The other evening I dipped into an  interesting book called “Inner Peace for Busy People” by Joan Borysenko and in it I came across a paragraph which made me stop and think.  Joan was speaking about giving a presentation and she said…

“When I am centred, it’s easier to respond to people, to catch the nuances of their attention, and to let the inspiration flow through me.   Thinking of myself as an instrument that life plays rather than the source of the melody has helped me…”

This elegant piece of prose has hit on a fundamental of public speaking .   Should we prepare a detailed script for our presentation and read it word for word?    Or could we  reflect, create an outline, and then allow ourselves to relax and let the inspiration flow naturally?

There are lots of logical reasons for choosing the former option and as I write this post I can hear them bubbling up ,  clamouring for attention like a bunch of unruly schoolchildren

  • I must get my facts right
  • I can’t remember everything I need to say unless io write a script
  • I can’t think quickly enough to create a good speech “on the fly”
  • if I don’t have a script I may say something inappropriate
  • I wrote some clever words and I don’t want to forget them

And yet…
How much more engaging might your presentation be…

  • If it came from the heart?
  • If it was adapted to the needs of your audience in real time?
  • If you were able to incorporate topical material?
  • If it was less about you and more about your audience?

What would you need to be able to give a more spontaneous presentation or speech?

Knowledge and experience of the subject in hand
Clarity of  desired outcome for your presentation
Time to allow your unconscious mind to mull over what you need to say and the best way to say it
Trust in your brain’s capacity to feed you with appropriate language and ideas

I know that my best speeches and presentations  have all come from the latter approach but I don’t always trust myself enough to “let go”   Perhaps that would be an appropriate resolution for new year?

Gavin Meikle
The Presentation Doctor


  1. Byron Stanford on 17/01/2011 at 11:24

    Hi Gavin,

    I’m a bit late to the comments, but I just read the post. I believe, like Jon, that a presentation should be a conversation. I think that scripted speeches sounds phony, no matter how eloquent the speaker is. But when you’re speaking like you would in a group of friends and you’re knowledgeable about the subject, it feels natural. This is what each speaker should aim for, naturalness.

    • Gavin Meikle on 17/01/2011 at 13:21

      Thanks Byron. I appreciate your comment and agree wholeheartedly. Naturalness is a great phrase. Do you have any other topics relating to public speaking, presentations and influencing that you would like me to blog about? I am always looking for new ideas for relevant posts. Best Wishes, The Presentation Doctor

  2. Fred E. Miller on 09/01/2011 at 12:48

    Good points here, Gavin.

    The perfect tool for doing what you suggest is a Mind Map.

    Literally, the entire presentation can be on one piece of paper.

    By using symbol, pictures and colors to show relationships, it’s easy to glance at the Mind Map and know what you want to say.

    More here:

    • Gavin Meikle on 09/01/2011 at 17:37

      Absolutely Fred. I have been using Mind Maps in this way for many years and find them invaluable as they provide the perfect visual overview of the content without all the text of a script. I know that some people seem to struggle with them however so they may not suit everyone. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Jon Thomas on 28/12/2010 at 20:31


    As a presenter, I never use scripts or anything close to it. I ensure that I know and understand my content and story, and simply follow and outline and “allow [myself] to relax and let the inspiration flow naturally” as you say. I believe it is the best way to come off as honest, natural, sincere, and transparent. It also allows for the natural interjections from the audience that help create a new or altered path for the conversation as a whole.

    Sounds like “letting go” is the perfect New Year’s resolution!

  4. Marian Way on 24/12/2010 at 05:39

    Hi Gavin, I saw Frank Pucelik at the NLP Conference this year and he spoke about the power a listener has in a conversation… they can encourage someone to keep telling their story, with nods, questions, curiousity, etc. or they can look bored or make negative comments and put the speaker off their stride. The same is true of an audience. Nods, questions, laughter and engagement from the audience can ‘make’ a speech, whereas if the feedback is a sea of bored looking faces, it’s hard to keep going. I thought it was great to look at it from this perspective, and it gave me a couple of questions to ask myself when preparing a speech:
    What needs to happen to really engage with the audience?
    How can I encourage audience feedback?
    Have a great Christmas!

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