Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Learning a Script: Lessons from Road #1


It's been a long time since I've had to learn a script. At least, someone else's script. In college, I did several plays, memorizing lines from the likes of Oscar Wilde, Rodgers & Hammerstein, and Agatha Christie, and in my 20's I played the part of Legion in an Easter Passion Play, reciting a long monologue.

Since then, the only memorization has been internalization of my own writing. It's much easier to 'memorize' your own words, particularly when the only person who knows if you're saying them exactly as you wrote them is YOU. Memorization of someone else's sentences, stories, and syntax takes tremendous effort, because the action is two-fold: remembering the words, and presenting them with emotion.

After I sent my resume into my new employer, I was sent a script on New Years Eve - It was 7-8 minutes of material, which they had recently paid a consultant to put together, and they wanted me to send them a video  - by Monday. As if memorization isn't enough, try it with six kids in the house, your wife leaving for a week-long trip at 4 am Sunday morning, and having to film yourself amongst all the goings on!

No real suspense here - I pulled it off and am working for them right now, as I update this blog from the TownSuites in Brookfield, Wisconsin. How I did it may help you next time you're looking to memorize a script, whether its your own, or your potential employers:

1. Find Alone Time - even if it's sitting in the bathroom. Turn off the TV, and only listen to music if its either unobtrusive or necessary to drown out the kids. Instrumental works well, as it doesn't add any word to the mix of verbiage you'll have in your head. The less cross-chatter you have, the faster you'll soak in the words you'll need.

2. Start at the Beginning - unless the script is chunked into self-contained stories, memorizing it from beginning to end will build a thread of continuity.

3. Map It - whittle it down to keywords, or beginnings of paragraphs, or events - any logical sequence that allows you to see where you are going at any part of your speech by glancing at just a word of two of notes.

4. Notes - sometimes they're welcome, sometimes not - you don't see people reciting Shakespeare from notes much, but in a sales presentation, some 'cribnotes' may serve you well.

5. Creative Repetition - don't just say the line over and over - that leads to boredom, and eventually you don't even remember what you are repeating. Say it with different intonations and meanings.

6. Audio Record Yourself - say the entire script the way you want it to sound into your digital recorder, and listen to it every chance you get.

7. Get a Prompter - before Kristi left, I'd have her start me on a random paragraph with a word or two. As you go through the lines, just point at your prompter to give you a word.

8. Last and First - speak the script aloud (even if you whisper it) right before you go to bed and first thing when you wake up.

9. Linking words - memorize the last and first words between paragraphs, so when you say the last word, the first word of your next statement is at the tip of your tongue

10. Video Tape Yourself - you'll have to anyway, for an audition. Set the camera up (I set it up at 11 pm, after all were asleep, then 9 am, when all but one of the kids were at school, and the youngest was still sleeping - take what you can get) and let it run. Run through your presentation, stop and start as you forget and remember, but just let the tape run. After you make it all the way through, watch it and notate what's working for you - then do it again, until you can get through the entire script in one take.

These worked for me, and helped me with the longer script once I was out on the job, doing my first solo presentation 13 days after hire.

I'm learning a tremendous amount as I work this particular job - about speaking and all the details that surround it. I'll continue to share my Lessons From the Road as the days roll by! In the meantime, I'm heading to Carroll University tonight to Speak...and Deliver!


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