How to (not) write a great presentation script, part two

By Dr Simon Raybould of Curved Vision

In this second part of Dr Simon Raybould’s article, he shares his tried-and-tested techniques for rehearsing and refining your presentation after you’ve compiled its content…

If you missed last week’s part one of Dr Simon Raybould’s article, you can catch up with it here

Once you’ve done all you can this way, stand up, clear the room and physically deliver your presentation out loud. Present to the cat if you must, but present it out loud. I’ll say that again for impact… physically deliver your script out loud, as though you were delivering it. That way you do two things.

Firstly you discover more and more things about your script that don’t work orally. Change them.

Secondly you become more and more familiar with the material and as such you’re in a better position to start a bit of paraphrasing. Let it happen.  Don’t force it, just let it happen naturally.

(Note from Suze: it’s also helpful to run an audio recording of your out-loud presentation practice and play it back … helps pick up any stray goofs!)

Caution! You’ll need to deliver over and over to the empty room so be careful that you take lots of breaks to keep yourself fresh. There’s a risk as you do this that you become familiar with the sound of your own voice as it says certain things and begin to think they actually sound natural – when to anyone else they are about as organic as rusty tin.

The old adage of ‘practice makes perfect’ is rubbish. What practice actually makes is permanent!

If you can face it, use a highlighter on your script to pick out the key words that you are now beginning to improvise around. Use some common sense and take out more and more of the script so that you’re left relying only on the key words and the amount of time you spend reading your script reduces gradually until you’re simply glancing down at the highlighted keywords. Cross out the rest.

Seriously, cross it out. Otherwise you’ll be tempted to read it. Force yourself to move from the words on the page to the keywords only. If you don’t believe me, ask any actor how hard it is not to read a script in rehearsal when they’re rehearsing with the script in their hands ‘just in case’…

Now comes the scary part… put the key words you’ve got left onto index cards and ditch the script. If you’ve got a script in your hand you’ll fall back on it because you can.  Don’t. Shred it if you dare and then you’ve got no choice but to use the index cards when it comes to The Big Day.

Personally I use cards which are five inches by three inches because they sit nicely into my hand with my fingers barely curled, so that I can move and gesticulate as normal – your hands will be a different size to mine, so test it, test it test it!

One last word of advice… when your keywords are on index cards, practice with them until you’re familiar with the feel of them and (very importantly!) put a hole in the top left hand corner with a treasury tag through it.

Believe me, if you’ve ever dropped your index cards you’ll thank me for that last tip!  😀

I know this feels like a clumsy movement away from the written word (and it is, compared to starting with the spoken word) but trust me, you’ll thank me for it when you’re live!

If you missed last week’s part one of Dr Simon Raybould’s article, you can catch up with it here. In the meantime, many thanks once again to Simon for his great advice.

Dr Simon Raybould’s career started in research (into the cause of childhood cancer). He’s now one of the UK’s leading presentation skills trainers. He’s also in demand as a conference speaker, specializing in personal resilience, stress and confidence.

More help with writing about yourself:

“Super Speeches”…how to write and deliver them well

“How To Write About Yourself”…how to make the most of yourself, whatever you need to write

“Banana Skin Words and how not to slip on them”…over 1,500 spelling and grammar tips to perfect your written English




  1. Charlotte says

    Just wanted to add to this useful ways of keeping notes for presenting and that is mind maps. All your notes in view the size of a placemat which allows you to pick and choose what you want to say depending on time and your audience’s reaction

    • Good point, Charlotte – thanks for that. I can see a mind map being very useful if you get ahead of yourself in a presentation, too – that awful moment when you go back to your notes/structure and you realize you’ve already covered several points while ad libbing. Awkward! The mind map would allow you to jump to the next topic quite easily.

  2. Dr. Raybould. – fantastic article. We have an inside joke among our users: 1. no memorizing, & no notes. You outline a great and realistic strategy here. Will share with our community. Thank you!

    • Hi Brian – good to see you here. I have passed on your comment to Simon Raybould so he may well drop by to answer you himself! In the meantime thanks for commenting and do come and visit us again soon.


    • Hi Brian – nice to meet you. No memorising and no notes: may I use that in a course? (I’d kinda like to add “and no perfection” on the end of it! 🙂 )