Throw away the script

Ever had this happen to you? You’re going along, doing your usual thing, reading articles, popping in on Facebook or Twitter, having conversations with friends or colleagues, listening to the news or a podcast or a speaker you admire, and – BAM! – you experience a common theme. This happens to me a lot. And it happened to me this week.  This time it was all about scripts – and the screaming fact that you should throw them away.

What do I mean by scripts?  Sales scripts. Marketing scripts. Cold calling scripts. Over-worked, over-rehearsed speech and presentation scripts. Canned, over-stylized, perfectly-timed, and word-counted elevator pitches that people use when they’re out networking.

Get rid of all of them. They are phony and robotic and no one likes them. What’s more, people recognize them instantly and they are a big, fat turnoff.

What to do instead when you want to make sure your messages come through? Here are a few ideas.

  1. Come up with lists of key words, phrases, ideas, stories, and messages that capture or illustrate what you want to convey.  Commit these to memory, but use them more naturally in your conversations, writing, and presentations.  Allow a more natural flow and stop trying to memorize exact phrases.  (I don’t know about you, but when I try to memorize I can no longer feel the heart, soul and meaning in the words. I’m too busy, well, memorizing.)
  2. Concentrate on knowing your material so well that you can throw your notes away.  My friend, John Moore with Brand Autopsy, a gifted and very natural communicator, referred to this in one of his presentations. He called it the “learn it and burn it” approach.  You don’t just learn and know the messages, you become the messages. I love this. Your messages envelope your heart, they flow through your veins, even ooze out your pores.  They become a natural part of you.
  3. Commit to being a real and even imperfect person at all times. As tempting as it is to try to be perfect, to get every word just so, to get the timing down to exactly 30 seconds or 20 minutes or 16 slides, and to impress the heck out of everyone you encounter, this is just not a wise approach. Trying to be perfect and exact all the time is really stressful.  Furthermore, it actually bugs and alienates people after awhile. No one wants, likes, or is really comfortable around people who constantly strive to be perfect. And honestly, does perfect even really exist? Being real, authentic, natural, in the moment, humble, and even slightly flawed is far more human, approachable, endearing, and attractive.

What do you think?  Are scripts helpful to you as you communicate with others? What goes through your mind when you detect others are using a script on you?  I’m fascinated with this and want to hear your comments and opinions.
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17 Responses to Throw away the script
  1. Nancy Tierney
    March 1, 2012 | 9:02 am

    Love this! The silly thing about memorizing a script or elevator speech is that, as you said, sounds canned, flat and false AND it makes no room for a real connection between you and the person you’re speaking with, or writing to, for that matter. I especially love what you say here: “Your messages envelope your heart, they flow through your veins, even ooze out your pores. They become a natural part of you.” These are the messages that have impact!

    • pattid
      March 1, 2012 | 10:14 am

      Thank you Nancy! You are correct. Messages that are very canned and scripted actually cut out the possibility for a true conversation and connection. Appreciate your comment!

  2. Chip Prescott
    March 1, 2012 | 10:18 am

    A thought provoking topic as always Patti. I think scripts can be helpful in the right hands – the big drawback for scripts is few people come across as genuine and sincere when using them. Personally, I prefer a few bumps and glitches over the “third grader reciting multiplication tables” back to me. As is the norm Patti, you are right on target.

    • pattid
      March 1, 2012 | 10:27 am

      You are right, Chip. Some people are just really good at delivering pre-written material so well it sounds natural. (I guess they would also be great actors!) But that is a skill / talent few people have. I prefer the glitches too.

  3. Dianna Amorde
    March 1, 2012 | 10:22 am

    I couldn’t agree more! Becoming your power words, then trusting your inner guidance to release them in the right flow for the right audience is the way to go (and a heck of a lot less stressful). Thanks Patti for this wise reminder.

    • pattid
      March 1, 2012 | 10:29 am

      Grateful you took time to weigh in on this, Dianna!

  4. Amy McGeady
    March 1, 2012 | 10:37 am

    So true. Sunday’s Academy Awards acceptance speeches are great examples of exactly what you’re saying. The awardees who were heartfelt and real, yet completely imperfect, were so much more memorable, engaging, interesting than those who read well-written notes.

    • pattid
      March 1, 2012 | 2:51 pm

      So agree. When Viola Davis finally admitted, “I’m freaking out here!” it was honest, vulnerable, memorable and the media was talking about it the next day. People were genuinely happy for her and felt her euphoria.

  5. SueAnn Wade-Crouse
    March 1, 2012 | 10:41 am

    What she said!

  6. Adeline Rem
    March 1, 2012 | 11:33 am

    Ooohhh, this is the first time that I don’t agree with your opinion! I actually LOVE scripts. I have used them and have also taught others to “sound natural” using them. When you have a large sales team of 20+ people, you need to have a consistent message and it can be done very well.

    When managing a team, and needing results, you have to be able to replicate your own cold calling “talent” by sharing the exact nuances of your personality and voice when talking to people. You can teach that.

    There are tricks to writing an organic sounding script, but, when done right, any adult can execute it and sound completely natural!

    There are actually some AMAZING companies that are used for outsourcing sales teams that work for our Fortune 50 companies with a very high rate of success using scripted material.

    • pattid
      March 1, 2012 | 2:50 pm

      Great to have a differing opinion here, Adeline! Thank you. And if a consistent message / flow can be achieved AND sound natural and conversational, go for it! Just so they don’t all sound like clones — hopefully they can inject a little of their own personality into the mix. Thanks again for this comment!

  7. Cindy Niels
    March 1, 2012 | 2:18 pm

    Just reading your blog and the thread of comments reiterates how “spot on” you are. Each networking event or social gathering has it’s own energy and vibe. I ofter chastised myself for not having a better “elevator speech” and when I worked on one, found I abandoned it in the moment when it did not “suit” the energy or group I was with. Brilliant as always.

    • pattid
      March 1, 2012 | 2:47 pm

      That ability to pick up on what’s happening in the conversation or group and modify your own contribution according is an excellent skill / talent, Cindy. This is an exciting new trend!

  8. Dawn Lund
    March 3, 2012 | 5:52 pm

    Totally agree with this! It seems when I just be myself and act knowledgeable (but not a know-it-all) I attract more business. Social skills are an incredibly important part of business and Cindy was right on when she said you have to adjust your energy to the group. Your tips are always great!

  9. Todd Schnick
    March 10, 2012 | 11:06 am

    with all the podcasting i do, the best interviews and guests are the ones without notes or script.

    more natural. more real. more authentic. and more human. that’s how to have impact on this planet…

  10. Julie Tereshchuk
    August 14, 2012 | 2:52 pm

    What I’m taking away from this is that it’s about becoming the script, so the scrip is organic, natural, authentic… all of those words that mean it embodies you. (And talking about not being perfect: I hold my hands up to confess that this has been sitting in my inbox for 5 months. I’m glad I followed my gut and kept it all that time. It’s definitely been worth keeping!)

    • pattid
      August 14, 2012 | 3:26 pm

      Thanks, Julie, for taking the time to comment. Glad I’m not the only one who keeps blog posts in her in box for weeks! (Some I go back and re-read or share when appropriate, as I just did with a coaching client today.) I still stand by this post, although a “script” can be useful as a guideline.

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