How to write notes for a speech


While several of these reminders might strike you as obvious, speakers often ignore them when preparing to speak.

USE an outline format for your notes:
An outline helps you visually recall the structure of your talk. Placing numerals and letters by the various points in your talk also helps you distinguish main points from subordinate ones. If you indent supporting points, the outline will be easier to read while you are speaking.

KEEP the outline as brief as possible:
Too much detail on your notes encourages you to read them to your audience. When this happens, you can’t maintain eye contact with your listeners and you’ll lose any sense of conversation with your audience.

PLACE visual cues on the outline if necessary:
A good speaking outline includes the content of the talk as well as reminders about how you wish to proceed. You might mark certain sections of notes where you wish to pause, or to speak more slowly or loudly to achieve emphasis. You might remind yourself about when to use a visual aid. Perhaps you want to pause a particular spot to ask the audience for questions.

MAKE you speaking notes legible:
Under the stress of speaking before a group, you may suddenly be unable to decipher your own writing. You’ll need to be able to read your notes at a distance — they need to be clear and large enough for you to do so easily.

PRACTICE speaking with the notes you have prepared:
That’s the only way to tell for sure if your notes will make sense to you at the time you’ll be giving the final presentation.

All speeches are better when we don’t use notes. Notes tie us to the lectern. They stop us from using the whole stage. They take our focus away from the audience.

But sometimes you need notes. I’ve given presentations where I’ve needed them; the notes have contained facts and figures I haven’t been able to memorise. If you do need notes, here’s seven powerful ways to format them so our speaking notes are our friends.

How to write notes for a speech

Dot point your notes

Use dot points if you can. When practicing a speech, we often begin by learning the speech by rote. We can then reduce the speech to dot points.

With experience, you can speak off the cuff by simply using a word, phrase or sentence. This allows minimum reference to the page and maximum focus on the audience.

Space on the page

Use plenty of space on your document, and a legible font. Possibly something like Times Roman or Ariel. Use double spacing. Leave plenty of room between paragraphs. Also leave room in the margins. You may want to add some last minute comments. Wide margins will allow this.

Using the page

Only write on the top two thirds of the page. Dipping your head to read the bottom third closes your throat and makes your voice less powerful.

How to write notes for a speech

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Use color or underlining to indicate words that you want to emphasise . You can even put reminders in there about places to add emotional resonance. This might be places where you want to increase your volume or make a dramatic gesture. You can use your notes to indicate this.

Phones and tablets

In a word – don’t! Technology breaks down all the time. You’ve seen it happen. I’ve seen it happen. What makes you think it won’t happen to you?

If you must use your tablet, then have a back up plan. Have a written copy – just in case.

Numbers count

Number your pages. It may be difficult to reorder them if you drop them at the last moment. You may even want to have them in an A4 folder.

If you need notes, use them, but don’t be a slave to them. Notes can be a useful aid when speaking. The best notes are those that we use to make our message more powerful, not detract from our message and our audience.

Likable links: & Churchill Notes