In the public speaking world, there exists a great prejudice against reading out a speech in public rather than delivering it straight from memory. And yet, many people prefer reading a speech to memorizing one. A frequently asked question is: how to make a speech easier to read?
If done correctly, reading out a speech–be it from a paper or your phone or even a teleprompter–doesn’t necessarily have to be a minus point to the overall quality of your speech.
For many of us that struggle with memorizing words, reading out a speech can actually make our speech better. By using simple tricks like using big fonts, highlighting important points, writing annotations and not using fancy fonts, you can make a speech easier to read.
Things brings me to the following question:
Is It Okay To Read Out A Speech Instead Of Memorizing It?
The answer: Yes, it is.
In fact, you’ll be happy to know that you’re not the only public speaker in the world who prefers having a sheet of paper with scrawled words in your hands while you’re delivering your speech.
Many famous speakers also prefer having their points in hand rather than spending hours attempting to memorize what they’re going to say in front of a crowd. These include Ellen DeGeneres, Winston Churchill, Queen Elizabeth II, and even Abraham Lincoln!
That’s right! Even world-class speakers such as the ones mentioned above sometimes use pre-written pointers–or, in today’s time, a teleprompter–to deliver a seamless speech.
Also, as I mentioned above, not everyone has a photogenic memory. For many people, jotting down important points before delivering a speech might improve the overall quality of it. This can be due to a variety of reasons.
For one, having your points in hand might work to ease your anxiety. You will no longer be worried about forgetting what you’re going to say next in the middle of a sentence. If you find yourself stumbling, all you’ll have to do is glance down at your pre-written points, and boom! Memory refreshed.
This reduced anxiety will make it easier for you to focus on other equally important aspects of your speech, like body language, facial expressions, delivery etc.
Not having to memorize a speech also helps save time, which can be crucial especially in a public speaking setting.
Also, having your points in hand will make for a more smoother speech, and provide the audience with a more seamless experience.
So, as long as you don’t have your nose buried in your cue cards or podium for the entire speech and you make sure to make eye contact with and acknowledge your audience from time to time, don’t be afraid of reading out your speech!
How To Make A Speech Easy To Read
Now that you’re in on the secret that reading out a speech isn’t a federal crime in the public speaking world, let’s move onto the next step: How To Make A Speech Easy To Read. After all, reading a speech shouldn’t be a struggle.
You shouldn’t have to squint continuously to make out the words on the paper in front of you or struggle to figure out the meaning of an abbreviation when you’re supposed to be launching into the next headline of the speech.
The entire point of writing a speech is to make your life easier, not to complicate it.
So, if you wish to fully reap the benefits of having a written speech in your hand, keep in mind the following tips…
1. Use A Big Font
If you wish to deliver a memorable and engaging speech, you need to interact with your audience. You need to make eye contact with them, smile if possible. And how are you going to do that if instead of looking at them, you’re squinting down at the screen or paper in your hand until you give yourself a headache? So, make sure to use a properly sized font, something over 12 pts.
2. Highlight Important Points
Another thing to keep in mind to make a speech easier to read is highlighting the points you think are the most important. Highlighting keywords makes it easier for you to simply glance at your cue cards or material and then quickly re-focus your attention back to the audience, instead of having your head bent over the podium the entire time.
While using a highlighter, make sure to pick a color that doesn’t muddle the pen or font color. Which brings me to the next point…
3. Don’t Use Fancy Fonts Or Colors
Creativity is an essential component of a successful and memorable speech. The last thing you want is to deliver a monotonous speech that’s going to put your audience straight to sleep. But one place where you don’t want to showcase your inner creativity is the format of your written speech. Pick a simple font like Times New Roman or Ariel. Skip the purple and red and pink font colors and stick to basic black.
Remember: you want to make your speech easier to read, not impossible.
4. Space It Out
Don’t cramp all your information into a single page. Space it out. If you attempt to squeeze in your information into as few pages as possible, chances are you’re going to end up confusing yourself while you’re delivering the speech.
Keep ample space not just between paragraphs, but also between words. This will make it easier for you to locate and skim through the content, and you will be able to quickly relocate your points if you find yourself lost.
5. Keep Your Sentences Short
Another thing to keep in mind if you wish to make your speech easier to read is keeping your sentences short. Try not to use more than two sentences for a paragraph. Most teleprompters only display a single line at a time on their screen. Using shorter paragraphs and sentences will keep you from rushing through your information, and allow for natural pauses in your presentation.
Adding pauses to your speech can help increase the impact of your words, and also give both; yourself and the audience a breather. You won’t have to stop in the middle of a sentence to catch your breath: the natural course of your speech will do it for you.
6. Write It As You Naturally Speak
Each person has a unique way of speaking. Often, people attempt to change their way of speaking by modeling it after someone they feel speaks well. They try to write their speech as someone else would, and in the process end up losing their own uniqueness as a speaker.
While taking inspiration from other speakers isn’t necessarily bad–in fact, it might actually end up helping you become a speaker–you don’t want to copy other speaker’s styles.
Write the speech as you normally speak. Not only will this add to your authenticity as a speaker, but it will also make your speech flow more naturally, and you won’t have to glance down at your material as often.
7. Write Down Annotations For Yourself In The Margin
Not everything that you have on the paper in your hand should necessarily be ready out to the audience. You can add pointers here and there for yourself, too. For example, if you’re someone that tends to speak without taking a pause, you can mark down points in your speech where you can take a short break and just breathe.
If you’d like to emphasize a particular point, you can underline it and write a note beside it reminding yourself to look your audience in the eye as you say it.
