How to sound natural when you’ve scripted the whole darn thing

Frankie Kemp

3 April 2022

“If it all goes to sh!t, at least you can read your presentation,”  remarked a client.

And that’s the problem.  Because people want to safeguard against that, they’re writing ‘scripts’ and in doing so lose their personality and all the value they bring.

There’s a balance between sounding too rehearsed and flying by the seat of your pants.

Here I recommend nine ways to pump your talk with personality, even if you’ve been rehearsing for hours, (or given the same talk several times before).


Nine techniques to sound more real when you’ve rehearsed:

1) Involve your audience by using their names: this keeps your audience alert virtually and in-person creates a personal connection with your audience, adding a sense of spontaneity. Here are 4 times to be using names .

2) Use question tags: use question tags as you might when you chat. For example, instead of: “Wouldn’t you want your functions to be smarter?” say “There are functions you’d want smarter, aren’t there?”

3) Pause: here’s an exercise to help you get comfortable with silence.

4) Don’t sustain eye contact: looking up or away during pauses as if considering what you’ll say next. Then you don’t look too slick.

5) Use gesture – lifts the voice and makes you look dynamic and invested in what you’re saying, as opposed to regurgitating lines. If you’re unsure how to move, watch this video.

Using prompts takes the stress out

6) Forget the script: if you sound too fluent, it can wring your words of sincerity. That can easily happen if you’ve written a script. Use the 4 x 4 rule for in person presentations.

Even Jamie’s using Prompt Cards for TED

Adrenalin misses small text so keep the font large and widely spaced, using no more than 4 words per 4 lines, as does Jamie Oliver in his TED talk.

On screen, autocue is difficult to control so use Word or Evernote, with 4 words per line.

7) Refer to other speakers: if there are other speakers, pick up on what they’ve said. Did they make a surprising point? Was there something discussed that adds another perspective to your content?

8) Minimise slide text: put less on your slides: they’re not your prompt cards.

If you’re writing notes on slides you’ll end up reading them.

For many, those slides then go to the client afterwards so you need more information on there. Put that information in the notes section of the slides, use pictures where you can and have the notes that you use, separately, as in number 6) above.

You can always attach a document which has extra information and avoids duplication of slides.  This is how your slides should look.

9) React to the reactions of your audience: by reacting to your audience, you look more in the moment and establish rapport with them.  For example, “Miles, you look shocked!  That’s exactly how I felt at first.”


Your Action:

  1. Underline key words or phrases at the beginning – even if it’s in your head: by starting expressively, you’re more likely to grab and keep your audience’s attention.
  2. Transfer any script to notes, as above.
  3. Practise getting comfortable with pausing. When you’ve got that, you’ll be giving your audience time to absorb what you’ve said, and yourself the time to relate to the audience and think ahead (while glancing at your prompts).


Want to boost your presentation skills but not sure where to start?
I’ve got a range of options for different budgets and durations.
Find one that suits you:  arrange your 15 minute Discovery Call right here.


Photo by Alex Knight

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