Imagine this, you’re able to step out onto a stage in front of a large audience, or stepping onto a stage in front of a camera live, you’ve drank too much coffee and you haven’t structured your script. We’ve all been there, I certainly have.

I finish my explanation and curse that I rushed through it, losing the audience’s attention. I pick out points I paused when I shouldn’t have. I look back at my script and think of ways how I can improve. I realised the answer is down to how I mark my script.

By adding a few tweaks when I edit allowed me to be more confident and natural when in front of a camera. But before I share out my tips on how I became a better speaker, we need to head back to the history of scripts.

The history

From 1930-1950’s the Golden Age of Hollywood screenwriters were employed to write scripts for projects, as screenplays were becoming popular. This progressed in the 1960s-1980s when a new structure came to view with themes and narratives. From the 1990s to current day the development of technology has allowed scriptwriting to develop. Scripts are easier to write, edit and share, allowing others to collaborate.

Modern scripting provides a detailed explanation of scenes, dialogues, and directors for actors and crew. It ensures everyone is on the same page, and can create the director's final vision.

Pausing correctly

I understood that planning and practising will give you more control when presenting. But something I didn’t realise is how breathing plays a huge part in this. I get nervous just like everyone else when I’m about to present in front of a large audience, or in front of a live camera, and this would make me rush my words not letting me stop and take a breath correctly. I would end up taking breaths in important places and the flow of my script would then be disrupted.

A way I found to overcome this, is by inserting a forward slash on my script to notify me when I should take a pause. A small symbol was easy to spot and notified me to take a pause, allowing me to swiftly continue with the rest of my sentence without it being interrupted.

I don’t however, in my script mark every natural pause I would take. I simply am marking places where after practising I find myself stopping unwantedly. I found that I came across as more confident in what I was saying with these small symbols, than prior to using them.

I also worked out that I could alter the pause symbol to highlight when I would want to emphasise a point. Simply by adding two forward slashes, reminded me that this point needed a longer pause to build an atmosphere. With these longer pauses, I felt that I was keeping the audience engaged with what I was saying. The flow of the script would still continue, and people were able to process properly what I was explaining.

Example of a script marked up with symbols

Keeping your flow

I have mentioned rhythm a few times in the previous section. Rhythm is important in keeping your audience engaged. I would struggle trying to build back a steady pace if I have taken an incorrect pause. I found myself slipping into the habit of pausing when I had a list. My nerves would get in the way and I would end up pausing when I shouldn’t. To avoid this happening frequently, I would place an arrow under words where it would be important for me to continue the flow of the sentence.

Highlight what you want to emphasise

When speaking I would sound quite monotone and boring. I wanted to shape up my script a bit and make sure what I was saying sounded interesting. I decided that if I underlined certain words that I wanted to stand out, I would naturally put more emphasis on them.

Practice, practice, practice

Marking up is a great technique I found to improve the delivery of my explanations. I didn’t just rely on scribbling symbols all over my script, I would practice. I would write my script out in advance and experiment with pauses and pace. I’d mark pauses, flows and emphasis, and practice it until I am 100% happy. I would keep practising right up till the moment I would present.

I use marking up as a way to improve my deliverability and improve my confidence. It’s a technique I will be continuing to use. When I skim-read my script, I can clearly see when I need to pause. Now I have shared my tips for script writing, it’s your turn to try it. Let me know how you found this blog, and if these tips worked for you.

February 29, 2024