Creating an effective presentation means writing a script that wows. What are the strategies you need to know to get your audience pumped up for your talk? In this episode, Elizabeth Bachman discusses creating a script that is designed to wow your audience. Elizabeth gives her best tips for writing the best script for your talk and gives a few things that you need to keep in mind when writing your script. Learn more speaking tools from Elizabeth by tuning in to this podcast.
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Writing A Script That Wows!
This is the second one of four episodes that we’re talking about, “How do you use presentation skills to become more visible and show the world how valuable you are and get the recognition you deserve?” A huge piece of this is, “How do you write your script?” In this episode, we’re talking about writing a script that wows. Mark Twain said, “The difference between a word and the right word is like the difference between the lightning-bug and the lightning.” I have never forgotten that the first time I heard that. Indeed, the words are what make your script memorable and then your delivery style is how people react to it, but you’ve got to have the words first.
I spent 30 years directing opera around the world, 11 years running an opera company, and over 10 years training business presenters. My intention in this episode is to help you find your topic writing your script and the absolute best formula for your talking points so that you engage your audience. Our next episode is going to be about spicing up your script once you’ve got it, but this episode is about writing the first script.
Remember, all of this is in theory. You’re going to have to get help to get the script right to figure out what you’re going to do. That’s something that doesn’t happen overnight, but once you have it, you will have it forever. I encourage you to sign up for VIP access to this program so that you can get some help on how to make this information yours.
Finding The Right Words
In order to get your result, as I often say, you need the right strategy so that you’re talking to the right people, the people who can get you where you want and telling them in a way that they can hear you. You need the right script and a confident and charismatic delivery style. All of it comes from you. They all work together and you are the heart of it all. I’ve heard a lot of people say, “It’s too much work to go out there and speak in public. Why do I have to do all this? I have a full calendar anyway.”
The thing is, it takes time to get it right, but once you have it, you have it forever. You can start using your script and ideas to make a name for yourself. It’s very important to make a name for yourself outside your company as well as inside your company because it’s the reviews and comments from your industry that will help the people in your company who take you for granted helps them say, “She has something to say.” It is work. This is why I usually spend about six months with my clients. Some of them stay around for years but anything worth doing is worth taking the time to get it right.
Know Your Topic
The first question I get from many of my clients is, “What is my topic? How am I going to find out what do I want to talk about? What is going to be my signature speech?” I go back to rule number one. We talked about that in the last episode. Rule number one is to use strategic empathy to make it about them. Who are the people that you want to reach? Who are the people who could promote you, follow you, or maybe hire you for a better job? Where do you find them? What do they care about?
Once you know what they care about and find something that you care about that they care about, then you know what you need to talk about, although I still get the question, “Yes, but what is my topic?” If you already know what your topic is, hang in there. We’ll get to that. For those of you who are still wondering, one of the best ways I know to find a topic is to indulge in some productive complaining. I’m giving you permission to complain.
Think about the things in your company, business or industry that bother you. What are the things that annoy you? What are the things that you see people are doing wrong and how could you fix them? One of the best ways to do this is to get together with some friends and take notes. Sit around, maybe open a bottle of wine, complain and then say, “Of the things I’m complaining about, where could I offer a solution? What could I talk about that would, if not giving people solutions, at least help people start asking the right questions?”
Set Your Ideas Free
When you start writing down the ideas, write down lots of ideas. Write them all down. One of the best ways I know is to take a big piece of paper or a whiteboard, turn off your phone, get away from the computer, and write lots of ideas. Write down everything. Don’t edit anything. It has been proven that editing comes from a different part of the brain than writing. Just write. Give yourself time.
One of the things I like to do is put the ideas on Post-it Notes. You can put them on post-it notes and put them up on the wall. Put them up somewhere where you will see them during the day. Standing in front of this idea board while you’re brushing your teeth, that’s a great thing to do while you’re brushing your teeth. Put the ideas up and let them sit there for a while. As you live with those ideas, you will see where they connect. You will see how maybe you could boil them down into a particular theme or maybe some various talking points.
At that point, you want to put your talking points down on Post-it Notes. Put them back over on the board. Maybe you’ve got five talking points that would fit within a theme so you can narrow it down. If you find that you’ve got talking points that don’t fit at all, they might be transitional points or maybe they belong to another speech. That’s okay. Put them aside. You will work on them in a different speech.
