Please don’t read your script, particularly when you are delivering online presentations. None of us is actually able to deliver effectively by reading and the audience is significantly negatively affected. This is much more pronounced in an online presentation compared to an on-stage delivery.
An effective presentation needs a great message, constructed with an understanding of the audience needs and the aim of sharing a single, memorable message. This is best done by physically writing out precisely what you want to say. Then edit that script, time it and make sure your talk comes in at under 80% of allocated time. This script is the basis of an excellent message but it needs to be spoken not recited. The best way to achieve this is to put the script away and practise without it until the natural voice and flow emerge. This will never happen with a written script.
Online presentations offer the option of a script being visible to the presenter in the false belief that it is not visible to the audience. It is abundantly clear those speakers reading aloud. The flow of speech is too fast, accentuation is unnatural and frequently mistakes are made as individual words are dropped. This speed challenges the ability of the audience to process information and the reduced, perceived authenticity is a further challenge in retaining the already challenged engagement of an online audience.
The close proximity of the presenter’s eyes to the recording camera means that the slightest deviation of eye contact is clearly observed. Those presenters whose script is outwith this line of sight can be seen constantly looking away from the camera and unfortunately, this reduces engagement. The audience wants an online presenter to speak to them as individuals. If they don’t, attention will be directed elsewhere and value is lost.
One cannot deny the challenge of preparation to the point of being able to deliver a presentation entirely without a script. There are options between these two extremes; one must consider how important the message is and temper our preparation and delivery accordingly. The best is to deliver a presentation without a script.
My personal approach in practise is to continually reduce my script initially to bullet points (I know!) and finally to the key steps; introduction, steps 1-3 each with 3 sub-steps and then the conclusion. The supportive media clearly signposts to me what those 11 segments entail and I can then continue to practise. I try to memorise the introductory and closing remarks and the rest comes from practise and rehearsal.
If there are reasons beyond nervousness that this is impossible, the following tips may help. Please do not read your script. Ever. If you use Presenter Notes be careful that this may appear on screenshare, check beforehand. Have one single note per slide, but not written out verbatim. And NEVER on your slide. Ensure this note is as close to the camera lens as possible. Sit back from the camera so that eye contact is maintained.
S p e a k m o r e s l o w l y.
Seriously, this is essential for all presentations and the single best tell that you are reading. Ultimately, relax! The audience wants to hear your opinion, not the eloquence of your written, rather spoken word. They want your wisdom and insight and actually value frailty, imperfection and stumbling of the natural spoken voice much much more than the stilted, unnatural stumbling of the recitation. Please don’t read your script.