Presenting with Confidence – Should I Use a Script?
“Throw away the script, and you will look more confident!”
You may have received this advice before from well-meaning individuals who just want to help you to be more confident. Let’s be clear – presenting without script often always creates a confident first impression. It shows that you have internalised and memorised your speech content, freeing yourself up to project confidence through your body language or hand gestures. This is often why you hear the common advice to lose the script when you are presenting.
That said, losing the script may not be as easy as the advice suggests. In fact, for some presentations, the use of a script can help bring the presentation or speech to the next level. Beyond the initial impression, the script may ‘gift’ you more control over the presentation, especially if you have a long, tedious or technical presentation planned. In this sense, the answer to the question – Should I use a script? – is not as clear Yes or No. The best answer: it depends. We all know that there is no one-size-fits-all answer or technique.
To help you decide whether a script will be useful for your speech or presentation, here are three common myths that we often hear about using scripts!
Myth #1: You Should Never, Ever Use a Script
Gasp! As blasphemous as this may sound, it is truly a myth to declare that you should never, ever use a script. Like we shared, the decision to use a script ultimately depends on the type of speech or presentation you are giving. In your planning phase, consider important factors such as the presentation duration, the audience type or even the full programme flow during which you are presenting. For example, a presentation that has various moving parts (e.g. pattern break activities in between long PowerPoint-based presentations) may benefit from cue cards to help you along and indicate the stage of the proceedings for you.
More importantly, we encounter students/clients who stress themselves unduly just to avoid the use of a script. The journey to reduce reliance on a script is not an immediate jump; rather, you need to progressively build your confidence in your material before transiting to presentation without a script. In the early stages of such a journey, the use of a script may be necessary to allow you to focus on foundational skills such as stage positioning or eye contact. In this sense, we would propose a better advice – Perhaps, you should never, ever rely fully on a script. The aim is to incrementally reduce reliance until you are confident enough to present without a script.
Myth #2: Using a Script Will Make You Look Less Confident
Even if you find yourself resorting to a script, this does not necessarily mean that its all doom and gloom for your presentation. While the absence of a script may give an impression of confidence, the converse may not be entirely accurate. There are some ways you can tweak the use of the script to maximise your time on stage.
First, use a simple, organised and manageable medium as your script. Instead of relying on layers upon layers of thick A4 papers (trust us, we have seen that before!), try using cue or flashcards that are easy to manoeuvre with. For example, we have seen students who can speak with confidence using cards that fit the palm of their hands. Second, gradually move from writing your speech word for word, to having keywords in your script instead. By doing so, you reduce the reliance on the script but still retain the script to help you out. Build up the confidence by slowly summarising the contents of your script until it is in a digestible form. Third, remember to maximise your body language during the presentation itself. Try incorporating hand gestures with your free hand or maintain strong eye contact through reduced reliance with the script.
Myth #3: You Don’t Have to Memorize Your Speech With Scripts
Most of our clients equate the speaker’s ability to memorise his speech to his/her stage confidence. The connection may not be that direct. The goal is not to memorise the speech, but to be comfortable with the contents of the speech until you can deliver it as if you are in a conversation. In this sense, even with a script, you will still need to internalise your speech and be comfortable with it. In short, you should aim to reduce reliance on the script.
There are some immediate benefits when you avoid relying on the script as a crutch. For example, by reducing the need to keep looking at your script, you maximise your eye contact with your audience as well. We would recommend internalising and memorising your speech/presentation even if you are using a script. You may still end up bringing your script on stage, but you will project such confidence that your audience may not even notice the script!
Internalize Your Speech, Not Immortalize Your Script
Ultimately, the script is but a facilitative tool to support your speech or presentation. It should never upstage your time on stage – especially if you end up relying almost entirely on the script itself. A dynamic speaker is one who, among others, can reach out and connect with their audience; the script should not be a barrier to this goal. Run through the three myths above and remember to embody your speech and not your script!