It seemed like a good idea at the time. “You’re going to present tonight’s programme outside in the park!” the producer beamed at me as I arrived for work on what was forecast to be the hottest day on record.
I beamed back — always keen on a new challenge — but my first private thought was: will there be autocue? Safe in our studio, it’s the comfort blanket that means we don’t have to memorise our scripts, because they glide across the lens in front of us. The answer today was a breezy ‘no’, meaning that we’d only have notes on cards as backup for this live, half hour, programme.
It all went smoothly. Natalie (my fellow presenter) and I dodged a downpour during rehearsal, glowed through a sultry programme, and one kind person even told me afterwards they’d never have guessed we’d done it all without a tele-prompter. Driving home through the still blazing Sussex countryside that evening, I mulled over what I had learnt that day that I could share with you.
- Public speaking is not a memory test. Nobody will think less of you when you glance down at notes on cards. What you want to avoid are full sentences in bulky paragraphs — lose your place in a busy paragraph and it can be awkwardly time consuming while you find your way back.
- slow – it – down. You’ve glanced at your note to see the point you want to make next. Now deliver that point, conversationally, gently. You can easily practice this at home. No-one ever complained about a speaker who gave you time – to – take – in – what – was – being – said. (And if you master this, you’ll be better than a TedX speaker I wondered at recently as he tore through his talk …)
- er – well – allow yourself to be you. That will mean using the occasional ‘er’ and ‘well’, because, well, that’s what we all do. Not everyone will agree with me on this, but after thirty years broadcasting on the BBC, I’ve concluded that public speaking involves speaking to the public, in the way the public speak.
And finally — remember that everyone’s on your side. Delivering a pitch, going for a job interview, taking to the stage at your brother’s wedding — you don’t need an autocue to turn you into you.
If you’d like some one to one training on how to get a message across – on or off camera, with or without autocue – I can help!