Write For The Ear, Not The Eye

Have you ever received a telesales call from some poor call centre employee who read a script at you? Could you tell that he was reading? The ear quickly picks up on the difference between written and spoken English.

The same applies in your presentations. The script looks great on paper, but have you run through it out loud? It’s the delivery in front of a live audience that ultimately counts, and your audiences will rarely be moved or persuaded by anything that sounds like a script. Natural speech persuades with more vigour.

An excellent solution is to rehearse, out loud, while you write. Pen a line, and then try it vocally. Finish a paragraph, and then run through it as though you were delivering it live.



These are some of the problems caused by not rehearsing a speech:

  1. Your thoughts will not be as clear or structured as they could be
  2. Your language will sound like written rather than spoken English
  3. Because you haven’t practised telling your stories or illustrations, you may stumble over them and leave out important details. It’s embarrassing to get two-thirds of the way through a point, and then say something like, ‘Oh, but what I forgot to tell you was . . .’
  4. Humour requires more rehearsing than anything else. You must know your punch line, and be able to deliver it with confidence and timing. tips for making your  presentations natural
  5. When you rehearse as you write, your ear will quickly pick up whether what you have written sounds ‘natural’ or not. We tend to write longer sentences than are necessary in a speech, with the result that we either run out of breath in the delivery or start to sound stilted.
  6. Shorter, ‘chattier’ sentences and informal language work much better than their antitheses.
  7. If you are able to use a mirror, so much the better. A full-length mirror is ideal, but any large mirror will do. Begin by delivering sections of your speech, without looking at your notes. Your goal is to become familiar with ‘how’ your words will come out. Once you’ve done that, deliver the complete speech from beginning to end.
  8. Don’t worry too much if you have to look at your notes occasionally while rehearsing. But aim to deliver progressively longer sections without notes. This will help you grow accustomed to ‘telling’ each story and explaining each thought.
  9. For important presentations, don’t hesitate to get a friend or trusted mentor to listen as you rehearse your speech. Speaking in front of another person for the first time causes you to focus properly, to clarify your thoughts and to express yourself exactly. It quickly exposes flaws too.
  10. If you don’t mind the curious stares of other motorists, you can even practice your presentations while sitting in traffic.

Remember, your aim, at all times, is to write for the ear, and not for the eye.


By Douglas Kruger (www.douglaskruger.co.za)

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