OK, so now we’ll assume that you will soon deliver a presentation that’s been written-word-for-word-on paper or teleprompter. You may feel more comfortable, or less nervous, with your speech written out-we’ll support you on that decision if you think it’s best. For example, you may want your message to be crafted in a certain way, or you’re worried about leaving out a part. But it’s also possible that you don’t have a choice-that you’re delivering a speech that was written by others or required approval from Legal.

Either way, it’s your job as the presenter to bring your speech to life, which is harder when working from prepared text. (Most speakers we know are much more effective with notes rather than scripts.) We haven’t addressed this issue for a while, so we’ll share some of our best suggestions for preparing for these written presentations.

  1. Practicing, believe it or not, is critical to effectively presenting a written speech. Read through your speech often, preparing for pauses, expression and emphasis. The more you read, the better you’ll be able to convey the passion behind the words. It’s tempting to assume that you can get away with less preparation, because everything’s written out, but if you want to reach your audience, you must be ready to ‘sell’ your content.
  2. Prepare the manuscript. A marked-up manuscript will help you convert your preparation into a powerful speech. Use a red pen to note short pauses (one slash) and long pauses (two slashes). Underline words and phrases for special emphasis. Make clear notes in the margins reminding yourself to share an anecdote, point to an audience member, or discuss a slide in more depth. If you’re using a teleprompter, write your notes into the text.
  3. Eye contact is a huge challenge for presenters using prepared remarks, because they tend to look down at their page when completing thoughts. Speakers are much more effective when they make strong eye contact to emphasize a point. John Kerry had this problem in the 2004 election. Our advice to him was the same: “hit the finish line BEFORE you look back down.” Face the audience and finish your complete thought, looking listeners in the eyes. Then, pause, return to your page, and continue.
  4. Consider an off-script adventure. Even if you’re scripted, you can still leave your notes to share an anecdote or make a point. Some speakers, such as Condoleezza Rice, become more passionate, believable and interesting when they go off their prepared script. If you’re expecting questions at the end, you’re going to have to improvise anyway. So try it during your prepared presentation-we predict you’ll like the results.

If you want more personal attention from us to prepare for a written presentation, have your people call our people. We’ll be happy to help.