Speak without notes

Speak without notes

Using notes is not a crime. Many people think to be a “good” presenter they must speak without notes, but most don’t feel confident enough to speak without their notes.  Self imposed high expectations puts more pressure on the presenter causing stress.   This article will look at the two predominant  styles of preparation, effective and ineffective attributes and ways to reduce your note usage.dominantly there are two preferred preparation styles for speaking the “preparer” and the “impromptu”.

The Preparers take great time ensuring the content of their presentation is word perfect, often writing the whole presentation in notes.

The Impromptus who like to speak without notes are more conversational can lack structure and content.

Great communicators use both preparation methods, they pre prepare some material and impromptu the rest.  This allows considered preparation of the content and also allows to be responsive to the audience on the day.   Below are some effective and ineffective traits of both styles.

The Preparer

Is thoroughly prepared

Ensures nothing is forgotten

Usually well researched

Usually well structured

Lacks authenticity

Lack spontaneity, is ridged and not responsive to the audience

Is not authentic

Is not conversational

The Impromptu

Is authentic

Is responsive to the audience

Is conversational

Can appear to be unprepared

Can lack important information or structure

Can tend to go over time or start to ramble

The big issue is how do we remember the material without notes? 

  • Familiarise yourself with the material.  Read it, learn it.  Tell someone about it to re-enforce it in your mind.
  • Pick out only the important points to talk about.  Chances are if you can’t remember your material then your audience won’t either.  Picking out the points that you are passionate about that have had an impact on you or your audience and are relevant will evoke a deeper enthusiasm in sharing the information, therefore making it easier to remember.
  • Include logical segues between the main points or sections, to make logical links that will help you remember how the next section starts.
  • If you need notes – well use them but consider this:
    • Focus on the enthusiasm to share the message rather than the perception you will be judged for using notes.
    • Try bullet points instead of  full paragraphs of text in your notes
    • Try trigger words for less reliance on notes
    • Use cards not full sheets of paper
    • Highlight important words as a cue to emphasise, use eye contact at that point and mark the spot to return to if looking at your notes is essential.
    • Make sure the print on the notes is big enough to read from 50cm away from your face and that the print can be read in poor light, in some circumstances you could even have spotlights shining in your face making it hard to see around you.
    • Hold your notes in one hand, so you are free to gesture
    • Number your notes, just in case you drop them.
    • If you have to hold a microphone you will need a lectern for your notes
    • Hold your notes at hip height to not cover your face
  • Take time before the presentation to practice without notes, try to keep to the main point of the presentation don’t try to remember it word for word.
  • Try a flow diagram or a mind map as an alternative to written notes
  • Record yourself practising the presentation, either audio or video and play this back to help you remember the content without the need for notes.
  • Try memorising sections at a time
  • Try singing the presentation to your favourite tune (only when practising it) music and song is much easier to remember than text.
  • A stressed mind will make it difficult to remember so meditation, deep breathing, walking or other relaxation will make your practice more effective and help you remember.
  • Research suggests that a nap after practising a presentation can also help you retain what you are trying to remember.

Speaking without notes will result in a slightly different delivery every time.  That’s OK your audience won’t be aware of this or know know if you have left out words.  

What is important is delivering the essence of the message authentically, clearly to your audience.

Elaine Doyle


By |2017-05-19T00:20:07+00:00March 22nd, 2015|Business Communication, Public Speaking Tips|0 Comments

About the Author:

Elaine Doyle is a Communication Specialist. Working with businesses and individuals, Elaine creates strategic communication plans that speak to and influence target markets, grow brands and build relationships. A renown public speaking coach Elaine teaches professional speaking skills to inform, influence and inspire.

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