One of the more popular questions that I get asked at speaking seminars is whether I manuscript or outline. Personally, I do both…it just depends on the speaking setting. If I feel real confident with my material and/or my audience, I will create a detailed outline. If it’s new material and I’m unsure, I’ll usually write it out word-for-word.

Even when I outline a message, I’ll write out the intro and the conclusion word for word because I know it’s so vital to an effective message. Here’s 3 reasons I prefer to manuscript:

1. It helps me to be articulate in my thoughts. When I take the time to write it out, it helps me think-it-out. Key words in an outline can be helpful, but word-for-word removes the mystery and guesswork.
2. It allows me to wordsmith my humor. I will typically begin a message with some type of humor and when I write it out, I can really focus in one the best word choice.
3. It forces me to toward a position of confidence. When I can read thru everything several times prior to speaking, I just feel so much better. I’m still nervous, but I feel a lot better.

Everyone does speaking/outline/manuscript prep different. I wouldn’t encourage anyone to be like me, but I do get asked this question a lot and thought I’d chime in with “what I do.” Below is the introduction I used at a marriage retreat on Friday night (word-for-word). The retreat was held at a hotel that I had visited once before. I knew my audience recognized it was fancy and I poked fun at myself since I don’t do fancy very well. Below is my intro, it’s all true…slightly exaggerated.

Intro: Two years ago Cathy and I celebrated out 23rd wedding anniversary here. I received a gift certificate for doing a wedding and we had the privilege of staying here. It’s an unbelievable place! Instead of calling it the Montage, I renamed it the Oh-my-goage. Everything here is first class! The rooms are stunning, the views are magnificent, the atmosphere is breathtaking, the experience was Omygoage. The problem with Omygoage… was us. We didn’t really fit. Now, I’m willing to learn how to fit better if Mr. Montage wants to start a friendship. But, Cathy and normally go to hotels where they don’t think it’s weird to use an igloo as a suitcase. Hotels that have two shower settings: freezing & 3rd degree burns.

Cathy and I drove up to find only one option for parking–valet. All the expensive cars line the perimeter like it’s a showroom at an exotic car dealership. The cars are face you as if they’re going to heckle you, “We’re parked out in the open because we’re nicer than you.” We chug up in my 1999 Toyota Forerunner that hasn’t been washed since the summer… of 07. Before I can even get out the valet guy opens the back hatch. Mistake! A full bucket of baseballs fall out, the lid pops open and about 60 Little League balls shoot go all over the place. I was so embarrassed. Then I panic because I didn’t know if I should tip for each ball retrieved or tip each guy who helped clean up. Either way, I’m out of folding money before I even enter the building. So I just signed the balls, and let them keep um.

The next day we were grieving that we had to leave. Cathy and I were sitting on our patio overlooking a billion dollar view and drinking our $13 lemonade… not lemonades, plural… one with two straws… and we were drinking it slooooooowly. I sighed and said something stupid like, “This is the real life.” And, my wonderful, beautiful, down-to-earth, grounded-in-reality-bride said, “No, this is fantasy… and soon we’ll reenter the real life of Taco Bell, multiple loads of laundry, a dog that doesn’t want to be trained, and 3 teenagers we love very much.” We laughed! Then we nibbled on our caviar and compared pedicures.

[Transition: What does your life look like?]

What do you do? Manuscript or outline? Why?