Scripting vs. Ad-libbing – which is best for your business videos

Scripting vs Ad-libbingWhen presenting to camera, there are two main delivery methods, a scripted (either teleprompter assisted or memorised) or an ad-libbed approach. Although both can work well, they do have their advantages and disadvantages. Here is a quick run down on how these approaches differ.


Using a pre written script offers content accuracy, helps keep presentations on time and can help with situational nerves. Scripts are the preferred method for most presentations as the above benefits will keep production time to a minimum and ensure quality results. A script can also easily be turned into captions, offering search engine benefits and of course a version for viewers who require captions. The downside of a scripted presentation, is that work is needed to keep the delivery natural and not sound ‘read out’.

For the best result, presenters should practise and continuously revise the script to assist with their delivery. There are a number of good tablet apps (such as Teleprompter+ on the iPad), that offer the capability of displaying a scrolling script and simultaneously recording your performance, this allows you to play back each attempt and then let you revise your script as needed. It is particularly important to adjust the punctuation and reading speed until you are comfortable that your performance is optimal.

Although many public speakers (or confident personalities) may reject a script with a preference to ad-libbing, it is important to remember that this practise is commonplace on television and radio and generally provides the best results.


For some people, the freedom of ad-libbing results in a more natural and creative performance. These are usually people who are used to live presentations and are confident with their subject and delivery methods. When it works, the non scripted approach is better to watch, more engaging and often provides a stronger connection with the viewer.

Unfortunately the pressure of recording to camera can cause even seasoned speakers to struggle, as sometime the lack of ‘live’ stress means that starting and stopping is an option. The knowledge that this is possible can result in a lack of continuity and therefore a less than perfect performance. Ad-libbing is also prone to lengthy and sometimes over detailed content, resulting in the need to record shorter more concise versions. One way to assist with the structure is to use bullet points on a teleprompter and allocate an ad-libbed paragraph to each.

If this is the preferred delivery method, it is still advisable to rehearse the performance and make notes that can be used as prompts. It is worth remembering that whilst it is easy to perform strongly off camera, the added stress on the day can change the end result. Also without a script there will be no captions added to your video, captions are an important as they let the search engines know what your video is about.

An alternative

If you want to achieve the reliability of a scripted delivery combined with the natural performance of ad-libbing there is a third combined option. Simply write out your bullet points and pre-pare to ad-lib around these (using a clock to keep your timing in check). Using a phone or any camera record at least three versions and decide on which bits you like best. Type out your words making any corrections and improvements where needed into a final script. You will now have a natural sounding performance that originated from an ad-lib performance but is now easier to perform in front of a camera. That script will be full of your personal ‘quirks’ and should sound natural and less ‘wooden’ than a standard script.

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