If you don’t know where to start, choose one, “What is the one topic or idea that will get you the most notice and that your ideal listeners will respond to? What is it that they’re going to care about?” Choose one and pick your three top points. If you’ve got A, B and C here, maybe D and E are sub-points or maybe they belong to another speech. Don’t lose them. See how it works and then you sit down to write. Start out by reverse engineering. You want to aim everything towards a call-to-action, “What do you want them to do or think about?”The difference between a word and the right word is like the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning. Click To Tweet
I like to go back to the five-point formula that I learned from my eighth-grade English teacher. I was thirteen years old. She taught us this five-point formula and made us practice it until we understood it. Thank you, Mrs. Curtis, for sticking with me until I understood it. This is a formula that comes from Roman rhetoric. The first written example of this was from the Romans. Number one is your introduction. 2, 3 and 4 are your talking points A, B and C. Five is the conclusion with the call-to-action.
The very first thing you want to do is write down this outline on one page. What is your speech about if it’s one page of bullet points? I know there are people who think, “Why are you putting me in a straitjacket? I don’t want to be stuck to a formula. I don’t want to be in a box.” I understand that. You do want to be able to be creative. However, you need to have some form to your speech. You have to have some idea of where you’re going to start and end.
I invite you to think about your speech like jazz. If you think of a performer on a jazz ensemble, they’ll have a defined beginning and ending. They’ll have a basic melody that goes through, but in and around that, you can improvise. If you think of your speech as a jazz performance, you have enough structure to make sure you know where you’re going, but you get to improvise along the way.
Here’s an example of an outline that I use for one of the speeches I do when I’m talking about three big presenting mistakes that cost you sales. This is the thing that I’m often asked to do for networking groups of businesses. In the introduction, I tell a little bit about my story and who I am. I have a hook on the introduction so that it catches people’s attention.
Get A Fresh Perspective
Because you want to break down your speech into strategy, script and style, my first talking point is about strategy. My talking point B is the script and talking point C is the delivery style. I go to the conclusion, which reviews that and the call-to-action, which is with a speaker trainer. Work with your coach to do this because it’s difficult to understand it. You’ve got to get out of your own head and get some fresh eyes on it. That would be an example of a basic version of one of my speeches.
Here’s a pro tip. Once you have your five-point outline, you want to make your speaker one sheet or a flyer. This is the term for a piece of paper that advertises you where you’re going to say the title of your script, the title of your talk and then what are three pain points that your audiences have. These are your talking points turned into questions. Your talking points are then the answers to the pain points.
For instance, strategy, script and style, the pain points might be you don’t know where to start, therefore, you need a strategy. You don’t know how to use compelling language, therefore, you need help with your script. You get nervous. You have stage fright and you sabotage yourself because you get scared. My talking point C is about dealing with nerves. You can take your talking points and reverse them to make a pain point where you can say, “Do you find? Have you felt? Are you nervous?”
Any of these would be good ways to start your flyer because you want to get their attention right away. They’ll look at the catchy title and say, “That sounds interesting.” They’ll read the first three points and say, “That’s me. She is talking about my pain. I’m going to pay attention to this.” You talk about, “What are the three benefits?” This is what they’ll walk away from. These are the answers to your talking points A, B and C.
Once you have the pain points and benefits, then you have enough to create a speaker sheet or flyer and send it out to places where you would like to speak. I can guarantee you that once you have an appointment or booking where they want you to give that speech, you will write it. The idea is to get the outline, advertise it and find someplace to do the speech because that’s what’s going to make you write the script, then you start to write.
One of the problems many of us find, I have this problem too, if you start at the beginning, you say, “How am I going to think about this? Where do I start?” It’s easy to get stuck writing the introduction over and over again. I recommend starting with your conclusion and call-to-action, “What do you want them to do?” Write that first. Make sure that your talking points all lead up to that conclusion so that by the end of it, they’re excited. They say, “I want to do what she is telling me to do.”
One of the ways you can do this is with your Post-it Notes. Put each talking point in a different color. If you’ve got additional ideas that belong to, say, the green Post-it or the pink Post-it, you can put them together and then organize them. You might have five talking points that are the general ones you talk about, but you alter them according to the audience.
For one audience, you might use talking points A, D and C. For another audience, you would use B, E and D. You have that flexibility. You can juggle things around and mix and match as long as you know who your audience is and you’re using strategic empathy to put yourself in their shoes and find out what it is that they want to hear. You write the introduction last. I’m going to go back to the introduction. I can spend 2 or 3 weeks with the speaker writing the introduction. That’s an important piece.
