Words are a speaker’s paintbrush. They’re the tools of our trade, and I’m in love with them. Right clicking to a thesaurus? My favorite. A beautifully crafted sentence? Blissful sighs. A tight phrase that transmits a deep truth? Over-the-top.
Although speakers deliver spoken words, we all start message development with the written word in some form. Most of our writing is done in one of two forms–manuscripting or outlining. There are pros and cons to both, but my opinion is that you should choose the style that works best for you while compensating for the down-sides of your preferred method.
Manuscripting–This method is writing your message out word-for-word just as if you are writing a chapter in a book.
Pros: I think that speakers who manuscript often have a beautiful grasp of language that is reflected in their speaking. Writing out the whole message allows you to write crafted, thoughtful sentences carrying maximum impact. Manuscripting also allows you to calculate time more accurately. I’ve read several sources and the agreed average of written words per minute is approximately 100 written words per minute. (Makes the math easy too!) If you’re given 30 minutes to speak, you’ll need to write about 3000 words. You can easily adjust to 45 minutes by adding more words for a total of 4500.
Cons: The temptation with a manuscript is to read your message instead of using excellent speaker’s delivery. You can address the problem either by creating an abbreviated outline of your manuscript to take on stage or highlighting key phrases that allow your eyes to skip from main idea to main idea.
Outlining–Instead of writing word-for-word, outlines contain main ideas and points. Formal outlining isn’t necessary if you have your own understandable method.
Pros: The advantage of outlining is to provide a flexible structure. If you tend to “internalize” instead of “memorize” your messages, outlining is probably for you. It lends to a natural, conversational style and is already a version that makes for good stage notes.
Cons: Without advance practice, outlining can end up in wordy and unfocused story-telling. Outliners still need to work to write memorable, well-crafted sentences to include in your message so that it can retain impact. Also, outlines are harder to time. Practice is an essential element to stay laser-like and within the time frame given.
Although I’m an outliner, I can see benefits to both. Which are you? How does it affect your preparation and/or delivery?