Scripting and rehearsing: blockers or enablers?

Ever worried that you did something really well – for example in your communication – and it will never be as good again?

You said it, and it came out so well, with such an immediate, authentic and flowing connection, that the prospect of repeating it is intimidating.

Matthew Baynton is an actor I’ve always admired, and I heard him talking recently about this. Sometimes you’re never as good as you were in the first crew rehearsal, he says. Or maybe the first wide shot. When it felt fresh. Then, when it’s time for the close-up, you’ve already done your best performance.

For the same reason, as he prepares to join the RSC’s new production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Baynton has chosen not to learn his lines prior to rehearsal – so he can find ‘moments’ and ‘intentions’ through that shared discovery process rather than fixing them too much on his own.

But here’s the rub. In the very same conversation, Baynton recognises that if you have the confidence to stay open to new inspiration in the moment, then having the words locked in will give you freedom and confidence to really play through the rehearsal process. And I think this hits the nail on the head.

The leaders we work with often worry about this too. They don’t want to script it and learn it, because they fear they can’t stop it becoming dull and artificial. Fake-sounding. And maybe they’re right. Maybe they don’t have the performer’s skill of thinking and feeling each word and each idea and letting it emerge as if totally fresh.

But maybe, we challenge them, they haven’t learnt it well enough, so they’re searching for the right words rather than being truly in the moment. And maybe they haven’t rehearsed it enough, taking on feedback, practising key elements, allowing key messages to rise up from their words.

And maybe they haven’t written it well enough, and, if so, the content they have learnt is stiff and wordy and unlikely ever to have been spoken spontaneously in the first place.

Ultimately, of course, it is a question of time and competing priorities. But every now and then, maybe pick a moment that is sufficiently important, and have a go at starting early and really crafting something special. It could just make the world of difference – for you and others. For some of our clients, this is the moment they really find themselves as a leader, and they never look back.

In summary:

Every piece of communication should, of course, be taken on its own merit – there are no blanket rules. And sometimes, spontaneously building your comments out of a few bullets will be both magical and actually a very efficient way to use your time.

On other occasions, winging won’t work – and, anyway, you will need to convey the same message multiple times so you’ll end up ‘fixing it in’ non matter your intention. 

If you would like to try a more carefully-prepared approach, here are some tips:


    • ‘Write’ your content by speaking it first and then noting it down – it is important to retain your natural tone of voice in your communication
    • Rehearse it out loud, developing a shorthand set of prompts that you will use rather than reading the script – best not to be reading it on the day
    • If you decide you will read from a full script, rehearse by looking down as few times as possible so you can retain your eye contact with the audience and get used to the feeling of remembering the content
    • Work on having the thoughts and feelings live – pausing, if necessary, to let them ‘catch up’ 

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“Nothing will work unless you do.”

Maya Anjelou