Author: Jonathan Herrmann
Date of publication: 17/05/2022
Which is most persuasive.. reading or speaking off the cuff?
Speaking off the cuff seems to be by far more persuasive than reading from a script. First of all, when reading from a script one will always sound more formal and distant than a free speaker. Whether you are writing your own speech or hiring someone to help you, you are committing yourself to reading a written document to the audience. However, this will limit you in many ways. For example when engaging with your crowd, keeping eye-contact and maintaining body language. Additionally, when reading from a script the speaker also tends to read/speak fast and monotonously. Thus the crowd is not very interested in what the speaker says and they lose their focus.
On the other hand, while speaking spontaneously it appears more natural when using body language and there is more emotion in the voice of the speaker. Also, a speaker/reader who speaks and presents his speech off the cuff seems more confident and authentic than the one who reads from a script. In order to truly persuade the audience a speaker has to have these abilities.
Furthermore, a spontaneous speaker tends to have more breaks in between his speech and uses more slang. As a result, the speaker seems more approachable and it becomes easier to engage with what the speaker says and e.g., the message he/she brings across.
However, in order to be truly persuasive, the speaker should be very well prepared and confident in the topic which is being discussed. Therefore, the speech has to be in a logical structure so that the audience can follow it easily. So, in my opinion speaking off the cuff is more persuasive than reading from a script, but the speaker has to be very well prepared and follow certain rules as mentioned above.
Reading from a script
When reading from a script your ideas are laid out clearly so that you can deliver a complete message with carefully crafted words. Also, itmakes you feel more secure because you know you won’t go blank or have a blackout. You will always have the opportunity to look down at your text and carry on. Moreover, reading a script minimizes your rehearsal time. Of course you will still have to practice reading it aloud. However, if you are familiar with the topic and the content of the pages, your rehearsal may be relatively quick and easy.
Additionally, reading from a script makes you appear prepared. As a result, you will feel more confident when speaking in public. Finally, structuring arguments will be easier when using a script. Having a well-structured argument with clear formulated sentences helps the audience to understand your points of view better.
When reading from a script one will always sound formal and more distant. We usually do not speak in complete sentences and the rhythm of a formal speech is very different from the rhythm of spontaneous speaking. So, your ability to maintain solid eye contact with the audience is limited. In addition, when you are reading from a script it will become a lot harder to convey a sense of conviction and belief. As a result, you might even try to manipulate your voice to indicate conviction, which will result in inauthenticity. Being authentic is an important quality a reader should have in order to be heard from a lot of people.
Furthermore, with a prepared script, the audience also does not get to see you thinking on your feet and demonstrating your best qualities of handling pressure. Additionally, it will be difficult for you to read your audience, as you will be reading from a piece of paper. If you lose your audience in some way, it will be a lot harder to finish your speech and the audience will not be listening closely to what you are saying.
Wyeth, S. (2014). The essentials of persuasive public speaking. WW Norton & Company