Using notes is never a problem. It is ‘how’ you use notes that is crucial. For example, you are only doing a five minute speech, then it may be a simple three by five inch card with one or two hand written words. Of course, if you are doing a half-day technical workshop, notes that are typed and on several sheets may be needed.
One key consideration to remember is the use of notes should never interfere with the connection between you and your audience. If your notes are small, compact and hard to read, you may lose your eye contact with your audience once too often. In this case, notes that are typed with a large font, on several numbered pages and can be read three to four feet away may be the best. This will allow you to glance quickly at these notes and still maintain eye contact with your audience.
Remember to think of notes as another tool to connect with your audience and not as a distraction.
One potential problem for some speakers is keeping track of where they are going in their presentation. One method is using notes. These notes provide a roadmap of where to go. Of course if you accidently shuffle your notes, you may put them out of order. If the font is small, they may be hard to read. Notes have advantages and dis-advantages.
Another simple method is to use a written outline. Then memorize this outline and turn it into a mind map. As you speak you can visualize this mind map to see where you are going in your speech. Of course, making the mind map overly complex defeats your original purpose. As you speak you can mentally see your major points and pretend there is a bouncing ball going from one point to another. Your minor points can be simply just words and your bouncing ball can go from one point to another as if you were watching subtitles on a movie screen.
The key is having a simple and effective method to lead your audience.
A constant concern for many speakers is the use of notes in their presentation. Should I use notes? The answer is “depends.”
If your presentation is long and technical then the use of notes is imperative. During your talk you must present yourself as the expert. If your information is incorrect to any degree, it will impact your reputation as the “expert”. Or giving an incorrect quote can be detrimental. During this type of presentation your audience expects you to use notes. The complexity of your notes is not as important as being able to see and read your notes. It is imperative that your notes are easy to read and accessible. This also takes practice.
Trust your ability as the expert. Maybe all you need is a series of words in a large font to remind you of what you want to tell your audience. Large font makes words easier to see and does not restrict you to the close vicinity of the lectern.
How do you take the ideas that are free floating in your mind and turn them into a solid well-constructed speech? Simple…the Post-It note.
I like to take my ideas and write them on individual Post-It notes and then put these notes on a wall. I make sure that there is only one idea per Post-It note. I go one step further by putting my major ideas on one colored note and the supporting ideas on different colors. I arrange the notes as if I was playing Solitaire with the major idea on top and the supporting ideas underneath.
After brainstorming for a while, I step back and just spend time looking at how everything flows. I can then rearrange, delete or add ideas to make the speech flow smoothly and with a clear purpose. Of course the length of the speech dictates the number of ideas that can be used.
The Post-It note, a speaker’s salvation.
Here is your handout!
For many speakers, handouts are a necessary evil. There are two prominent types of handouts.
The first type commonly given to an audience is a single or multiple sheets with all the information printed on the handout. Many speakers like this arrangement because the audience will not miss what the speaker has to say. The speaker can go through their speech and they know the audience has all the information they need. Of course once the audience has all the information needed there is no reason for them to listen to any speaker 100% of the time. They can use their smartphone or tablet and every once in a while stop and listen to the speaker.
The second type of handout has a key word or a phrase of information missing and left as a blank. As the speaker speaks they can instruct the audience to fill in the blanks. Studies have shown that the very act of writing in these bits of information causes the brain to remember this information more. Of course the main problem is when members of the audience miss hearing this information. Then these audience members begin to start asking their neighbors for this information. This can be a distraction to everyone around this area. The solution is to supply the answers in the handout, preferably at the bottom of the last page. Of course you as a speaker must tell your audience that if they miss the information of one of the blanks not to worry because you have included the answers.
Now give me your handout!