Do you use notes when you give a speech? As public speakers, we are always told by the “gurus” and self-help guides out there that we need to break ourselves of the habit of using notes. When we see highly polished public speakers deliver the speech that they’ve given a hundred times, we notice that they do it all from memory – no notes needed. Does this mean that notes should not play any role in our speaking lives?
Don’t Throw Away Your Notes!
Bill Matthews, an accomplished public speaker, points out that no matter what skill level your speaking is at, notes can always play an important role. The one fear that we all have is that at some point in time while we are giving a speech, our mind will go blank. We’ll have absolutely no idea what we want to say next. Having your speech laid out for you in some fashion before you is the safety device that every speaker should always have.
Yes, you can overuse notes. I’m sure that we’ve all had to sit through speeches during which the presenter basically read the speech from his or her notes. It was excruciating – we got to see the top of the presenter’s head as they spent the entire speech looking down and reading from their notes.
How To Use Notes Effectively
Notes can play a powerful and useful role in any speech that we give. Matthews believes that there is one situation in which they are invaluable: when we are called on to read a prepared speech.
In this situation, we have no choice but to use the notes that we are provided because for whatever reason, we need to speak the words that have been written out for us. The one thing that we don’t want to do in a situation like this is to become one of those heads-down droning monotones that we see all too often.
Instead, we’re going to have to use our speaking skills to minimize the appearance that we’re using notes. Sound tricky? It is, but it can be done and here’s how:
- Make Sure You Can Read Your Notes Easily: no matter if you are reading off of a computer printout or from a book, you need to make sure that you can easily read the words on the page. If you are reading from notes that you prepared, then take the time to print out your notes using a nice big font – something like a 36 size. If you have to read from a book, place something under it so that it rises up and is closer to your eyes so that it’s easier for you to read.
- Learn To Read Fast: everyone reads at a different speed, it’s just the way that we’re wired. However, you are going to want to pick up the pace and make sure that you can take in whole sentences of text at a quick glance. By learning to do this you will be able to spend more time looking at your audience and less time looking down at your notes.
- Use Your Voice: since you won’t be able to walk around on the stage when you are reading from your notes, you are going to have to learn to compensate for this in different ways. One fantastic tool that you have available to you is your voice. Taking the time to make sure that your delivery of the words that you are reading is both clear and compelling will win your audience over to the message that you are delivering.
What All Of This Means For You
When we give a speech, we want our words to have the maximum impact on our audience. The last thing that we want to do is to have our use of notes take away from our delivery. However, perhaps we’ve been too hard on our notes.
Notes can play a role in every speech. At the very least, they can provide a backup in case we somehow forget what we want to say next. In the case that we are handed a speech to deliver, the notes form what we are going to say. This requires us to use the techniques presented to make use of our notes without looking like we’re using notes.
As with any powerful tool, notes can both help us to give a better speech and they can harm the speech that we’re giving. Learn to use them correctly and you’ll become a speaker who will never lose your spot and who can make a prepared speech look like it’s being given off-the-cuff…!
Question For You: If you are going to use notes, what’s the best way to flip them without drawing attention to them?
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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time
One of the questions that public speakers have been debating since the beginning of time is “what is the most important part of a speech?” There are really only three possibilities: the beginning, the middle, or the end. I’m here to solve this question once and for all: it’s the beginning and I’m going to tell you why…