Before I tell my mentees anything constructive, I always begin with “I love you, but …” and then I drop a verbal jab.
So today, because you’re reading this article to gain a nugget of wisdom from me:
You know I love you, but — you could be hurting your career by making one simple mistake in your speeches and social media videos.
I’ve been a professional speaker for about 10 years, and I’ve published over 1,000 videos on social media, some of which have been used by LinkedIn, one of the biggest social media platforms in the world, to teach people how to deliver effective video. Public speaking has been instrumental in strengthening my personal brand.
I believe the strength of our personal brand is one of the most important indicators of how successful a career we will have. This is why public speaking and publishing videos are so important: They create awareness of our expertise, and that recognition leads to greater career opportunity.
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However, I’ve noticed a serious problem in many of the live talks and videos I’ve seen. Most presentations are well scripted. But the secret to a great presentation actually lies in whether it is well-versed.
This is what I mean. Let’s say you’re going to give a three-minute presentation. According to online business skills educator VirtualSpeech, most of us talk at about 130 words per minute. So a three-minute presentation is about 400 words. The average person takes a full hour to memorize just 166 words. Which means it would take 2 1/2 hours for the average person to memorize a 400-word script. That’s too much of a time investment for only a three-minute presentation.
So, to avoid spending all day memorizing a script, most of us refer to notes. We keep these notes off to the side of the lectern we’re speaking from or, if we’re presenting on video, we may use teleprompter software and just read the script word for word.
There lies the problem!
Whenever you refer to notes, or use a teleprompter without proper training, you appear less credible on your subject, and that hurts your brand. When you’re only delivering short presentations, every second you glance away from your audience makes you look less confident. Every second you’re not looking at your audience means you’re missing out on a stronger connection and therefore a stronger brand.
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So how do you create a well-versed, non-scripted presentation?
Instead of scripting all 400 words for a three-minute presentation, only write down one sentence for your opening, one sentence for each of the three points you want the audience to learn, and one sentence for your closing.
Once you have those five sentences, memorize them word for word. Five short sentences are about 50 words, so memorizing them should take you only about 15 minutes.
Then use your knowledge and your stories to elaborate on each of those five sentences you have memorized.
Don’t worry if you make mistakes. Pausing too long or saying something quirky is fine. That’s you being authentically you, and authenticity builds trust.
Overall, the actual words you use in your presentation are important, but what is more important is HOW you deliver those words.
Be well-versed, not well-scripted.
Paul C. Brunson the host of USA TODAY’s video series Uncommon Drive, is a serial entrepreneur with three exits and a pioneering matchmaker (yes, he is the real-life “Hitch”). He also is building a school in Jamaica. Follow him on LinkedIn or Instagram for behind the scenes footage and insights from his interviews and travels.
The views and opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.