Probably never. If you are considering reading a speech – don’t. Here are some of the reasons why not:
1. The speaker hides behind their script and doesn’t make eye contact with the audience. Eye contact is crucial in making an audience feel we care about them.
2. It’s much harder to do a good job reading a talk than it is to use bullet points or notes with some improvisation – even if this ‘improvisation’ is carefully planned.
3. Reading a script in a dynamic way is a skilled operation. It takes training and lots of practice to do it well. So practice with just notes until you are clear about the story you are telling.
4. Your audience would be entitled to wonder why you didn’t just send them the script so they could read it themselves.
5. Speeches are often written in a curiously formal language known as business-jargon. This business jargon is difficult to read and even more difficult to listen to.
6. You communicate your message through a combination of body language, voice quality, energy and words (see Mehrabian blog post). When you read your script, you are trying to make the words do all the work. They can’t. You might just as well stand behind a curtain and expect to make an impact.
So use outline notes with key messages, examples, statistics – your anchors – and allow some spontaneity in. Learn it if you must, but do have a back-up. It shouldn’t be a memory test. Either way, do not get into the habit of reading a speech.
How do you feel when someone s reading a speech at a conference or speaking event?