Here’s the thing: people can tell when you are reading.
I should caveat that with: people can tell when you are reading unless you have done the work to be sure you don’t sound like you are reading.
My personal preference is that you should go without a script where you can, but the reality is that you will be reading a script at some point.
So if you are going to read from a script – how do you sound like you are talking rather than reading??
Check the Words
This is key to it sounding like you aren’t reading. The aim for all presenting is that you sound like you’re talking to your audience as if you were in the pub plus 10%. The language you use to write is significantly different to the spoken word.
When we write we use lots of words we don’t need. When we speak we get to the point quicker. We also write in the first person (I / we went to the pub) or the third person (she went to the pub). We we speak we use the first and second person (you).
When you write you tend to put descriptions up front and the subject last. When speaking the subject goes up front and then you may add some description after.
Written: However, this week the dynamic and hairy lead singer of the Foo Fighters, Dave Grohl, did go to the post office
Spoken: “Dave Grohl, the lead singer of the Foo Fighters, went to the post office this week – which was surprising…”
It is worth going through your script and checking that it reads in a way that you would actually talk.
2. Read, Read, and Read Again
Chris Anderson says in his book “TED Talks: The official TED guide to public speaking” that most TED speakers write then memorise their talks. The rehearsal process of repetition makes it sound like you are speaking. And this is the case for those that purely rehearse rather than script too.
You will need to read a script at least 5 or 6 times before it sounds like it has become part of your spoken word.
3. Work Out Your Emphasis and Intonation
With reading written word, ironically, you need to put the natural emphasis and intonation back in. When I played the flute in orchestras we were regularly making notes all over our music, and for reading the written word, you need to do the same.
There is a fantastic technique called The Hudson Voice Technique, developed by the BBC voice over artist Steve Hudson. His technique includes two elements you can use really easily.
Firstly, pause at the end of your sentences (and even more so at the end of your points) and energise the beginning of the next sentence (point).
Secondly, mentally break the script up beyond the punctuation. In a sentence you are likely to find a bit of a natural lull every 3 to 4 words, then get your pencil and draw a line in hose breaks. This will help you slow up your reading so you are not racing ahead, and it will get you to think about where the emphasis is in a sentence.
Mostly, you need to find your natural voice rather than your natural voice, and to do that you can watch my video about finding your authentic voice here: https://youtu.be/ltnQy744B9g
In summary the pros of scripting is that you can remember what you are going to say, you can shorten your prep, and you can even delegate the writing part.
I wanted to leave you with this. I used to think that no script for speaking in public was the thing to aim for. Then I saw this great performance from Richard Huntington at Next Radio in 2016 https://youtu.be/8UIVpD5V0Xs and his energy made me wonder if you could do great presenting with a script in your hand.
“I am not good enough at this,” is what usually goes through your mind at a certain point of any creative project.
Usually right before the deadline.
When I am recording my Everyday Positivity links and I think “ugh why on earth is anyone going to like these?!”, or when I am halfway through a painting commission and I think “gah this isn’t how I wanted it to look! Why can’t I do it like Picasso?”, or most likely when I get to rehearsing my presentation so many times and I think “this just does not feel new enough – no one is going to like it!”
Inevitably on all counts, I make the piece, I show it to the audience and the feedback is great. I had nothing to worry about.
The problem: You get too close, and you get too saturated in it
In her book “Running Like A Girl” Alex Hemingsly recounts a dinner where her friends are asking her about the running she is doing for the book (for which the deadline is looming) and she loses it, having a massive strop about how she never wants to run again.
She got too close. She got too saturated.
Countless podcaster friends and event organiser friends and writer friends and broadcaster friends all tell of the moment where they think “I never ever want to do this again”!
They get too close. They get too saturated.
Inevitably they push through the feeling, and they create something wonderful with a huge adrenaline surge that makes them want to do it again (rather like giving birth where you forget the pain so you do it again – big THANKS hormones!)
An artist friend of mine once gave me some great advice about this feeling. She told me whenever I created a piece of art that I shouldn’t look at it for 6 weeks. “Art gets better in the drawers,” she said. Funnily enough writer Stephen King says something similar about the art of writing, in his book ‘On Writing’
If what you are doing feels like it’s rubbish, then it’s time to put some space and time between it. I record my Everyday Positivity a little in advance so when I hear it go out it could be a week since I recorded it. I am always pleasantly surprised by it – that it is much better than I thought it would be. Mostly because I have forgotten what I’ve said during the recording!
Space and time allow you to give yourself some useful feedback. Use it to get confident in your ability, to get self-aware, and improve your self-belief. Nine times out of ten a speaking client will watch themselves back and say “oh that’s not as bad as I thought it was going to be”. Space and time provide objectivity, it helps you to forget the nerves you felt in the cock-up, and look at how you could have dealt with it better.
So, if it’s not got better in the drawers, then you know you can work on the craft some more. If it has, you can stop berating yourself in the process.
At some point in history, someone told you that you were erm-ing too much. Someone did. Or maybe something happened to convince you that it was a bad thing. Or do we just know instinctively, because ERM is the word most people are afraid of?
