It can be difficult to sound like you aren’t reciting a script when you are speaking in public,
because if you are truly prepared, that is exactly what you are doing. However, instead of
merely reading, what you must do is interact with your audience. You need to make them feel
like this isn’t you reciting from a prepared text, but instead this is a conversation.
Start with the text
The best way to avoid sounding like you are reading a script is to write a script that doesn’t read
like one. Try writing like you speak. If you write a sentence that you cannot imagine coming out
of your mouth take some time and revise it. Oh, and don’t use words like “cannot” if you don’t
use them in real life. Instead use contractions and other words that are common to you.
When you are speaking conversationally chances are you do not use long run on sentences or
complicated, technical terms. Don’t use them in your script either. Instead stick to
short sentences, simple phrases, and words that are universally understood. Not only will your
script be more relatable to your audience, but it will be easier for you to perform in a natural
Variety in your voice
The quickest way to make it sound like you are reading a script is to drone on in a monotone
voice. Make sure you are modulating your pitch and tone, and that your pace is slow enough to
understand, but quick enough so your speech doesn’t drag. Also, don’t forget to breathe. The
fastest way to make a speech sound scripted is to forget to breathe and then suddenly have to
take in a huge breath to stay on your feet.
Interact with your audience
You are not performing a play, you do not have a fourth wall, and you need to acknowledge
that the audience is there. Take time to make eye contact with people in the crowd. If they
laugh at or react to something you said, be sure to connect with them. Let them know this is
not just about you standing on a stage, but it is about all of you taking part in an experience
Let your personality come through
I love the phrase “cool beans.” I don’t know why, but I do. So, when I am speaking in public, I
use it liberally. I don’t script it, but I make sure it’s there. It’s my touchstone to make sure I
don’t go too robotic when giving the same talk over and over. Find something similar that
works for you. If you have an accent or use colloquialisms in your day to day life be sure to use
them. They will help you come across as more human and relatable. Also, it’s hard to sound
scripted when speaking in your natural vernacular.
If you take anything away from this post let it be the importance of rehearsal. Even if you only
have one time to run through your script, use it. It’s better than nothing. You need to have time
to get familiar with the words, the sentence structure, and the pacing of your speech. You need
time to take the words off the page and make them your own. I don’t care if you wrote it.
Saying those words out loud is a completely different thing. The more you rehearse them the
more you can bring them to life.
You need to be scripted to be successful. Don’t listen to the “bullet point” people who insist
that to not sound scripted all you need is an outline. They probably also think skiing in jeans is
okay. You need a script to make sure you hit all your points. You just need to make sure that
you don’t sound scripted. It’s not easy, but you can do it.