations of the things you want to discuss in your presentation will help you remember your main points.
Mind mapping is based on a straightforward principle. For example, when you’re driving, it’s easier to have a map of where you’re going than memorizing directions turn by turn.
Similarly, when you’re speaking in front of an audience, it’s easier to have a “mental map” that leads to your destination instead of memorizing your presentation line by line.
If you think you can’t create a comprehensive mind map, here’s good news for you: You don’t necessarily need to have great artistic skills to create one!
The key is to think circularly. Keep the focus on your theme or topic―that’s the center of your mind map.
Once you identify what your main message is, you have to make sure you keep coming back to that point over and over again throughout your talk.
The second type of note you should prepare before your actual presentation is the key questions your discussion will answer.
These should mainly be subjective questions (those that require more detailed answers) rather than objective questions (those that are answerable by “yes” or “no”).
Note: No need for you to also jot down answers to these queries.
You just have to write the important questions related to your topic so they will serve as “triggers” for the things you need to address in your presentation.
Why are these notes important in preparing for an unscripted talk?
It’s because they help you organize your thoughts in a way that’s easier to recall, without having to recite something you’ve memorized verbatim.
Think of your brain as a search engine… If you want to gather information about a specific subject, how do you get the “best search results” back?
By plugging in the right queries!
Questions are among the most effective ways to unlock information in your mind, so make sure you take these notes with you on the actual day of your speech or presentation.
This third type of presentation note serves as another trigger… but for stories or anecdotes you plan to weave into your talk.
One primary purpose of story triggers is for you to not write your stories on a piece of paper, word for word. These keywords help “jog” your memory so you can tell your anecdotes in an engaging manner.
It’s also important to keep in mind that while you’re not advised to write your whole narratives on a piece of paper, you should still practice your storytelling skills.
A good story has to sound like you’re telling it to friends over dinner―so that’s exactly how and where you should practice.
If your friends get interested in your topic, then you know you’re on the right path. However, if your stories didn’t make them react that way, that’s a clear indication that you need to level up your way of delivery.
Different speakers have different approaches to their speeches or presentations. Some are comfortable presenting with full-on scripts, while others value variety and spontaneity.
Whether you’re on one side of the camp or another, one thing is certain: Both scripted and unscripted talks need preparations.
You can’t just go out on stage and present to your audience without a definite plan in mind. You always need to have a plan, even a backup plan, in case things go haywire.
In other instances, you may combine the 2 methods―you write a script for your presentation, but you don’t use it most of the time.
Just like in the case of Dan Gilbert, the author of the book titled, “Stumbling on Happiness”:
“When I deliver [talks], I don’t stick to the script I wrote. So why do I write them? Because writing a story is how you find out where the holes are!
A great talk is both scripted and improvisational. It is precisely like a great jazz performance: First, the opening and closing are always completely scripted; second, the general structure is fully determined before the first horn blows; but third, what makes jazz interesting and captivating is that in the middle of a tune there is always some point (or several points) in which the player can go off script and spontaneously create something that captures the mood of that particular audience in that particular room at that particular moment in time.
The player can take a few moments to do this, but he must always know when to come home, and he must always know where home is.
A totally improvisational talk is like free jazz: An utter abomination every time it happens. A totally scripted talk is like a classical music concert: Intricate, deep, and flawlessly executed, but often predictable enough to put the audience to sleep because they know from the start that there will be no surprises.”
Here’s the bottomline…
Find the mode (scripted or unscripted) you feel most confident and comfortable in, then commit to it.
There’s a way to use a script in a manner that doesn’t sound “memorized” once you start presenting your topic on stage.
Likewise, it’s not a blow to your ego to write a script for backup if you decide to go down the “unscripted” route in public speaking.
As you start to rehearse, the difference between these modes will begin to fade―if you deliver your presentation well, your audience won’t know whether or not your talk is unscripted.
With proper practice and handling of resources, you’ll end up with a talk that is meticulously prepared and passionately delivered.
About The Dynamic Marketing Communiqué’s
“Wednesdays: Speak on the Shoulders of Giants”
In a meeting with one person
…a boardroom with five people
…or a huge venue with hundreds of people
—whatever the situation or setting, it’s very important to learn and eventually master the art of public speaking.
No matter what, you always need to effectively get your message across.
What good is a presentation with awesome content if you don’t deliver it properly?
Every Wednesday, we publish different tips, insights, and secrets on how you can improve your presentation skills to captivate your audience and lead interesting discussions.
The need for great presentation skills applies EVERYWHERE.
(Small meetings with your team, big meetings with your boss, an important marketing pitch, speaking engagements for events with a big audience, etc.)
Learning these skills is not just for the corporate world. Being in other industries such as the Arts, Information Technology, Medicine, and Education while knowing how to present well will definitely give you an edge.
Have that advantage.
Hope you’ve found this week’s public speaking tip interesting and helpful.
Stay tuned for next Wednesday’s Speak on the Shoulders of Giants!
Head of Marketing
Valens Dynamic Marketing Capabilities
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