Let’s get one thing clear: To “erm” is human. To “erm” repeatedly when you are trying to make a point, can become distracting.
As with all vocal or physical gestures, once you start repeating them THAT’s when they become annoying.
Remember how you saw that guy talking about podcasting at an event and he said “yeh so the audience got so big that I make a living out of this now” and your brain goes: “ooooh maybe I could make a living out of this”… so you make your podcast, you do the work, you put it out there and you wait…
How do you attract listeners? How do you grow your audience? And how on earth do you earn a living out of it?
Over the summer I launched “Everyday Positivity” on Amazon Echo. It’s daily audio, up to 2 minutes, of me doing a piece that breathes positivity into your day with tips, techniques, pep talks, stories. (If you are a radio person it’s basically a “link” every day). I like to think of it a bit like a modern-day “Thought for the Day” with a Life Hack vibe to it.
For the last 4 months, it’s only been available as a Flash Briefing, on the Amazon Echo. As I write this we have just launched as a podcast on “your podcast provider”. I wanted to capture and share with you the audience growth learnings so far from being in this unique, quality controlled space.
To grow audience then:
Get in the space early / Be unique
I jumped on the opportunity to put Everyday Positivity on to Amazon Echo as there’s not much on there at the moment. It reminds me of podcasting about 5 years ago, when the mutterings were that podcasts were good but you know “who’s gonna listen”? Hindsight is a wonderful thing.
I am hopeful that by owning some of that original space I can grow a tribe of people who feel like they are part of the movement, and I love them dearly.
I’ve watched many podcasts grow from nothing because they have the benefit of original space. Eggchasers (Mr Cs podcast) was the first Rugby Podcast like it 5 years ago. He treated it like it was a job, and 5 years later he is surrounded by similar podcasts, with big-name presenters, and his podcast is holding strong.
But what do you do if you missed the original space already? My advice would be to just start.
Be unique: Everyday Positivity is short form, and could only be done by me because I use my personal experiences and loves.
Be consistent with your delivery: eg every Monday or monthly, or daily. And commit to a period of time.
Be consistent with your value to your listener: work out your why/mission and stick to it.
2. Get boosts: use influencers and influential platforms
In terms of the growth graph what you should generally see (as long as you are consistent, of value to your listener and you are marketing through the normal channels) is a steady climb. But then there are some things that give you an audience boost, and the climb should then continue again at the same steady rate.
To make “Everyday Positivity” I work with Volley, and they also have a Flash Briefing called “Word of the Day” – it has a huge audience. When I guest on Word of the Day we get a lovely boost in audience. Then we maintain the same growth rate we did before.
Influencers also have an impact. I worked on the weekly Love Island podcast “Undercover Lover” over the summer. We were seeing good listenership until one week it went a bit bonkers. An Instagrammer with a large following had locked themselves out of their house and on their Insta story said they were sat on their doorstep listening to “Undercover Lover”.
Not only did the podcast see the growth that week, but it also impacted on Everyday Positivity too as the presenter of Undercover Lover had Instagrammed about that!
As an aside this “boost and steady” growth is consistent with other platforms. When you look at the graph of BBC Radio 6 Music listenership over the years there is a steady climb, then the station was threatened with shut down, and the listenership got a huge boost. The PR from the outraged listeners was unexpected but saved the station, and then some. They haven’t had a boost like it since, but the steady climb has continued and it’s consistently one of the UK’s top DAB Radio Stations in terms of audience.
3. Get reviews
Launching a podcast is hard work, and the temptation to get in the charts means that you are good at asking for reviews at the start but it tails off. It also feels weird asking for reviews, a little pushy.
The thing is reviews, and 5 star at that, make you more findable*, especially in the Amazon world. So you need to be clear about what you want the audience to do, and why.
I’ve seen success around regularly asking, being honest “you reviews mean that more people can find this Flash Briefing and we can spread positivity far and wide” and being instructional “click on the link and leave a 5 star review – it’s quick and easy”. As always clarity on why and how rules.
I’ll say it time and time again, these tricks work, but consistent growth comes from the consistent performance: delivery and quality. Volley and I work hardest at making sure that Everyday Positivity is there every day when you wake up, and I try to make it so that every episode is fresh and adds value to the audience. Plus, I just really love it. I love the listeners, and I feel like together we can change the world for the better. That’s a pretty good “why” right?
One word has the power to undermine your authority.
The presenter on the radio is telling a story about how he came out of his house to find someone had sprayed hummus over his car. “Hummus?” He said “That’s a very Waitrose style vandalisation! I have arrived” He let it hang… then said the one word that makes me scream at the radio…
I screamed at the radio.
As a presenter, you are an authority.
When you say “Anywaaayy” you are undermining yourself.
It’s one thing to be self-deprecating, or to lose track, but when you are telling your story the word “Anywayyy” gets right in the way.
The solution: just pause and move on to the next thing. Use something else to get you out – some audio, some music, or if you are presenting on stage a new slide.
It often transpires that the presenter hasn’t fully thought the story through, or they didn’t quite believe the story or what they are saying. Have confidence in your content. Make sure you do the prep. And remember just cos you can’t hear them laughing doesn’t mean they aren’t (and that goes for if you can see your audience or not).