We can learn a lot from the TED Commandments, the rules given to all TED presenters. One of my favorites, and the commandment I think all presenters should be held to, is #9: “Thou shalt not read thy speech.”
Delivery is all about being natural, authentic, and conversational. The complete opposite of strong delivery is a presentation that is robotic. Reading a speech is a great way to put your audience to sleep and to convince them you’re not actually a human being. So how can you avoid reading a speech?
A mistake speakers sometimes make is writing out an entire script from start to finish. If you write a script, you feel pressure to either a) memorize the entire presentation from start to finish or b) read your speech. Either approach is not recommended, as neither approach lends itself to authentic, dynamic delivery.
Instead, use a speaking outline. Highlight main points in outline format, and use your outline as your speaking notes. Write single words and short phrases only; complete sentences will only make you want to read. You’ll be able to remain on track with your presentation by the outline’s structure, but when you look down, you’ll see your short phrase. This will inspire you to look up, meet your audience’s gaze, and tell them the important information you’re presenting from the heart.