8. Number The Pages
Make sure to number your pages or cue cards beforehand. It might seem redundant, but trust me, it’s not. Numbering your pages is important to avoid any potential confusion while you’re on stage. Not just this, but page numbers make navigation easier.
Being able to smoothly navigate through your information is important, especially if someone asks you a question or if you simply want to go back to point and expand it better or relate it to something you’ve said. Being able to smoothly navigate between your pages makes also makes it easier to realize if you’ve missed a page or other important piece of information.
After all, the last thing you want is to step in front the podium, only to realize that you’re missing the first page of your speech.
9. Don’t Forget To Practice
The above-mentioned pointers to make it easier for you to read a speech don’t mean that you can simply ignore practicing your speech. Practice is an essential element for delivering a successful speech. It’s only when you practice that you’ll be able to figure out if you’ve ticked off important determinants of a good speech like its duration, your facial expressions, the gestures you’re going to use, the breaks in your speech, etc. Etc.
If you don’t practice your speech beforehand, odds are in the favor of you setting yourself up for a blunder, even if you have the entire thing printed out in front of you.
So, don’t use your cue-cards as an excuse to not practice. Instead, use them to improve the quality of your speech practice and the speech itself.
Q. How Do I Read A Speech During An Online Presentation?
Online presentations often have lesser personal cues that are provided by a face-to-face speech. So, if you’re giving a presentation on Zoom, Skype, Google Meet etc., it becomes even more important to make sure to keep your audience engaged through the means available to you. One of the most important ways of doing this in online presentations is by keeping your eyes on the screen i.e your audience and using hand gestures.
It’s difficult to do these things if you have paper in hand. A better way of reading your speech during an online event would be to have notes open on the screen alongside your meeting so that you can do both; keep an eye on your audience as well as read out your speech.
The format you follow for your notes can be the same as what you would’ve otherwise done in an offline presentation.
Another way for making your speech easy to read would be by using online tools like an on-screen teleprompter.
For using an online teleprompter, all you need to do is upload your script into the teleprompter. It will then project your script through a browser window over your ZOOM–or any other app that you’re using to deliver your speech–presentation.
However, while making use of a tool like this, it’s important to position your teleprompter screen appropriately, so that your visible eye movement is minimized and your speech looks more natural. To do this, try keeping the screen as close to your webcam as possible. One app to do this is: BigStage Online.
Q. How To Sound Natural & Conversational While Reading A Speech?
While you might want to use a teleprompter during your speech, you certainly don’t want to sound like one while delivering it.
So, how do you make your speech sound natural?
Make Frequent Eye Contact
One important way of doing so is by looking up from your reading material to make eye contact with the audience. Eye contact is an internal part of a normal speech, but if you’re reading from a script, it becomes even more important to regularly look at the audience.
Another thing to keep in mind is to incorporate frequent pauses in your speech. Take a break, pause for a second, and then continue. Don’t read an entire paragraph in one breath.
It’s also important to incorporate emotions in your speech. You don’t want to sound like a robot. Instead, when you’re saying something that, say, makes you angry or passionate, you should sound like you’re angry or passionate about a particular topic.
Don’t Be Too Formal
You don’t want your speech to sound like it’s something you’ve plucked right off of Grammarly. Rather, while writing your speech, try writing it in a way that you, and other people, naturally speak. Using big words is tempting, yes. But a commonplace word that resonates with most people in the speech will have a wider impact than some fancy word that nobody understands. So, keep it natural.
Speak With Your Entire Body
Body language is an integral part of any presentation. To make your speech a wholesome and interactive experience for the audience, you need to not just speak with your mouth, but your entire body. You need to use your facial expressions, hand gestures, body language, etc.
To maximize impact, make sure to practice them beforehand. For more information on how to deliver a presentation, you can find out the article on Body Language And Its Contribution To The Process Of Communication.
Q. How To Read A Speech On Camera?
Many speakers sound incredibly awkward while delivering a speech on camera, especially if it’s pre-scripted or has been written down before. However, reading a speech on camera doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing if you keep in mind a few things.
If you’re delivering a speech on camera and haven’t really got prior experience with doing so, then first and foremost, make sure to practice beforehand. Even if you have spoken on camera before, practicing is necessary to make sure that your speech flows seamlessly. If you have a teleprompter going or have your notes on the screen in front of you, it’s important to not keep staring at them the entire time.
Instead, you can make yourself look more natural by regularly glancing at the camera. This will ensure that you give the impression of maintaining regular eye contact with the audience. Use your body language appropriately. If you’re referring to the object, gesture to it with your hands. Look away from the camera for a moment to shift your, and your audience’s, attention to the object at hand. Also, keep the language of your speech more natural.
A rolling camera already gives the impression of a script rolling. You don’t want to sound like it, too. Make sure to check your mic and audio equipment in advance. You don’t want to get through your entire speech, only to realize no one could actually hear it. If you’re recording a speech video at home, one thing to keep in mind is your background.
Don’t pick a cluttered or inappropriate background, as you don’t want your listeners to get distracted. You want their focus to be on what you’re saying and not what’s behind you. Also, remember that it’s okay to record videos in small parts or chunks instead of all at once. If you want to take a break from staring into a screen, take it. You can always edit later.
To sum up, it’s perfectly alright to read your speech instead of memorizing it: reading a speech doesn’t necessarily make it a bad one. You can make a speech easy to read by keeping in mind a few factors like using appropriate font size, making annotations, writing the speech as you naturally speak etc. While delivering an online speech, you can make use of a virtual teleprompter for a more seamless experience.
Also, by incorporating a few strategies like making frequent eye contact with the audience, using emotions, and delivering the speech with your entire body, a read-out speech can be just as natural and engaging as a memorized one.