Presenting face-to-face, we would always tell presenters not to use a script. Trying to read a script when presenting in person usually leads to an uninspired performance. It ties the presenter to the spot, or at least stops her making appropriate eye contact with the audience. It becomes incredibly difficult to interact with the slides; the difficulty of trying to interact with slides and audience while reading can end in tears – and should only really be attempted by those using a teleprompter, with slides that are more of a backdrop than anything else. Normally, delivering a compelling face-to-face presentation means interacting with slides and the audience – and that’s just not possible if reading a script.
Presenting a webinar is different. For a start, the audience can’t see you. They have no clue if you are reading or not. They aren’t in the same room as the audience – so you can’t make eye contact either. It’s a bit different with an online sales pitch – but with a webinar, you usually don’t interact with the audience all that much outside of certain times in the presentation. Interacting with slides can be done – but can be planned in advance, for emphasis or effect. So, really, all these things make it clear that presenting online should follow different rules to presenting face-to-face.
There are a few good reasons to use a script when presenting a webinar.
- First, it makes it relatively straightforward to plan out your content, and make sure you say the right things;
- Second, it allows you to build visuals to match the script, which is important in terms of keeping things moving on screen;
- Third, for most people, it’s easier to read a speech than presenting from notes or just from slides. It’s less likely to go really wrong too – in terms of timings or losing the thread of what to say, or inadvertently saying the wrong thing to 100s of people.
Preparing good scripts and reading from them isn’t all that easy though. Without a bit of practice, it can sound unnatural and flat. We recommend the following process:
- Start by planning your talk, by using Post-Its or mind-mapping software or whatever you like, to get the basic ideas into the right order;
- Then, try and draft a script – or speech, really – in full;
- Then, read the script aloud – actually say the words aloud – and notice where parts don’t really feel – or sound – natural. Ask others to help if you want;
- Edit the script to make it sound right – so that when you read it, you sound as if you are talking normally, and not reading a novel aloud. Try to use more casual words and phrases. You really need to write how you talk, not write how you write.
This script then becomes the source material that helps you put slides together.