Generally I try to encourage clients to stay away from using notes while they give a speech. I find they become the object of the speakers’ affection – they spend their entire speech looking at a couple of pieces of paper rather than the people who’ve come to watch and listen to them. However some people prefer to have something there just in case they lose their train of thought during their presentation… Or, they have a speech with statistics that they want to get right. And, I understand why they want to have some pieces of paper with them.
In those cases, if the speaker will give a better speech with notes than without I won’t stand in their way – but I will work with them to alter the pages they intend to read from!
First, I insist that they make the font LARGE! So many people make a speech and give themselves an eye test at the same time. When you put your notes on the lectern; the writing on the page can start to feel awfully small. I always remind speakers that the only person who’ll ever see your notes is you. Because of this you can make them as large as you want – no one will ever know! The ideal scenario is to be able to look down at your speech, read a sentence, and look up at the audience as you deliver the words you’ve just read. Then glance down at your notes and easily find the point in the text where you are up to, read your next sentence, and return to looking at your audience. You’ll make a stronger impression when you make the effort to look at the people you are speaking too.
Next, keep the writing on the paper to point form, and key statistics only. After spending time getting ready for the speech most of my clients know what they want to say and can recite their speech without looking at their notes. However they want a level of insurance in case their memory fails them when they are in the spotlight. In order to regather their thoughts most people only need to glance at a prompt and they can continue conversing with the audience, without the audience ever realising the speaker lost their way. With this strategy most speakers find their speeches and presentations become more conversational and less rigid – resulting in better reactions from those who are sitting there listening to what they have to say.
These two simple strategies can make the next speech you deliver far more effective because you’ll have the freedom to look at your audience without your eyes being locked to your notes and you’ll find yourself delivering speeches that are far more conversational.