“The skills of speaking and writing have the same intention: to communicate desirable ideas and to conceal undesirable ideas. However, they are completely different media and those differences must be respects if each is to succeed.”
~ Debra Hilton
Don’t Fall for the Transcription Myth!
Many gifted and persuasive speakers (and some who are neither, but are still in great demand at events) get told to simply get their Keynotes and Workshops transcribed and turn them into a book. The result is simply an embarrassment to all concerned.
By all means, use your speeches, TED talks, and trainings as fuel for your book, but always remember that speech and writing are two completely different media.
When I was a student, a prominent survivor of Pearl Harbor came to speak at a conference. He was an enthralling speaker, his stories, illustrations and the points he hammered home with conviction and humour held us spellbound, despite his raspy voice. At the end of the session, we all flocked to the book sales table and bought his recently-released book. For the rest of the day, I looked forward to the moment when I could read the book before I went to bed. Until…
I picked it up and started reading that night.
It was a transcript of his speech.
The words were his.
The stories were his.
It was neatly laid in chapters, grammatically correct, etc… But it was a truly terrible book to read because there was no life in it. His spoken words had not adequately transposed to the page.
The problem wasn’t that it had been poorly edited. It was the whole idea that words are words whether they are written or spoken.
So, understand this…
Writing and Speaking Have Different Rhythms
When you speak… At a cafe, on stage, or via Zoom you are delivering an immediate experience. This is true even if you are watching a recording of a speech.
Mostly, in addition to the inflections of your voice, you communicate via gesture, facial expression, and body language. Particularly if you are in front of a live audience at an in-person event you absorb and reflect the energy of the room and you can even affect the level of engagement directly.
When you write words that will be read later… None of this is true.
Even if your words are turned into an audio-book… Even if you read your own words… They do not have the same level of immediacy and life that your spoken words have. (And yes, this is still true if you have memorised the script of your presentation!)
The only way your thoughts and energy will be conveyed is via the words themselves, the stories you tell, and life that is composed into their deliberate arrangement.
To take an obvious analogy, when an outstanding Jazz performance is laboriously transcribed and the notes and timings are written down and given to a team of professional musicians, the music they play back has very little of the original life and immediacy. It may be picture perfect, but it is not the same.
That’s why your amazing, inspiring speech, just doesn’t have the same impact when your words are written out. Incidentally, it’s why TED talks work so well on YouTube and so poorly when they’re turned into books.
Therefore… Just don’t Fall for Transcription!
I know. You’ve been told you need a book, and you need it soon – yesterday, if possible.
You’ve seen the ’talk your book’ ads, and it sounds appealing. Either get your existing materials transcribed, or go away for a weekend and talk your book into a recording device, and then have it laid out and printed. It sounds:
- Cheap; and
BUT…the end result is NOT a book. It’s a transcription.
Just don’t do it!
Another Approach to ‘Talk Your Book’
One of my friends offers a completely different program that is called ‘Talk your Book’ in which you are invited to design a custom outline, speak to that, and your work is then massaged and revised by a ghostwriter and editor. This is part of a complete package designed for the professional who has money, but little time.
It is closer to working with a high-quality professional ghostwriter and although the title is the same, the output and intent is quite different. If you are:
- Passionate about quality; and
- Have a decent budget for this project.
Then reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll put you contact with someone who can help.