The Exceptional Presenter, Time Koegel, Presentation Academy

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To Read or Not to Read

By Tim Koegel

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To Read or Not to Read
I have attended several conferences recently where the order of the day for most of the conference speakers was to read their entire speech.  The presenter either read a script word for word or stared at a screen while reciting bullet points ver batim.
Granted, there are times when it is appropriate and even necessary to read all or part of your speech word for word.  However, more often than not the reason speeches are scripted is for lack of preparation on the part of the presenter ("If I don't have time to practice, I'll just read the darn thing.").
Becoming effective at reading speeches takes an enormous amount of practice.  News anchors work hard at reading from a teleprompter, located on the camera lens.
Politicians read a majority of their speeches.  This is true in part because most of the time someone else has written the speech for them.  Most politicians are mediocre speech readers.  President Ronald Reagan was far from mediocre.  In my  opinion, he was the best of the best Presidential speech readers.  But Ronald Reagan had an advantage over most of his peers.  Prior to his life in politics Ronald Reagan was a broadcaster and an actor.  His career in both fields required him to read scripts as if he as simply having a conversation.
Another major reason people script and read their speeches:  FEAR OF THE MELTDOWN.
Most of us have had that terrible feeling before.  Call it a meltdown, call it a brain freeze, call it the death spiral or call it an implosion.  It's the point where your mind goes on vacation and you become keenly aware you have no idea what you were going to say next.  The synapses in the brain cease to fire.  Your body temperature rises 20 degrees.  There is not a sound in the room and not a drop of moisture in your mouth.  In your mind, time stops..........Yet the audience seems to perk up like a pride of lions that have spotted an injured gazelle.
Three quick tips for delivering a conversational presentation and avoiding meltdown:
1) Practice in segments.  By practicing your presentation in 3 to 4 minute segments you will be able to practice each segment multiple times in a short time period.  Practicing in short segments allows you to become comfortable with your word selection and the sequencing of the information.  Each time you say the segment out loud, the words might come out a little differently but the message will become consistent.
2)Always, always, always have notes nearby.  Type your notes (bullet points) in at least a size 22 font so that you can read them from 5-7 feet away.  If you lose your place, don't panic.  Pause, move toward your notes, find your place, look up and pause for 2 more seconds. Then begin again.  Make it look as though you planned the extended pause.
3)  Tape yourself practicing your presentation.  Use a video recorder or simply tape the audio portion of your delivery.  Then keep the recorder going as you talk with a friend on the telephone.  Listen to both tapes.  The tone, pace, animation and energy should be about the same.  The tendency is for the telephone conversation with your friend to sound much more animated and natural than the speech.  Ideally there should be little if any difference.
If your goal is to keep your audience engaged in your presentation, reading your script word for word is placing you at a disadvantage.  If you have to read your speech because you didn't have the time or energy to prepare, why not just mail it to them and save everyone some valuable time. 
Be prepared, be natural.
"Luck is where preparation meets opportunity."
If anyone knows who was the first person to use this quote, please email the name to me. I have always thought it was legendary Green Bay Packer Coach Vince Lombardi.
Put Your Best Foot Forward
Making a first impression is always important.  First impressions last.  I have found an amazingly simple and inexpensive way to make a positive impression before any verbal communication takes place.  It's so simple, it's almost inexcuseable not to do.  Are you ready?   Shine your shoes.  That's right.  Just shine your shoes.  Better yet, stop at a shoe shine stand and have a professional shine you up.  What's it cost?  Five bucks?  A polished pair of shoes sends the message that you care about the details, that you are a professional and you take pride in doing things the right way. 
The next time you're walking through an airport and you see a shoe shine stand, don't slink on by.  Jump up into that chair, relax and set yourself up to make a great first impression.   

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