Improve Your Public Speaking By Changing the Way You Read Sentences
It's time to unlearn everything you know about periods and commas.
How do you read something aloud... but sound like you're talking naturally?
It's an important skill. Reading sounds stilted. Speaking sounds natural. Nobody wants to hear you read—they want to hear you speak! That's true whether you're on a podcast, working off a teleprompter, delivering a speech live (on stage or remotely), or pretty much any other time you're communicating with others.
I have a lot of experience doing this. I host three podcasts and speak at many events. And I've developed a simple, weird trick that helps me keep audiences engaged, even as I'm working off pre-written remarks.
Here's the secret: Don't follow the script's periods and commas!
In written form, periods and commas tell our brains where to pause. They separate ideas for easier processing. But people don't talk with perfect sentence structure. Instead, they pause in the middle of sentences or blur multiple sentences together. Listen closely the next time you're speaking with someone, and you'll notice it immediately. Our speaking styles are messy, but we're used to hearing people talk like that. It's why, when someone reads a piece of writing aloud and pauses after every sentence, it sounds unnatural and is hard to follow.
So when you're reading a script aloud, you need to recreate our normal sense of verbal fluidity. Don't pause where the period is. Instead, pause where it feels more natural to pause—and then skip the period or comma entirely. That may sound confusing at first, and it may take a lot of practice, but the end result is a lot more pleasing to your audience's ears.
Watch the video above, as I demonstrate this technique. I read aloud from a script for my podcast Build For Tomorrow. You'll see periods and commas disappear from the script, and pauses and hesitations appear in the middle of sentences. I'm reading... but I don't sound like I am. And that's why people keep listening.