I have worked with a number of clients who are engaging, fluid speakers, yet they struggle when they attempt to write an article or book.
Why is that?
Some of the most adept speakers think quickly on their feet. When presenting, they will work from outlined notes or bullets. Rather than memorizing a script word-per-word, they speak off the cuff, often taking cues from their audience. I have great admiration for those who can deliver that way because I so easily get tongue-tied!
When assisting great oral communicators with their writing, I start by recommending that they record their speeches, whether while talking to a sizeable audience or just to Fido and Fluffy. I also conduct personal interviews, which are equally valuable tools. The objective is simply to get their words on “tape” and later transcribed. A transcription service, an assistant, or even a teenager who wants to earn extra money can do the job. I then step in to edit the content so that the copy reads well.
Why would a good speech need to be edited for reading? In actuality, many don’t. Consider Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address or Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream.” Such memorable orations, however, were written to perfection before they ever met an audience.
In contrast, less formal speeches, which we have become accustomed to giving and hearing, will usually lose something in their translation to the written word.
Recently, for instance, I edited a book manuscript by a psychologist. In it, my client offered numerous scenarios to illustrate his points. One example, a conversation between a husband and wife, came across as uninspired. When I offered another suggestion in its place, my client wondered why. “People always laughed” when he told the same story in person.
When telling it, the psychologist used facial expressions, gestures, pauses, character voices and other verbal and nonverbal cues to make it all so humorous. I had to point out the difference between hearing him tell it versus reading it before he understood the need to shake up the story or use another example.
If your spectacular speech does not translate to the remarkable manuscript you hoped it would be, keep in mind that it will serve you well as a rough draft. Rather than writing your book or article from scratch, you are starting with a draft that can be edited. While editing, you might also uncover ways to button up your presentation—an added bonus!
Sallie Wol.per Boyles, a.k.a. Write Lady