Once you know where you’re going, then you’re going to write the introduction that leads into it, but it’s also important to get it right to get something interesting. You want an interesting hook, an idea that gets their attention. You tell them a little bit about yourself, what you’ve done and maybe a little story about how you got here. State the overall problem that you’re going to address in these talking points.
This thing is very difficult to do on your own. It helps to work with a coach and learn how to make it specific to you, “What is it going to be that’s going to make your idea fit into this framework?” My favorite talking point formula is the problem, solution and benefit. This is a tried-and-true formula and this is where I always start, “What’s the problem?” You state the problem, so people recognize. They know what you’re talking about, then you say the solution. Your solution would be one of your talking points.
Most importantly, you say, “So that you get what’s the benefit.” It’s all too easy to state the problem and then go on to the solution and tell people what to do. That’s how you lose their attention. You want to show them what’s in it for them, “What’s the benefit? Why should they do what you want them to do?” If you spell out what they’ll get, they’re more likely to listen. There are many variations on this, but this is always a good place to start.
Talking In The Right Order
Here’s another pro tip, “Which point would you talk about first?” Say you have talking point A, which is your strongest and best point. Talking point B is medium-strong and talking point C is strong but the least strong of the other two. You might think that you start with your strongest and finish with your weakest, but indeed, the optimal and best order is to start with the medium one and end with the strongest.
There’s a strategy involved here. The medium point is strong enough to get their attention. You want to start with a talking point that is good enough to get their intention. You want to end with a talking point, which is the absolute strongest that gets them the juiciest, most exciting thing that you can say so that when you get to your call-to-action and conclusion, they’re all fired up and excited. Talking point C, the middle one, is your safety valve. This is the one where it would be useful. You can certainly tell the story, but if you’re running low on time, you should be able to say it in 1 or 2 sentences.
When in doubt, always do the full version of your strongest point. The thing you say last is going to be the one that they remember. If you are supposed to be doing a speech and the person before you has run over time so that you have to shorten your speech, then the middle one, talking point C, is your safety valve. There’s a lot more about this with my individual clients, but this will give you an idea of how to think about it.
Here are two more bonuses to the five-point formula. First of all, you’ve got problem, solution and benefit. You would add for each talking point. Make sure that you are addressing the yeah-but moments. Those are the small objections. They’re not going to walk away and reject you absolutely, but they’re saying, “Yeah, but.” For instance, when I talked about thinking about your speech like jazz, that is to answer the yeah-but.
I find that for many of my clients, especially the creative clients, if I give them a formula, they’ll go, “Yeah, but I don’t want to be restricted. I don’t want to be stuck in a box,” and yet they do need to have a formula. I’ve been in this business long enough to know that. Answering the yeah-but is to think of your speech like jazz. There are many other ways of doing it. Again, use strategic empathy. Put yourself in the shoes of your listeners. As you’re in the process of writing, go through and say, “Where would be the small things that they would object to?”
The other bonus is telling stories. Sometimes you don’t necessarily want to say the whole problem, solution and benefit. Sometimes you can do it all in the form of a story. Stories are wonderful and we will be talking about that a lot more in the next episode, which is about taking your speech from boring to bravo by using stories and metaphors.Sometimes, you don't necessarily want to say the whole problem, solution, and benefit. Sometimes, you tell it in the form of a story. Click To Tweet
Human beings grow up hearing stories from their parents. We are trained to listen to stories from our earliest childhood. People retain stories more than they retain facts. For each talking point, be prepared with something that would answer a yeah-but and a story that would illustrate it. You might not use all of them on every talking point, but be prepared.
This is what you want to do if you find out you need to extend your speech and speak for longer. If you’ve got the stories prepared and answering a yeah-but is a story, then you can add those in to extend your speech longer than you had planned. Yeah-but, stories and metaphors. I’ll go into that a lot more in the next lesson, Transform Your Speech From Boring to Bravo.
That’s a basic overview of how to write a script that wows. Remember, as you’re thinking about this, as Mark Twain said, “The difference between a word and the right word is like the difference between the lightning-bug and the lightning.” You have something to say. Saying it well in a compelling and charismatic way is a great strategy for you speaking to get results. I urge you. Decide to write this speech, go out, and be a lightning.
That’s the end of this episode. If you are curious about how your presentation skills are doing, you can go to our free four-minute assessment at SpeakForResultsQuiz.com. That’s where you can see where you are strong with your presentation skills and where perhaps a little bit of support might get you the results you need and the recognition you deserve. I’m delighted to be speaking with you and I’ll see you on the next episode.